Fall for Florida’s Festivals

Hyatt Regency Sarasota

As Florida’s summer season comes to an end and the sweltering temperatures simmer down to the 70’s, the cities of Amelia Island, Sarasota and South Walton come alive with festivals and celebration.

South Walton
The northern beaches of Florida’s Panhandle are offering plenty for your clients to see and do next month. Between Oct. 4-20, South Walton’s artistic community at the Seaside Repertory Theater will host the Autumn Playwright Festival, honoring playwrights with staged productions, readings and panel discussions.

Later, from Oct. 19-20, Sandestin’s Baytowne Wharf will present the fifth annual Baytowne Wharf Beer Festival, featuring 40 onsite craft brewers, seminars, live music and over 100 domestic and international concoctions for sampling. And at the tail end of the Beer Festival, Oct. 20 is also the day of Rosemary Beach Uncorked!, a gastronomic celebration of seven Rosemary Beach restaurants, during which guests are invited to stroll along the street’s cobblestone pathways and graze on signature dishes and wine parings.

Overnight: The Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa is offering two packages this fall: a Sunny Side Up package inclusive of breakfast for two each morning (rates from $267 per night dbl, 2-night minimum), and a Serenity’s Spa Getaway package, providing guests with beachview accommodations, two 50-minute Serenity Massages at the on-property spa, Serenity by the sea, plus daily access to spa areas and amenities (starting from $269 per night dbl, 2-night minimum). For more information, call or visit sandestinbeachhilton.com.

Amelia Island
What mixes better than jazz and wine? From Oct. 7-14, the 2012 Amelia Island Jazz Festival will beat out its most rhythmic tunes, featuring world-class artists in sub-genres spanning contemporary, bebop, big band, Latin, blues, smooth jazz and more. Meanwhile, intersecting with the festival is the Amelia Island Wine Festival on Oct. 13, featuring only Floridian wines and vinters from 15 wineries around the state. More than 100 different wines will be available to taste, with wine and kitchen craft stalls and food vendors available as well.

Overnight: The Omni Amelia Island Plantation is a good choice for accommodations, as it plays host to select performances of the Amelia Island Jazz Festival. A Jazz Festival package is available from $188 per night, providing adult festival tickets to the event on Friday and Saturday evenings. For more information, call (888) 444-OMNI or visit omniameliaislandplantation.com.

Meanwhile, the weekend before Halloween brings strange happenings at Amelia Island’s Hoyt House, where for $299 per couple—not inclusive of accommodations—guests will take part in a Murder Mystery weekend. The Murder Mystery at the Hoyt House includes a glass of chilled champagne upon arrival, a copy of the book “Murder in Fernandina,” a 3-course gourmet dinner and a ghost tour. Room rates start at $265 per night. Call (904) 277-4300 or visit hoythouse.com.

On Florida’s west coast, cultural goodies come in the form of Sarasota’s sixth annual Hungarian Festival at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds Oct. 5-7, boasting food, wines, dancers and entertainers; and the Ringling International Art Festival from Oct. 10-12, featuring live music, films, gallery exhibits and more.

For a little more fall flavor, have your clients attend the fourth annual Sarasota Pumpkin Festival during the last two weekends in October, the 19-21 and 26-28, featuring carnival rides, costume contests, pumpkin carving, live entertainment, trick-or-treating and food vendors; or the 11th annual Pumpkin Run on Nov. 2 and 3, a nostalgic event featuring live oldies music, a car show, raffles and good eats.

Overnight: The Pumpkin Run is held at Hampton Inn & Suites Venice Bayside, with discounted overnight rates starting at $89. For more information, call (941) 488-5900 or visit hamptoninnvenice.com.

Another option is the four-diamond Hyatt Regency Sarasota, featuring high-speed Internet access, iHome and iPod docking systems, StayFit Fitness Center, 32-slip marina, eco-pool with waterfall, and a variety of sporting activities. Rates start at $159 per night, and can be combined with the Hyatt Free Time promotion, which gets your clients a 3-night stay when they pay for two, plus free daily breakfast and late check-out. Use promo code FRTIME. For more information, call (888)591-1234 or visit sarasota.hyatt.com.