Florida starts the year full of news
The sunshine state launches new events, hotels and captive attractions that will head the list of visitors' trips
Florida rolls out a year-long slate of events, new attractions, and must-see destinations that put Florida on visitors’ travel bucket list in 2020.
Get your Scottish on at the 25th Annual Northeast Florida Scottish Games & Festival on February 29 held at Clay County Fairgrounds in Green Cove Springs. See athletes compete in traditional Highland Games (like the hammer throw and caber toss); shop for a tartan or kilt; indulge in Scottish food and drink; listen to Scottish fiddles, bagpipes and drums; enjoy traditional Highland dancing and Celtic bands; and cheer on tug-of-war teams. Tickets cost $15 per adult, children 10 and under are free.
In Walton County, visitors can take their pick from the newest accommodations slated to open this year. The 2400-acre Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort in Sandestin, opening in early 2020, is a 77-unit condominium complex with two- to four-bedroom vacation rental properties. The resort offers stunning views of the nature preserve and Choctawhatchee Bay, plus exclusive pool and clubhouse amenities. In Miramar Beach, the four-star boutique hotel, Hotel Effie, is scheduled for completion in May. Tapping into the culinary talents of celebrity Chef Hugh Acheson, the hotel includes a three-meal restaurant, coffee bar and market, lobby bar, rooftop pool bar, and in-room dining.
At Central Florida’s theme parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios continues to expand the fun at its newest themed land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, with a second immersive attraction called Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance joining the successful Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride that debuted last summer. Meanwhile, Universal Orlando debuts The Bourne Stuntacular this Spring, a cutting-edge live-action stunt show based on the blockbuster Bourne film franchise. The show features live performers, high-tech props and an immense LED screen giving guests an up-close look at thrilling chase scenes, punishing fistfights, death-defying leaps, and danger at every turn.
Horse-lovers eagerly anticipate the completion of the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, known as the “Horse Capital of the World.” As the largest equestrian and multi-purpose event complex in the United States, the 378-acre World Equestrian Center features more than 700,000 sq. ft. of climate- controlled indoor arenas, climate-controlled stabling for 2,200 horses, 17 outdoor arenas, and the 7,500 seat outdoor Derby Field, all of which will accommodate multiple equestrian disciplines. The complex’s centerpiece is the 248-room five-story hotel complete with retail shopping, bakery, spa, and dining options, turning this competition site into a luxury destination.
On Florida’s Treasure Coast, Vero Beach welcomes back the Blue Angels for the Vero Beach Air Show, April 25 –26, at the Vero Beach Regional Airport. The event, which only occurs every two years, includes aerial performances by the renowned U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, aircraft displays, and an airshow food fest.
Heavy-metal fans can head a little further north on the East Coast to catch Metallica as the iconic headline act for Welcome to Rockville 2020, a weekend of hard rock entertainment at Daytona International Speedway May 8-10.
Baseball enthusiasts can head south to the newly renovated First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, home of the New York Mets Spring Training games every year. The $57 million fan-focused facelift include a new stadium entranceway, a new party deck and bar in the outfield, a viewing deck to watch the back practice fields, new concession stands, and a new retail shop to purchase favorite fan merch.
Set to open in Spring 2020, the St. Pete Pier will be the largest waterfront playground in the Southeast, comprised of 26 acres of waterfront park located in St. Pete’s vibrant downtown. As an extension of St. Pete’s bustling city center, this new entertainment district provides interactive experiences along its 3,065-foot-length pier, offering a picturesque urban beach area, a unique children’s playground, a variety of modern-Florida dining spots, a pop-up marketplace with local vendors, eco-tourism opportunities, and more.
Art lovers can plan a trip to Sarasota, with a first stop at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The lush attraction integrates the arts throughout its grounds and gardens with the “Salvador Dalí: Gardens of the Mind” exhibit, featuring 10 colorful photolithographs of Dalí-themed flowers and plant displays. In early 2020, The Ringling College of Art + Design will open the Sarasota Art Museum, the region’s first museum dedicated to contemporary art. After transforming Sarasota’s historic collegiate-gothic style high school into a state-of-the-art visual arts destination, the 15,000-square-foot museum now anchors the Ringling College Museum Campus, with exhibition gallery space, a café, educational events, performance and film, retail shop, and a sculpture courtyard.
Visitors to The Palm Beaches will have hard time deciding where to stay (and drink and eat) once they see this year’s lineup of new openings. New accommodations include six resort openings, ranging from holistic resorts with personal wellness concierge (Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences) to revamped luxury landmarks (The Brazilian Court Hotel). Plus, with four new restaurant concepts, including sustainable seafood at Lionfish in Delray Beach, and intriguing new attractions like Delray Beach Market, Florida’s largest food hall, and Steel Tie Spirits Company, the largest distillery in Southeast Florida, visitors will be enticed to take a culinary adventure through the region.
In the Florida Keys, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants will debut a new hotel collection dubbed Kimpton Key West in early 2020. Comprised of five separate hotels located in the historic district, each property offers its own distinct experience, blending timeless architecture with an eclectic, bohemian style ranging from original conch houses to charming bungalows to estate-like guesthouses. While in the Keys, nature-loving travelers should check out the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center. Just opened in September, the center showcases the Keys’ four national wildlife refuges: National Key Deer, Great White Heron, Key West, and Crocodile Lake.