There’s only one thing that can make Cocoa Beach better than it naturally is: enjoying Cocoa Beach with a red-hot lineup of famous musicians.
Runaway Country Music Festival: The Basics
One of Space Coast’s most exciting nightlife options is the three-day Runaway Country Music Festival, which draws tens of thousands of fans from across the country to jam out with some of the hottest names in country music today.
This annual festival sets up along the shores and under the palm trees in the 400-acre Wickham Park in Melbourne. You’ve never experienced a country fest quite like this: oceanside, laid back and with your toes in the sand.
Lady Antebellum at the Runaway Country Music Festival in Cocoa Beach — Photo courtesy of Photo by Flickr user AJMexico.
The timing is perfect, too. The fest takes place in the dead of March, right when much of the rest of the country is longing for some sunshine to break up the dreary weather. The Space Coast delivers. The average temperature here is 80 degrees.
The lineup is impressive. We’re talking the likes of Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Toby Keith and The Band Perry. Previous fests have also featured The Charlie Daniels Band, Joe Nichols, Chris Cagle, Lo Cash Cowboys, Sarah Darling, Blackjack Billy and Gloriana.
You’ll find tomorrow’s up-and-coming stars and yesterday’s favorites and always a few wildcards thrown in to keep fans on their toes. Can you say Lynyrd Skynyrd?
Where to Stay
The perfect Florida weather often leads many fans to bring a tent and camp out in the park, which is a party within a party. Wickham Park is a great place to camp, with RV hook-ups, barbeque pits, swimming and fishing lakes, showers, restrooms, gazebos and even a dog park. (Leashed dogs are permitted on your campsite and in the dog park, but you can’t bring them into the concert area.)
The park is located near the Eastern Florida State College Melbourne campus, so it’s always hoppin’ with college students and an upbeat atmosphere. The park itself has plenty of outdoor entertainment, including trails, horse stables, disc golf, volleyball, soccer fields, swimming and jogging.
Other festival goers prefer to rent an area hotel or station in an RV. The hotels book up quickly, so don’t wait to reserve a room.
Beyond the Music
The concerts are the highlights of the festival, but they’re not the only offerings. You can find a host of pre-parties leading up to the event, after-parties, during-parties and everything in between. Runaway has been known to feature bars, areas decorated to the theme of the different musicians, vintage sidewalk sales and plenty of food and drinks.
Look for fundraising raffles, contests and drink specials. (One year, the first 100 fans got a free red solo shot glass, which translated into drink specials.)
My Apartment is a special section with live music, dancing and a full bar open until 1 a.m. Also, don’t miss the Outer Limits Party Zone.
In between shows, visitors also take advantage of Melbourne’s excellent surfing, fishing, swimming and beach-lounging, as well as the area’s restaurants, bars, shopping districts and surf shops.
Tips: If you’re on a budget, you can just opt for a one-day general admission ticket. If you want to splurge, go all out with a private cabana seating. But plan ahead and reserve early. The Runaway Country festival draws as many as 50,000 people. Of course, this also means if you're not interested in country music, this week in March is a busy and crazy time to visit the Space Coast.
Parking is also tricky this time of year, so buy a pre-paid parking pass and park only in designated zones. If you are parking, you need a different kind of pass in order to stay overnight without being towed.