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Key West is a seaport destination for many passenger cruise ships. The Key West International Airport provides airline service. Hotels and guest houses are available for lodging. Many restaurants offer a choice of indoor or outdoor dining.

It is a popular gay tourist destination, has a large Naval flight school and was the Winter White House of Harry S. Truman.

The central business district primarily comprises Duval, Whitehead, and Simonton Streets.
History

Cayo Hueso

In Pre-Columbian times Key West was inhabited by the Calusa people. The first European to visit was Juan Ponce de León in 1521. As Florida became a Spanish colony, a fishing and salvage village with a small garrison was established here.

The name "Key West" is derived from a "false friend" anglicization of the Spanish language name of the island, Cayo Hueso, meaning "Bone Island". It was said that human bones were found in mangrove clumps on the island.

In 1763 when Great Britain took control of Florida, the community of Spaniards and Native Americans were moved to Havana.

Florida returned to Spanish control 20 years later, but there was no official resettlement of the island. Informally the island was used by fishermen from Cuba and from the British Bahamas, who were later joined by others from the United States after the latter nation's independence. While claimed by Spain, no nation exercised de facto control over the community there for some time.


Matthew C. Perry and the Opening of "Thompson's Island"
Key West, ca. 1856
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Key West, ca. 1856

In 1815 the Spanish governor in Havana, Cuba deeded the island of Key West to Juan Pablo Salas of Saint Augustine, Florida. After Florida was transferred to the United States, Salas sold the island to U.S. businessman John W. Simonton for $2,000 in 1821. Simonton had wide-ranging business interest in Mobile, Alabama. He bought the island because a friend, John Whitehead, had drawn his attention on the opportunities presented by the island's strategic location. John Whitehead had been stranded in Key West after a shipwreck in 1819 and he had been impressed by the potential offered by the deep harbor of the island. The island was indeed considered the "Gibraltar of the West" because of its strategic location on the 90 mile wide deep shipping lane Straits of Florida between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Of Mexico. On March 25, 1822, Matthew C. Perry sailed the schooner Shark to Key West and planted the U.S. flag, physically claiming the Keys as United States property. Perry reported on piracy problems in the Caribbean. Perry renamed Cayo Hueso (Key West) to "Thompson's Island" for the Secretary of the Navy Smith Thompson and the harbor "Port Rodgers" for War of 1812 hero John Rodgers. Neither name was to stick. In 1823 Commodore David Porter of the United States Navy West Indies Anti-Pirate Squadron took charge of Key West, which he ruled (but, according to some, exceeding his authority) as military dictator under martial law.

Soon after his purchase, Simonton subdivided the island into plots and sold 3 undivided quarters of each plot to:

* John Mountain and U.S. Consul John Warner who quickly resold their quarter to Pardon C. Greene who took up residence on the island
* John Whitehead, his friend who had advised him to buy Key West
* John Fleeming (nowadays spelled Fleming)

John Simonton spent the winter in Key West and the summer in Washington where he lobbied hard for the development of the island and to establish a naval base on the island, both to take advantage of the island's strategic location and to bring law and order to the town. He died in 1854.

Pardon C. Greene is the only one of the 4 "founding fathers" to establish himself permanently on the island where he became quite prominent as head of "P.C. Greene and Company". He also served briefly as Mayor. He died in 1838 at the age of 57.

John Whitehead lived in Key West for only eight years. He became a partner in the firm of "P.C. Greene and Company" from 1824-1827. A lifelong bachelor, he left the island for good in 1832. He came back only once during the Civil War in 1861 and died the next year.

John W.C. Fleeming was English born and was active in mercantile business in Mobile,Alabama where he became friend with John Simonton. Fleeming spent only a few months in Key West in 1822 and left for Massachusetts where he married. He returned to Key West in 1832 with the intention of developping salt manufacturing on the island but died the same year at the young age of 51.

The names of the 4 "founding fathers" of modern Key West were given to main arteries of the island when it was first platted in 1829 by William Adee Whitehead, John Whitehead's younger brother. That first plat and the names used remained mostly intact and is still in use today. Duval street, the island's main street is named after Florida's first territorial Governor who served between 1822 and 1834, the longest serving Governor in Florida's U.S. history.

