Sunday, February 21, 2016

2015 changes Key West

It was all change in Key West in 2015. The biggest story of 2015 (officially, according to a Florida wide poll) was Florida gay weddings - the very first of which were conducted right here in Key West. Just after midnight on January 7 2015 (as soon as it had become legal in Florida) on the steps of the county courthouse in Key West. Watched by a good sized crowd who wanted to be part of history being made.

Keeping with gay, later in the year on 29 May 2015 a "gay" (i.e. rainbow) crosswalk was installed (painted on the road) in the gay block (Petronia Street) of Duval Street. I think this is a most excellent idea and as I believe they are permanent, I look forward to seeing them when I visit later in the year. They gained lots of international media coverage.

Now to the major themes running throughout the whole of 2015 in Key West. According to my radar, in order of strength of signal, I would say they were:

1. Key West is going to the dogs. Typified by talk like: "Woe is me, Key West is getting busier, very noticeably this year, especially with all the tour buses arriving for the day. Key West isn't what it was, the homeless have taken over..." etc etc
2.  Tree commission is out of control and literally killing Key West's natural heritage
3. More new building development hits Key West. In particular inappropriate construction approved in Old Town.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fantasy Fest 2016 live blog

Fantasy Fest 2016 in Key West is taking place between 21 October and 30 October 2016. It's a series of fun parties which culminate in the two best events: the Masquerade March on Friday 28 October and the main parade on Saturday 29 October. It's fantastic to visit if you like busy parties, hedonism and don't mind Key West being as busy as it ever gets.

This year's theme is Political Voodoo and Ballot Box Barbarians - a theme which is too long, too boring and too ridiculous for words (no really, I can't believe someone actually though this was a good idea).

However, let's move on! Here's a good thing: we are going to Fantasy Fest 2016! Yeah! So I will be live blogging Fantasy Fest 2016 just like I did the Fantasy Fest 2014 live blog.

And even better, rather than agonize for months, we have already decided our outfit for the Masquerade March (which some bright spark seems to want to now call the People's Parade - yawn!). I'm not going to tell you what we decided - you'll have to  wait until 28 October.

For Fantasy Fest newbies who want more info on the basics of visiting for Fantasy Fest this post from me is for you.

To see loads of pictures of what it's like - see my live blog of the 2014 Fantasy Fest here.

In fact, I will do the live blog of 2016 here in this very post. So  check back regularly - especially nearer the event - when I will be updating this post VERY REGULARLY!!

See you soon!

David Key West
January 2016

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Key West vacation

If you are thinking about a Key West vacation, you've come to the right place. This blog is all about helping you decide if the tropical vacation spot Key West is right - or wrong - for you.

You might be thinking - what's NOT to like about Key West? 

At the risk of starting on a negative note, here's some things that might put you off a Key West vacation.

Downsides of a Key West vacation
  • Key West is expensive - the hotels and B&Bs, especially in peak season (i.e. the season you'll want to come here) charge a small fortune. There are only a few good cheap accommodation options
  • Key West is small, really small
  • Key West in off peak (August to November) is uncomfortably humid 
  • There are only 2 beaches on the island and only 1 is good
  • Key West is not that geared up for kids
If you prefer to see the glass half full, here are the best things about Key West. 


Upsides of a Key West vacation 


WHAT IS A KEY WEST VACATION GOING TO BE LIKE?
  • Sunny
  • Hot but not too hot (heat is never a problem, it does get very humid between August and November)
  • Pretty - Key West style houses, tree laden streets, flowers, plants, lush tropical 
  • There are some great hotels but many of the B&Bs / guesthouses are even better (as they are original historic homes built in the 1800s so you are living like a local in a cool looking property)
  • Mostly friendly people
  • It's a walking, not driving, town
  • Can be busy in peak time, but walk a few streets away from Duval Street and it's quiet and peaceful
  • Great selection of bars covering all tastes
  • Great selection of restaurants covering all tastes
  • 80% of bars and restaurants within walking distance of most hotels and B&Bs - meaning you don't have to drive and so you can relax (and drink a lot!)
  • Some world famous stuff like Sloppy Joe's, the Hemingway House, Blue Heaven restaurant
  • Historic - Key West has a long and fascinating history to discover (e.g. Key West museum, lighthouse, Audubon House)














