Looking for the Key To Art, Culture, and Relaxation? Unlock the Florida Keys!
For decades, the Florida Keys & Key West have enjoyed a great reputation for being a fun getaway destination to soak in the sun, go boating, diving, snorkeling, fishing, shopping, relax in spas, etc. But a lot of people don’t realize just what an Arts & Culture hub the Keys really are.
While driving down Card Sound Road toward the Keys, art and nature enthusiasts will encounter such marvels as the Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Gardens, featuring the most sophisticated art galleries and world-renowned artists in South Florida, as well as the 15-acre Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, home of 35 butterfly species and more than 270 migratory bird species. And this is just the beginning. Currently, the Florida Keys is attracting an international market of visitors interested in experiencing the cultural flavor first hand and participating in the myriad of arts events the community has to offer. Whether it’s theater, galleries, museums, festivals, music, or dance, the Florida Keys offers something for everyone. With this in mind, AroundTown has selected some Arts & Culture highlights, conveniently listed by category, to better help our readers plan their next visit to the Florida Keys and live artfully!
Are you a theater aficionado? The Keys are filled with talented theater companies from Key Largo to Key West, encompassing a skilled pool of performers, ranging from local to professional actors, bringing to life musicals, comedies and Broadway productions. Here are just a few of the many theater companies you will definitely want to check out on your next visit:
Fringe Theater is where actors, audiences, writers, directors, designers, students and the community come together to think about, create, educate, entertain, and enjoy classic and innovative intimate theater. The eclectic Key West Fringe Theater presents a lively season with "immersion" performances in various non-theater settings chosen to complement each production, such as Key West's Custom House Museum, and the historic San Carlos Institute.
325 Whitehead St, Key West
Red Barn Theater
The Red Barn Theatre has become a cultural cornerstone in Key West, spending the last thirty-two years committed to nurturing artistic excellence within the local and national arts community. Jimmy Buffett, Philip Burton, Terrence McNally, Jerry Herman, and Tennessee Williams have all made the Red Barn a part of their cultural experiences in Key West. Whether premiering new scripts or working with the classics, Red Barn Theatre is a highlight of the theater scene that shouldn't be missed.
319 Duval Street, Key West
Marathon Community Theatre
The Marathon Community Theater began as a small community group in 1944 and garners its performers from a talented pool of local residents. Dedicated to contributing to and enhancing the cultural life of the Middle Keys community, the up-and-coming Marathon Community Theatre provides an informal setting and a local atmosphere for its performances.
5101 Overseas Highway, Marathon
GALLERIES, VISUAL ARTS, ART WALKS
If art walks and galleries peak your interest, the Keys offer a multitude of visual treats for both casual art lovers and connoisseurs that need to be explored. Some of these highlights include:
Florida Keys Community College Art Gallery
Student, faculty and local artists contribute to rotating exhibits in a beautiful college library setting. Mon-Thurs 8:30-9:00, Fri. 8:30-6:00, Sun. 12:30-6:00. Summer & holiday hours vary.
5901 College Rd, Building, Key West
Artists in Paradise Gallery
Vibrant co-op of artists working in the Lower Keys offering fine art in sculpture, painting, photography, glass & fine crafts. Emphasis on tropical themed work in this colorful gallery. Custom Frame Shop. Next to the Library in Winn Dixie Shopping Plaza, Daily 10-6.
221 Key Deer Blvd. Big Pine Key,
The Art Studio
Visiting and resident art lovers in the Middle Keys can explore and express their own creativity at The Art Studio. Offerings include workshops to learn painting in oil, watercolors and acrylic, as well as sculpting and painting pottery. Among the subjects taught in workshops and classes are throwing clay, fusing glass, creating jewelry and painting and glazing self-selected ceramics.
12535 Overseas Highway, Marathon
First Friday Upper Duval Art Walk
Key West is a gathering place for every kind of artist and art enthusiast. The Island has quite a history of writers, painters, actors, potters, and poets. Every first Friday of the month, there is a local Art stroll on upper Duval that starts at 6pm and usually goes to 9pm (depending on the location even later). The best way to experience this night is to park right off of Truman and make your way to Dog Tired Studio and Gallery on the corner of Whitehead and Julia. Right across the street is the Rock House Gallery. You can then make your way down Julia Street and stop in and see all the other galleries on upper Duval, like Frangipanni, Cocco and Salem, Key West Pottery, and Gingerbread Gallery. Each gallery usually has a new featured artist that kicks off that night, and offers beverages, food, and music. It is a great way to spend the night before or after dinner, enjoying beautiful artwork and meeting the artists that create it.
The Studios of Key West
The Studios was founded with the vision of bringing world-class artists to the island, connecting them with local audiences and artists, and offering space for both to explore their creativity. The Studio has hosted Pulitzer prize winners, world renowned artists and musicians, and introduced thousands of students to different ways of seeing and working.
