Key West Travel Guide
Your guide to the best things to do and see in Key West, Florida
Key West is one of America’s best LGBTQ-friendly destinations. With a thriving community of gay and lesbian locals, and year-round events to attract visitors from around the world, there’s something for everyone on the small island. At the very southern tip of Florida (and the southernmost point in the United States), Key West has beaches, bars, parties, and lots of entertainment options. The small island is very walk-able, especially around the Old Town, where you can easily reach any number of things to see and do. Start here with my basic Key West travel tips, or jump down below to read my latest Key West travel blogs.
When to Visit
Key West has a tropical climate which makes it a popular year-round destination, though the busy tourist season is traditionally in winter when temperatures are more warm than other destinations around the USA. You can expect higher hotel rates in the period between November and January when it’s high season (and when many cruise shops dock in the Key West port), but the shoulder seasons are still great times to visit.
In fact, some of the best Key West events and festivals take place outside of the high tourist season. The two biggest LGBTQ events taking place in Key West include Fantasy Fest in October, and Key West Pride in June. Fantasy Fest is a unique and fun way to experience the city, with colorful costumes and ridiculous games—a 10-day party in paradise for grown-ups!
Best Things To Do
Enjoy the best of Key West cuisine – Key West cuisine is more than just seafood and key lime pie (though obviously those are really good). Because of Key West’s special vibe, there are lots of great locally owned and independent restaurants in town. Try the famous Key Lime Pie at Kermit’s, lobster at A&B Lobster House, conch fritters (another local food speciality) at The Conch Shack, and fine dining Mediterranean at the gay-owned Azur Key West.
Learn local history at the Hemingway Home – One of the top attractions and things to do in Key West, Ernest Hemingway lived in this large house (with an even larger garden) for at least 10 years. It’s where he wrote many of his works, and the grounds are equally inspiring (even when crowded with tourists). Famous for his pet cats that still roam free, you can join a guided tour of the home and museum to learn more about the prolific writer’s life in Key West.
Enjoy the best of Key West nightlife — With its tropical weather and many bars, the nightlife in Key West is legendary. And with such a vibrant local LGBTQ community, the gay bars in Key West are some of Florida’s best. Most of the gay nightlife takes place on Duval Street. Stop by the Key West LGBTQ Business Guild for a weekly listing of all the parties, drag shows, and club nights taking place while you’re in town, or just hop into one of the gay bars on Duval at night.
Key West Tours & Attractions
A lot of Key West is easy to explore on your own; don’t miss any of the museums or attractions. While the beaches and pools are great for relaxing, make the most of your trip by visiting some of the local attractions.
But the #1 best thing to do while in Key West? Go snorkeling! The water in the Florida Keys is some of the best in the country, and with the Great Florida Reef just off the coast of Key West, you can find a lot of amazing sea-life and water activities.
Fury Water Adventures offers a variety of high-adrenaline activities. Fury’s most popular excursion is Ultimate Adventure – an action-packed day that includes parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking and snorkeling. They also offer individual excursions for parasailing, sunset cruises, eco tours, jet skiing, snorkeling and more.
Check other Florida tours and attractions here:
LGBT – Gay Florida Travel Guide
One of America’s most LGBTQ-friendly cities, Key West has a long history as a gay hotspot. Thanks to a number of famous gay events, like Key West in June and Fantasy Fest in October, Key West has attracted gay travelers for decades. Check out the Key West page for more LGBTQ events and recommended things to do.
The Key West LGBTQ Business Guild should be your first stop on any gay itinerary for the island. The LGBTQ center has flyers and pamphlets from all the Key West businesses and the staff there are extremely knowledgable and helpful on all the gay-friendly activities in town. They produce a printed guide while you’ll find in their shop but also at many of the gay bars and LGBTQ-owned restaurants in town.
More gay travel resources here.
Key West Hotels
Key West has plenty of cool and quirky hotels. The high-season in winter (November to January) are the busiest in Key West and I’ve found that using Booking.com, Agoda.com or Hotels Combined can be really useful for finding last-minute deals.
Recommended Key West Hotels
Island House Key West — One of four gay, clothing-optional resorts in Key West, Island House was completely redesigned in 1999 to feature updated guest rooms, common areas and gardens together with a new café and bar and health club. The resort’s sun deck and common areas are clothing optional, and the 24-hour swimming pool, gym, and sauna are especially busy at night with both guests of the hotel, and day-pass visitors. I personally found the property in great condition and surprisingly fun and welcoming.
The Marker Resort — Poised on the pristine waterfront of Key West’s historic seaport, The Marker is more than a gleaming addition to the Florida islands. As the only newly built hotel to grace Old Town Key West in over 20 years, it marks a fresh approach to luxury. Featuring 96 state-of-the-art rooms on two lush acres of tropical landscaped seclusion, The Marker is a tropical oasis set within a vibrant, free spirited paradise filled with sun, surf, art and culture.
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