THINGS YOU GOTTA DO ON A KEY WEST VACATION

or   ---  THINGS THAT MAKE TROPICAL KEY WEST A UNIQUE PLACE TO VACATION  ---

(most interesting / unique first)

1.Fly on a seaplane from Key West airport to Dry Totrugas/Fort Jefferson and snorkel in the ocean

2.Eat at Blue Heaven restaurant

3.Wander around Key West harbor and see the chaos of the tarpons and pelicans being fed - free, daily 4pm

4.Wander leisurely around Key West Old Town, away from Duval Street, and see the amazing homes

5.Sit in a bar, on Duval Street, in the open air of a balmy Key West evening and watch the world go by

6.Go watch a drag show - Inga's girls at Aqua are the best - it's funny and fun. Gay, straight or a bit of both, it don't matter at Aqua

7.Get active and visit attractions only found in Key West: the Key West lighthouse, the Audubon House, the Hemingway House



Finally, different people like different vacations, so...

WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR [..XYZ..]?


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR SUNBATHING?
**** [4 out of 5]

It's good but not if you insist on a beach to sunbathe - see below.

More likely around your hotel or guesthouse pool. 

But during peak season December to April the temperature is a consistently and reliably in the 80s. Not too hot, and lots of sun. Lovely! 


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR BEACHES?
**    [2 out of of 5]

Well, surprisingly, not very good.

Yes, this is Florida, and it's tropical and it's hot... but Key West is small and it's a limestone rock basically, not sandy.

There's 2 beaches, the bigger one which is more sandy is not very good. The other one (Fort Zach beach) is less sandy/more rocky, but it's much prettier/nicer/better - it's the "local's secret."


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR KEEPING BUSY AND DOING LOTS OF STUFF?
****    [4 out of of 5]

It's a major tourist destination so there are dozens of things to do. The Conch train tour of the island, walk around the harbor and see the hungry pelicans/tarpon being fed, visit historic houses including the Hemingway House, don't forget the views from the top of the cool lighthouse. 

See my recommendations of what to do in Key West.


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR LUXURY?
**    [2 out of 5]

There are no 5 star hotels but there are 3 or 4 top notch hotels - that charge 5 star prices - which offer amazing ocean views and sumptuous rooms. There are no famous spas.

To get a feel for the best - check out my favorite the Pier House resort.


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR KIDS?
*    [1 out of 5]

It's a town for adults. In terms of things aimed specifically at kids, there's the small aquarium and a pirate museum (that takes an hour) but that's it. 

I would imagine most kids would get bored in Key West and the nearest theme park is 160 miles away in Miami.


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR A BUDGET VACATION?

Bad.

The biggest cost is accommodation. Hotels and the better guesthouses charge very high rates indeed (because this is an island with limited rooms and lots of people want to come here).

Here's my guide to Key West on a budget.

I would imagine most kids would get bored in Key West and the nearest theme park is 160 miles away in Miami.


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR A PHYSICAL / ACTIVITY HOLIDAY?
*     [1 out of 5]

People come to Key West to laze around, eat too much and drink too much.

This is a small island and it's as flat as a pancake. The walks are pretty but hardly long / strenuous.


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR A GAY HOLIDAY?
****   [4 out of 5]

Great! 5 gays bars, a gay sauna, gay friendly, a gaggle of drag queens, and 150,000 gay visitors a year. It's fun.

For more on the Key West gay scene - here.


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR MARTINIS?
This town has long liked a strong drink, ever since the pirates and sailors. This is a cocktail town.

If your tipple is a martini, this town has 2 fantastic martini places, including - in Virgilio's - one of the best martini bars in the world!


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR SHOPPING?
**      [2 of 5]

There are some really fun shops - very eccentric - selling local art, hot chilies, towels, hammocks etc.


WHAT'S KEY WEST LIKE FOR EATING/RESTAURANTS?
****      [4 out of 5]

I think the restaurants in Key West - as long as you choose the right ones, of course - are excellent.

