New Year’s Eve in Key West, Florida, is a little — no, make that a lot — different than New Year’s Eve in other locations.
For starters, the temperature is expected to be around 80 degrees or so due to its southern location, but it’s the general atmosphere that sets the festivities apart. Think of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, toss in plenty of drag queens, add fireworks and cannon fire — yes, cannons — and you start to get the idea.
New Year’s Eve in Key West, one of the Florida Keys, also isn’t like New Year’s Eve in, say, New York City’s Times Square because different bars have their own parties and their own unique ways of counting down to midnight.
There’s a lot to see in Key West on New Year’s Eve. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the larger events.
Everything on New Year’s Eve doesn’t happen in the evening in Key West. In fact, there’s plenty to do in the afternoon.
Mallory Square, located on the waterfront in Key West’s historic Old Town, is home to a number of shops, galleries, and restaurants. It’s also a place to gather and watch the sunset as the sun sinks over the Gulf of Mexico.
“We hate tooting our own horn, but the final Sunset Celebration of the Year is kind of a big deal,” Mallory Square’s management explains. “Gather around the nightly performers and get ready for some extra special celebrations. See magicians, jugglers, and artists who captivate audiences with the glowing pink and orange sunset as a spectacular backdrop.”
By the way, if you can’t make it to Key West, you can still watch the sunset each evening via Mallory Square’s webcam here.
Also, for something different, a local charter runs sunset sail excursions. On New Year’s Eve, it even offers Last Sunset Sails, departing at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Of course, you can also visit a number of bars and restaurants around Mallory Square.
New Year’s Eve Festivities
Key West is famous for its ball drops and various parties on New Year’s Eve. You may have seen live broadcasts from the area picked up by CNN and other newscasts because some of the attendees are flamboyant and the crowds are enormous.
Conch Shell Drop At Sloppy Joe’s
Sloppy Joe’s Bar features live music inside the bar, beginning at noon on New Year’s Eve. Then, at 10 p.m., a DJ kicks off the outside festivities from the bar’s rooftop.
“The arrival of 2022 is to be heralded … with the ‘drop’ of a gigantic, man-made conch shell, the symbol of the Florida Keys, to the flat roof of Sloppy Joe’s Bar,” the Official Florida Keys Tourism Council explains. “Spectators gather on Duval Street for the annual gala, emceed by a rooftop host, and featuring dancing in the street and a countdown to midnight recorded on a huge clock.”
Pro Tip: “Thousands of spectators gather to catch a glimpse of this annual tradition,” Mallory Square explains. “If you’re not looking for a crowd, avoid this area at all costs because it’s like a small version of Times Square.”
Pirate Wench Drop At Schooner Wharf Bar
Schooner Wharf Bar bills itself as “A last little piece of old Key West that just keeps getting better with time.” The bar, which opened in 1984, is located on the site of the old Singleton Shrimp factory.
“For piratical partiers, a New Year’s Eve salute to Key West’s rowdy seafaring roots is scheduled at the island’s Historic Seaport,” the Official Florida Keys Tourism Council explains. “At midnight, a winsome pirate wench will descend from the top of the mast of the tall ship America 2.0 as cannon blasts welcome 2022. Scallywags in attendance can expect live music all day, dancing, and festivities.”
Shoe Drop Celebration At Bourbon Street Pub
The Bourbon Street Pub, a gay bar, is known for its male dancers and male-only clothing-optional garden bar. It is attached to the New Orleans Guesthouse, a gay guesthouse.
Sushi, a drag queen who has led performances at Bourbon Street Pub for years, figures prominently in the New Year’s Eve celebration.
“Key West celebrates New Year’s Eve with a descending 6-foot-tall red high heel shoe carrying drag queen Sushi,” the Official Florida Keys Tourism Council explains. “Seconds before midnight, the high heel bearing a lavishly gowned and coiffed Sushi will be lowered from the second-story balcony of the complex toward the cheering crowds below. As midnight strikes and the New Year officially begins, she will land and gleefully pop the cork on a ceremonial bottle of champagne.”
Key Lime Drop At Ocean Key Resort & Spa
Adjacent to Mallory Square, Ocean Key Resort & Spa overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. It even has a pier, which is the location for the resort’s New Year’s Eve celebration.
The resort invites attendees to “‘Come Together’ for New Year’s Eve with The Beatle Band at the famous Sunset Pier.
“Party right over the water, under our private tent, and enjoy a premium open bar, butler passed appetizers, and our annual Key Lime Drop at midnight. This is a party you don’t want to miss!”
Know Before You Go
Key West, which was first explored by Ponce de Leon in 1521, became a U.S. territory in 1822. Located about 160 miles from Miami but only 90 miles from Cuba, Key West is the southernmost point in the U.S.
Although Key West is a small island, it is possible to fly directly to the island. Most people, however, either drive themselves from Miami or take a shuttle from Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Whether you drive or take a shuttle or bus, you’ll cross multiple bridges, including the famous Seven Mile Bridge, which offers magnificent views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys.
Be sure to read the rest of our Florida Keys coverage, including: