Local traditions and culture in Key West

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Key West

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    Hemmingway's Polydactyl Cats

    by grandmaR Updated Mar 24, 2013

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    I went to Hemingway's house when we lived in Key West, but I went again because my sister wanted to go and she had never been. We both took photos of the cat's paw, but she took the top of the paw and I took the bottom of the paw. The original a white cat (named Snowball) was given to the family by a sea captain. Some of the cats at the Hemingway house are descended from Snowball.

    One of the things that Hemingway did for the cats was to give them water to drink which was in a kind of tough. The top of the fountain is an old Spanish olive jar that he brought from Cuba and the trough below was one of the bar's urinals that was given to Hemingway by his friend Joe Russell when Joe moved his bar across the street due to a dispute over money. Pauline hated it and added the decorative tile to disguise it.

    Hemingway named all of his cats after famous people and that tradition has continued. There is a small cat cemetery on the grounds of the house where you can see the graves of cats named Willard Scott, and Errol Flynn

    Cat licking paw Six Toed Cat's Paw Cat water dish/urinal Cat cemetery sign Cat paw prints in cement
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    Key Iguanas?

    by Ewingjr98 Written Sep 2, 2012

    My first trip to Key West was in January 2011. During this two day visit we saw lots of odd Key West Chickens, but little other wildlife. When I returned about a year and a half later, in summer 2012 we kept seeing these gigantic iguanas. Why so many the second trip after none the first trip?

    In January 2010, there was a massive frost in Florida that damaged the citrus crop, and froze almost all of the plants in my yard in Tampa. It turns out this frost also killed most of Key West's once burgeoning iguana population. Now, 18 months later, the iguanas are back in full force, scaring tourist and creeping people out with their dinosaur-like features. We saw one on the Key West Cemetery, once at Fort Zachary Taylor, and several in the mangroves while we were kayaking. Iguanas are surprisingly good swimmers.

    Locals dispute the origins of the iguanas. Some say that iguanas, like the Key chickens, were brought to the island by Cuban immigrants. Others ague that iguanas may have drifted from Cuba to Key West on floating logs and branches. The more common theory is that they were released by people who had them as pets until they got too big to keep. Nonetheless, they are an interesting part of Key West biology.

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    Key West Feral Chickens

    by TravellerMel Written Apr 19, 2012

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    According to the Key West Trolley tour guide, chickens were brought over in the 1950s by people fleeing Cuba to be used for eggs and food. Once on Key West, the chickens either escaped or were released (once here, they realized food was available quite conveniently in stores). Since there are very few natural predators (hawks and feral cats), the chicken population thrived. You see them all over Key West, so you must be careful to not run over them in your car or on your bike. They seem to be very terratorial - I approached some of the babies just to get a look, and the mama chicken charged at me. Laugh if you will, but it scared the Dickens out of this city girl!

    Key West Chicken
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    Conch architecture in Key West

    by Jefie Written Jan 15, 2012

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    Walking around some of Key West's side streets will allow you to discover a type of architecture that is practically unique to the island, usually referred to as "conch architecture". This particular style of wooden houses was developped in the 19th century when immigrants from the Bahamas first came to Key West. Due to the relative lack of resources on the island, they resorted to their boat-building skills to construct clapboard houses that would be adapted to Key West's tropical climate. Conch houses are typically set on posts and feature high ceilings and large windows to allow air to circulate as much as possible. This particular architectural style greatly contributes to giving Key West its rather unique Caribbean feeling.

    A conch house on Grinnell Street
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    Cats and Chickens!

    by Jefie Written Jan 15, 2012

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    Key West's "wildlife" is somewhat different, to say the least - it is estimated that there are thousands of free-roaming chickens on the island, mostly due to a law that makes it illegal to kill them (apparently, the law was first enacted to counter the practice of voodoo in Key West). It therefore is quite common to spot roosters walking down the street - some have even walked down the aisle at the church of St. Mary Star of the Sea! Cats are also hugely popular on the island - of course, there's a huge concentration of felines at the Hemingway house, but since they are not kept in captivity, you'll often meet these six-toed cats roaming around downtown Key West.

    Cat crossing on Petronia Street Cats hanging out at the Hemingway estate Rooster on the loose in Key West

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    Key Chickens

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jun 17, 2010

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    Around Key West you will see lots of Key lime pie, rainbow flags, and chickens. Often called Key West Gypsy Chickens, these bird are thought to have lived on Key West for at least 175 years. In the 1900s the population of chickens grew along with the population of Cubans as they often traveled together from Cuba. Today the birds are somewhat of a nuisance, but protected by the city.

