One of the wonderful things about Florida – blessed as it is with thrilling theme parks, glamorous cities and beautiful beaches – is that visitors are rarely short of ways to fill their time. But as enticing as those things are, the Sunshine State has more to recommend it than the charms of Mickey Mouse, tropical weather and sandy shores. While locations like Nashville, New Orleans and Memphis may lay claim to a more well-known connection to musical history, Florida has plenty of melodic marvels to entice every ardent music fan.
Whether you’ve booked into a hotel, staying in a Florida villa or embarking on a road trip, make sure to spend a few warm and dreamy evenings with a cool drink in hand and live music in the air – and take in some of the unique cultural highlights of this wonderful state.
Florida’s Music Scene
With Ray Charles learning to play piano from Wylie Pitcam in a Florida café, a proto-Lynyrd Skynyrd getting hassled for their long hair at a Jacksonville high school, and Lou Perlman carefully crafting 90’s sensation NSYNC in Orlando, Florida has an interesting and varied musical history. But Florida’s music scene isn’t only available in nostalgic remnants of a time gone by; it’s an active and ongoing part of this state’s culture and character.
In Florida, exciting new acts play in popular dive bars, concert halls reverberate with the sound of orchestras, and artists from Arcade Fire to Taylor Swift flock to Miami to film their music videos – and with this guide you’ll be able to tap into this vivid musical scene.
Churchill’s Pub, Miami
Miami isn’t perhaps the first location you’d imagine to find The Right Honourable Sir Winston Churchill’s face scowling down at you from a pub facade, but that’s exactly what will greet you at Churchill’s Pub – a veritable institution of the Magic City. Holding the world record for the most acts within a single venue, Churchill’s Pub has been in the same location in Miami’s Little Haiti neighbourhood for an impressive 40 years.
Since 1979, this underground “CBGB of the South” has played host to many of the pre-eminent figures in the worlds of punk, ska, hardcore and metal – presenting the wildness of Iggy Pop, innovations of guitar legend Dick Dale and theatrics of Marilyn Mason. Visitors here have a great time grabbing a plate of pub grub and letting their hair down, all under the watchful eye of the British Bulldog.
The Bradfordville Blues Club, Tallahassee
Hidden away and historic, The Bradfordville Blues Club is a unique location “where hoochie coochie men still belt the blues”. As part of the Gulf Coast’s “chitlin’ circuit”, black musicians travelling along The Blues Trail during the dark days of segregation would perform at The Bradfordville Blues Club, knowing it to be a safe venue in the days of Klansmen and discrimination. As such, any visitor to the club will be stepping on the same hallowed ground as blues legends John Lee Hooker, B.B. King and Bo Diddley – as well as many more.
The Green Parrot Bar, Key West
Key West – an island city in the Florida Keys, and the southernmost point in the USA – is famous for its watersports, pastel-coloured houses and the iconic Green Parrot Bar. Built in 1890 as a grocery store before converting into a bar during World War Two, The Green Parrot has been a hangout for an eclectic but lively crowd of submarine sailors, seventies’ hippies, pink-shrimp fisherman, bikers, tourists and nomads for nearly eighty years.
The resulting atmosphere of community and free-spiritedness has seeped into the fabric of The Green Parrot, with its quirky decor and beachside vibe making it the perfect venue for the many bands that pass through.
Will’s Pub, Orlando
With a limited 200-person capacity, Will’s Pub may be small, but with artists like The Decemberists, King Khan and Thee Oh Sees gracing its gloriously dive-bar-style interiors, it certainly punches above its weight on the indie music scene. Crediting itself with “thousands of children who’ve allegedly been conceived as a result of the joint’s carnal formula of loud-ass rock ‘n’ roll and free-flowing beer”, Will’s Pub offers a bit of grit and grime in the The City Beautiful.
Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami
The home of the performing arts in Miami, the Adrienne Arsht Center is the location of jaw-dropping performances of everything from Rachmaninoff to Hamilton. Planned since the 1970s and opened in 2006, this 570,000-square-foot Center has been a key part of Miami’s cultural renaissance – and a real boon to any locals or visitors wishing to experience the uniquely inspiring sound of a full orchestra.
Reflecting the cultural mix of Miami, this venue also hosts a hugely popular Flamenco Festival, as well as several free Gospel Sunday concerts featuring local church choirs and visiting gospel singers. So whether you enjoy opera, ballet, Broadway musicals, classical concerts or jazz music, make sure to see what’s coming up at the Adrienne Arsht Center during your stay.
The Atlantic Nightspot, Gainesville
You can work your own musical muscles with Sunday Karaoke at The Atlantic Nightspot, spurred on by their reasonably priced drinks and let-loose atmosphere – but if you prefer to let others do the entertaining, then the set-list will not disappoint. An important fixture of Gainesville’s music scene, visitors can shake their stuff on the dancefloor and relish some of the best live indie, alternative and punk music available in Florida.
Florida’s Music Festivals
From Miami’s electronic Ultra Music Festival to Jacksonville’s headbanging Welcome to Rockville, Florida is home to a huge variety of music festivals where you can enjoy some of your favourite sounds in the sunshine. Kaya Fest, for example, features three generations of the Marley family in a reggae extravaganza, while Tortuga Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale offers country music in a beachside setting. Florida even puts on “Free On The Beach” music events – an ethereal experience of floating music and briney air – that are perfect for music lovers keeping to a tight budget.
This post was written by Top Villas, Florida enthusiasts who help people create their perfect trip through their selection of luxury villa rentals.