In the bad old days B.A.C. (Before Air Conditioning) the best chance you had of cooling off in Florida's tropical heat was to set a fan to blow across a block or bowl of ice. (Still not a bad trick when the air, inevitably, breaks on the hottest damn day of the year.) But even now that we have the option of retreating into the technological wizardry of modern HVAC, ice is still the best way to bring down body temperature – just wrap yourself around it instead of sitting in front of it.
Ice cream's good, sure, but the premium stuff can be too fatty and rich in a summer steambath. Lighter than ice cream, twice as refreshing, your best hydration bet is a water-based popsicle, slushie or snow-cone: nothing but sugar and water, frozen cold as a snowman's cojones. Most of our choices for portable summer coolants are a notch above the freezer-case versions, but don't you worry — they'll still stain your mouth. Summer just isn't summer without a sticky bright-blue grin.
Peak Season Pops: check facebook.com/PeakSeasonPops for schedule and locations
Nothing against Fla-Vor-Ice if that's all you can get your hands on, but a summer this cruel calls for a more sophisticated pop. Steven and Jana Rice use seasonal local fruit and natural sweeteners, so their product won't give you that chemical afterburn the way a store-bought freezer pop will. Flavors like stone fruit-and-malbec, mango-chili and cantaloupe-ginger sweeten the deal.
Yum-Yum Pops: check yumyumpops.net for schedule and locations; also available at Homegrown Local Food Cooperative, 2310 N. Orange Ave., 407-895-5559
Completely dairy-free, made with local and organic ingredients wherever possible, Yum-Yum may be the closest thing to guilt-free summer snacking. Sunshine Daydream is a credible Dreamsicle analogue, strawberry-lemonade is an uncomplicated hot-weather refresher, but chocolate sea salt, made creamy with pureed bananas, is cocoa transcendence.
Pop Craft All-Natural Artisan Pops: check popcraftpops.com for schedule and locations
The owners of Pop Craft take popsicles very seriously (just browse their jam-packed website for proof). Luckily, their commitment to their craft means they take the time to test and refine their product, and the quality shows. Their pops and paletas (Mexican frozen-fruit treats) – in luxurious flavor combos like blueberry-lemon-basil, strawberry-balsamic, pear-tarragon-thyme and Mexican chocolate – are heaven on a stick.
Bourbon Street Snoballs truck: check bourbonstreetsnoballs.com for schedule and locations
New Orleans perfected the art of the snowball long ago: What looks like a simple snow cone reveals itself to be an altogether more sophisticated treat of feathery fine-shaved ice drizzled with your choice of almost 50 flavors – including NOLA tributes like King Cake, Hurricane and Cajun Red Hot.
Rainbow Sno-Cones: 3116 Corrine Drive, 407-896-9105
Rainbow has served up their specialty, New Orleans-style snowballs, to generations of Orlando families, and it turns out the saying is true: Practice does make perfect. Instead of the crunchy ice pellets of a snow cone from the fairgrounds, Rainbow's ice has the texture of actual snow, and the syrup flavors are killer: Tigers' Blood (strawberry and coconut) is a personal fave.
Jeremiah's Original Italian Ice: 6864 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-679-2665; 111 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-599-9991; jeremiahsice.com
Sixteen years of experience make Jeremiah's a trusted purveyor of summertime sweets in Central Florida. Owner Jeremiah Litwack and staff throw a blend of fresh fruit, fruit puree, filtered water and sugar into soft-serve machines every day, pumping out the Platonic ideal of soft, refreshing Italian ice: not too sweet, not too crystalline. Try Scoop Froggy Frog, Jeremiah's signature mint-chocolate-chip flavor.
Twisted Bliss: 1807 N. Orange Ave., 407-484-2653; twistedblissicecream.com
The new kid on the block as far as Orlando ice stands go, Twisted Bliss is a groovy tie-dyed shack serving up sweet slushy ices with a heaping helping of '60s peace and love. They scoop some of the most creative flavors around: Arnold Palmer is a lemonade-and-tea summer classic, and Bananas Foster is convincingly caramelly.
7-Eleven: multiple locations
What can we say? Sometimes you gotta go with a classic, and 7-Eleven's iconic Slurpee is the undisputed master of brain freeze. Plus, at the end of May 7-Eleven finally rolled out a lower-calorie, sugar-free mango "Slurpee Lite," flavored with diet Fanta. They're cheap, they're fast, they're everywhere, and they're not bad in a pinch. Our rec: Add a shake of cayenne pepper and go show off that sugar-free body on the beach.
Alive After 5
Monthly street party with live music, art displays, food and cocktail sampling, and more. 5-8 p.m. Thursday, July 12, and Thursday, Aug. 9; downtown Sanford, West First Street and South Park Avenue, Sanford; $7 includes food and beverage sampling; sanfordwelcomecenter.com.
Annual Harvest Stomp
Join in the grape stomping, with outdoor music concerts, food vendors and wine tasting. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19; Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, 19239 U.S. Highway 27 North, Clermont; $2; 800-768-9463; lakeridgewinery.com.
Bastille Day 2012
French-inspired street party with live music, pet costume contest, wine and cheese tasting, craft beer experts, fencing demos, a shopping market and more. 6-10 p.m. Saturday, July 14; Audubon Park Garden District, East Winter Park Road and Corrine Drive; $25-$35; apgardens.com.
New Smyrna Beach Shrimp & Seafood Festival
Outdoor street party with seafood selections for sale from area restaurants, beer and cocktails, art displays and more. 5-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16; Flagler Avenue, New Smyrna Beach; free admission, various menu prices; nsbfla.com.
PBR Pub Bike Ride: Back to Winter Park
Hop on your bicycle for a pub crawl with stops at local watering holes. 6 p.m. Saturday, June 23; Ace Metric Cycles, 444 W. New England Ave., Winter Park; free; facebook.com/orlpbrride.
Sanford Pub Invasion
Caribbean-themed pub crawl with stops at West End Trading Company, Little Fish Huge Pond, the Palette Cafe and others. 8 p.m. Friday, June 29; Little Fish Huge Pond, 309 E. First St., Sanford; $10; 407-221-1499; littlefish-hugepond.com.
Seventh Annual Crazy '80s Pub Crawl
Drink your way through downtown Orlando, with stops at Independent Bar, Eye Spy, Chillers, Wall Street Plaza and more. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14; Wall Street Plaza, Wall and Court streets; $15-$20; orlandopubcrawl.com.
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