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Cross-posted from lgbtSr.com

While I’ve been to Ft. Lauderdale and Coral Springs quite a few times to visit my partner’s family, I’d never been to Key West. As a Christmas present last year, our friend Kathi Hill gave us three nights at the Southernmost Hotel and Resort and met us there this past week. It was one of the best vacations I’ve had in a long time, and a definite return destination.

We went to Coral Springs first to visit family, then drove the four hours to Key West. You can fly directly there, but if you’ve never been there you might as well take the opportunity to drive through the keys. I kept wondering why they were called “keys” and found out that keys are a coral archipelago (see Wikipedia). You can read there about the history of the keys. At first the only way to the islands was by water, then a railway was built (since destroyed by a hurricane) and finally a roadway that goes over 29 bridges. By the time you reach Key West you’re closer to Cuba than you are to Miami.

This was the perfect time to visit. We skipped Fantasy Fest a week earlier, which would have been a madhouse. The only thing going on our weekend was the 20th annual Parrot Head convention, which kicked off Friday with a free concert by Jimmy Buffet. We didn’t know this as we drove into town wondering why the street was blocked off, but there you have it.

We were only there from Friday to Monday but we managed to get a lot in. Duval Street is the main street, and we walked that back and forth several times. Our hotel was on one side of the island, and the Conch Tour Train, which we rode one afternoon, started at the other. Our train conductor’s name was Peggy, and she managed to keep talking for 90 minutes while informing us about the history of Key West and all the sites we saw along the tour. This included the information that Key West had actually seceded from the United States, earning itself the name The Conch Republic, and the motto, “We seceded where others failed.” The secession was short lived and unofficial, but a point of pride for Key Westers.

The tradewinds keep the climate in Key West temperate year round, and I’d have to say November and the winter months are an ideal time to visit. You can see the Earnest Hemingway House, the Little White House where President Truman visited a number of times and that still contains the furniture put there for his stays. There are roosters roaming the island (from the days of cock fights; once they were made illegal, the roosters were simply set free and are treated as a protected animal there).

Food, entertainment, shops, the daily sunset celebration, the butterfly conservatory (video here). There’s just so much to enjoy in Key West that I’ll leave it to you to explore further. The pace, the climate, the friendly people, all combine to make this a high-priority vacation spot, whether you’ve never been there or you’re going back for your 20th time.

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