Traveler: Alys Beach, FL
Apparently the cobblestone streets, bosky parks, and silken sand weren’t enough. A decade ago, the developers of Alys Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast wanted something else to distinguish their posh new community. Turning to the town’s most distinctive feature, its sparkling white buildings, they summoned the world’s techno-artists, and the Alys Beach Digital Graffiti Festival (May 18–20) was born.
Like IN Light IN, a digital-art festival that dazzled downtown two summers ago, images are projected onto architecture and landscape, turning a city (or in this case, a luxe seaside town) into a sort of hallucinogenic gallery opening, with animation, projection mapping, and undulating colors. Last year’s jaw-dropper was German filmmaker Robert Seidel’s Tempest—light and sound that transformed a lake, woods, and mist into a weird, wonderfully unnerving fantasyland.
Alys Beach, one of the Panhandle’s popular communities along Highway 30A, has a leg up on trendy digital-art festivals, since its architecture is basically a series of projection screens winding along pedestrian paths and through charming courtyards. That’s because all the buildings are as white as bleached bones. The design evokes a Greek fishing village, and it’s ecological, too: White walls and roofs reflect the hot sun. It’s also blindingly chic. So how does a hipster-ish event fit into such a refined world? Access is limited, and you’ll need a ticket to attend the Friday family night ($40 for adults, $15 for kids) or the over-21 Saturday soirée and food-and-drink experience at fabulous Caliza Pool ($125). The digital-art show begins at sundown and winds down at 11 p.m., but there’s a Sunday meet-the-artist brunch. And don’t worry about festival debris spoiling the scene. “At midnight the crew comes in,” says Alexis Miller, director of events. “By 8 a.m., you wouldn’t know it happened.”
There’s food and drink at the festival; it’s like a big cocktail party. Come daybreak, sober up with a cuppa at Fonville Press.
There are no hotels at Alys Beach, but ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals offers a special festival rate.