William Whitehead became chief editorial writer for the "Enquirer" a local newspaper in 1834. He had the genius of preserving copies of his newspaper as well as copies from the "Key West Gazette", its predecessor. He later sent those copies to the Monroe County Clerk for preservation which gives us a precious view on life in Key West in the early days (1820-1840).

Conchs

Many of the residents of Key West were immigrants from the Bahamas, known as Conchs. In the 20th Century many residents of Key West started referring to themselves as "Conchs", and the term is now generally applied to all residents of Key West. Some residents use the term "Salt Water Conch" to refer to a person born in Key West, while the term "Fresh Water Conch" refers to a resident not born in Key West but who has lived in Key West for a significant time. It is said that when a baby was born, the family would put a conch shell on a pole in front of their home.

Many of the Bahama immigrants live in an area of Old Town next to the Truman Annex called "Bahama Village."

Major industries in Key West in the early 19th century included fishing, salt production, and most famously salvage. In 1860 wrecking made Key West the largest and richest city in Florida and the wealthiest town per capita in the U.S. A number of the inhabitants worked salvaging shipwrecks from nearby Florida reefs, and the town was noted for the unusually high concentration of fine furniture and chandeliers which the locals used in their own homes after salvaging them from wrecks.

U.S. Civil War

During the American Civil War, while Florida seceded and joined the Confederate States of America, Key West remained in U.S. Union hands because of the Naval base. Fort Zachary Taylor, constructed from 1845 to 1866, was an important Key West outpost during the Civil War. Fort Jefferson, located about 68 miles (109 km) from Key West on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas, served after the Civil War as the prison for Dr. Samuel A. Mudd convicted of conspiracy for setting the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.

In the late 19th century, salt and salvage declined as industries, but Key West gained a thriving cigar making industry.

Many Cubans moved to Key West during Cuba's unsuccessful war for independence in the 1860s and 1870s.


Overseas By Rail and Road

Key West was relatively isolated until 1912 when it was connected to the Florida mainland via Overseas Railway extension of Henry M. Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway (FEC). Flager created a landfill at Trumbo Point for his railyards. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 destroyed much of the railroad, and killed hundreds of residents, including around 400 World War I veterans who were living in camps and working on federal road and mosquito-control projects in the Middle Keys. The FEC could not afford to restore the railroad.

The United States Federal Government then rebuilt the rail lines as an automobile highway, completed in 1938, which became an extension of United States Highway 1. The portion of US 1 through the Keys is called the Overseas Highway. Franklin Roosevelt toured the road in 1939.

Winter White House

Main story: Truman Annex

Several Presidents have visited Key West. Harry Truman visited for 175 days on 11 visits during his Presidency and visited several times after he left office (see Truman Annex)

Key West was a down cycle when Franklin D. Roosevelt visited in 1939. The build up of military bases on the island occurred shortly thereafter.

In addition to Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed in Key West following a heart attack. John F. Kennedy visited during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Jimmy Carter held a family reunion in Key West after leaving office.

Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams
Green Street façade of Sloppy Joe's Bar
Enlarge
Green Street façade of Sloppy Joe's Bar

Numerous artists and writers have passed through Key West but the two most associated with the island are Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.


Ernest Hemingway

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms while living above the show room of a Key West Ford dealership 314 Simonton Street[1] while awaiting delivery of a Ford Roadster purchased by the uncle of his wife Pauline in 1928.

Hardware store owner Charles Thompson introduced him to deep sea fishing. Among the group that went fishing was Joe Russell (also known as Sloppy Joe). Russell was reportedly the model for Freddy in “To Have and Have Not.” Portions of the original manuscript were found at Sloppy Joe’s Bar after his death. The group had nicknames for each other and Hemingway wound up with "Papa."

Pauline's rich uncle Gus Pfeiffer bought the 907 Whitehead Street[2] house in 1931 as a wedding present. Legend says the Hemingways installed a swimming pool for $20,000 in the late 1930s (equivalent in 2006 to $250,000). It was such a high price that Hemingway is said to have put a penney in the concrete saying "Here, take the last penny I've got!" The penny is still there.

During his stay he wrote or worked on: “Death in the Afternoon,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” He used Depression-era Key West as the locale for “To Have and Have Not” — his only novel set in the United States.

Pauline and Hemingway divorced in 1939 and Hemingway only occasionally visited while returning from Havana until his suicide in 1961.

The 6-toed polydactyl cats from Hemingway's days still roam his Whitehead Street neighborhood.


Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams first became a regular visitor to Key West in 1941, and is said to have written the first draft of A Streetcar Named Desire while staying in 1947 at the La Concha Hotel. He bought a permanent house in 1949 and listed Key West as his primary residence until his death in 1983. In contrast to Hemingway's grand house in Old Town, Williams home at 1431 Duncan Street[3] in the "unfashionable" New Town neighborhood is a very modest bungalow. The house is privately owned and not open to the public. The Academy Award–winning film version of his “The Rose Tattoo” was shot on the island in 1956. The Tennessee Williams Theatre is located on the campus of Florida Keys Community College on Stock Island.[4]

Williams had a series of rentals all over the U.S. but the only home he owned was in Key West.

Even though Hemingway and Williams were in Key West at the same time, they reportedly only met once -- at Hemingway's Cuba home Finca Vigia.


Cuban Connection

Key West is closer to Havana than Miami.

In 1890 Key West had a population of nearly 18,800 and claimed to be the biggest and richest city in Florida (it was to shortly be surpassed by Jacksonville, Florida). Half the residents were said to be of Cuban origin and Key West regularly had Cuban mayors. Cubans were actively involved in reportedly 200 factories in town producing 100 million cigars annually. José Martí made several visits to seek recruits for Cuban independence starting in 1891.

The Battleship USS Maine sailed from Key West on its fateful visit to Havana where it blew up igniting the Spanish-American War. Crew men from the ship are buried in Key West and the Navy investigation into the blast occurred at the Key West Customs House.

Pan American Airlines was founded in Key West originally to fly visitors to Havana in 1926.

John F. Kennedy was to use "90 miles from Cuba" extensively in his speeches against Fidel Castro. Kennedy himself visited Key West during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Prior to Fidel Castro there was regular ferry and airplane service between Key West and Havana.

Key West was flooded with refugees during the Mariel Boatlift. Refugees continue to come ashore and sometimes fly hijacked Cuban Airlines planes into the city's airport (as happened at the beginning of the Iraq War).


Conch Republic
The Flag of the Conch Republic.
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The Flag of the Conch Republic.

In 1982 Key West, and the rest of the Florida Keys, briefly declared its "independence" as the Conch Republic in a protest over a United States Border Patrol blockade. This blockade was set up on U.S. 1 where the Northern end of the Overseas Highway meets the mainland at Florida City. This blockade was in response to the Mariel Boatlift. A seventeen mile traffic jam ensued while the Border Patrol stopped every car leaving the Keys supposedly searching for illegal aliens attempting to enter the mainland United States. This paralyzed the Florida Keys, which rely heavily on the tourism industry. Flags, T-shirts and other merchandise representing the Conch Republic are still popular souvenirs for visitors to Key West.


Key West Naval Air Station
The Silver Slipper dance hall adjacent to Sloppy Joe's, painted in the 1930s by Waldo Peirce
Enlarge
The Silver Slipper dance hall adjacent to Sloppy Joe's, painted in the 1930s by Waldo Peirce

Key West was always an important military post since it sits at the northern edge of the deep water channel connecting the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (the southern terminus 90 miles south is Cuba) via the Florida Straits. Because of this Key West since the 1820s had been dubbed the "Gibralter of the West." Fort Taylor was initially built on the island. The Navy added a small base from which the USS Maine sailed to its demise in Havana at the beginning of the Spanish-American War.

