Here’s our top ten picks for things to do in Central Florida in January 2016

The parks are winding down from the Christmas and New Year festivities – as are we all – so we aren’t awash with spectaculars at the theme parks in January.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time to visit Orlando’s theme parks.  I do like visiting when things are a little quieter and the lines are a little shorter.

Away from the parks, this January you’ll also find a varied selection of events scheduled which offer a different side of Florida life.

1 Enjoy a real taste of Florida at the Florida Key Lime Pie Festival!

Port Canaveral plays host to the 5th Annual Florida Key Lime Pie festival.  At $10 a head it has to be one of the cheapest days out in Florida.  You can enjoy the ubiquitous pie, watch live alligator shows, enjoy live music and stalls from local artisans.  The bartenders’ challenge sounds great to me – fancy a key lime pie martini anyone?  Or a key lime pie margarita?

2 Mark the birthday of a great man with a local parade.

Martin Luther King Day marks the civil rights campaigner’s birthday on 15th January and downtown Orlando will play host to a parade of decorative floats and marching bands to mark the occasion on Saturday 16th January from 10am.  If you are traveling from outside the USA, it is also worth noting that the following Monday is the Martin Luther King Day federal holiday, so be warned that local government offices, banks and post offices may be closed on the 18th January.

3 Help support some of Florida’s most gentle residents.

The manatees that dwell off Florida’s shoreline are wonderful and beautiful creatures.  On 23rd and 24th January Orange City plays host to a community fundraiser festival for them.  Your kids can enjoy face painting, fairground rides, local food trucks and live music in aid of a good cause.  There’s also free shuttle buses over to Blue Spring State Park where you can try to catch a glimpse of the gentle creatures for yourself.

If you plan on attending, this Manatee-themed colouring and activity book is a great way to get the kids involved.

4 Experience the charged atmosphere of a college football game.

The East-West shrine game pits the best of college football against each other at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg on 23rd January.  The East-West shrine game has been played at Tropicana Field since 2012 – but has been running for many more years.  The inaugural match was in 1925 in San Francisco.  A college football match is an amazing experience – if you haven’t watched one before then this would be a brilliant opportunity to get a real insight in to life Stateside.

5 Try out a local music festival and hear some sounds of the South.

The Yeehaw Junction Bluegrass Festival takes place over the weekend of the 23rd, 24th and 25th of January at the AGRI-Civic Centre of Okeechobee in Osceola County.  It is just a small event so single day passes start at about $16.  Be prepared for an eye-poppingly authentic slice of local entertainment.

6 Tick off a few top-ten beaches before Dr. Beach’s 2016 list is published.

Florida is home to no less than four of the top ten beaches on Dr. Stephen Leatherman’s list of the best beaches for 2015.  The Florida International University professor has published a guide to the USA’s best beaches every year since 1991 and is due to publish the list for 2016 shortly.  The judging and selection criteria will change for 2016 so it remains to be seen whether any Florida beaches will make the 2016 selection.  In the meantime, there’s still time to visit these Floridian “best beaches” in the current top ten list.

  1. Barefoot Beach, Bonita Springs, Florida
  2. St. George Island State Park, Florida panhandle
  3. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida
  4. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples, Florida

7 Attend a Guinness-world-record-holding event.

Rather dubiously, the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival is the holder of the Guinness World Record for the Largest Frog Leg Festival in the world.  I’m not sure how many other contenders for the title there are, but if you want a low-fi day out with live music, stalls and fairground rides where you can eat gators tails and frogs legs then this is the place for you!

8 Learn something new – or inspire your kids.

Orlando Science Centre’s Otronicon event is now in its eleventh year and offers some amazing technology, gaming and simulation experiences for kids and adults alike.  If you fancy a day away from the theme parks then this is a good kid-friendly option.  There’s a full program of events – mostly aimed at 12 to 18 year olds, but including regular “how to code” sessions for kids from six upwards – and gaming competitions.

9 Go Scottish in the month of Robbie Burns’ birthday.

A wee bit early to celebrate the great man himself, the Central Florida Highland Games nevertheless makes a stab at celebrating all things Scottish over the weekend of the 16th and 17th January in Green Winds Park in Winter Springs.  From whiskey tasting to highland dancing and from bagpipes to archery, there’s got to be something for everyone with a passion for Scotland here!

10 Celebrate the life and works of a literary great.

Writer, anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston claimed Eatonville, Florida, as her birthplace.  While this may be in dispute, she certainly spent much of her early and later life there.  During the last week of January, Saturday 23rd to Sunday 31st, her hometown honours this great American author with a programme of events in Eatonville and Orlando.

Get in the mood by reading her acclaimed 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God”.