FLORIDA KEYS -- From beachside fireworks to wacky takeoffs on the traditional ball drop in New York's Times Square, the Florida Keys offer visitors a wealth of ways to welcome 2018. And because "winter" in the subtropical island chain means balmy breezes rather than blizzards, revelers can leave heavy coats and boots behind as they head out to celebrate wearing light dresses or shorts and sandals.
Four celebrations in Key West, all slated for the night of Sunday, Dec. 31, are to be staged as lighthearted Keys versions of the Times Square festivities — including one featuring the "drop" of a female impersonator in a spangled super-sized red high heel shoe.
Renowned "drag queen" Sushi takes center stage at the annual celebration at the Bourbon St. Pub/New Orleans House complex at 724 Duval St. Just before midnight, a dazzlingly gowned and coiffed Sushi, riding in the famed red shoe, is to be lowered from the balcony of the complex to the accompaniment of cheers and applause from the crowds below.
As well as Sushi's lively commentary, spectators are to be entertained by personalities including guest host Austin Armacost, who is best known for his appearances on Logo Television's reality show "The A List" and the British reality show "Celebrity Big Brother." A street-side stage is to feature performances by local and national notables.
Also in Key West, revelers can welcome 2018 with a "conch shell drop" at Sloppy Joe's Bar, 201 Duval St.; the lowering of a pirate wench from atop a tall ship's mast at the Schooner Wharf Bar, 202 William St.; and the splash-down of a huge replica Key lime wedge into a larger-than-life margarita glass at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa, 0 Duval St.
At the head of the Keys island chain in Key Largo, a fireworks display over Blackwater Sound is to ring in the new year at midnight Sunday, Dec. 31. The annual New Year's Eve fireworks extravaganza is hosted by Sundowners, Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill, Señor Frijoles, Cactus Jack's, Gus's Grille at the Key Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort and the Caribbean Club, all great viewing spots for the colorful display and all located around mile markers (MMs) 103-104.
Midnight fireworks also are on the menu at an Upper Keys hotspot in Islamorada. Morada Bay Beach Café at MM 81.6 bayside is to host a large beach party with live music, a beach barbecue, signature cocktails and performers — all culminating in a dazzling display of fireworks.
For other holiday celebrations in the Florida Keys, explore the offerings at fla-keys.com/calendarofevents.
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY