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.”
During the Great Conch Republic Drag Race, female impersonators and their “pit crew” transform part of Key West’s Duval Street into an improvised speedway. The quirky challenge features “dragsters” from across the island, sporting their highest heels and glam racing attire, sprinting down the street in an “only in Key West” event.
In 1982, the Florida Keys & Key West seceded from the United States (for a very good reason) and formed the independent Conch Republic. Come to find out, the irreverent and gutsy spirit that inspired the Keys' secession also sparked the founding of a "country" on the other side of the world: the colorful “Republic of Whangamomona.”
According to paranormal expert David Sloan, Key West is one of the most haunted cities in the entire United States. Visitors can discovery the island's “haunting” appeal for themselves by experiencing David's "ghost hunt" walking tour, taking an eerie excursion by trolley, "meeting" a supposedly supernatural doll or even staying in a lovely inn with a spirit guest or two.
All over the Florida Keys, people are constructing costumes for their cats, dogs, parrots, potbellied pigs, rabbits and other domestic species. What’s behind this strange phenomenon? A wacky annual costume competition for critters, known as the Pet Masquerade, that’s a highlight of Key West’s 10-day Fantasy Fest celebration each October.