In Key West’s historic Old Town, free-roaming chickens and roosters are a colorful part of daily life. Traffic stops to let hens and their babies cross the road, visitors coo and cluck as they snap photos of the meandering fowl, and the crowing of roosters provides a raucous soundtrack to everyday activities.
In the 1800s, the wrecking industry made Key West the richest city per capita in the United States. The Florida Keys wreckers were famed for their courage in salvaging crews and cargoes from sinking ships. Yet few people know they once salvaged a sea monster off Key Largo’s Carysford (today called Carysfort) Reef.
Fans of the fluted, pink-lined conch shell displayed their pucker power Saturday, March 7, during Key West's quirky annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest. Participants ranging from kids to seniors to groups attempted to coax the most impressive sounds from their “instruments” — with one woman even tootling parts of melodies including Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."
New Year’s Eve in the Florida Keys traditionally features balmy temperatures and a warm welcome for revelers fleeing colder spots. From beachside fireworks where overcoats and gloves aren’t allowed to wacky takeoffs on the traditional ball drop in New York’s Times Square, the island chain offers a wealth of ways to welcome 2020.
Savoring the taste of fresh-baked Cuban bread, watching pooches play at Dog Beach, strolling along palm-lined streets past Victorian gems in historic Old Town, sipping late-afternoon cocktails on the waterfront deck at Louie’s Backyard ... all these are pleasures Key Westers can enjoy every day, but that aren’t easily experienced in other places.
The eerie yet lighthearted Zombie Bike Ride will bring thousands of “the bicycling dead” to prowl Key West's Atlantic Ocean shoreline and streets Sunday, Oct. 20. Since it began in 2010, the pre-Halloween ride has become a tradition for visiting and local adults, kids and even some bewildered pets — all in spooky zombie garb.
Key Largo is called the dive capital of the world — with good reason, since it draws underwater enthusiasts from around the globe to experience its diverse, fascinating coral reef ecosystem alive with sea life. Plus Key Largo, and the Upper Keys overall, are home to a weird and wonderful array of lighthearted underwater events.
Joe Maxey looks a lot like Ernest Hemingway. That fact was amply proved when the 68-year-old white-bearded retired banker won Key West's annual Hemingway Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe's Bar. More than 140 aspiring Ernests competed, vying to be named "Papa" on the island where Hemingway lived and wrote during the 1930s.
With its funky charm, quirky characters, end-of-the-road mindset and reputation as a bastion of the bizarre, Key West might seem more like a fictional setting than a real locale. But while the continental United States’ southernmost city is real enough, it definitely proves the old proverb that reality can be stranger than fiction.
“Athletes” in the weird and wonderful Cow Key Channel Bridge Run, the planet's only “zero-k race,” follow a 300-foot course across one of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway’s shortest bridges. Most wear wacky cow- or bull-themed costumes (some paired with tutus!) and the 2019 race is themed Pirates of the “Cowibbean.”