A unique refuge on the grounds of the Sheriff’s Office detention center near Key West shelters some surprising creatures: about 150 domestic and exotic animals from 45 species, ranging from armadillos to Kramer the emu. Benefiting both the animals and inmates who help care for them, the facility welcomes visitors twice each month.
It’s revered as legendary author Ernest Hemingway’s 1930s hangout. Known as the 1981 birthplace of the internationally renowned Hemingway® Look-Alike Contest. Famed as must-see stop for visitors to Key West. And on May 5, 2022, Sloppy Joe’s Bar marks 85 years at its iconic home at the corner of Duval and Greene streets.
In April 1982, the Florida Keys symbolically “seceded” from the United States and were reborn as the independent Conch Republic. Today the republic is internationally acclaimed as the Keys’ irreverent alter ego — and this month, the 40th annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration commemorates the historic action with a roster of rollicking events.
Embark on a journey though the Florida Keys and discover the islands’ lively seafaring history, flourishing creative community, balmy subtropical climate and natural wonders that include the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef. Yet the Keys’ most important asset is intangible: a laid-back vibe that seems worlds away from everyday cares.
Key West is gloriously, outrageously abnormal — a place where wild chickens roam the streets and nobody thinks it’s strange to spot grown men dressed like Darth Vader or Marilyn Monroe. In this quirky haven, dogs ride happily in bicycle baskets, creativity and diversity flourish, and “street performer” and “treasure hunter” are legitimate occupations.
Many Florida Keys “locals” have created satisfying lives close to nature and far from “real world” pressures. But you don’t have to be a resident to share some elements that make Keys life so happily addictive — as long as you’re willing to explore, experience and appreciate the places, people and moments you encounter.
History lovers can experience Presidents' Day Weekend events in Key West at the Harry S. Truman Little White House, Florida’s only presidential museum, including a theatrical production on Truman starring the 33rd president’s oldest grandson. “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” is scheduled Feb. 18-19, followed by a Feb. 21 picnic on the museum grounds.
The Florida Keys offer scores of earth- and sea-friendly options for visitors to enjoy, guided by residents who cherish their close-to-nature lifestyle and strive to preserve it. They include sustainable fishing and dive charter operators, coral restoration innovators, trailblazers in “voluntourism,” wildlife rehabilitation experts and leaders of eco-tours and cultural excursions.
Surrounded by turquoise water beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, the tiny island of Pigeon Key looms large in the history of the Florida Keys. And now, following the restoration and reopening of a 2.2-mile section of the bridge nicknamed “Old Seven,” the five-acre Keys landmark is more accessible than ever.
Attendees at the Key West Food and Wine Festival can enjoy gourmet galas and tastings, art and wine experiences, wine dinners, seminars and activities that spotlight the Florida Keys’ culinary scene and talented chefs. Equally appealing are the glimpses the festival offers into the island chain’s unique heritage, culture and warmly welcoming vibe.