Early September signals the end of summer for people in much of the U.S. But in Key West, that balmy summertime vibe continues uninterrupted. In fact, for several thousand women, Key West is the place to be in early September.

Women at Key West's Womenfest

Entertainment, music and parties await singles, couples and groups of women at the fun-filled Womenfest celebration. (Photo courtesy of Womenfest)

It’s the place to enjoy adventures in Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico waters, entertainment and parties with like-minded people, and relaxation on an accepting subtropical island — all during the island city’s annual Womenfest.

Described as one of North America’s largest gatherings of lesbians and their friends, the 2022 festival is scheduled Wednesday through Sunday, Sept. 7-11.

Womenfest was created over 20 years ago to give singles, couples and groups of women a chance to experience camaraderie and shared activities in a warm and welcoming environment.

“Feeling supported and celebrated has always been the mission; that’s why Womenfest exists,” said Fritzie Estimond, who ably coordinates the event for its presenter, the acclaimed Key West Business Guild. “Come to Womenfest with an open mind and be prepared to make lasting friendships, in safe spaces where we are truly celebrated.”

For attendees arriving early, a pre-festival sunset sail is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6, on the SV Argo Navis luxury catamaran sailing yacht — and the word “luxury” is not an exaggeration, since the 75-foot-long vessel is the last word in elegance. The two-hour women-only cruise includes tempting food and drink pairings (be sure to sample the luscious bean-to-bar chocolates!).

Fritzie Estimond smiling Key West

Fritzie Estimond coordinates the popular festival each year for its presenter, the Key West Business Guild.

The merriment’s official kickoff is a poolside welcome party featuring DJ Citizen Jane and planned for 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7. The women-only fun takes place at the festival’s host hotel, the Silver Palms Inn, and provides a great opportunity for Womenfest visitors to mingle with locals and get insights into the festival’s (and the island’s) can’t-miss experiences.

What’s next on the festival schedule? For active attendees, attractions include the second annual Ultimate Beach Bash and Cornhole Tournament at Lagerheads Beach Bar on Simonton Beach; and a clothing-optional sandbar snorkel trip aboard the catamaran Blu Q.

The entertainment roster also includes the “Women, Words & Art Poetry Reading and Art Exhibition”and a narrated bike tour exploring elements of Key West’s literary side through the city’s Art in Public Places sidewalk poetry installations.

“This year we have implemented more cultural events, so I implore visitors to include those events as part of their ‘must dos’ and experience a mix of everything Womenfest has to offer,” Fritzie advised.

Festival-goers can spend their evenings enjoying high-energy parties — including one whose “dress code” mandates tutus (yes, really!) — at the popular Aquaplex venues and Mangoes, located in Key West’s LGBTQ entertainment district around the 700 and 800 blocks of Duval Street.

Womenfest Key West

Womenfest offers a chance to celebrate and make friends in open-hearted Key West. (Photo by Mike Freas, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Among Womenfest’s anticipated highlights is a Saturday night show by Sarah Potenza and Katie Kadan, both critically acclaimed singer/songwriters and alums of television’s “The Voice,” at the Key West Theater. (Sarah, BTW, also competed on “America’s Got Talent.”)

Closing events Sunday, Sept. 11, include a noon “Drunken Drag Brunch” at Mangoes Restaurant — where both the local drag entertainers and the special brunch menu (with craft cocktails) are sure to be stellar.

All good things must come to an end, even Womenfest — but the festival finale is worth waiting for. At 4 p.m. Sunday, visiting women can join Key Westers in enjoying an island tradition: the beloved Sunday Tea Dance at La Te Da.

Want to know more about the upcoming Womenfest festivities? For details, including a complete schedule of events, just click here.