FLORIDA KEYS -- The spirit of the holiday season comes alive in the Florida Keys & Key West with festive events and functions spreading cheer in the island chain's subtropical climate. From Key Largo to Key West, the calendar is packed with events designed to celebrate the holiday spirit.
Listed here are some highlights, all spiced with a traditional Keys flair.
Nov. 25 – Dec. 20: Key West Holiday Fest. Key West. A wide range of seasonal celebrations include the Nov. 25 lighting of the Harbor Walk of Lights along the Historic Seaport at the Key West Bight, tours of historic decorated inns, a lighted parade and more. Events are to be hosted by the Lodging Association of the Florida Keys & Key West. For a complete schedule of events, visitwww.keywestholidayfest.com.
Nov. 28: Big Pine & the Lower Keys Island Art Festival. Big Pine & the Lower Keys. Highlights of this holiday event include live music by local entertainers, food, exhibits and booths featuring locally produced arts and crafts. Festivities traditionally take place on the grounds of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, mile marker (MM) 31 oceanside. Visit www.lowerkeyschamber.com or call 305-872-2411.
Nov. 28: Light Up Key Largo. Key Largo. Sponsored by the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, holiday happenings with live music, decorations, food and drinks are to spark the seasonal spirit. The annual tree lighting is to be held at the Murray E. Nelson Government Center and Key Largo Cultural Center, MM 102. Eggnog, caroling and an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus are virtually guaranteed to put everyone in a festive mood. The event starts at 6 p.m. Visitwww.keylargochamber.com or call 305-451-1414.
Dec. 3-6: Hot Pink Holidays. Key West. Sponsored by the Key West Business Guild, this LGBT holiday event is full of festive activities as well as special retail opportunities on the island. Events include holiday lights tours, a hometown holiday parade experience and Christmas caroling. Visit www.hotpinkholidays.org or call 305-294-4603.
Dec. 4: Florida Keys Holiday Festival. Islamorada. This extravaganza begins with a tree-lighting ceremony at Founders Park, MM 87. Attractions include food, live performances and kids activities including the crowd favorite 30-ton mountain of snow. Visit www.islamoradachamber.com or call 305-664-4503.
Dec. 5: Key West Holiday Parade. Key West. The island city shows its holiday spirit with this annual hometown parade. Featuring marching groups and floats, the festive procession traditionally draws entries from churches, civic organizations, businesses and neighborhood and school groups. Visit www.keywestcity.com or call 305-809-3881.
Dec. 12: Pops in the Park Jingle Bells Rock Concert. Islamorada. A special holiday concert is to be held at the ICE amphitheater at Founders Park, MM 87 bayside. The family-friendly concert features traditional music of the season. Presented by Keys Community Concert Band, the event starts at 4 p.m. and admission is free. All seats are outdoors and attendees are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets. Visitwww.keyscommunityconcertband.org or call Donna Heiner at 305-853-7294.
Dec. 12, 13 & 19: Lighted Boat Parades. Throughout the Florida Keys. Decorated and lighted boats are to cruise through Keys waters Dec. 12 on Key Largo's Blackwater Sound and in Key West Harbor and Marathon's Boot Key Harbor; Dec. 13 at Key Colony Beach and Dec. 19 at the Lower Keys' Pine Channel Causeway. For the Key Largo Holiday Boat Parade, visit www.keylargoboatparade.com or call 305-394-3736; for the Key West Lighted Boat Parade, visit www.schoonerwharf.com or call 305-292-3302; for the Key Colony Beach lighted Boat Parade, visitwww.kcbca.org or call 305-743-7214; for the Boot Key Harbor Lighted Boat Parade, visit www.bootkeyharbor.com/christmas_parade.htm or call 305-849-0285; and for the Lower Keys Lighted Boat Parade, call 305-923-5370.
Dec. 13: Christmas on the Sheriff's Animal Farm. Stock Island. Kids and adults can visit the furry, fluffy and feathered residents of the animal farm and petting zoo and get a photo taken with Santa. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office Animal Farm is located at the county's detention center at 5501 College Road. Admission is free and the farm is open to the public the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Visit www.keysso.net/miscellaneous/animal_park.htm or call 305-293-7300.
Dec. 19: A Holiday Concert at Marathon Community Theater. Marathon. Shows are slated to ring in the holiday cheer at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for children. Visit www.marathontheater.org or call 305-743-0994.
Dec. 20: Monthly Artisan Market, A Holiday "Shop Local" Edition. Key West. Browse the vibrant open-air bazaar filled with Keys artists, authors, chef-made cuisine, craftspeople and performers. Admission is free and the market is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Sunday of each month. Visitwww.facebook.com/KeyWestArtisanMarket.
Dec. 26-27: 56th Annual Key West House & Garden Tours. Key West. Presented by the Old Island Restoration Foundation, the annual self-guided tours showcase festively dressed Key West homes and gardens. Advance tickets are $30 and proceeds benefit the Old Island Restoration Foundation's museums, collection and education, grant and scholarship programs. Visit www.oirf.org or call 305-294-9501.
Dec. 27: Florida Keys Craft Beer & Bubbly Fest. Marathon. From noon to 7 p.m., enjoy tastings of craft beers, wines and champagnes along with live entertainment and delicious food at Marathon Community Park, MM 49 oceanside. Admission is free. Visit www.keysbeerandbubblyfest.com/.
Dec. 31: Annual Key West Dachshund Walk. Key West. Frost-free Key West becomes a "wiener wonderland" when about 200 dachshunds and their owners take a noontime New Year's Eve stroll through the island's picturesque downtown. Spectators can watch the fun and meet the canine participants on Fleming Street between Whitehead and Duval streets. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dec. 31: New Year's Eve Fireworks on Blackwater Sound. Key Largo. The backcountry bay is the setting for the annual New Year's Eve fireworks extravaganza hosted by Sundowners, Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill, Señor Frijoles, Cactus Jack's, Gus's Grille at the Marriott Key Largo Beach Resort and the Caribbean Club, all located around MMs 103-104. Visit www.keylargofireworks.com.
Dec 31: New Year's Eve Midnight Fireworks in Islamorada. Cheeca Lodge & Spa, MM 82 oceanside, is to offer a gourmet dinner, live music, dancing on the beach and a midnight fireworks display. Visit www.cheeca.com or call 305-517-4580. Morada Bay Beach Café at MM 81.6 bayside is to host a large beach party with live music, a specially planned beach barbecue, signature cocktails, performers and fireworks. Visit www.moradabay.com/full-moon-party/.
Dec. 31: New Year's Eve Celebrations in the Southernmost City. Key West. The Southernmost City typically celebrates with a "conch shell drop" at Sloppy Joe's Bar, 201 Duval St.; the descent of a super-sized red high-heel shoe carrying drag queen Sushi at the Bourbon St. Pub/New Orleans House complex, 724 Duval St.; the lowering of a pirate wench from atop a tall ship's mast at the Schooner Wharf Bar, 202 William St.; and at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa, at 0 Duval St., plans call for a huge replica of a Key lime wedge to splash down into a larger-than-life margarita glass on the property's Sunset Pier. For more information on the respective events, visit www.sloppyjoes.com, www.bourbonstpub.com or www.schoonerwharf.com or call Ocean Key Resort at 305-295-7005.