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Festivals, Tournaments, and Food Broaden Florida's Appeal For Elite Travelers

While an elite traveler’s first thoughts of Florida may be of the vibrant luxury hotel and arts scene in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, the white glove resorts in Palm Beach and Naples, or the wealth of championship golf courses, the state’s appeal is much broader, according to tourism officials.

For private jet setters looking for entertainment there are a plethora of events and festivals across the state. Daytona International Speedway, host to the Daytona 500, is undergoing a $400 million upgrade which starts with the installation of 40 escalators and 17 elevators. The city also hosts an annual motorcycle event that already draws 500,000 visitors, plus an air show, blues music festival, and a magic festival, helping to make the resort the “the festival capital of Florida.”

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Next year, St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied city in North America, celebrates its 450th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, the city will host will host many events, featuring music, dance, arts, and historical reenactments. During the holiday season there are also simultaneous Spanish and British Christmas celebrations in honor of the city’s diverse heritage.

In Tampa, the January “Gasparilla Invasion” draws hundreds of boats and yachts into the harbor as they accompany the fully-rigged pirate vessel Jose Gasparilla as it sails to shore and forces the mayor to surrender the keys to the city. Naturally, once the pirates take control, it is quite a party.

Sarasota bills itself as the “cultural coast,” complete with a ballet, opera and orchestra. It is also home to the Ringling Museum of Art, a converted 56-room mansion with elaborate gardens.  Altogether, the result is a robust performance and event calendar.

While Miami may have Art Basel and its own yacht show, Ft. Lauderdale boasts the world’s largest mega-yacht event as well as an annual music festival and another opportunity for boaters, including the holiday boat parade (pictured below) through the inter-coastal waterways.  Next year Broward County celebrates its centennial with a number festivals, fairs, and events.

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There are numerous fishing tournaments throughout the state. Over the course of three weeks this month, the Jeb Bush Sailfish Classic is hosted in Ft. Lauderdale and followed by a Palm Beach tournament two weeks later.

Knocking back a cold one to celebrate the catch of the day or a enjoying a good round of golf have always been popular, but now, Florida is also laying claim to a vibrant microbrew scene, with Jacksonville at the epicenter.

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Food is another draw to Florida. In the past decade Miami has received worldwide acclaim for its fusion of Latin, Caribbean, European and American cuisines. Access to fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables and wild game has overshadowed the notion of highways lined by fast food, giving way to a proliferation of small, informal eateries offering young chefs unique opportunities to show their skills. The James Beard semifinalist announcements dinner, for example, was held in Orlando, which in addition to having just added a Four Seasons resort, is becoming recognized for its foodie scene.

Perhaps taking advantage of the bad weather at home, during a New York press briefing, tourism officials said some of the state’s best eats can be had in beach shacks where stone crab, mullet and wild boar are served up al fresco–a good reason to get on your jet.

With numerous general aviation airports dotting the Sunshine State, getting where you want to go is a breeze.