Key West: an LGBT+ destination a few hours from Miami along a road with unique views

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The most famous of the Florida Keys has for decades been home to a vibrant gay community where diversity, history, nature and events abound like Fantasy Fest

Key West: an LGBT+ destination a few hours from Miami along a road with unique views

Fantasy Fest is a local tradition that brings together thousands of people. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/Handout via REUTERS)

Key West is as small as it is significant if you want to visit an area where the appreciation of the LGBT+ collective. In the spirit of Key West —as it was baptized by emigrants from Hispanic America— Spanish, Cuban and American influences stand out, and for decades it has been a travel destination and a home for queer people. During the tragic years of the AIDS epidemic, the key hosted “hundreds of people diagnosed elsewhere who felt they could not stay at home, in what many felt were hostile environments,” according to the Key West AIDS Memorial at the entrance to the Edward B. Knight Pier.

The drive from Miami takes just over three hours and offers extraordinary scenery along Route 1, which turns into Overseas Highway and runs over the water. Before you pack and book in Key West, remember that its geographical position, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and open to the Caribbean Sea >, achieves a beach atmosphere all year round, so a bathing suit should not be missing.

With notable cultural institutions to visit, the key is a multi-ethnic and open territory, where the city flag and the rainbow flag are raised equally. You can't talk about diversity without talking about Key West. To avoid missing out on the crowded spots, it would help to have this list handy.

Duval Street

Key West: an LGBT+ destination a few hours from Miami along a road with unique views

The Red Shoe Drop, a tradition to welcome the new year in Duval Street. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/Handout via REUTERS)

Duval Street is Key West's main thoroughfare, festooned with welcoming rainbow flags. It has bars, restaurants, cabarets, and an LGBT+ visitor center. Nearby is the Tennessee Williams Museum.

The numerous establishments in which drinking, conversing and having a good time is guaranteed stand out. Shows at 801 Bourbon are famous, with drag queens renowned for carrying on the tradition of southern queens, and at La Te Da, a business with a cabaret, restaurant and hotel.

In the case of Bourbon 801, it has been a part of the gay landscape for more than 30 years. It has a bar downstairs and a nightclub upstairs, with the largest drag house on the key.

Tennessee Williams Museum

The museum celebrates the life and work of the American playwright, who lived in Key West with his partner, Frank Merlo. (Tennessee Williams Museum)

This museum is a tribute to the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Tennessee Williams, one of the most important American playwrights of the 20th century. Williams called Key West home and settled there with his partner, Frank Merlo.

The space recreates everyday scenes of the life and work of the author of The Glass Zoo and A Streetcar Named Desire through exhibitions that do not shy away from the ups and downs of his life or hide his relationship with other men.

As a curious fact, the museum is located in the rooms on the upper floor of the former rectory of St. George Episcopal Church, once occupied by Williams and his family.

Where: 513 Truman Ave, Key West, FL 33040

Ernest Hemingway House Museum

Key West: an LGBT+ destination a few hours from Miami along a road with unique views< /p>Ernest Hemingway's former home in Key West is inhabited by the descendants of Snow Ball, his six-toed cat. (Rob O'Neal, Hemingway Home)

No literary aficionado would go to Key West without visiting the former home of the Nobel Prize Winner Ernest Hemingway , one of the greatest authors in the United States. In addition, it is an impressive site due to its structure, vegetation and the tranquility that is breathed.

This impressive piece of architecture is worth visiting to get a glimpse of the study of the author of For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea and Paris Era a party, or let yourself be seduced by the polydactyl cats, which stand out as one of the biggest attractions of the place: due to a mutation, they have six toes on their front legs, instead of five .

Every corner of Papa Hemingway's house have something to appreciate. You can take a guided tour or walk at your own pace, accompanied by one of the many cats that consider themselves the owners of the land and the house, since they are descendants of Snow Ball, the writer's cat.

Where: 907 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040

Gay-friendly restaurants

Bagatella is a gay-friendly restaurant that stands out for its elegance.

Like all of South Florida, Key West is a great place to enjoy excellent cuisine, and there is a wide variety to suit all tastes.

The last of the keys boasts an impressive selection of award-winning restaurants . For example, you can sample authentic Cuban food at El Siboney in Old Town, oysters at Hog's Breath Saloon, lime pie ice cream at Kermit's and a locally distilled rum at Papa's Pilar bar.

Many of the most popular are located on the famous Duval Street, such as Antonia's Key West Restaurant, Bagatelle or Hot Tin Roof (Cat in a Hot Tin Roof, The cat on the hot tin roof, is another work by Williams). All restaurants are gay-friendly and some of them are also owned or operated by members of the LGBT+ community.

Tropic Cinema

Key West: an LGBT+ destination a few hours from Miami along a road with unique views

This cinema with colorful marquees shows independent and historical films. (Tropic Cinema)

This colorful, retro-style cinema has four screens for movies, cultural events, and lectures. It is characterized by supporting independent projects and filmmakers and shows historically important, experimental and avant-garde art films.

Opened in 2004, it has been popular for its curated selection of titles. Its exterior has a light sign that invites you to enter. Once inside, it is reminiscent of a museum for its movie posters and gives access to rooms where you can see something other than Hollywood blockbusters.

Where:< /b> 416 Eaton St, Key West, FL 33040

Key West Wildlife Center

Key West: an LGBT+ destination a few hours from Miami along a highway with unique views

Protecting and rescuing local wildlife is one of the missions of the Key West Wildlife Center.

This is an ideal place to take a walk on its nature trail, catch a glimpse of the local wading birds and get in touch with nature. It's the perfect visit if you want to get away from the sun for a bit.

The center is located in a 7-acre (2.8-hectare) park with a freshwater pond where you can see turtles, as well as a rehabilitation area for wild animals. It also has a clinic to treat injured or sick children.

Where: 1801 White St, Key West, FL 33040

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

At the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory you can walk among more than 50 species of butterflies from around the world. (Key West Conservatory)

The center is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Between 50 and 60 species of live butterflies from around the world and more than 20 species of exotic birds offer an unforgettable experience.

The conservatory habitat is heated so that the visitor has the opportunity to come face to face with butterflies and birds from all over the world. You have to keep your eyes wide open and walk carefully so as not to step on one of these colorful winged insects.

The intimate nature will invite you to relax and immerse yourself in a world of wonders, where you can walk among the species in the open air has a plus: admire them up close.

Where: 1316 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040

Bonus tracks: Fantasy Fest and Hemingway Stunts Contest

Key West: an LGBT+ destination a few hours from Miami along a road with unique views

The last week of October, Key West comes alive with people and colors for Fantasy Fest. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/Handout via REUTERS)

The last week of October is the Fantasy Fest, a local tradition that's a level of bacchanalia compared to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

And during Hemingway Days, every July, the famous Hemingway Stunt Contest: a competition between gray-haired men with white beards to see who is the most similar to the great writer. The award is currently held by Floridian Jon Auvil, winner of the 2022 match.

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