Key West is one of the best destinations in the USA for gay travelers. As the “southernmost point in the continental USA”, Key West is one of the most remote parts of the country. As with most gay havens, Key West emerged as an artists’ retreat.
Tennesee Williams and Ernest Hemingway made it their stomping ground. The flawless climate, open seas and charming conch houses made it a dream setting for artists. Prior to the literary connection, Key West was a haven for former slaves and pirates.
Key West attracts around 250,000 visitors every year, many of whom are LGBT+. It’s something of a party island. During prohibition, it was packed with speakeasies. Today it has more bars per capita than anywhere else in the country. The party spirit of Key West is alive and well on Duval Street. Much of Key West’s economy is sustained by tourism. It’s geared towards pleasure.
In 1983, it was one of the first cities in the US to have an out gay mayor. Along with Provincetown, it’s the top destination for a gay staycation. Key West is an irresistible tropical island city. Read More: A Guide to Key West Culture.
Most of Key West’s gay bars can be found on Duval Street. Every New Year’s Eve, Sushi, Key West reigning Queen, drops from the balcony of the Bourbon St. Pub in a shoe. She’s done so on the stroke of midnight since 1996. The shoe was originally a makeshift affair cobbled together with papier mache. It’s since been reinforced by a local mechanic. If you’re in Key West for New Year do not miss Sushi’s shoe drop.
Bourbon St. Pub has a New Orleans theme. It’s the main hub of Key West’s gay scene. You can see the “Men of Bourbon” stripping, often on the bar – private sessions can be booked. There’s a pool and jacuzzi. You’ll see many people spilling from Bourbon St. Pub onto the street. It’s a great place to mingle.
Just up the road you’ll find 801 Bourbon Bar and the gay fetish bar, Saloon 1. Both are sister venues of Bourbon St. Pub. This is essentially the gay entertainment complex of Key West.
Aqua is the main gay club in Key West. It’s also on Duval Street. It’s open seven days a week. Aqua is the place to go as the night progresses. The drag shows are worth checking out.
Key West is home to more gay resorts than any other destination in America, aside from Palm Springs. Some of these resorts are gay only, others are “straight-friendly.” You’ll also find many clothing-optional resorts.
Alexander’s Guesthouse is one of the more stylish gay guesthouses. It’s located on a quiet street in Old Town. The gay nightlife of Duval Street is within walking distance. The hotel is comprised of three historic conch houses. A good choice if you’d like to stay in a classic Key West property.
The Island House is another popular gay resort in Key West. It’s clothing-optional, so you can let it all hang out. It has a 24-hour poolside cafe and bar. There’s also a daily open bar for all guests – all drinks are free between 5-6:30pm. It’s fun and it can get quite cruisey.
Key West’s motto is One Human Family. It was coined by J.T. Thompson, a local LGBT+ artist. The motto perfectly sums up Key West’s socially liberal culture. The One Human Family Quote was handed out on bumper stickers and adopted as the city’s official motto in 2000.
Key West Pride usually takes place in June. March to May is considered to be peak season in Key West. June is rainy season so Key West Pride doesn’t draw a huge amount of tourists. It’s more a celebration for locals. You can get much more affordable flights and accommodation in June though. Pride in Key West is still quite a party. Then again, it’s Pride every day in Key West.
by Alex | On: Gay Key West