Key West is one of the best destinations in Florida for art and culture. It’s long been a big draw for writers and artists. Key West is the ultimate American writer’s retreat.
The island experienced economic challenges after the Great Depression. It’s one of America’s most remote locations, after all. As a result, Key West was promoted as a cultural destination. The campaign worked. It’s been sustained by tourism and culture ever since. Key West is also something of a party destination, so you’ll find no shortage of places to go at night. Here’s our Key West culture guide.
Ernest Hemingway is one of the great American writers. He had numerous spiritual homes. One of them was Key West. He had a home on the island and wrote some of his masterpieces there. He’s the only writer who could make a novel about fishing readable.
You’ll find his former home in the heart of Old Town Key West. He spent ten fruitful years at the property. Considering his battles later in life, it would seem that the peaceful setting of Key West was important for his creative output. Over 40 cats live at the property and most them are descended from Hemingway’s cats. It’s worth joining a guided tour for an insight into Hemingway’s impact on Key West’s cultural history.
The Tennessee Williams Museum
Another of America’s literary giants, Tennessee Williams was a queer playwright who fell in love with Key West. His spent thirty-four years on the island at 1431 Duncan Street. It’s just a few minutes walk from the Hemingway property. That’s two of America’s major cultural figures on the same street!
It’s said that Williams wrote Street Car Named Desire when he was staying at a hotel on the island in 1947. Key West would have been a more welcoming place for a gay writer in less liberal times.
The presence of these two writers really put Key West and the Florida Keys on the map as cultural destinations. Be sure to visit the Tennessee Williams Museum and see his home preserved as it was when he lived there.
Mel Fisher is one of the great Key West characters. He was a former chicken farmer and a big dreamer. He would go treasure hunting in his spare time and his motto was “Today’s the day.” Day after day, year after year, it wasn’t. In 1985 he finally made his great discovery. He found Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a Spanish galleon that sunk in 1622. There was $450 million of treasure on the ship.
The Nuestra Señora de Atocha has been hailed as the most expensive shipwreck ever found. His motto turned out to be more than hopeful. What a day it must have been when he finally discovered his treasure.
You can see some of the artefacts he salvaged from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha at the Mel Fisher Museum. The museum contains many more great find from notable shipwrecks.
America is a country of immigrants. Florida has long been a melting pot of different cultures. Floribbean cuisine combines Asian and Caribbean elements. The food tends to be very fresh, healthy and a little spicy. Seafood dishes are especially popular. Many restaurants in Key West serve Floribbean infusion cuisine. Be sure to try it as it’s very flavoursome and very particular to the Florida Keys.
The Floribbean influence can also be seen in Key West’s architecture. Conch Houses emerged in the 19th-century as a result of Caribbean immigration. The Conch style brings a distinctive Bahamian influence with a Floridian twist.
Key West colors are seaside-inspired. They tend to be warm and playful. Expect lemony yellows, salmon pink and creamy whites. Key West architecture is full of charm. Modern cottages often come with wraparound veranda and latticework. Part of the appeal of staying in Key West is waking up surrounded by sunlight and colour. Read More: A Gay Guide to Key West.
by Alex | On: Gay Key West