Dropping in for New Year’s Eve
November 20th, 2017 by Pamela A. Keene

An 800-pound glowing beach ball descends amidst fireworks in Panama City Beach during last year’s New Year’s Eve celebration. Photo courtesy of Visit Panama City Beach

For the past 10 years, Panama City Beach (www.visitpanamacitybeach.com) has made national lists of unusual things dropped to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

The annual Beach Ball Drop typifies the town’s motto: Real. Fun. Beach.

An 800-pound glowing beach ball descends and lights up at midnight. Panama City Beach stages a family event earlier in the evening with fireworks and a mass drop of 10,000 inflatable beach balls.

Other towns around the state are equally inventive.

The Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association drops a 7-foot lighted pineapple—the international symbol of hospitality—at the corner of Lemon and Pineapple streets in Pineapple Square.

Legoland in Central Florida drops a custom-made 700-pound Lego brick that’s 7.5 feet wide, 4.5 feet tall and 2.5 feet deep.

In Pensacola, a 14-foot-tall pelican with a 20-foot wingspan drops. The giant replica of the city’s mascot is perched above the celebration on a 100-foot platform at the intersection of Garden and Palafox streets. For little ones who cannot make it to midnight, festivities start at 3 p.m. with the Little Pelican Party, which culminates with confetti and the lighting of the pelican at 8 p.m. At the stroke of midnight, the pelican descends amidst fireworks and more confetti.

Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach drops a giant shrimp.

The city of Fort Lauderdale drops a 20-foot-tall, 700-pound lighted anchor illuminated with more than 12,000 LED lights in honor of its self-proclaimed status as “Yachting Capital of the World.”

Miami has its Orange Ball Drop—part of the annual Orange Bowl celebration.

It’s All About Food
The nation is taking note of the great eats in Florida.
The website Cheapism named the wood-fired pizza at The Wine Barn in Winter Park (www.thewinebarn.net) as the best pizza in Florida.

Gainesville-based Sonny’s BBQ (www.sonnysbbq.com) was cited as one of The Daily Meal’s “regional restaurants we wish were national chains.”

Pure Wow says Jesse’s Place in Panama City Beach (www.facebook.com/jessesplacepcb) is the best diner in the state.

Older But Better
There are nearly 140 members of the Florida Antique Trail (www.floridaantiquetrail.com), including 86 malls, 45 shops, five shows, two auctions and one restoration establishment. You may find just what you are looking for.

Standing Tall
At 205 feet tall, Bok Tower in Lake Wales (boktowergardens.org) is one of the most tranquil gardens in Florida.

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., who also designed New York’s Central Park, it is open 365 days a year and offers concerts on the historic carillon twice a day.

Good Housekeeping recently named it the most underrated tourist attraction in Florida, so make a trip to visit the art-deco, neoclassical tower and extensive gardens to see this modern-day wonder.

Teeing It Up
Get up close with birds and birdies at Osprey Point Golf Course in Boca Raton (www.pbcospreypointgolf.com), named by Discover as one of seven golf courses every golfer should visit. The 27-hole public course was the first Audubon International Certified Classic Sanctuary in Florida and the fifth in the world.

Florida native Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who specializes in travel, gardening, personality and feature writing. The avid traveler also is a photographer and accomplished sailor. Her website is www.pamelakeene.com.