The Lower Keys are so well known as a stargazer’s paradise that, for four decades, the tranquil region has been the site of an exclusive gathering called the Winter Star Party — a gathering beside the Atlantic Ocean that provides an unparalleled opportunity for astronomers and enthusiasts. This year, it’s set for Feb. 5-11.
Want to get 2024 off to a memorable start? Then plan to savor sunshine and stellar talents at three Key West music festivals set for January and early February — featuring current and classic icons of the hard rock, Red Dirt/Americana and country/pop genres performing outdoors in the island’s typically balmy “winter” weather.
Instead of celebrating the lead-up to Santa’s Dec. 25 arrival by bestowing daily gifts (as suggested in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”), consider celebrating with experiences. Florida Keys experiences, to be exact — because the island chain’s December calendar is packed with creative, colorful and heartwarming events designed to spark smiles and lasting memories.
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).
Stone crab claws offer sweet and scrumptious meat that’s among the Florida Keys’ most popular delicacies. Once the stone crab harvest season begins each Oct. 15, the savory claws appear prominently on Keys restaurant menus — triggering a veritable stampede of eager seafood fans. There’s even an annual Stone Crab Eating Contest in November.
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.
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.
Visitors seeking cultural experiences to supplement the Florida Keys’ subtropical “fun and sun” lure will find arts offerings in virtually all genres. Enthusiasts can discover galleries from Key Largo to Key West, festivals that spotlight the island chain’s rich creative heritage, eclectic events that showcase the talents of local residents — and even gyotaku.
Meet the newest “Papa.” White-bearded Wisconsin man Gerrit Marshall has won the 2023 Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, a highlight of Key West's Hemingway Days festivities. The retired television broadcast engineer triumphed over nearly 140 other contest entrants on his 68th birthday — just a day after the July 21 birthday of the original "Papa" Hemingway.