The Florida Renaissance Festival is a wholly different world??a world of jousts and costumes and turkey legs. Here be dragons, or so the armor-clad knights would have you believe. At the festival, live shows recreate the romance of the Renaissance with references to Shakespeare and swordplay on 12 different stages. Meanwhile, merchants share the secrets of their crafts, blowing unbreakable glass for spectators and selling hammered pewter goblets. Visitors, dressed in period garb or not, can wander on their own, exploring the shows and stalls, or trying their hands at games of chance while gnawing on scotch eggs and chocolate cheesecake.
Since 1938, the keepers of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden have cultivated more than 85 acres of floral displays with a mixture of science and art. The gardens are lush with plants valuable to scientists and educators, and the tropical landscapes designed by William Lyman Phillips are like ever-evolving canvases, blooming and fading as the seasons change. Most of the palms, cycads, flowering trees, and vines were collected from the wild, but the grounds also harbor endangered plant species.
Guides give English and Spanish tram tours as well as walking tours through specific parts of the gardens, or visitors can explore the displays at their leisure, wandering through the 16,428-square foot two-level Tropical Plant Conservatory exhibit, which blooms with orchids, fruit trees, and rare palms. Cascading waterfalls punctuate the stream flowing through the 2-acre Richard H. Simons Rainforest, where visitors admire the diverse plant life and reflect on the worldwide threat of rapidly vanishing rainforests. The Wings of the Tropics exhibit features thousands of exotic butterflies with tropical fish and rare plant life. Butterflies are released twice daily and the Butterfly Metamorphosis Lab lets kids experience them up close. The water gardens combine tranquility pools with waterfalls, sculpture, and lily pads to evoke a sense of calm.
Tucked between Biscayne Bay and Highway U.S. 1 sits Coconut Grove, which locals refer to as a village within a city. Though enveloped by Miami's sprawl, the neighborhood retains the air of a quaint seaside town, with waterfront parks, fun local eateries, and a yearly seafood festival that combines those two amenities.
The Coconut Grove Seafood Festival takes place in Peacock Park on October 20th, a mere five days after official Florida Stone Crab season opens. Vendors serve up the signature, buttery crab in local dishes, but they also bring together some of the most famous seafood flavors from around the world, using fresh caught fish. They grill fillets in Jamaican jerk seasoning, stir fry shellfish in paellas, and slice raw tuna to stuff sushi. They also boil clams and oysters in traditional New England chowders, or spice crawfish to match the hearty flavors of Cajun Jambalaya.
While the chefs ply their trade and provide cooking demonstrations for interested visitors and ambitious seagulls, musicians perform on stages and kids frolic in the family fun zone. In between food vendors' stalls, artisans peddle nautically themed arts and crafts. The festival also houses a fish market called Grove Wharf, where expert fishmongers help visitors pick out the perfect fillets for dinner.
Of the more than 700 films submitted to the Miami Short Film Festival from across the world, only 74 make it to the big screen, chosen for their excellence in abbreviated movie-making. Selections on display at each of the fest’s five days of screening include narrative films, animation, music videos, and three-act family-vacation slideshows. This year’s choices include Juan Manuel Ortiz’s Domingo, whose stark filming style catches the eye as it explores environmental concerns, and Mark Nickelsburg’s Harry Grows Up, the tale of an 18-month-old child living on his own in New York City.
Thrown by Florida Rock Stars, the South Dade Food & Country Festival brings national and local acts together for an afternoon and evening of country music. The event helps raise funds and awareness for Thinking of You Services, a local veterans support organization. As the community rallies around them, all visiting veterans will receive a certificate of recognition with special commendations from the mayors of Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay.
The Taste of Brickell Food and Wine Festival serves culinary samples from nine popular Brickell restaurants, endless fine wine and spirits, and international rhythms. Chefs from such area eateries as Porcao Farm to Grill, El Vato, Tapas Xperience, and Batch Gastro Pub distribute freshly prepared portions of signature menu items, including morsels from 2014 Executive Chef Virgile Brandel (Atrio at the Conrad). Wine experts entice visitors to try new vintages by hosting tasting demos and dispensing samples. A portion of all event proceeds help fund the local charities.