A year in Orlando

Fat Tuesday comes to Orlando every Saturday night from early February to mid April at Universal Studios' Mardi Gras celebration (www.universalorlando.com; 407-363-8000; 1000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando, 32819). Granted, it's only a microcosm of the real deal in New Orleans, but it's still a good excuse to dance or otherwise party the night away. Headliners change annually, but acts have included Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Kool and the Gang, Huey Lewis and the News, the Doobie Brothers and Smokey Robinson. You also can tickle your taste buds with jambalaya and etouffee, dodge stilt walkers and snatch beads that are tossed from floats in the nightly parades. This is a special-event ticket that sells for $46.95.

Billed as the largest pro rodeo east of the Mississippi, the Silver Spurs Rodeo (www.silverspursrodeo.com; 321-697-3495; 1875 Silver Spur Lane, Kissimmee, 34744) also is one of the oldest—dating to 1944. Held in mid February at Osceola Heritage Park's indoor arena, it attracts 60 cowboys and cowgirls who compete in a variety of traditional events like bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping and barrel racing. Even youngsters get into the act during mutton busting, a thigh-slapping competition that gives them a chance to try to ride a sheep for 8 seconds. Admission is $15.

Florida is a hotspot for baseball's spring training and Lake Buena Vista gets its share of the action from mid February to the end of March when the Atlanta Braves work off the winter's rust (www.atlantabraves.com or disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/specialEvents?id=AtlantaBravesDetailPage; 407-939-7810 or 407-839-3900, Lake Buena Vista, 32830). Players stretch, grunt and try into get in shape during the first two weeks at Disney's Wide World of Sports, then play 15 home games at the complex's stadium. The schedule usually includes three or four night games. Tickets start at $14.50 for general admission and climb to $23.50 (lower reserved seats).

Classical music lovers flock to the wooded grounds of Rollins College in mid-February for a fortnight of fun at the annual Bach Festival (www.bachfestivalflorida.org; 407-646-2182; 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, 32789). It's one of Florida's finest celebrations of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach and other composers. Performances by the Bach Festival Orchestra and Choir are among the highlights. There also are lectures and open rehearsals. Tickets range from $15 to $55.

At a half-century-old, the Daytona 500 (www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com; 386-947-6800; 1801 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, 32114) is one of NASCAR's longest-running races. Held at the Daytona International Speedway in mid February, the 200-lap race attracts the sport's biggest names. The winner usually pockets around $1.5 million, not bad for a day's work. (Note from the Surgeon General: earplugs are a splendid idea if you plan to attend.) Tickets start at $95. Daytona International's other February events include the Budweiser Shootout and the Chevy Silverado HD 250, which is part of the NASCAR truck series.


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