533 Easton St, Key West
There is definitely no shortage of museums in the Keys! With so many to choose from we couldn’t possibly list them all. But a few really stood out as encompassing the Keys flavor and should be on your list:
Crane Point Museum, Nature Center & Historic Site
Tucked away in Marathon is a 63-acre tropical oasis that is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the Keys. Crane Point Museum and Nature Center contains evidence of prehistoric Indian artifacts and was once the site of a Bahamian village. Highlights include the Museum of Natural History; a gift shop; nature trails; Adderley House, one of the oldest homes in the Keys outside of Key West; the Marathon Wild Bird Center; a butterfly garden and flight habitat.
5550 Overseas Highway, Marathon
Towering over Mallory’s historic seaport, the Custom House is as stunning a sight to visitors today as it was when it opened in 1891. Originally home to the island’s customs office, postal service, and district courts, this four-story architectural marvel was built to keep pace with the increasing population and wealth accumulating from Key West’s lucrative trade routes and maritime industries. The imposing structure is a tremendous exemplar of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, which was typical for Federal building projects near the end of the 19th century.
281 Front St, Key West
The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
A registered national historic landmark, the Hemingway Home and Museum offers guided tours of the author's home, writing studio and Key West's first swimming pool. The six-toe cats, which roam the grounds, are descendants of Hemingway's pets.
907 Whitehead St, Key West
Can you say, year-round festival goodness? It seems every month there are a slew of festivals in the Keys covering a variety of themes and interests, and encompassing food, art, and music. Whatever time of year you visit, you’re sure to discover an exciting festival to enjoy. Here are just a few:
Big Pine & Lower Keys Island Art Festival
This annual December event features live music, original Island art and a wide array of crafts, all just in time for holiday gift-giving. Free admission and parking.
31020 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key
Key Largo Original Music Festival
Hit songwriters from Nashville and around the United States will take the stage at multiple venues during Key Largo’s four-day original music festival. They’ll be joined by individual singers and bands, both local and national to provide a unique and eclectic musical celebration. The 2016 editions takes place Thursday through Sunday, May 12-15
Florida Keys Celtic Festival
Held every January, take a much needed break after the holidays and journey to the tropical Florida Keys. Great Live Celtic Bands, Highland Athletics, Pipes & Drums, Celtic Food, Beer and Celtic Merchandise vendors! Children's Glen with activities for the wee ones!
Marathon Community Park
MM49 US Hwy 1 Ocean Side, Marathon
Every October, Fantasy Fest put on an outrageous, 10-day celebration featuring costume competitions, promenades, street fairs and a grand parade with marching groups and lavish floats. Fantasy Fest has grown every year since its inception and is now the wildest extravaganza around! Fun-loving revelers from around the globe bring their creativity and imaginations as they descend upon Key West each year for 10 days filled with costuming, parades, libations, and excitement! The theme for the 2016 Fantasy Fest is “Political Voodoo & Ballot Box Barbarians and will be held on October 21-30.
1111 Twelfth St, Suite 211, Key West
Art, food, live music, classic cars and much more will mark the 25th anniversary of Florida Keys Island Fest on April 9 and April 10. The annual rite of spring, organized by the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce, will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days at Founders Park, mile marker 87 bayside.
Music lovers will be able to bask in all the sweet sounds filling the tropical air in the Keys. Whatever your taste in music is, the Keys will definitely strike the right chord with its wide variety of musical selections. Here are just a couple of organizations you may want to check for their upcoming line-ups:
The Florida Keys Concert Association
This association has grown into an annual tradition of musical excellence and philanthropy, including seasonal concerts annually in the upper and middle Keys. Past performances have included the Glenn Miller Orchestra, one of the most popular big bands in today's music world, the renowned Moscow Chamber Orchestra and several other nationally and internationally acclaimed artists.
South Florida Symphony Orchestra
The symphony offers a unique gathering of professional symphonic musicians from around the United States, and began as the Key West Symphony. It is guided by nationally recognized conductor and Key West native Sebrina Maria Alfonso. Complimenting the orchestra members' talents are soloists chosen to enhance each musical program.
Dance is well-represented in the Keys, comprised of talented amateurs and professionals, performing all different styles of dance, from ballet to contemporary. One dance group in particular, Dance Key West, has an eclectic mix of dance events to explore:
Dance Key West
One of the more comprehensive resources for dance performances in the Keys, Dance Key West presents original, evening-length shows for the stages of Key West. The troupe performs at local theaters, parks and event venues, as well as coordinates a community outreach dance program in which company members go into the schools to teach, inspire and perform with and for the children of Key West.
916 Pohalski St, Key West