There's a brilliant steak restaurant, and - not surprisingly - the seafood is good.



I hope I've given you a better view on  Key West vacations. Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.




View some itineraries of what you could get up to in Key West and how long to stay


Planning a Key West vacation




Saturday, August 29, 2015

Top 10 posts on Key West Lookout

Here are the top 10 most read articles on this blog since I started Key West Lookout in 2009. Key West Lookout is written by me and only me. I am a regular Key West visitor, and have been taking vacations in Key West since 1998. My aim is to provide the best, most comprehensive and most up-to-date Key West vacation guide on the planet. See you in Key West! This blog was last updated on 12 December 2015.

#1: Best time of year to visit Key West








#2: Key West hotels












#3: Top things to do in Key West









#4: What to do in Key West when it rains








#5: Key West restaurants

#6: Gay Key West

#7: Best cocktails and martinis in Key West

#8: Key West guesthouses

#9: Planing a Key West vacation

#10: Key West pictures


PICTURES:
  • Crazy Key West - 25 of my funniest, silliest pictures from the last 10 years in Key West. Yes, Key West is eccentric and a little mad.

VIDEO:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cheap hotels in Key West

Here are my 5 tips to find cheap Key West hotels and B&Bs and then my current top recommendations. You'll need all the help you can get - Key West is beautiful but a very expensive place to stay. Last updated: 14 November 2015.


1. Don't limit your search to hotels - there are 20 times more good value guesthouses than hotels in Key West. It's just that kind of place. This is a good thing.

4 more tips...


Monday, August 24, 2015

Planning a Key West visit

This post will help if you're planning a Key West visit or vacation and have questions like when to visit Key West, how long to stay, when is the rainy season, what are the best budget hotels, and how to get to Key West. Here's the Key West truth from a fellow Key West visitor.
Planning a Key West visit. This picture is taken during the summer when crowds are much fewer
This post will answer these questions:
  • When should I visit Key West?
  • How many days should I stay? Is a weekend too short?
  • How to get to Key West?
  • How bad is the traffic?
  • Where to stop off on the way down the Keys?
  • How long to stay in Key West?
  • Do you need a car / what to so with the car while in Key West?
  • What to wear in Key West?  How formal is Key West?
  • Where to stay and what to do?
  • How good is Key West for children?
So click on the link below and let's get going....

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How long to stay in Key West?

How long to stay in Key West for your vacation is a key question. I think one week is the right length for a Key West vacation. Maybe you are thinking that visiting for only a long weekend is ok but Key West is a little off the beaten track (after all basically it's 127 miles down a dead end road) and as a result you'll spend too much of your vacation actually getting here so a little longer is better.

A week is not perfect of course. The perfect amount time to stay in Key West is...as long as you can! For most visits Key West will be hotter, sunnier, livelier and way more fun than what you have waiting back home - so there is good reason to stay as long as you can. Plus there are hundreds of bars and restaurants and lots to do as well as great weather so you can chill by the pool and relax.

Here's how your stay might look over different time periods:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Most beautiful Key West houses and homes

There are some very expensive and beautiful homes in Key West. They are all in Old Town Key West and so very walkable in an hour if you are in a rush or a few hours if you just randomly wander down a few streets in Key West.

Here are a just a few highlights to make you want to come to Key West and also to make you jealous of these beautiful and historic homes.

I think this is my favorite Key West home, 1029 Fleming Street. Immaculate white and all the elements of the house work together in perfect harmony. Very Key West Old Town it also helps that this house is very imposing and also huge. The second image below shows the side view, showing how long the house is. It's not so uniform from the side, for example the 4 sided feature, which I think  makes it even more interesting.

One of the most beautiful homes in Key West - 1029 Fleming Street

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What to do in Key West when it rains

If you're reading this then it's probably raining in Key West and you're looking for ideas about what to do. First I'm sorry it's raining and I hope it passes soon. Anyway, what to do? The traditional answer in Key West when it rains is: Drink! You have a multitude of choices and you'll find the bars packed today if it's raining. But there are alternatives, read on...
What to do in Key West when it rains. Here on Duval Street someone has a different option than a rain poncho.  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

2014 changes in Key West

Key West 2014
What in Key West changed for the better and what changed for the worse in 2014? Here is my annual review of Key West changes - a personal selection. If you want a comprehensive list then read the Citizen! I do this every year and you can see links to previous years' reviews at the end of this post.

