Summer’s just around the corner, and with it comes one of Florida’s most enjoyable treats — summer beach concerts.
Held in late afternoon or evening in at least a half dozen Florida communities, their appeal is great: a laid-back atmosphere, cooling sea breezes, live music, maybe a picnic — and best of all, they’re great for families and most concerts are free.
Most are held in amphitheaters or bandshells close to the water, with guests bringing their own chairs or beach blankets. Open to all, these beach concerts attract a mix of guests.
“They’re primarily for the residents, though we encourage visitors to come out as well,” said Jim Ponek, director of Panama City Beach’s Parks and Recreation Department, which arranges the concerts. “It’s like a community block party.”
That’s seems to be true as well in other Florida locales. The concerts “have become a big deal in Naples,” commented Jason Parsons, general manager of the Naples Beach Hotel, which has been putting on free beach concerts for 30 years.
While each locale sets rules as to what guests can bring to the concerts, at some venues it really is like a block party. At Panama City Beach, for example, guests bring not only chairs, beach blankets, coolers and children but also their (well-behaved) dogs, said David Demerest, a spokesman for the concert series
Some sites allow visitors to bring their own food and beverages; some do not. At most sites, food and beverages are offered by vendors, who along with local communities may be footing the bill for the concerts.
As for the music, it can vary widely. Some sites offer a different musical genre for every concert. See websites for the genres offered at each concert location and date.
Below are details on summer beach concerts held at six Florida seaside locations. All are free. The list does not include every outdoor concert, nor does it include concerts that have an admission fee.
▪ Naples. For the 30th year, the Naples Beach Hotel will again host its Summer Jazz on the Gulf free concerts. They will take place on the hotel’s Watkins Lawn one Saturday evening per month — June 27, July 18, Aug. 15 and Sept. 19. Performing bands have not yet been announced. Guests can bring chairs, but no coolers, food or beverages. A bar and grill are adjacent to the lawn. www.naplesbeachhotel.com.
▪ Daytona Beach. The city’s Bandshell Summer Concert Series featuring a lineup of tribute bands is on the beach between the ocean and the famed Boardwalk. Concerts are every Saturday night to Sept. 19 and run 7:15-10 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. Guests can bring food, but no alcohol. There are vendors at the venue. There is also a Friday series featuring local bands from 7-9:30 p.m. www.daytonabeach.com or www.daytonabandshell.com.
▪ St. Augustine Beach. In its 13th year, summer’s Music by the Sea concert series brings 23 free concerts to the St. Augustine Beach Pier. Concerts are held every Wednesday night to Oct. 14. Music genres vary each week. Guests can bring coolers and chairs. Local eateries are on site and offer optional dinners at $10 or less. www.thecivicassociation.com.
▪ Jacksonville Beach. The Summer Jazz Series consists of two free summer beach concerts at the Sea Walk Pavilion. Both are on Sundays — June 14 and July 12 — and begin at 5 p.m. Guests can bring blankets or lawn chairs. Prohibited are skateboards, bicycles, glass and animals. In addition, a Sea Walk Music Festival will be held there June 20 featuring local bands. It, too, is free. Information: www.jacksonvillebeach.org/visitors/special-events.
▪ Panama City Beach. This city’s free Summer Concert Series takes place on Friday nights at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater Pier Park. Concerts begin June 12 and run to Aug. 14. Different musical genres are featured each week, from Southern rock and New Orleans funk to jazz, reggae and zydeco. Guests can bring chairs, blankets, coolers, food and even a pet. www.panama-city-beach-fla.com/summer_concert_series.htm.
▪ Pensacola Beach. This city’s free outdoor summer concert series, Bands on the Beach, features regional artists performing a variety of music. Concerts take place at 7 p.m. every Tuesday night to mid-October at the Gulfside Pavilion overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Guests can bring lawn chairs, food and beverages, but no glass. www.visitpensacolabeach.com/events/bands-on-the-beach.php.