Incredible as it may seem, ’tis the season to be jolly (almost, anyway) — despite the fact that Christmas is many weeks away. That’s because, in the celebration-loving Florida Keys, mid-November brings the first stirrings of holiday spirit.
“Light Up Key Largo” features the lighting of a 45-foot-tall holiday tree and fun activities for kids.
And while sleigh bells may not be jingling QUITE yet, during the next couple of weeks you can enjoy festivities that range from traditional to offbeat — with, of course, a unique island twist.
For example, “Light Up Key Largo” is planned for Saturday, Nov. 18, featuring the lighting of “Holly,” a 45-foot-tall holiday tree, and loads of fun activities for kids at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center (mile marker 102 bayside).
Organized by the Key Largo Community Preservation Foundation, the 4-8 p.m. event promises surprises including “train” rides around the tree.
Cookie decorating and craft tents will keep the kids busy, along with interactive activities from Florida Keys nonprofit vendors. Snow machines blowing flurries, food vendors offering yummy selections, and tunes from the Mangrove Swamp Band will lend a festive flair throughout the event.
Naturally, the guest of honor is to be Santa, sitting in his new “sleigh” — where you can join him for selfies and snapshots.
While Santa might travel by schooner instead of sleigh in seafaring Key West, you can immerse yourself in seasonal activities beginning Wednesday, Nov. 22, with the illumination of the Harbor Walk of Lights at the Key West Historic Seaport.
Live music, local artisans offering gift selections, and plenty of seasonal spirit can be found at the at the Lower Keys’ Island Art Festival.
The event is planned for 6 p.m. in the Greene Street plaza at Greene and Elizabeth streets, and it offers feel-good fun that’s not to be missed.
The harbor walk area from Greene to Grinnell streets will glimmer with displays throughout the season, all themed to commemorate Key West’s maritime heritage and ocean connection. Elements are to include tens of thousands of lights, beautifully lit 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 Lower Keys’ Island Art Festival.
It takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, on the shaded grounds of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (mile marker 31 oceanside) on Big Pine.
During the lively event, 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 area artists and artisans — plus live music by favorite local bands and entertainers, displays by not-for-profit groups, and food and beverages from on-site vendors.
Kids play on a mountain of snow in balmy Islamorada. The white stuff is specially imported each year for the gala Holiday Fest. (Photo courtesy of the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce)
Not only is the day 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. 1, be sure to stop by the Great Lawn in Islamorada’s Founders Park (mile marker 87 bayside) for the annual Holiday Fest.
Why? For one thing, organizers promise a 30-ton mountain of snow (yes, snow — specially “blown in” for the event) that should be perfect for making subtropical snowballs.
The frosty festival is set for 4-10 p.m. — and other must-see elements include a 35-foot-tall tree to be lighted at 6 p.m., musical and dance performances, and the tail-wagging Santa Paws Pet Parade. Plus there’s a main parade with decorated floats, bands, and a special guest known as jolly old Saint Nick.
The on-site bazaar will be chock full of gift items, jewelry, crafts, mouthwatering foods and holiday baskets. And the highly anticipated online ornament auction features 50 hand-painted pieces created and donated by local artists.
As if that isn’t enough, 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 Florida Keys. “Keys Voices” will present highlights in the coming weeks — but you can get a jump on plans by checking out the calendar here.