What’s hot in the Florida Keys & Key West for LGBTQ visitors

Saturday, 03 Sep, 2022 0

The Florida Keys & Key West, internationally known for their longstanding heritage of diversity, are a top LGBTQ vacation destination.

The southernmost US island chain continues to appeal to LGBTQ visitors with ever-evolving “only in the Keys” experiences

“2022 is proving to be another exciting year for the LGBTQ community in Key West and the Florida Keys,” said Pony Charvet, LGBTQ sales manager for the Keys’ Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

“New events are in the planning stages, many long-time events are back this year, and Key West’s iconic rainbow crosswalks were redone to once again make the Pride corridor of Duval Street shine.”

Here’s what’s new in the Keys and Key West:


Keys Landmarks

In Key West, four signature rainbow crosswalks spanning all four corners at the intersection of Duval and Petronia streets in the heart of the LGBTQ entertainment district have been refurbished by the City of Key West. The crosswalks, featuring long bands of the six colors of the rainbow flag, are composed of preformed thermoplastic color stripes heat-treated with propane torches and permanently affixed to the pavement. .

In the Middle Keys a 60-passenger tram has debuted to transport visitors along a 2.2-mile span of the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge to Pigeon Key. The colorful tram features a locomotive front and two 30-passenger coaches. The 2.2-mile span of the bridge, nicknamed “Old Seven” and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, reopened to cycling, walking and other pedestrian recreation in January following extensive multi-year renovations. Pigeon Key, a tiny island nestled beneath the bridge, was once home to about 400 workers constructing the railroad. Today the island features a museum and offers opportunities to picnic and snorkel. Daily tours are available. Visit pigeonkey.net .


Keys Accommodations

In Key West, the 34-room clothing-optional all-male Equator Resort, featuring two pools and wide sundecks, loungers, and whirlpools, has enhanced its accommodations and added an in-room digital compendium accessible on property or remotely. Management also has implemented a new text-messaging option that enables guests to text the front desk staff directly with any housekeeping or concierge requests. Outdoor upgrades include new sun loungers located around the pool areas and sundecks. Visit equatorresort.com


The 17-room Alexander’s Guesthouse, located at 1118 Fleming St. in Key West, is is an LGBTQ property that also welcomes friends of the LGBTQ community that are age 21 or older. The three renovated homes that comprise the property date back to the early 1900s and retain many original touches. Visit alexanderskeywest.com .

Key West’s renowned Island House Resort, an all-male clothing-optional property at 1129 Fleming St., has extended its value-added “Buy 4 Nights, Get 3 Free offer for another year. The earning period for complimentary nights is Nov. 7, 2022, through June 11, 2023; the redemption period is set for June 12 through Sept. 28, 2023. The property features 39 rooms, suites and apartments; an onsite bar and cafe that offers 24-hour food and beverage service; a pool, Jacuzzis, saunas and a gym. Visit facebook.com/IslandHouseKW

Key West’s New Orleans House, located at 724 Duval St. in the center of the LGBTQ entertainment district, is planning a 2022-24 expansion and renovation of its outdoor venues. The male-only guesthouse currently features a full-service Tiki bar, Jacuzzi, pool, gym and spacious sundeck. Renovations are to include an expanded Tiki bar with increased seating capacity, a men’s sauna and a private club. Visit neworleanshousekw.com

La Te Da Hotel, a 15-room all-welcome adult-only property at 1125 Duval St. in Key West, has slated September 2022 for a complete renovation of its outdoor bar and seating areas. The gay-owned and -operated property features beautifully appointed guest rooms, a pool, two full-service bars and multiple entertainment venues. Visit lateda.com

In Islamorada, Chesapeake Beach Resort is adding 13 new oceanfront villas (including two stand-alones) and a new Tiki bar, boat ramp and dock, scheduled to open this fall. The resort lobby, with a newly added gift shop, has been fully renovated. The property features 52 rooms and suites including 32 oceanfront and 20 standard rooms, each with balcony; two pools, a beach bar and sandy beach venue for weddings,. Kayaks and fishing rods are available for rent. Visit chesapeake-resort.com or call 305-664-4662.