At the beginning of World War II the Navy increased its presence from 50 acres to 3,000 acres including 1,700 acres of all of Boca Chica Key and the construction of Fleming Key from landfill. The Navy built the first water line extending the length of the keys. At its peak 15,000 military and 3,400 civilians were at the base. Included in the base are:

* NAS Key West - This is the main facility on Boca Chica where the Navy trains its pilots. Staff are housed at Sigsbee Park. In 2006 there were 1,650 active-duty; 2,507 family members; 35 Reserve; and 1,312 civilians listed at the base. In the 1990s the Navy worked out an agreement with the National Park Service to stop sonic booms near Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Many of the training missions are directed at the Marquesas "Patricia" Target 29 nautical miles due west of the base. The target is a grounded ship hulk 306-feet in length that is visible only at low tide. Bombs are not actually dropped on the target.
* Truman Annex - The area next to Fort Taylor became a submarine pen and was used for the Fleet Sonar School. Harry S. Truman was to make the commandant's house his winter White House. The Fort Taylor Annex was later renamed the Truman Annex. This portion has largely been decommissioned and turned over to private developers and the City of Key West. However there are still a few offices including the new NOAA Hurricane Forecasting Center there. The Navy still owns its piers.
* Trumbo Annex - The docking area on what had been the railroad yard for the Flager Overseas Railroad is now used by the Coast Guard.


Port of Key West

The first cruise ship was the Sunward in 1969 which docked that Navy's pier in the Truman Annex or the privately owned Pier B. The Navy's pier is called the Navy Mole.

In 1984 the city opened a pier right on Mallory Square. The decision was met with considerable opposition from people who felt it would disrupt the tradition of watching the sunset at Mallory Square.

Cruise ships now dock at all three piers.

Residents


Demographics

As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 25,478 people, 11,016 households, and 5,463 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,653.3/km² (4,285.0/mi²). There were 13,306 housing units at an average density of 863.4/km² (2,237.9/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.94% White, 9.28% African American, 0.39% Native American, 1.29% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.86% from other races, and 2.18% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.54% of the population.

There were 11,016 households out of which 19.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.7% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.4% were non-families. 31.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the city the population was spread out with 16.0% under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 37.1% from 25 to 44, 26.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 122.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 126.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $43,021, and the median income for a family was $50,895. Males had a median income of $30,967 versus $25,407 for females. The per capita income for the city was $26,316. About 5.8% of families and 10.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.5% of those under age 18 and 11.3% of those age 65 or over.

The ancestries most reported in 2000 were English (12.4%), German (12.2%), Irish (11.3%), Italian (6.8%), United States (6.0%), and French (3.6%).




Notable Key West natives (Salt Water Conchs)

* David Robinson – born in Key West while his father was stationed there with the Navy.
* George Mira – Native of Key West went on to star as a two-time All-American at the University of Miami in the early 1960s. He played Pro Football for San Francisco and the Miami Dolphins. His nickname was "The Matador".
* Boog Powell – Played for Key West High in the 1950s, went on to star for the Baltimore Orioles from 1961 to 1974 (his final three years were with the Indians and Dodgers). He had 339 career home runs.
* Stepin Fetchit
* Khalil Greene – Attended Key West High School and went on to play in the College World Series at Clemson University before playing with the San Diego Padres.



Notable Key West non-natives (Fresh Water Conchs)

* Elizabeth Bishop
* Jimmy Buffett
* Meg Cabot
* Mel Fisher
* Ernest Hemingway
* Jerry Herman
* Stephen Mallory
* James Merrill
* Wallace Stevens
* Carl Tanzler
* President Harry S Truman
* Tennessee Williams
* Kelly McGillis
* Shel Silverstein



Gay Destination

Key West has a large gay and lesbian population and is a popular international gay tourist destination.

In June 2006 the Key West Gay & Lesbian Museum & Archive opened at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center at 513 Truman St. Featured exhibits include a Tennessee Williams typewriter as well as an extensive collection of memorabilia and papers of Richard A. Heyman who was one of the first openly gay mayors before dying in 1994 of AIDS.

The official town motto is "One Human Family." The Key West Business Guild claims to be the nation's first and oldest continuous gay and lesbian chamber of commerce. Each Saturday the Guild sponsors a tour of the island's historic, gay sites.

In 1979 the Key West Tourist Development Association, Inc. started Fantasy Fest to attract tourists at the traditionally slow time at Halloween, which is at the end of the hurricane season. The Fest has become a big success. Its motto, "Key Weird on the Dis-Oriented Express", is trademarked.

A permanent AIDS Memorial is at the White Street Pier.

