19 June 2019
Key West, Florida Keys — Key West’s wide array of entertainment — throughout the night, into the wee hours and all day, every day — means it’s challenging to experience all there is to do. LGBTQ visitors can enjoy theater and music performances, book on-the-water excursions, meet new friends for dining or drinks, attend a drag show, simply “chillax” in the subtropical surroundings and much more.
While Key West’s laid-back attitude means everyone is welcome virtually everywhere on the 2-by-4-mile island, some entertainment offerings are designed to appeal primarily to LGBTQ visitors.
Popular activities include happy hours, afternoon tea dances, adult bingo or Texas Hold ‘Em games, spirited karaoke and delightfully outrageous drag shows. LGBTQ and straight visitors and residents mingle freely at “come as you are” establishments throughout the island.
Some are located in the “Pink Triangle” around the 700 block of Duval Street, the town’s main 14-block entertainment and shopping thoroughfare that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
Among the most popular spots are Aqua, at 711 Duval St., where “Reality is a Drag” showcases the performers Inga and the Aquanettes. Other attractions include karaoke, poker and intriguing special events. Aqua’s Sidebar dance club opened in late 2016 at 504 Angela St.
Bourbon St. Pub, 724 Duval St., is known for its witty themed parties, male dancers and other performers, and a male-only clothing-optional garden bar and pool. Diagonally across the street at 801 Duval St. stands the 801 Bar, boasting an extensive happy hour and bingo on Sunday afternoon, karaoke nights and drag performances by the fabulously bedecked Sushi and the 801 Girls.
La Te Da, at 1125 Duval St., is a popular boutique hotel whose upstairs Crystal Room showcases performers Randy Roberts and Christopher Peterson, regarded nationally as leading female impersonators. La Te Da also offers an acclaimed restaurant and Sunday afternoon tea dances.
Other popular spots include Bobby’s Monkey Bar, located off the beaten path at 900 Simonton St., frequented by locals for its friendly nightly karaoke and reasonably priced drinks.
Key West’s top-notch theater, featuring big-city sophistication and professionally trained entertainers, may seem surprising for a destination located at the southernmost tip of the continental United States. Venues offer theatrical and musical shows and performances, hosting guest artists and road companies from around the world.
Theaters and musical venues include the Waterfront Playhouse, Red Barn Theatre, San Carlos Institute, Key West Theater and Tennessee Williams Theatre on the campus of at Florida Keys Community College. Named to honor the Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright who lived in Key West for decades, the spacious playhouse hosted the premiere of Williams’ “Will Mr. Merriweather Return from Memphis?”
For fans of the silver screen, Tropic Cinema offers contemporary films and independent foreign cinema just off Duval Street.
Because of Key West’s year-round subtropical climate, daytime entertainment typically focuses around swimming, sunning and watersports. Visitors might choose to relax poolside or explore the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park or Higgs Beach.
For those preferring livelier activities, the azure water surrounding Key West is the place to be. The only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States can be found just 7 miles offshore, teeming with vivid tropical fish and fantastic coral formations that draw divers and snorkelers. Snorkel and scuba excursions are plentiful, with instruction available for novices. Paddleboarding and kayaking are popular as well.
Several vessels offer specifically gay trips and even clothing-optional excursions. And no escape to Key West would be complete without taking a romantic sunset cruise — listening to the creak of the rigging as the tropical sun descends beneath the horizon in a blaze of vivid orange and pink.
Daytime visitors can cool off by exploring Key West’s many museums and nature attractions. Among them are the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory at 1316 Duval St., Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum at 907 Whitehead St., Mel Fisher Maritime Museum at 200 Greene St. and Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit at 513 Truman Ave.
The island’s most popular photo stop is the Southernmost Point, a larger-than-life buoy that marks the southernmost spot in the continental United States — only 90 miles from Cuba. Virtually every visitor to Key West stops there for a selfie or group photo.
Most also experience the nightly Sunset Celebration, featuring colorful street performers and an island-style outdoor market. People of all ages flock to Mallory Square, the historic pier overlooking Key West Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico, to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere as the sun sinks beneath the waves in orange-red splendor.
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/gay, fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Gay Key West Visitor Center: gaykeywestfl.com, 305-294-4603 or 1-800-535-7797
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