Famed for having one of the largest per capita LGBTQ populations of any city in the U.S., Key West is cherished by many for its welcoming and inclusive vibe. ‘One Human Family’ has been the official island motto for decades.
Despite its compact size (2 x 4 miles), it offers a range of attractions, not to mention some iconic selfie opportunities.
GayCities offers some of the best places to strike a pose on a visit to this beautiful, tropical getaway.
The Southernmost Point Buoy
The Southernmost Point Buoy is literally the southernmost point of the United States. The colorfully painted buoy was established at the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street in 1983 and has since become one of the most photographed spots in Key West.
Pictured above at Xavier McKnight (right) and his boyfriend, Thomas Burchim.
“I’m actually a Florida Keys native,” McKnight (@xaviermcknight) told GayCities. “I was born in Key West, which makes me a “saltwater conch” and raised about an hour away in Marathon, Florida, which is the heart of the Florida Keys. I moved to NYC six years ago to pursue an acting career.
“My favorite thing about Key West is the sense of community. The locals are very sweet and greet everyone with a smile and a friendly ‘Hello!’ If you ever visit Key West and are looking for quality queer entertainment, be sure to check out Aqua Nightclub for incredible drag performances and the Waterfront Playhouse for professional Broadway caliber shows!”
Marilyn Monroe in front of the Tropic Cinema
You’ll find this beautiful retro-style movie theatre at 416 Eaton Street, in the old town district. It’s hard to miss the neon signage against the starry sky, or the statue of Marilyn Monroe outside. She’s posed above an air grate, like the iconic scene in the movie, The Seven Year Itch.
Unsurprisingly, many visitors can’t resist taking a photo with the legendary screen goddess. Here’s @henry.gutty16, visiting from Long Island, New York, and loving his first Key West experience, praising the city’s beauty and color.
Cuban Coffee Queen’s Key West mural
One of the area’s most beloved coffee stores, there are actually three Cuban Coffee Queens in Key West. However, it’s the original, waterfront branch at 284 Margaret Street (near the ferry terminal for Fort Jefferson and Fort Myers) that remains the most photographed, thanks to its iconic Key West mural. The image was originally painted by the artist, Letty Nowak.
This photo shows Instagrammer @valdeznoel25, from California, who visited Key West for his 28th birthday late last year and tells GayCities he loved going to the beach and the amazing views offered by an ocean cruise.
From the top of Key West Lighthouse
You can see the Key West Lighthouse from almost everywhere in town, as it’s the tallest landmark in the old part of the city. You’ll find it at 938 Whitehead Street, in the neighborhood known as Bahama Village.
“It was my first time in Key West, and I stayed at Island House,” says Ross Bynum (@therossbynum), from Houston, Texas, pictured above. “The food around the island is fantastic, and that was the biggest surprise. There are lots of mom-and-pop restaurants that are amazing. I had hogfish for the first time and it’s a must-try.
“The other part that was so great was the people I met. Everyone was so friendly … a group became friends, hung out over the weekend, and regularly text and plan on heading back soon. It really was a relaxing, great time: just the right amount of relaxing and fun. And, the clothing-optional places are awesome!”
On the Rainbow Crosswalks
The Key West Rainbow Crosswalks brighten the iconic intersection of Duval and Petronia Streets at the heart of the LGBTQ bar and club scene. The crosswalks were first laid down in 2015, but following repaving of the area, permanent, more vivid crosswalks were installed in summer 2020.
“I love that Key West isn’t afraid to show their love and acceptance!” says travel Instagrammer Angie Cox (@thelovelyescapist). “As we walked down Duval Street, there are rainbow flags above nearly every business and there’s even a rainbow crosswalk at Duval St. and Petronia St!
“Key West also has an amazing drag queen scene. You can catch a show at Aqua, La Te Da, or 801 Bourbon Bar (the pink building behind me in the photo).”
Outside the Tennessee Williams Exhibit
Key West has provided a warm and welcoming refuge to many LGBTQ writers, artists, and other creatives over the decades. One of its most famous residents was Tennessee Williams, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright behind such classics as A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.
Williams began visiting Key West in 1941 and bought a home at 1431 Duncan Street in 1950, which remained his home until he died in 1983. The Tennessee Williams Museum can be found at 513 Truman Avenue, in the historic old town. You can read all about Williams’ life and check out a wealth of old photos, rare newspaper and magazine articles as well as many artifacts, including one of his old typewriters.
Out front, on the porch, you’ll find a life-size cut-out figure of Mr. Williams, which is a popular spot for selfies.
For the latest health and safety protocols in The Florida Keys, visit fla-keys.com/gaykeywest.