Some of us have heard the question, “Is Key West as gay as it used to be?” While I don’t personally own a “gay-ometer,” I’m certainly seeing a lot more LGBT visitors out and about enjoying our island’s perfect year-round temps and idyllic subtropical setting.

Key West Southernmmost Point

Key West’s reputation as one of the world’s top LGBT destinations is almost as well known as the island’s Southernmost Point — an iconic photo stop for practically every visitor. (Photo by Mike Freas, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Although the LGBT community has made great strides in gaining acceptance around the world, we still have a long road ahead of us. With that said, LGBT travelers know that they can let their guard down, relax and feel free to be themselves in the Florida Keys & Key West.

Our travelers love to support LGBT-owned and operated businesses such as the Bourbon St. Complex, the Island House Resort, La Te Da and the Blu Q — and many others that welcome all visitors with open arms.

Whether you enjoy mainstream or LGBT surroundings, you can feel comfortable here in the Keys. We have so many special events and activities designed specifically for LGBT travelers and their allies throughout the year — including special themed gatherings such as Womenfest, Key West Pride, Tropical Heat and even some for gay naturists if you’re so inclined (just don’t forget the sunscreen, please!).

During the day, LGBT water sports and sunset sails are incredible and a great way to meet other vacationers.

In the evenings you can attend a drag show, dance at one of Key West’s LGBT clubs, enjoy some karaoke with friends or just take a quiet stroll on the beach. Whenever I attend an LGBT event and see a large percentage of our straight population joining us, it reaffirms what a gay-friendly destination we truly are and the special relationships and unity that have been forged in our little slice of paradise.

To my mind, what sets Key West apart from other LGBT destinations is our laid-back island lifestyle, the extensive array of quality dining choices, and the vibrant (and sometimes zany) nightlife. Plus, travelers can enjoy our unique history and architecture by bike or foot and leave the stress of driving at home.

Key West Marilyn Monroe sculpture

A pedicab provides transportation past the Tropic Cinema Theater featuring a Seward Johnson statue of Marilyn Monroe in a famous pose. (Photo by Mike Freas, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Another very attractive attribute that sets us apart is the Florida Keys’ thriving arts and cultural scene. The island chain is also home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. The Keys excel in natural beauty and an abundance of activities, whether on land or sea — from snorkeling or scuba to paddleboarding and bike riding.

Sometimes it can be tempting to chill out on your lounge chair, relax by the pool, read or work on your tan at one of our many wonderful LGBT and LGBT-friendly accommodations and beaches. However, don’t forget to explore the other appealing things to do and see in the Keys and Key West.

I suggest stopping by the Key West Business Guild’s Gay & Lesbian Visitor Center and speaking with staff members. They’re the perfect resource to point out locations, attractions, and activities that will enrich your vacation.

Key West can be easily accessed by air, car, ferry or South Florida airport shared-ride services. And during the upcoming winter season, Key West International Airport will have nonstop air service from various major cities including Chicago, Newark, N.J., and Washington DC (as well as the usual Florida locales and Atlanta).

So explore the options and determine which one best fits your budget and schedule — and don’t be surprised if one of our famous drag queens checks you in at a Key West airport counter!

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