Key West Holiday Harbor Walk
  • One never knows what magical creatures might be encountered while enjoying the sparkling beauty of the Harborwalk of Lights at the Key West Historic Seaport. (Photo by Carol Tedesco, Florida Keys Holiday Fest)

     

  • By: Carol Shaughnessy
  • November 6, 2019

Incredible as it may seem, the 2019 holidays are sneaking up fast. And in the Florida Keys, they’re celebrated with festivities that range from traditional to eccentric — with, of course, a unique island twist.

Seafaring Christmas tree Key West

Holiday decorations in the Keys, like this tree along the Harborwalk of Lights, often blend seasonal and seafaring elements. (Photo by Rob O’Neal)

For example, while Santa is more likely to travel by schooner than sleigh in balmy Key West, you can immerse yourself in seasonal spirit beginning Wednesday, Nov. 27, with the kickoff to the annual Key West Holiday Fest.

That’s when locals and visitors join together for the gala Lighting of the Harborwalk at the Key West Historic Seaport. The illumination events are scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Greene Street plaza at Greene and Elizabeth streets, and they offer feel-good fun that’s not to be missed.

The harborwalk area from Greene to Grinnell streets will glimmer with displays throughout the season, all themed to commemorate Key West’s maritime history.

Elements are to include more than 61,000 lights (!), 58 lighted palm trees, a lobster trap holiday tree, a nautically decorated pine and a tree adorned with fishing buoys that look uncannily like giant ornaments.

In the Lower Keys, you’re more likely to spot Key deer — the shy, tiny deer that are protected in the region’s National Key Deer Refuge — than Santa’s reindeer. But you can ring in the revelry nevertheless at the Big Pine & Lower Keys Island Art Festival.

It takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, on the shaded grounds of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce at mile marker 31 oceanside in Big Pine.

During the lively festival, you can celebrate the holidays and the creative arts while savoring subtropical temperatures (definitely a winning combination!).

Attractions include exhibits and booths featuring original art, crafts and other wares by Florida Keys artists and artisans — plus live music by favorite local bands and entertainers, and food and beverages from on-site vendors.

Not only is the event fun for the entire family, but you’ll also find one-of-a-kind gifts for those special people in your life.

And on Friday, Dec. 6, be sure to stop by Islamorada’s Founders Park (at mile marker 87 bayside) for the annual Florida Keys Holiday Festival.

Florida Keys Christmas tree ornament

A Christmas tree ornament created by Florida Keys artist Cindy Williams won top honors during a past Florida Keys Holiday Festival in Islamorada. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Why? For one thing, organizers promise a 30-ton snow mountain (yes, snow — specially “blown in” for the evening) that should be perfect for making subtropical snowballs. Always a family favorite during the celebration, the snowy spectacular is set for 4-10 p.m. at the park’s beach area.

Other must-see elements include a 35-foot-tall holiday tree to be lighted at 6 p.m., musical and dance performances, the tail-wagging Santa Paws Pet Parade, and the event’s main parade featuring decorated floats, marching bands, antique cars and a special guest known as jolly old Saint Nick.

The on-site bazaar will be chock full of gift items, jewelry, crafts, baked goods and gourmet baskets.

The highly anticipated ornament silent auction features 50 hand-painted ceramic pieces created and donated by local artists. Bids for these one-of-a-kind ornaments are accepted until 9 p.m.

As if that isn’t enough, adults can sample a variety of food items, enjoy hot buttered rum or sip fine wines at the festival-favorite Vino Village. And Santa’s Sweet Shoppe will offer tempting coffees, decadent desserts and treats.

Throughout November and December, you’ll find celebrations designed to jingle your bells all around the holiday-loving Florida Keys. “Keys Voices” will present highlights in the coming weeks — but you can get a jump on seasonal plans by checking out the calendar here.

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