In 1980 U.S. Senator Tom Eagleton's neice Elizabeth Eagleton Weigand along with lawyer Stephen Poludniak were arrested for blackmail after they threatened to spread false accusations that Eagleton was bisexual because a third-hand report said he had been seen disheveled and unshaven at a Key West establishment that catered to gays. The establishment -- La Terrazza Di Marti (now known as LaTeDa) -- got its name because José Martí was alleged to have given a speech on the second floor there.[5]

The Village People have a song entitled "Key West."[6]

Mama, I'm freezin' (mama, I'm freezin'), I wanna go to the su-un (to the sun)
These icy winter breezes (winter breezes) are chillin' all my fun (all my fun)

I'm headin' for Key-ey-ey West, the key to happine-ess
(I'm on the run, gonna have some fun)
I'm headin' for Key-ey-ey West, where leisure nights the be-est, oh yeah

In the 1980s gay bars lined Duval St. virtually from end to end. However with new development and the orientation toward catering to the cruise ships, the gay culture is subsiding somewhat so that the gay bars are now concentrated in a small area on the west side. Further, many of the gay guesthouses have given up their gay-only base. The most spectacular example is the Atlantic Shores, famed for its clothing optional pool and big tea dance. In 2005 they announced they are going to convert to condominiums.

In November 2005, the New York Times noted the trend with a headline "Is Key West Going Straight?"

Geography and climate

Geography
Location of Key West within the Florida Keys
Enlarge
Location of Key West within the Florida Keys

Key West is located at 24°33′33″N, 81°47′03″W (24.559166, -81.784031)GR1. The maximum elevation above sea level is about 16 feet (5 m), known as Solares Hill. Key West Island is about 4 miles (6 km) long and 2 miles (3 km) wide; since the late 20th century it has been artificially expanded to the north.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.2 km² (7.4 mi²). 15.4 km² (5.9 mi²) of it is land and 3.8 km² (1.5 mi²) of it (19.73%) is water.


Old Town/New Town


Old Town

Key West has an east-west orientation rather than north-south as many mistake when they drive down Highway 1 from Miami since the highway enters the island on the northeast corner.

The original Key West neighborhood in the west (although perceived as south) is called "Old Town." It includes the major tourist destinations of the island including Mallory Square, Duval Street, the Truman Annex and Fort Zachary Taylor. It is where you find the classic bungalows and guest mansions.

Generally, the structures date from 1886 to 1912. The basic features which distinguish the local architecture includes wood frame construction of one to two-and-a-half story structures set on foundation piers about three feet above the ground. Exterior characteristics of the buildings are peaked "tin" roofs, horizontal wood siding, pastel shades of paint, side-hinged louvered shutters, covered porches (or balconies, galleries, or verandas) along the fronts of the structures, and wood lattice screens covering the area elevated by the piers.


New Town

The island has more than doubled in size via landfill. The new section on the east (perceived as north) is called "New Town." It contains shopping centers, strip malls and the island's commercial airport. Its most famous resident was Tennessee Williams whose house is privately owned and not open to the public.

The dividing line between the two is White Street.

MTV's The Real World: Key West airing in 2006 was based on Raccoon Key[7] and was east of Key West.


Gulf of Mexico/Atlantic

Key West (and most of the rest of the keys) are on the dividing line between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The two bodies have different currents with the calmer and warmer Gulf of Mexico being characterized by great clumps of sea grass. The area where the two bodies merge between Key West and Cuba is call the Straits of Florida.

Southernmost City

One of the biggest attractions on the island is the buoy at the corner of South Street and Whitehead which claims to be the southernmost point the contiguous 48 states (see Extreme Points for more information.) It would seem every building nearby lays claim to "southernmost..." The claim is not quite accurate. Florida's southernmost point is Ballast Key, a privately owned island just south and west of Key West. Signs on the island strictly prohibit unauthorized visitors. Land on the Fort Taylor property just west of the Key West landmark is actually slightly further south but it has no marker.


