There are a million reasons to love the Florida Keys, but without the spectacular coral reefs that surround the place, those reasons wouldn’t exist. World-renowned for unmatched beauty, with coastal waters protected within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the island chain offers underwater adventures that can be enjoyed only in the Keys.
Celebrating its 38th year of delighting audiences, Key West’s Headdress Ball is set for Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater. The glamorous LGBTQ gala typically features about 25 contestants showcasing huge and elaborate original masks, cowls, bonnets and other headgear — with top Florida Keys talents staging dazzling entertainment between headdress presentations.
Attendees at the Key West Food and Wine Festival can enjoy gourmet galas and tastings, art and wine experiences, wine dinners, seminars and activities that spotlight the Florida Keys’ culinary scene and talented chefs. Equally appealing are the glimpses the festival offers into the island chain’s unique heritage, culture and warmly welcoming vibe.
Ken Nedimyer, an Upper Keys–based director of Reef Renewal Foundation International, is globally recognized as a father of reef restoration, creating strategies to rebuild coral reefs around the world. He oversees three coral nurseries in the Keys — off Tavernier, Big Pine Key and Marathon — that house 21 coral species with 1,000 genotypes.
Teams from around the world will compete in adrenaline-packed sporting events in Key West Jan. 24-31, during the 30th annual Kelly McGillis Classic International Women’s & Girls’ Flag Football Championship. The fun includes acting workshops and performances guided by Kelly McGillis herself, a former Key West resident who co-starred in “Top Gun.”
Santa does things a little differently in the holiday-loving Florida Keys -- and he even brings some Keys warmth and cheer to people who can't spend the season in the subtropical island chain. Unless you're on the naughty list, you might just get a visit from jolly old Santa Keys this year!
Visitors can enjoy the indigenous flavors of the Florida Keys, and even take home mouthwatering “souvenirs” to help sustain them until their next vacation escape. For example, any traveler in the Upper Keys who craves sweets can stop at several spots along the Overseas Highway to discover unforgettable goodies with an island flair.
New Year’s Eve celebrations in Key West typically feature balmy weather and a warmhearted welcome for visitors eager to escape freezing northern temperatures. Festivities include several offbeat takeoffs on the traditional ball drop in New York’s Times Square — even one that stars drag queen Sushi being “dropped” in a supersized red high heel.
This December, don’t let self-imposed “must-do” holiday tasks jingle your bells till you’re jingled out. Instead, take a Florida Keys approach. During this holiday season, adopt the Keys’ traditional laid-back attitude, refusal to take life too seriously and awareness that the very best “gift” is sharing laughter and closeness with friends and family.
Allyson Gantt inspires others to care for the Florida Keys’ two national parks and their unique environments. A National Park Service ranger for over 25 years, she directs communications and public affairs for Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks — and is overseeing a year of activities for Everglades National Park’s upcoming 75th anniversary.