The Florida Keys & Key West are known around the globe for their unmatched natural beauty, laid-back atmosphere and year-round warmth. But they also offer environmental, cultural and adventure activities that can’t be enjoyed anywhere EXCEPT in the island chain. Make lasting vacation memories by undertaking 10 extraordinary “only in the Keys” experiences.
Fritzie Estimond is a welcoming presence at the Key West Business Guild’s LGBTQ Visitor Center — and the guiding spirit behind the guild’s annual events. What does she like best about Key West? The “small community” feel, the acceptance that allows people to be their authentic selves, and what she cheerfully calls “the weird.”
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.
Great news — Fantasy Fest is a go for 2021! Revelers can enjoy over 50 costume contests, masquerades, parties and performances during the high-energy annual event, though traditional large-crowd highlights aren’t taking place to protect against potential coronavirus spread. This year's popular masking and costuming festival entertains partygoers from Oct. 22 through Oct. 31.
Visitors to the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden might spot scarecrows peering out from among the 15-acre habitat’s plants and trees during a lighthearted exhibit of recycled art creations. The “Scarecrows in the Forest” exhibition features figures crafted from natural and recycled materials by local artists, students and other community members.
Many of Jimmy Buffett’s classic songs, inspired by his years in Key West, invite fans to share his love for the island’s offbeat characters, laid-back lifestyle and cheerfully outlaw vibe. Now, 50 years after Jimmy first discovered Key West, Scott Atwell has unveiled a fascinating book titled “Buffett Backstories: Fifty Years, Fifty Songs.”
Key West is known as one of the most haunted cities in the United States. Visitors can experience several year-round ghost tours that are delightfully unnerving, including an award-winning trolley tour with a “ghost host” and the exploration of a haunted Civil War–era fort where they encounter the eerie Robert the Doll.
Who says the fall season has to be dull and gloomy? Instead, plan an adrenaline-packed vacation in the sunny Florida Keys, and enjoy balmy temps and delightful ocean breezes while indulging in “bucket-list” adventures — like exploring the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, sportfishing or even skydiving above the island chain.
The Florida Keys have long been a popular choice for film producers seeking a subtropical adventure setting for their next cinematic project. Since the late 1940s, the island chain has played a role in many notable films — ranging from Bogart's "Key Largo" to James Bond classics and contemporary fare like "The Beach Bum."