The two anncouncements offering the most impact were not new or surprising and had been brewing for years:

US to normalise relations with Cuba - 90 miles from Key West
Cuba came whole lot closer to Key West in December when President Obama announced more normal relations with Cuba, including relaxing travel barriers for vacations to Cuba. Subsequently, Cuba was named the #2 top destination in the New York Times's 2015 list.

This has potential for profound impact on the closest US real estate to Cuba (e.g. Key West) and could well mean a lucrative tourist route starting between the two. Day trip to Havana, anyone?

The alternative prediction for Key West is a reduction in cruise ship traffic because they choose to stop off / divert to new, interesting, different Cuba rather than good ol' Key West (which regrettably is looking more indistinguishable from all Caribbean / sunny destinations with each passing year).

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Seaplane to Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson

The Dry Tortugas are a group of small islands 70 miles west from Key West and visiting them by seaplane is the best thing I've ever done from Key West and one of my highlights of the year. The flight is only at 500 feet so the ocean views are stunning but that's only a warm up for the island itself which is dominated by the huge Fort Jefferson, the largest brick made structure in the Americas. Then there's the beach and snorkeling. I visited Key West for years without visiting the Tortugas and that was a mistake - make sure you include the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson in your itinerary.
View of Fort Jefferson and the snorkeling area in front from the seaplane at the Dry Tortugas
Here are 11 things that are cool about a seaplane trip to the Dry Tortugas:
  • You get to fly in a small, 12 seat seaplane! That's cool!
  • You get amazing aerial views of Key West on take off and landing
  • For most of the flight you're at only 500 feet so you see loads of turtles, dolphins and other marine life in the water
  • You get to see all the lonely keys and sandbars between Key West and the islands - along with informative commentary from pilot
  • You're immersed in the Caribbean colors of the ocean - beautiful blues and greens
  • When you land on water at the Dry Tortugas experience how soft a water landing is
  • If you go on the morning trip you arrive 90 minutes before the ferry so you have the fort and island to yourself, which is awesome and makes a real difference
  • Fort Jefferson, with its 16 million red bricks, is very photogenic
  • As is the vista out to open ocean which includes the Dry Tortugas lighthouse, 157 feet high, a few miles away on Loggerhead Key
  • The snorkelling, very close (like 10 metres) off the island, is easy to do and good. Much better than any snorkelling in Key West
  • The colors, clarity and contrasts are stunning and you end up with some amazing photographs. The photos you see below are the set I'm most proud of across all my tens of thousands of photos of the Florida Keys - see below
FAQs - visiting the Dry Tortugas

Sunday, November 30, 2014

When is the best time of year to visit Key West?

Best time to visit Key West is January to May
Most visitors say the best time to visit Key West is January to May because the weather is perfect: it's not unbearably humid yet, and it's so cold at home. In fact, from November to March Key West is the hottest place in the continental USA. As a result, it's peak season, very busy and super expensive in Key West in these months. The off season (June to December) has its charms, but big downsides you need to be aware of, as I explain below.

Next: some Key West best time of year Frequently Asked Questions followed by a month by month guide to visiting Key West….

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Key West Lookout photo blog

Key West Lookout, this blog, is part photo blog and photographs and images of Key West have always been a vital part of the blog from the beginning. There must be more than a thousand images on this blog by now, with more being added all the time. And these selected carefully from the tens of thousands of pictures I have taken in Key West over the years.

Here's my picture of the week, I LOVE it!
Pelicans in free flight during Key West sunrise
click below for more picture of the week...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fantasy Fest 2014 live

7 November 2014. Well Fantasy Fest 2014 is well and truly over. Amazing fun, great events, little inhibition and tens of thousands of beads later. No rain for the main events on Friday and Saturday, and actually great weather. It was super busy on the Saturday of the main parade. Well done to all the people who selflessly organise, and raise money around, Fantasy Fest.

