Step onto the red carpet for a screening of 180+ films at an Oscar-qualifying festival. Eat your way around the globe. Watch city streets transform into an IndyCar race. Or clink beer steins while celebrating Oktoberfest. Are we talking about far flung travels to the four corners of the globe? No –– it’s all happening for you right here in Central Florida. Here, we share a visitor’s guide to a plethora of festivals, broken down by month, that run the gamut from cultural to off-the-wall.
At Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts, treat your taste buds to culinary artistry, listen to Disney on Broadway concerts, view impressive art exhibits and become a part of the artwork during this globally inspired ode to the arts.
Escape to Scotland at the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games while watching demonstrations of athleticism, such as the caber toss and hammer throw, and travel to Vietnam without leaving Orlando during the annual Vietnamese New Year Festival.
For a uniquely Florida experience, don your pirate gear and practice your best “arrr” for Tampa’s historic Gasparilla Pirate Festival featuring a pirate invasion reenactment and a victorious Parade of Pirates. Animal lovers will delight at the Florida Manatee Festival in Crystal River, which pays homage to Florida’s gentle giants and offers free shuttles to Three Sisters Springs for manatee viewing.
Universal Mardi Gras brings the party to the theme parks each year with nightly parades, New Orleans fare, and headliner concerts, perfect for concluding an action-packed day.
Outside of the parks, attend the Mount Dora Arts Festival to peruse fine art from artists around the country, and watch short films from Florida’s best filmmakers at Sanford’s Love Your Shorts Film Festival. The Downtown Orlando Food & Wine Festival at Lake Eola Park closes out the month with food and wine samples from top local restaurants.
Head outdoors from coast to coast to celebrate street racing, strawberries, and everything in between. On the west coast, the city streets become the course for the annual Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, an IndyCar racing series that is the fastest in the world.
Head east for Daytona Bike Week, a weeklong motorcycle rally event drawing around half a million attendees each year.
Inland, the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City invites you to build your own strawberry shortcake, feast on strawberry treats, and attend nightly concerts from top country music artists. In Orlando, Epcot is made over into a stunning display of artistic landscaping during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Mid-month, browse fine art from talented artists at the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Raglan Road, an authentic Irish pub at Disney Springs. The Mighty St. Patrick’s Festival is a weekend celebration with Irish dancers, bands, face painting and traditional fare.
Fix your eyes on the sky in early April for Sun n’ Fun, an international fly-in and aviation expo in Lakeland. The highlight of the six-day festival is the daily air show featuring the USAF Thunderbirds on select dates. Pick a seat at Enzian Theater in Maitland for the Florida Film Festival, a 10-day Oscar-qualifying festival showcasing independent and international films. Or, make your way to the sea for Clearwater’s annual Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival to view intricate, handcrafted sand sculptures brought to life by world-class sculptors.
Did you know Orlando is home to the longest running Fringe Festival in the United States? The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival is an artsy and eclectic 14-day festival at Loch Haven Park honoring the performing and visual arts. The performances encompass everything from comedy to dance and theater to acrobatics, and tickets range from free-$12 per show, with all of the ticket proceeds going to the artists.
St. Pete Pride is Florida’s largest LGBT Pride celebration, featuring a dazzling nighttime parade and a street festival with food, art, and live entertainment. Join in for a weekend of celebrating diversity, promoting unity and visibility, and supporting Florida’s LGBT community.
Consider yourself a bit of a Francophile? Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District plays host to a lavish Bastille Day celebration each July. Try your hand at baguette fencing, pick up goods at the French Market at Audubon, and savor the artisan wine and cheese pairing during this French-inspired fete.
Slip off your shoes and get ready to stomp some grapes at Lakeridge Winery in Clermont during the Annual Harvest Grape Stomp. Once you’re done mashing the fruit the old fashioned way, stick around for live music, complimentary wine tours, and nibbles and sips from the cheese and wine bar.
Continue the fun at the Mount Dora Seafood Festival, which includes 100 vendors, an oyster shuck-off, and seafood tasting tour. August also kicks off Magical Dining Month, giving foodies a chance to dine at select Orlando restaurants offering three-course dinner menus for $35 from late August to September.
Now in its 24th year, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is a haven for foodies with 30+ international marketplaces throughout the World Showcase offering signature food and drinks. Take it up a notch by attending live concerts, food seminars and Grand Tasting events. Theme park admission grants you access to the festival and concerts.
Celebrations take many forms in October, beginning with Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios and ending with IMMERSE, a signature arts event transforming Downtown Orlando into an outdoor stage for 1,000+ artists and performers.
Orlando Come Out with Pride is the city’s annual free festival and parade in support of the LGBTQ+ community, and Hollerbach’s in Sanford hosts a beloved Oktoberfest honoring the German tradition, minus the sticker shock of an international flight.
Opa! Celebrate life and all things Greek in Orlando, home to the annual Orlando Greek Fest. Indulge in authentic Greek food, listen to live music, watch dance performances, and more.
While you won’t find snow in Central Florida, Christmas lights and festivities abound. Hailed as one the 10 best holiday lighting displays in the world by National Geographic, St. Augustine’s annual Nights of Lights sets the historic city aglow with over three million lights. Hop on a trolley tour to “ooh” and “ahh” at the best displays.
Alternatively, Winter Park’s Annual Christmas in the Park is a free event with a lighting ceremony of Tiffany stained glass windows and a live concert by the Bach Festival Choir and Brass Ensemble.