You can plan a trip to Orlando around a special event any month of the year, but the ones that follow are among the most popular. If you don't find something that tickles your imagination and timetable, scout for others at www.disneyworld.com, www.universalorlando.com and www.orlandoinfo.com.
Art and literature lovers come together each January to celebrate the talented works and tragic life of one of Florida's own during the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities (www.zorafestival.com; 407-647-3307 or 407-647-4436; 227 East Kennedy Blvd., Eatonville, FL 33896). The acclaimed black writer spent her childhood 25 miles north of Orlando and helped teach others about African-American life through stories such as How It Feels To Be Colored Me (1928) and The Florida Negro (1938). Hurston died poor in 1960. The annual festival, held for the last two decades, has everything from concerts and a book fair to an art show and Southern cooking. Many events are free; most others are $5-$10.
The Capital One Bowl (www.fcsports.com; 407-423-2476; 1610 W. Church St., Orlando, 32805), played on New Year's Day, is the more heralded of Orlando's two post-season college football games (the other is the Champs Sports Bowl in December). This game pits a team from the SEC against one from the Big Ten. The Michigan Wolverines beat the Florida Gators 41—35 in 2008, sending coach Lloyd Carr into retirement with a win over Florida's coach Urban Meyer and Heisman winner Tim Tebow. Tickets to the nationally televised game, played at the Florida Citrus Bowl, run about $75.
When the Magic Mickey gets into something, it's seldom half-hearted, and distance running is no exception. The Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon (www.disneyworldsports.com; 407-939-7810; Lake Buena Vista, 32830) attract some 30,000 participants and as many spectators in early January, rivaling the nation's most storied marathon held in Boston. The fun starts with 5K and kids' runs on Friday. A 13.1-mile half marathon and 26.2-mile marathon kick off Saturday and Sunday, respectively. True masochists try Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge—running in the half and full marathons on consecutive days. The weekend also features health and fitness expos, which include nutrition and training seminars.
Looking for a way to spend your children's inheritance (or at least dream about the possibility)? The Central Florida International Boat Show (www.boatshowflorida.com; 407-456-6680; 9400 Universal Blvd. Orlando, 32819) is filled will all sorts of nautical eye candy. Typically, some 400 runabouts, cruisers, fishing boats and personal watercraft are in the spotlight at this four-decade-year-old event, held in mid January at the Orange County Convention Center. The show also includes marine accessories, interactive fishing video games and a wakeboarding demonstration. The center is huge and parking reaches to the North 40. $8 adults, kids 15 and under free with paying adult.