Key West Is Celebrating Its 200th Anniversary With a Heritage Festival, Parades, a Drone Show, and More
The island destination of Key West, Florida is celebrating its bicentennial anniversary this spring with historical exhibits, film nights, festivals, and more. The destination is inviting visitors to join in on the fun and discover why Key West is known for its daily sunset celebrations, relaxing island vibes, and community resilience throughout its 200-year history.
Mar. 25, 2022 officially marks the bicentennial anniversary of the first permanent settlement founded in Key West, but the festivities are starting much sooner. On Jan. 21, the Key West 200 exhibit will officially open its doors, welcoming visitors to learn about the island's unique history as the southernmost point in the U.S.
Presented by The Key West Art & Historical Society, the exhibit will be organized by decade as it moves visitors through time and history, focusing on the stories of the people, industries, migration, culture, and architecture that made Key West what it is today. Some of the artifacts visitors can expect to see include cigar-rolling tools (after all, Key West is closer to Cuba than Miami); 19th-century homewares, clothing, journals, and photographs; Overseas Railway memorabilia; Ernest Hemingway's boxing gloves; and tools used by Indigenous communities.
"When developing this exhibition, it was important that we did not focus solely on the dates, events and people that most of us already know," Cori Convertito, curator of the Key West 200 exhibit, said, per the official bicentennial website. "Museum visitors who imagine that Key West has always been a tourist destination will be delighted to discover that tourism is only a tiny portion of the story. The true breadth, depth, and diversity of this island is so much more – a remarkably captivating history to celebrate."
The Key West 200 exhibit will be open through Dec. 11, 2022. Other festivities celebrating Key West's bicentennial include a variety of film nights throughout the year, featuring productions written by Tennessee Williams, who lived in Key West for more than 30 years until his death. The main events — including a time capsule dedication ceremony, parade, and Heritage Festival & Drone Show — will of course take place during the week leading up to Mar. 25, the official anniversary date.
To complete a history-filled visit to Key West, travelers can check into one of the island's many historic properties like Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. Built more than 100 years ago, the plans for Casa Marina were first conceived by Henry Flagler, the railroad tycoon who built the Overseas Railway connecting Key West to the mainland U.S. Though Flagler died before the property was built, many other big names frequented the hotel, including Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.
Today, guests at Casa Marina can enjoy the resort's location on Key West's largest private beach and even hop on a historic jet-ski tour around the island departing from the resort's beach. Casa Marina's concierge can also arrange private tours of the Tennessee Williams Museum, the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper's Quarters, and other historic landmarks.
Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but always on the lookout for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.