Also in Islamorada, the 27-acre Cheeca Lodge & Spa is undergoing major resort enhancements, including 43 newly built luxury oceanfront suites and a new stand-alone 10,000-square-feet event center. Slated to debut in September 2022, the Islamorada Ballroom is promoted as the Upper Keys’ largest meeting and event venue. The ballroom can accommodate up to 1,000 guests for receptions and 788 for banquet-style dinners. Retractable walls create three breakout rooms for smaller events and functions. Cheeca Lodge & Spa offers a total of 244 guest rooms and suites. Visit cheeca.com


Keys Heritage

The Key West Business Guild is planning a 20th-anniversary celebration to commemorate the island city’s famed 1.25-mile-long sea-to-sea rainbow flag, with events to take place during the guild-produced Pride festivities set for June 7-11, 2023. The massive flag was sewn in Key West in 2003 by original rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker to mark the 25th anniversary of his original banner’s debut. Baker spent three months on the island while he and a handful of dedicated helpers sewed approximately 17,600 linear yards of fabric that weighed more than three tons. During Pride 2003, the world’s longest rainbow flag was unfurled by volunteers along the entire length of Key West’s Duval Street. Visit gaykeywestfl.com/pride/.


Keys Charters

Blu Q Sailing Adventures, which has offered gay all-male clothing-optional snorkel and kayak, sandbar, and sunset sail tours since 1996, has updated its 2022-23 schedule. The Sandbar & Snorkel excursion is currently slated to run from May through October, with the Kayak & Snorkel experience planned from November through April. Blu Q’s two-hour sunset sails are scheduled to operate year-round and are to include all-welcome departures on a request basis only. Visit bluqkeywest.com

LGBT Charters’ 55-foot private yacht Bottoms Up can be chartered for up to six people for dolphin watching, kayaking and water activities or to go to a remote island off Key West. The company is owned by Joseph Schroeder, who also owns Bourbon St. Pub Entertainment Complex, New Orleans House and the 801 Bourbon Bar on Key West’s Duval Street. Visit LGBTcharters.com


Keys Attractions

In Marathon, Crane Point Museum and Nature Center is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The attraction’s on-site Adderly House — built in 1904 as a classic Bahamian-style home and the oldest Keys house outside of Key West — also is listed on the National Register. Also on-site at the historic attraction: a bright-red Florida East Coast Railway train car, located at the site of Marathon’s original train station. Visit cranepoint.net

In the Lower Keys, the 524-acre Bahia Honda State Park, with three beaches, has reopened its mile-long Sandspur Beach on the park’s north side after completing a full $2.96 million restoration. Its Sandspur campgrounds, a 155-car parking area and two shower towers at the day-use area also are open. Eighty total campsites — 73 sites for both RVs and tents with electricity and water and seven nonelectric tent-only sites — accommodate overnight visitors. Additionally, the park has six cabins on stilts that can be reserved up to 11 months in advance. Visit floridastateparks.org/BahiaHonda or call 305-872-2353.

The Tennessee Williams Museum at 513 Truman Ave. in Key West has added memorabilia about Williams’ writing, filming and premiering “The Rose Tattoo” in Key West during the 1950s. In addition, in 1981 Williams gifted use of his name to the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center, now the Tennessee Williams Theatre, at 5901 College Road. The exhibits are enhanced with original photos by the late local photographer Don Pinder and playbills signed by Williams among other artifacts. The openly gay playwright’s 34-year residence in Key West helped the city gain widespread literary and cultural recognition. Visit kwahs.org/museums/tennessee-williams/visit


Keys Nightlife

The Aquaplex, where “reality is a drag,” has unveiled a new look at 711 Duval St. in the heart of Key West’s LBGTQ entertainment district. The property now has multiple venues including an outdoor Hawaiian-themed restaurant — Poké in the Rear — serving lunch and dinner with a full bar in the compound’s back patio area. There’s also an expanded dance floor and new lighting and sound at CLUB 504 at the Sidebar, 504 Angela St.; the Back Bar, an outdoor garden bar; and the 22&CO bar, known for its neon flamingo décor. Visit aquakeywest.com

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