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    clothing optional clubs and pools

    by doug48 Written Nov 8, 2008

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    pictured is the entrance to the garden of eden clothing optional bar on the roof of the bull and whistle. key west has a couple of clothing optional bars and many hotels allow topless and nude swimming in their pools. if you are traveling with children or find nudity objectionable be sure to check your hotel's pool policy before booking.

    garden of eden clothing optional bar
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    chickens

    by doug48 Written Nov 8, 2008

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    key west is infested with wild chickens roaming the streets. these birds are protected by law so care must be taken not to run over them. after a long night on duval street it is a little annoying to be waken up at sun rise by these noisey creatures.

    key west wild chicken
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    Mile Markers - US 1 Mile zero

    by csordila Written Jul 23, 2008

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    Mile markers, often called mileposts, may be seen, as the name implies, each mile along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway.
    They appear on the right shoulder or median strip of U.S. Highway 1 as small green signs with white numbers, and begin with number 126 just south of Florida City. Mile markers end with the zero marker at the corner of Fleming and Whitehead streets in Key West.
    Awareness of these markers is useful as residents of the Keys refer to them continually. When asking for directions in the Keys, visitors shouldn't be surprised to be told that the spot they're seeking is at, just before or just beyond a mile marker number.

    US 1  Mile zero

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    Hemingway Days: July 17 - 22, 2008

    by Ericasmurf99 Updated Apr 20, 2008

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    Hemingway Days events includes a Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest, readings and book signings, annual Lorian Hemingway (Ernest's grand daughter) Short Story Competition, a commemoration of the anniversary of Hemingway's July 21 birth, a one-man play exploring the legendary author's life and motivations, a museum exhibit of rare Hemingway memorabilia, the zany "Running of the Bulls", a three-day marlin tournament, daily tours of the author's former Key West home, Sloppy Joe's Arm Wrestling Contest, a Caribbean street fair, Green Parrot Off-the-Wall Sidewalk Art Show and a 5k sunset run through Old Town Key West. Whew. I think that is everything.

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    Pirates in Paradise Festival Nov 29 - 30, 2008

    by Ericasmurf99 Updated Apr 20, 2008

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    Fort Taylor and the surronding area in the Truman Annex are transformed into a pirates’ stronghold with hundreds of pirate entertainers. Tall ships, sea battles, arts and crafts, pirate sails, a living history encampment and nonstop entertainment will keep you entertained!

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    Goombay Festival Oct 17 - 19, 2008

    by Ericasmurf99 Updated Apr 20, 2008

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    This festival is held in Key West's Bahama Village neighborhood. Features Caribbean island-style food, handmade African arts and crafts, live entertainment and dancing in the streets. This is sort of the "intro" for Fantasy Fest.

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    Fantasy Fest: Oct 17 - 26, 2008

    by Ericasmurf99 Updated Apr 20, 2008

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    “Pirates, Pundits, and Political Party Animals” is the theme for this year's 30th Fantasy Fest. A packed schedule of costume competitions, promenades and street fairs, and a grand parade featuring marching groups and lavish floats will fill the ten days. Every night will usually have a theme (i.e. leather on tuesday, plaid on thursday, etc).

    Not really a time to visit with the kiddies...lots of nudity/body paint/drunks...

    Don't worry if you planned a trip down here with kids and you didn't know this would be going on...you'll be safe during the day, most of the craziness begins at night.

    Costumes: Super Heroes Costumes: Titanic People (who didn't make it...) Costumes: Morman women (These guys were hilarious) Costumes: 80's Hooker and a Giesha Costumes: 50's flight attendants or Mary Kay?
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    A very tolerant town

    by 850prc Updated Aug 6, 2006

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    Key West truly is an accomodating and laid-back little burgh. Everyone is welcome and for the most part, everyone gets along.

    black, white, latino, gay, straight, young, old It's all good in Key West, and everyone seems bent on just having themselves a good time. It's the rare town that really does seem to be home to all of humankind, but Key West is that way.

    KW is home sweet home to the Human Family

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    Fantasy Fest

    by goingsolo Updated Apr 21, 2005

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    Fantasy Fest is Key West's answer to Mardi Gras. This is a ten day festival in October with floats, costumes and tons of drinking. The festival takes place in Key West, which gets booked solid about a year in advance. As you ncan imagine, prices skyrocket as well. But its a fantastic place to be to see all the costumes and activity.

    Related to:
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    • School Holidays

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Key West Local Customs

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