Many people know Key West was once the home of Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, that Jimmy Buffett created his Margaritaville empire on the island, and that former President Harry Truman ruled the country from his Key West “vacation home.” But beyond those well-known facts lies a wealth of lesser-known tidbits and tales.
Looking for open-air natural experiences to enjoy in the Florida Keys? Visitors can find a wealth of intriguing spots — including the world’s first undersea park, a refuge for tiny Key deer, and remote Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson — to explore while discovering the island chain’s fascinating history and land-and-water environment.
Divers and ocean enthusiasts can celebrate the 20th “sink anniversary” of the third-largest vessel ever intentionally scuttled to become an artificial reef — the retired 510-foot Navy Landing Ship Dock Spiegel Grove, which lies off Key Largo — with events May 15-17 and a contest to win a Keys trip to dive the famous wreck.
It’s revered as legendary author Ernest Hemingway’s 1930s hangout. Known as the 1981 birthplace of the internationally renowned Hemingway® Look-Alike Contest. Famed as must-see stop for visitors to Key West. And on May 5, 2022, Sloppy Joe’s Bar marks 85 years at its iconic home at the corner of Duval and Greene streets.
In April 1982, the Florida Keys symbolically “seceded” from the United States and were reborn as the independent Conch Republic. Today the republic is internationally acclaimed as the Keys’ irreverent alter ego — and this month, the 40th annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration commemorates the historic action with a roster of rollicking events.
History lovers can experience Presidents' Day Weekend events in Key West at the Harry S. Truman Little White House, Florida’s only presidential museum, including a theatrical production on Truman starring the 33rd president’s oldest grandson. “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” is scheduled Feb. 18-19, followed by a Feb. 21 picnic on the museum grounds.
Each spring, the Tennessee Williams Birthday Celebration honors the openly gay playwright who lived and wrote in Key West from 1949 to 1983. The 2022 commemoration includes showings of films adapted from Williams’ plays, curator-led tours of Key West's Tennessee Williams Museum, writing competitions, theatrical presentations and a birthday reception (complete with cake).
Surrounded by turquoise water beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, the tiny island of Pigeon Key looms large in the history of the Florida Keys. And now, following the restoration and reopening of a 2.2-mile section of the bridge nicknamed “Old Seven,” the five-acre Keys landmark is more accessible than ever.
In the 1970s and early 80s, Key West was a freewheeling seaport town whose residents included fishing guides, hobbyist pot smugglers, treasure hunters seeking 17th-century shipwrecks and some of America’s leading renegade writers. That fascinating era is memorialized in “Home at the End of the World,” a book lovingly curated by Rita Troxel.
A popular Florida Keys boating and family destination, Marathon and the Middle Keys consist of small islands with names as colorful as their nightly sunsets. They include Boot, Knights, Hog, Vaca, Stirrup, Crawl and Little Crawl keys — plus Pigeon Key, East and West Sister’s Island, Deer, Fat Deer, Long Pine and Grassy keys.