The Conch Republic Spreads its Rainbow Flag
Key West is known as the Conch Republic, which is what it called itself when, in 1982 it 'seceded' from the union in a protest over a U.S. Border Patrol blockade of the Keys in response to the Mariel Boatlift. A quirky, magically charming, independent little blue dot on the very tail of a conservative-leaning state of Florida, Key West has always marched to its own drum.
Once the nearly exclusive province of artists, writers, and forward-thinking gay and lesbian locals and in-the-know travelers, the island has gradually gone more straight in many ways, especially when gigantic mainstream cruise companies "discovered" it and begin disgorging boatloads of hetero tourists in this under-touristed queer paradise.
Still, Key West embraces and welcomes all and is one of those destinations where even the most conservative blue hair simply smiles at the idiosyncrasies of this breezy island and its warm locals. It may seem off season to most travelers, especially from the northeast, but early June is a terrific time to visit, especially during Key West PrideFest, June 9-13. Photo above: three men in coordinated swim trunks and sexy poses on the beach in Key West.
In an only-in-Key West event, the adults-only kick-off party takes place at the Island House, the sexually-charged men-only guesthouse, with gorgeous rooms, terrific service, and dark rooms for after-hours canoodling. PrideFest culminates with a parade on June 13. And there are terrific events for men and women throughout the week.
- There are loads of options. Check out OutTraveler.com, our brother site's top recommendations here. But if you are looking for a nice spot, that's predominantly gay and lesbian (though welcoming to to straight friends), Alexander's Guesthouse has recently undergone renovation, refreshing its already lovely rooms and gardens.
- Men-only Island House, mentioned above, with its hot sexual vibe is a great option for singles or couples looking to meet other guys.
- A more budget-oriented option for men, New Orleans House -- part of Bourbon Street complex -- has full gym now, pool, and Jacuzzi. They are bringing top-name gay entertainment like Judy Tenuta and Leslie Jordan.
Play/Meet: Check the recommendations on OutTraveler.com.
Escape: Too much Pride all at once? Head to the fabulous Ft. Zachary Taylor Beach -- locals call it Ft. Elizabeth Taylor beach -- an idyllic and peaceful oasis of white sand and palm trees with the occasional impossibly cool outdoor sculpture exhibit.