Climate


Frost Free Zone

Key West claims to be the only city in the lower 48 states never to have had a frost. Because of the proximity of the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Florida, about 12 miles south and southeast, and the tempering effects of the Gulf of Mexico to the west and north, Key West has a notably mild, tropical-maritime climate (similar to the Caribbean islands) in which the average temperatures during winter are about 14 degrees lower than in summer. Cold fronts are strongly modified by the warm water as they move in from northerly quadrants in winter. The average low and high temperatures in January are 65°F/ 75°F. There is no known record of frost, ice, sleet, or snow in Key West. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Key West was 41°F (5°C) on January 12, 1886, and on January 13, 1981. Prevailing easterly tradewinds and sea breezes suppress the usual summertime heating. The average low and high temperatures in July are 80°F/ 90°F. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Key West was 97°F (36.1°C) on July 19, 1880, and on August 26, 1956.


Wet and Dry Seasons

Precipitation is characterized by dry and wet seasons. The period of December through April receives abundant sunshine and slightly less than 25 percent of the annual rainfall. This rainfall usually occurs in advance of cold fronts in a few heavy or light showers. June through October is normally the wet season, receiving approximately 53 percent of the yearly total in numerous showers and thunderstorms. Rain falls on most days of the wet season. Early morning is the favored time for these showers. Easterly waves during this season occasionally bring excessive rainfall, while infrequent hurricanes may be accompanied by unusually heavy amounts. Humidity remains high during the entire year.


Hurricanes

Hurricanes regularly hit Key West but the island has been relatively lucky.

Locals say that Hurricane Wilma on October 24, 2005 was the worst storm in memory. The entire island was told to evacuate. The six to nine foot surge flooded more than half the island including much of Duval Street with more than two feet of water. The storm destroyed the piers at the clothing optional Atlantic Shores Motel and breached the shark tank at the Key West Aquarium freeing its sharks. Damage postponed the island's famous Halloween Fantasy Fest until the following December. MTV's The Real World: Key West was filming during the hurricane and deals with the storm.

In March 2006, the NOAA opened its National Weather Forecasting building in the Truman Annex. The building is designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and its storm surge.

The previous big hurricane was Hurricane Georges in September 1998. The storm obliterated Houseboat Row in the Cow Key channel on the northwest corner ending the era of houseboats on Key West.


Attractions, events, recreation, and culture
Key West from space, October 2002
Enlarge
Key West from space, October 2002

Many visitors rent a bicycle and explore the history and architecture of Old Town Key West. Walking tours, including a tour of the unusual Key West Cemetery, are available. The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square is a daily spectacle for visitors and residents. Boat excursions and tours provide a great way to view Key West from the water. The Duval Street bar and restaurant district includes many different entertainment options, all within walking distance of each other. The Tennessee Williams Theatre is a performing arts center, a civic center, and a community center.

The Key West Botanical Forest and Garden is an excellent, frost-free arboretum and botanical garden containing a number of "champion tree" specimens.

Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden is a one acre (4,000 m²) garden resembling a lush, predominantly green, rainforest. It is an exhibit of wild nature’s artistry in a woodland garden.

The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory features a 5,000 square foot (460 m²) glass-domed tropical butterfly habitat.

The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum showcases gold, silver, and treasure recovered from shipwrecks around the world.

Some tourists mingle with the locals, shop, and dine at the Key West Historic Seaport at the Key West Bight.

The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum preserves the history of the Key West Lighthouse built in 1847.

Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway's former home is now open to the public as a museum, populated by as many as sixty descendants of his famous polydactyl cats. [8]

PrideFest is seven days of events, presented by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Key West the first week in June. The schedule includes the Pride Follies talent extravaganza; contests to select a Mr., Ms. and Miss PrideFest; parties, a tea dance; and the PrideFest Parade down Duval Street. Key West was the first American city to openly recruit gay tourists.

Popular annual events include:

* Acura International Boat Regatta – January
* Conch Republic Independence Celebration – April 23
* Red Ribbon Bed Race – April
* Survivors Party – May
* Queen Mother Pageant – May
* PrideFest – June
* Cuban-American Heritage Festival – June
* Hemingway Days Festival – July
* WomenFest – September
* Fantasy Fest – October
* Goombay Celebration – October
* Parrot Heads in Paradise Convention (aka Meeting of the Minds) – November
* Boat and Holiday Parade – December


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