The best: Ten times better than Saturday's parade, and the best event of Fantasy Fest overall, was the Masquerade March on Friday. Brilliant! Key West locals you're the best. We had an amazing party again. The variety and creativity of fancy dress was amazing!

Here's looking forward to Fantasy Fest 2015!

THIS IS A LIVE BLOG ARCHIVE OF FANTASY FEST 2014. 

I WAS LIVE BLOGGING THROUGHOUT THE EVENTS AND HAVE COMMENTARY AND PICTURES DAY BY DAY.....PLEASE ENJOY FANTASY FEST 2014.....THESE PICTURES ARE REAL..NO PHOTOSHOP WAS INVOLVED!!
My best 3 pictures: I took hundreds of pictures, so here are a very small number of my favorites....
Of the thousands of costumes and fancy dress creations on the 2014 Masquerade March here is my very favorite 
Fantasy Fest 2014 Masquerade March and my favorite picture overall - the view along Simonton Street of thousands of locals and visitors in full costume
One of the brilliant things about the Masquerade March, where everyone expresses themselves as they wish, is the occasional contrast this philosophy produces, like the one shown above 

Fantasy Fest Key West

This is my guide to Key West Fantasy Fest and I'll answer questions like is it for me, how adult is it, what are the best events and what's the weather like this time of year. If you're new to Fantasy Fest you can get a good idea if Key West Fantasy Fest is for you. Fantasy Fest is a 10-day series of events, parades and parties which runs the last two weeks of October. 

The 2015 dates are 23 October to 1 November 2015. Fantasy Fest always has an annual theme which most people ignore: for 2014 was Anim├ęted Dreams and Adventures, 2015's is All Hallows Intergalactic Freak Show (who thinks these themes up?!).

Fantasy Fest 2014 Key West
Fantasy Fest 2014 Key West
2014 was the 36th annual Fantasy Fest in Key West and the very best events (in my view) come at the end: the Masquerade march on Friday 24 October and the big showpiece event, the parade on Saturday 25 October 2014.

Link on my blog: 2014 Fantasy Fest live blog + 200 pictures

Continue reading for my guide to Key West Fantasy Fest for new visitors and first timers. Please leave a comment in the comments section below, I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Key West signs

Key West sign. This is a good sign (Schooner Wharf)
I got a thing for signs, especially in tropical Key West. Here's my collection taken over the years - funny, silly, historic, homemade, famous... all to be found in Key West. 





One Human Family in the Conch Republic
Birthplace of Pan American World Airways Key West - Caroline Street and Whitehead St
Half Shell raw bar sign in Key West. Eat it Raw

To see 68 more cool and funny Key West signs click below....

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beautiful Key West

Beautiful Key West
Key West is a beautiful collision of nature, the ocean and the sun at full power. Get off Duval Street and take the time to get into the relaxed and tropical vibe. Beauty in plants, flowers, trees and animals combine with the ocean and spectacular, varied, historic architecture. Add the backdrop of weather (often blue skies) then Key West's getting pretty high on the beauty scale.

You have to come here in person and walk around the place. So all I can give you is an impression. Everything you see below is available in a few square miles in Key West Old Town. All these pictures are all mine and unadulterated by Photoshop or the like.

If you're visiting Key West, take some time to get off Duval Street and explore. If you're not, then sit back, look at the following pictures, and dream tropical!

The ocean
Dolphin in Key West waters, very close to shore - this taken from the East Quay wall at the Truman Waterfront
>>> MORE BEAUTY...click below for Beautiful Key West Trees and Flowers; Animals; Sunset….

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Peppers of Key West

Visit Peppers of Key West store: as if Key West is not hot enough already this experience makes you even hotter. This is a great store on Greene St in Key West which sells all things related to peppers and chillies. Sit up at the tasting bar and let the team take you though a tasting of a dozen sauces, starting from mild and going as hot as you dare. How far up the hot scale can you go?....
The tasting bar at Peppers of Key West at 602 Greene Street. We're mid-tasting here, starting off with some very mild and tangy sauces.  This is great fun, and free!






Click to see the rest of the story and a video of us at the chilli tasting bar on a recent visit....and to see their most powerful $2,000 bottle of hot sauce....click below...