KEY WEST, Fla. — Santa might arrive by sailboat instead of sleigh, and balmy Key West has never seen snow, but visitors can immerse themselves in seasonal spirit and celebrations during the 2022 Key West Holiday Fest that runs through Dec. 31.
The festivities are to begin Wednesday, Nov. 23, with the Lighting of the Harborwalk at the Key West Historic Seaport. The illumination festivities are free to attend and are scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Greene Street Plaza at Greene and Elizabeth streets.
The entire harborwalk area is to glimmer with holiday displays themed to celebrate the island city’s maritime heritage. Elements include tens of thousands of lights, dozens of lighted palm trees, a lobster trap holiday tree, a nautically decorated pine and a tree adorned with fishing buoys that resemble giant ornaments.
From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, Holiday Fest is to provide scores of opportunities for shared exploration of seasonal attractions and traditions. A comprehensive schedule of events is available at keywestholidayfest.com.
Highlights include tours of historic lighted inns on two consecutive Fridays, Dec. 9 and 16. Visitors can explore several festively decorated bed-and-breakfast properties each Friday, discovering Key West’s unique architecture and heritage while sampling holiday treats and libations. Tickets for the tours are to be available at keystix.com or by calling 305-296-4959.
Boaters can “deck the hulls” and light up their vessels to participate in the 31st annual Schooner Wharf Bar/Absolut Vodka Lighted Boat Parade set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. An island-style expression of holiday cheer, the seafarers’ promenade typically features decorated fishing vessels, sailboats, schooners and even kayaks proceeding around the Historic Seaport and harbor areas. Spectators can view the procession from resorts, bars and restaurants in and around the seaport.
As well as these signature celebrations, the Key West Holiday Fest calendar is packed with events including the annual hometown holiday parade, festive island lights tours via the Conch Tour Train and Old Town Trolley, a free concert and bazaar at the historic Custom House Museum, performances of a subtropical version of the classic “Nutcracker” ballet, seasonal artisan markets, pet photos with Santa and multiple New Year’s Eve “drops” that spoof New York City’s annual Times Square “ball drop.”
Event information: keywestholidayfest.com or 305-296-4959.
A U.S. Coast Guard boat and its crew participating in last year's Key West Lighted Boat Parade at the Historic Seaport. Photo by Carol Tedesco.