Key West is well known as the continental USA’s southernmost city, but it’s also famous for being just 90 miles from Cuba.

Southenrmost Point Key west

Just 90 miles from Havana, Key West is the Southernmost City in the continental United States — a fact noted on the iconic Southernmost Point marker. (Photo by Mike Freas, Florida Keys News Bureau)

In the late 1800s, Key West was home to almost 150 cigar factories where workers produced as many as 100 million hand-rolled cigars per year — and just like present times, it was an incredibly welcoming island. In fact, you could say it had its own version of Key West’s modern-day “One Human Family” motto with its inclusive recognition that all people are created equal.

At that time, Key West welcomed thousands of Cuban immigrants and provided them the chance to attain the “great American dream.” That all-welcome attitude continues to this day, and contributes to the island’s diverse and vibrant cultural landscape.

Key West frequently celebrates its historic Cuban connection with events that showcase our ties to the island nation that lies so close to our shores.

One such event will be the inaugural LGBT Art & Culture REvolution, presented by Havana Air and scheduled for Sept. 7-13. Activities take place Sept. 7-9 in Key West — and those wishing to visit Cuba Sept. 10-13 can take a quick 100-mile charter flight on Havana Air. Festival organizer and creator DeLucca Events is offering three different packages for people who want to experience all or part of the unique itinerary.

In Key West, the schedule includes everything from cigar, rum distillery and art gallery tours to Cuban music events and a special Cuba Libre brunch held at the historic oceanfront Casa Marina Resort (with one of the most majestic beaches on the island).

Headquarters for Key West attendees is the Marker Waterfront Resort, among the most recent properties to open on the island, located in the heart of the lively Key West Historic Seaport district. The hotel gets its name from the mile markers on the famed Overseas Highway that connects the Florida Keys to the mainland.

Marker Waterfront Resort Key West

The Marker Waterfront Resort is the Key West headquarters for festival attendees. (Photo courtesy of the Marker)

The festivities begin Thursday, Sept. 7, with an opening reception at Papa’s Pilar Rum Distillery, 201 Simonton St. The distillery chose to craft a rum named Papa’s Pilar in honor of Ernest Hemingway (nicknamed Papa) and his beloved fishing boat Pilar. The world-famous author lived and wrote in his Key West home at 907 Whitehead St. for most of the 1930s. The historic home is open to the public and taking a tour is a “must do” while visiting the Keys.

On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 8 and 9, attendees can sample a variety of LGBT art, wine and dine tours. I may change up my usual vodka and soda for a Mojito and attend the Rum & Cigar Lounge Pool Party at the Marker.

Also Saturday, the aforementioned gourmet Cuba Libre brunch is scheduled at the Casa Marina Resort. Attractions include lots of mouthwatering Cuban-inspired dishes on the menu as well as unlimited Key West Lime Mojitos.

Participants who choose to head for Cuba will board a private plane to Havana on Sunday. The private culture tour will include historic monuments, Cuban art studio tours, dance performances and even dinner at a local artist’s home and gallery.

Tickets for the LGBT Art & Culture REvolution — a great way to explore the unique historic connection between Key West and Cuba — can be purchased by clicking here. But even if you’re unable to attend this year’s event, don’t worry. Some wonderful “Key West Cuban” experiences can still be enjoyed on your next visit to our incredible island.

Click here to subscribe to the Florida Keys & Key West’s LGBT travel blog.