Life in a pandemic isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Take, for example, the recent announcement that Fantasy Fest 2020 has been canceled. For the first time in 41 years, the leather-clad lads and glittering goddesses of Key West won't make their gaudy appearances.
An unfortunate but necessary step, locals and visitors alike have been saddened by this news. But that doesn't mean you have to skip out on your Florida travel plans. We're here to let you know there's still a wealth of incredible adventures awaiting you here.
After all, they don't call Florida the "Sunshine State" for nothing. Keep reading for a rundown of the five must-see, must-do activities in Florida despite the sad news about Fantasy Fest's cancellation.
Fantasy Fest Alternatives
Over the past four decades, Fantasy Fest Key West has come to represent far more than a beach party Florida-style. It's a soulful infusion of loyal fans and participants, a living and breathing extension of their flamboyant spirits.
That said, pandemics and parties don't bode well together. Organizers have had no choice but to pull the plug on this year's event. While a tough decision, we feel they've done the right thing.
Of course, this decision comes with devastating economic repercussions because Fantasy Fest has long been a significant financial driver on the island. Many people have been adversely impacted by the cancellation, from waitstaff to bellhops, musicians to artists and photographers.
What can you do to help? We urge you to remain committed to your Florida Keys and Key West travel plans. While now's not the right time for the crowd-driven revelries of Fantasy Fest, that doesn't mean you can't visit Key West and the Florida Keys in a responsible and safe way.
Recent studies have shown that airplane travel remains among the safest ways to get around. The quality of indoor air
proves very safe due to the combination of high-tech filters and low-tech masks. Also, there are a number of airlines that are offering direct flights into Key West from new destinations. These facts will give you peace of mind when traveling.
And once you get here? Check out the following five great activities. Drive from the mainland of Florida down U.S. HWY 1, and enjoy unique experiences from Key Largo to Key West.
1. Enjoy Outdoor Recreation in the Upper Keys
While social restrictions are still in place, Key Largo is open for business amid a responsible economic recovery. Outdoor activities abound, although one of our favorites remains a trip to the first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp State Park.
This stunning location includes approximately 70 nautical square miles of seagrass beds and coral reef, providing an excellent spot for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Above water, you can soak in scenic views while canoeing or kayaking. And there are also glass-bottom boat excursions, providing a sneak-peek into life beneath the ocean's waves.
The park is open every day from 8 am until sunset.
A school of colorful goatfish fish in the Florida Keys
2. Go Wild at the Theater of the Sea
Located on Islamorada, the Theater of the Sea
lets visitors get up close and personal with the "Sunshine State's" marine animals. They offer swimming experiences with sea lions, nurse sharks, and dolphins.
And don't forget to scope out the theater's parrots, alligators, and other wildlife.
If you want to take it to the next level, book one of the Theater of the Sea's private snorkel cruises. These one-of-a-kind excursions promise exhilarating up-close interactions with ocean creatures.
Swim with the Dolphins in the Florida Keys
3. Bahia Honda State Park
Do you want a prime location for snorkeling? Then, head to the Middle Keys and Looe Key National Sanctuary
for some of the area's best snorkeling. You'll enjoy the adventure of a lifetime exploring all that Florida's abundant waters have to offer.
Trips have resumed with limited capacity, so book ahead for the best results. Visitors are also welcome to explore the park's Calusa and Loggerhead beaches, where they can swim in both Gulf and Atlantic waterways.
You can even make reservations to camp feet away from the beach. The park remains open from 8 am to sunset, although campers have the chance to enjoy it overnight.
Bahia Honda State Park
4. The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
History and literary buffs will savor a visit to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
, one of the most popular Old Town Key West destinations on the map. This Spanish Colonial estate once housed the most celebrated American writer of the 20th Century Papa Ernest Hemingway.
Today, it remains a beautifully appointed homage to the author of A Movable Feast
and For Whom the Bell Tolls
. Best of all, cats roam the property freely, a nod to the author's famed obsession with felines. The home remains open seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. Watch for special events during the summer months when hours of operation get extended.
Stay near the museum at the monthly vacation rental called On Hemingway's Rounds
, and walk in the footsteps of Papa himself, as we strolled from his home to the famous Sloppy Joe's Bar.
On Hemingway's Rounds Vacation Rental
5. The Sunset Celebration
To the delight of locals and visitors alike, we're pleased to inform you that the Sunset Celebration
at Mallory Square remains in full swing despite the constraints associated with the coronavirus.
Of course, changes have been put in place to ensure the safety of people attending the celebration. Performers are now mandated to keep their distance from crowds and cannot interact with them.
But you'll still have opportunities to watch adrenaline-spiking performances by tightrope walkers, fire breathers, jugglers, and unicyclists sitting ten feet in the air.
Remember to wear your mask and pack your hand sanitizer. Customers and vendors in retail areas are required to do the same. For your convenience and safety, you'll also find plenty of sanitizing stations located throughout the pier.
Here are some other social distancing tips
Fun in the Sun in Key West
Despite the Fantasy Fest cancellation, there remain many incredible things to do in and near Key West. From fun in the sun at the area's local beaches to snorkeling cruises and visiting historical landmarks, where will you go first?
Remember, too, that most of the Florida Keys attractions and restaurants are operating once more. You'll need to follow the rules of social distancing and should book ahead. After all, some locations offer limited capacity.
Local officials in Key West have been working extra hard to provide fun experiences while keeping in place protections for your health and safety. That way, you can still make the most of your upcoming Florida getaway.
Now that you've seen some of our top picks for alternatives to Fantasy Fest, are you ready to lock in your vacation to Florida? If so, then book direct
with Vacation Homes of Key West and save on your vacation rental spot.