Oktoberfests, Biketoberfest, surfing are fall highlights

Always popular celebrations, Oktoberfests are staged in a number of venues in Florida. Now Jacksonville is joining the festivities with its first Oktoberfest Oct. 11-13, which it calls Jaxtoberfest. On tap: German cuisine and beer, chicken dances and polkas, live entertainment on multiple stages, fun and games.

Cape Coral boasts its Oktoberfest is the state’s biggest. In its 28th year, the Cape Coral Oktoberfest Oct. 18-20 and Oct. 25-27 will feature a huge tent, outside biergarten, three stages, live bands and, of course, lots of beer. Tampa holds its Oktoberfest Oct. 11-13 with German cheer along the Hillsborough River in Curtis Hixon Park. For a list of other Florida Oktoberfests, click on

Related by name, but not substance, is another forum for fun: Daytona Beach’s Biketoberfest, which brings together motorcycle fans for a weekend of cycle races, street festivals, concerts and other events. More than 100,000 bikers and bike fans are expected to descend on Daytona Oct. 17-20.


Riding the waves:

Surfing will soon shift into higher gear; fall and winter are when the best waves hit Florida’s east coast. Surfing Florida’s modest waves — perhaps three to four feet tall in fall, more if a storm is stirring up big swells — will never compete with Hawaii or California, but they still attract a goodly number of aficionados. One of them is Jason Epperson, 28, who surfs around New Smyrna Beach, one of the better spots to ride a wave. “On a really good day, you’ll see 30 to 60 surfers out there,” he said.

Florida’s most favored surfing spots are New Smyrna, Ponce Inlet, Sebastian, Jacksonville Beach and Cocoa Beach. Cocoa Beach is the home of the celebrated Ron Jon Surf Shop, which occupies an entire block. In New Smyrna, the Red Dog Surf Shop is home base for surfers.

The Florida State Surfing Championships will be held at Jacksonville Beach Oct. 10-13.


Weekday theme park deals:

Weekday visits to Busch Gardens Tampa and Sea World Orlando will cost less for the next few months. The two parks are offering a $50 weekday admission good through Dec. 20. For an additional $25, guests can add a day’s visit to a water park. Sea World weekday ticket holders can visit Aquatica Orlando; Busch ticket holders can go to Adventure Island. The new weekday tickets are available to U.S. residents at 888-800-5447 or,


Magical dining in Orlando:

If you visit Orlando in September, you might want to take advantage of Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, during which more than 60 restaurants offer three-course prix fixe dinners for $33. A dollar from each dinner goes to Ronald McDonald Charities.

For a taste of foods from all over, Epcot at Walt Disney World is staging its 18th annual International Food and Wine Festival from Sept. 27 to Nov. 10. Thirty global marketplaces will be featured, along with special dinners, demonstrations, wine tastings and other culinary doings. Park admission is required, and many of the activities involve additional fees.


With summer on the wane, waters in Florida’s good ol’ swimming holes will soon be getting cooler, and with kids back in school, fewer of them will be visiting water parks. Because of this, many water parks will cut back their hours in autumn and winter, or close for the season.

Here’s a guide to what’s open and when. All dates are subject to change.

• Busch Gardens, Tampa: Adventure Island closes Oct. 13, will reopen March 8.

• Sea World, Orlando: Aquatica is open every day year-round.

• Walt Disney World, Orlando: The two water parks are open daily except for maintenance periods. Tentative dates: Typhoon Lagoon will close Oct. 26 to Dec. 21, Blizzard Beach will close Dec. 22 to March 15.

• Legoland Florida, Winter Haven: Water park open every day in August, Saturday-Sunday only in September and October. It is closed from November to February.

• Wet ’n Wild, Orlando: Open daily year-round.

• Wild Waters Water Park, Ocala: Located at Silver Springs Nature Park, Wild Waters will be open only Aug. 24-25 and Sept. 1-2, then close until March.

• Buccaneer Bay Water Park, Spring Hill: Part of Weeki Wachee State Park; slides are open on weekends only through September, closing down until spring. The swimming area is open year-round. There is no separate admission to the water park.

• Rapids Water Park, Riviera Beach: Open daily to Sept. 2, open Saturday-Sunday in September and October, then closed until March.

• Shipwreck Island Water Park, Panama City Beach: Closed Aug. 18-23, Aug. 25-30; open Sept. 1-2, then closed until April.

• Big Kahuna Water Park, Destin: Closed Aug.19-23, Aug. 26-30, and from Sept. 3 to May.