21 November 2019

FLORIDA KEYS — New Year’s Eve celebrations in the Florida Keys traditionally feature balmy temperatures and a warm welcome for revelers fleeing colder climes. From beachside fireworks where overcoats and gloves aren’t allowed to wacky takeoffs on the traditional ball drop in New York’s Times Square, the island chain offers visitors a wealth of ways to welcome 2020.
As midnight approaches Tuesday, Dec. 31, thousands of people are expected to ring in the New Year on Key West’s famed Duval Street by enjoying a quirky island tradition dubbed the “Red Shoe Drop.” Renowned female impersonator Sushi stars in the festivities, perched in a supersized red high heel shoe suspended high above the crowds at the Bourbon St. Pub/New Orleans House complex, 724 Duval St.
Just before midnight a dazzlingly gowned and coiffed Sushi, riding in the glittering shoe, is to be lowered from the balcony of the complex to the accompaniment of cheers and applause from the crowd below. Live entertainment on a Duval Street stage adds a sophisticated spice, with performers including international recording artist Beth Sacks. VIP tickets are available for a private balcony party, but space is limited. Visit bourbonstpub.com.
Down the street outside Sloppy Joe’s Bar, 201 Duval St., the focus of frivolity is on a gigantic manmade conch shell — the symbol of the Florida Keys — during the annual “Dropping of the Conch Shell.” Events are emceed by a rooftop host and, as a huge clock counts down the seconds to midnight, the shell begins to descend from its supports to the flat roof of the legendary bar. No reservations or tickets are taken for the popular outdoor event. Visit sloppyjoes.com.
In the Key West Historic Seaport outside the Schooner Wharf Bar, 202 William St., the watering hole’s traditional “Lowering of the Pirate Wench” celebrates the island's colorful seafaring heritage. Just before midnight, a pirate wench is to begin her descent from atop the mast of the tall ship America 2.0 as cannons boom. The event includes live music and festivities at the Schooner Wharf. Visit schoonerwharf.com.  
Revelers also can applaud a huge replica of a Key lime wedge splashing down into a larger-than-life margarita glass on the Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort & Spa, 0 Duval St.; the “landing” of a flight attendant in a section of a replica aircraft at First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery, 301 Whitehead St., whose historic building is known as the birthplace of Pan Am; and the offbeat “tuna drop” at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, 4 Charles St. Visit facebook.com/SunsetPierKeyWest/, firstflightkw.com and smokintunasaloon.com.
Instead of looking ahead to 2020, attendees at Old Island Restoration Foundation’s New Year’s Eve costume gala in Key West can look back to the 1860s or 1960s. Part of the foundation’s 60th anniversary celebration, the party is themed “MadMen MadWomen” and takes place in the garden at the Oldest House Museum, 322 Duval St. Visit thegardenattheoldesthouse.org/60th-anniversary-celebration
In the Middle Keys, Isla Bella Beach Resort is planning dinner, dancing and celebration on New Year’s Eve. Options and attractions are to include a gourmet buffet, live music, “endless bubbles” and champagne toasts. Visit islabellabeachresort.com/holidays/new-years-celebration/.
Revelers in the sport fishing capital of Islamorada can welcome the new year with midnight fireworks on the beach at the luxurious Cheeca Lodge & Spa, located at mile marker 82 oceanside. Attractions include live music and dancing on the beach. Visit cheeca.com/experience/holidays-at-cheeca/ or call 305-664-4651.
Also in Islamorada, people can ring in the New Year with fireworks at midnight on the beach at Morada Bay Beach Cafe, located at mile marker 81.6 bayside. The evening also includes a large beach party with live music, beach barbecue, cocktails and performers. Visit moradabay.com or call 305-664-3225.
At the head of the Keys in Key Largo, a New Year’s Eve fireworks extravaganza is to illuminate the sky above Blackwater Sound. The festivities are hosted by Sundowners, mile marker 104 bayside, and include live music. For details and to reserve seats for a special New Year’s Eve dinner, visit
While the events outlined here are expected to be New Year’s Eve highlights in the Florida Keys, additional celebrations may spring up around the party-loving island chain. For an up-to-the-minute roster of holiday happenings, visit fla-keys.com/calendarofevents/.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS (1-800-352-5397)
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