From day hikes to polar plunges and dogs in costumes to the state’s largest fireworks display, step or jump into the New Year with these fun Florida events.
Dec. 31 – Key West’s Annual New Year’s Eve Red Shoe Drop
New York drops the ball on New Year’s Eve and Key West drops a drag queen in a super-sized red high-heel shoe. Famed drag queen Sushi will carry on this quirky 20-plus year tradition in a glamorous gown she designed. Festivities begin at 9 p.m. at the Bourbon St. Pub/New Orleans House complex with musical performances including international recording artist Debby Holiday. Sushi, whose other name is Gary Marion, will be lowered from a balcony to stage as midnight approaches. Street viewing is free and a limited number of VIP tickets for viewing from the New Orleans House balcony are available. (724 Duval Street, Key West, Fla. 33040; Tel: (305) 293-9800; www.bourbonstpub.com/newyearseve.html)
Dec. 31 – 14th Annual Key West Dachshund Walk
Key West will transform into a wiener wonderland for a short time the afternoon of New Year’s Eve when a couple of hundred dachshunds and their owners parade down Duval Street. Costumes, for pups and their people, are encouraged and although there is no registration, participants are encouraged to bring a bag of dog food to be donated to the Key West Pet Pantry. Spectators will have a howling good time when watching this quirky parade. Meeting point is the corner of Whitehead and Fleming in Key West, Noon to 1:30 p.m. (Tel: (305) 747-0877)
Dec. 31 – Florida’s Largest New Year’s Eve Fireworks Display, Apollo Beach
Circles Waterfront Restaurant at Lands End Marina in Apollo Beach, organizers of the New Year’s Eve celebration in Apollo Beach, has called it the Florida’s largest fireworks celebration. They have been launching one heck of a show since 2013 and this year, they have received more than $35,000 in sponsor contributions. The display will be choreographed to music at midnight with what promises to be a spectacular display. Circles will host a free outdoor party from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a VIP area for $125 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. The fireworks will be viewable from all 5,800 homes in Apollo Beach, from the restaurant and Lands End Marina. (1212 Apollo Beach Blvd., Apollo Beach, Fla. 33572; Tel: (813) 641-3275; www.circleswaterfront.com)
Jan. 1 – Polar Bear Plunges
Thankfully, this time of year Florida’s waters are not as frigid as they are up north and can be described as tepid. There are several opportunities around the state to join a Polar Bear Plunge to welcome in the New Year.
Henderson Beach State Park in Destin is the location of the 13th Annual Polar Bear Plunge hosted by the Destin Fire Rescue Foundation, Friends of Emerald Coast State Parks and The Henderson. Registration opens at 10 a.m. for a 11 a.m. dip. Registration is $20 per person and includes park admission. (Henderson Beach State Park, 17000 Emerald Coast Parkway, Destin Fla. 32541; www.floridastateparks.org/events/13th-annual-polar-bear-plunge)
The Atlantic Hotel & Spa in Fort Lauderdale will host the Fourth Annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge & Brunch at Lifeguard Tower 11 on Fort Lauderdale Beach at 11 a.m. Participants are encouraged to dive into the New Year with a ball gown, tuxedo, swimsuit or any outfit from their New Year’s Eve celebration. The plunge is free and the optional brunch is an additional fee. (The Atlantic Hotel & Spa, 601 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33304; Tel: (954) 567-8070; www.Atlantichotelfl.eventbrite.com)
Kelly Park in Apopka is hosting the Southern version of a polar bear plunge and calling it the Black Bear Polar Plunge. Participants are invited to take a dip in the 68-degree waters of Rock Springs then warm up alongside a fire and coffee or hot chocolate. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and plunge time is 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Participation is included with park admission of $3 for vehicles with up to two people, $5 for vehicles with three to eight and $1 per additional person. If floating is how you roll, rent a tube from a vendor outside the park. (Kelly Park, 400 E. Kelly Park Rd., Apopka, Fla. 32712; Tel: (407)254-1902; www.OrangeCountyParks.net)
Jan. 1 – Hike in a State Park
Several state parks around the state are offering First Day Hikes with a park ranger and are free with park admission. These parks include Silver Springs in Ocala, Lake Kissimmee in Lake Wales, and Raven Gardens in Palatka. Visit www.floridastateparks.org to find additional walks and walk times.
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