Every year, many thousands of visitors flock to the Florida Keys & Key West — the continental United States’ southernmost island chain — to celebrate life and its milestones. With sunrise on one side of the islands and sunset on the other, the Keys are an ideal place to romance, celebrate and share memorable moments.
Incredible as it may seem, ’tis the season to be jolly — despite Christmas still being weeks away. But in the celebration-loving Florida Keys, mid-November brings the first stirrings of holiday spirit. So there are plenty of festivities coming up, ranging from traditional to offbeat (and all, of course, with a unique island twist).
Viewing a sea turtle release, and seeing the rehabilitated creature return to the Florida Keys waters where it belongs, can make you cry. There’s something about watching a turtle slip into its saltwater habitat and swim joyfully away that touches the heart and inspires a powerful sense of oneness with the natural order.
Mill McCleary, executive director of the Reef Relief organization based in Key West, uses advocacy and organizational skills to create tangible impacts through clean water and healthy ecosystems. He has overseen Reef Relief’s establishment of Key West Marine Park, founding of Coral Camp for Kids, and recent Plastic Free Key West program.
Fans of the Florida Keys’ quirky creativity and whimsical spirit can celebrate both —and the island chain’s 200th anniversary — during Key West’s eagerly anticipated Fantasy Fest. The fabulous costuming and masking festival is scheduled Oct. 20-29, with a jam-packed schedule that includes masquerade balls, costume competitions, glamorous galas and a spectacular grand parade.
Sue Cooper, a Florida Keys paddleboard guru and author of “Millionaire in Flip Flips,” is the face of Lazy Dog Adventures — known for its slogan, “We do more in a week than most people do all day.” But don’t be fooled by that slogan; Sue is brimming with business acumen and motivational concepts.
Divers planning a Florida Keys vacation can anticipate days of world-class underwater adventure — exploring a fascinating shipwreck trail that stretches from Key Largo to Key West within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The trail features long-ago wrecks and ships intentionally sunk to create artificial reefs, now home to myriad fish and corals.
On the offbeat island of Key West, even the zombies defy stereotypes. Instead of stumbling through dark wastelands in tattered clothes — as often portrayed in films and TV shows — Key West’s zombies are to hop on their bikes and pedal beside the Atlantic Ocean Sunday, Oct. 22, during the annual Zombie Bike Ride.
Legendary singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett, who passed away Sept. 1 at age 76, is remembered and honored in Key West, the island where he developed his engaging tropical-flavored style. Jimmy discovered Key West in the early 1970s and it was his home for many years — inspiring classic tunes like the iconic “Margaritaville.”
On Labor Day 2013, Diana Nyad walked ashore onto Key West's Smathers Beach — becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys without a shark cage. Keys Voices marks the 10th anniversary of Diana’s iconic feat with a look back at the challenges and perseverance that led to its accomplishment.