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Key West, Florida

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Key West in Florida.

Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida on the North American continent at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys.

Key West is politically within the limits of the city of Key West, Monroe County, Florida, United States. The city also occupies nearby islands and portions of nearby islands.

The island is about 4 miles (6.4 km) long and 2 miles (3.2 km) wide. In the late 1950s many of the large salt ponds on the eastern side were filled in, nearly doubling the original land mass of the island. The island measures 3,370 acres (13.6 km2) in area.

Many visitors rent a bicycle and explore the history and architecture of Old Town Key West. Walking tours, including a tour of the unusual Key West Cemetery, are available. The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square is a daily spectacle for visitors and residents. Boat excursions and tours provide a great way to view Key West from the water.

The Duval Street bar and restaurant district includes many different entertainment options, all within walking distance of each other.

The Studios of Key West, founded in 2006 and based at the island's historic Armory building, was established as a new model for an artist community. It comprises a dozen working studio spaces, a main exhibition hall, a sculpture garden, and several adjoining residences and cottages. Its programming continues to grow and includes an extensive series of creative workshops, free humanities lectures, cultural partnerships, and innovative ideas for artists and audiences.

The Florida Keys Council of the Arts serves as the primary cultural umbrella for Monroe County, from Key Largo to Key West. A non-profit local arts agency, it makes grants, operates the Monroe County Art in Public Places program, sponsors seminars, and manages the on-line cultural calendar for the region. It also manages the County's Tourism Development Council arts marketing grants and serves as a leading advocate for cultural tourism in lower Florida.

The Tennessee Williams Theatre is a performing arts center, a civic center, and a community center. It is based at the Florida Keys Community College.

The Key West Literary Seminar, a celebration of writers and writing held each January, attracts an international audience to hear such writers as Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Billy Collins, and Joyce Carol Oates.

The Key West Botanical Forest and Garden is an excellent, frost-free arboretum and botanical garden containing a number of "champion tree" specimens.

Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden is a one-acre (4,000 m²) garden resembling a lush, predominantly green rainforest. It is an exhibit of nature's artistry in a woodland garden.

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory features a 5,000-square-foot (460 m²) glass-domed tropical butterfly habitat.

A permanent AIDS Memorial is at the White Street Pier.

The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum showcases gold, silver, and treasure recovered from shipwrecks around the world.

Some tourists mingle with the locals, shop, and dine at the Key West Historic Seaport at the Key West Bight.

The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum preserves the history of the Key West Lighthouse, built in 1847.

Nobel Prize–winning author Ernest Hemingway's former home is now open to the public as the Ernest Hemingway House, and is populated by as many as 60 descendants of his famous polydactyl cats.

PrideFest is seven days of events, presented by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Key West during the first week in June. The schedule includes the Pride Follies talent extravaganza; contests to select a Mr., Ms. and Miss PrideFest; parties; a tea dance; and the PrideFest Parade down Duval Street.

In 1979 the Key West Tourist Development Association, Inc., started Fantasy Fest to attract tourists at the traditionally slow time of Halloween, which is at the end of the hurricane season. Fantasy Fest regularly attracts approximately 80,000 people to the island and has become a huge success.

In June 2006 the Key West Gay & Lesbian Museum & Archive opened at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center at 513 Truman Avenue. Featured exhibits include a Tennessee Williams typewriter as well as an extensive collection of memorabilia and papers of Richard A. Heyman, who was one of the nation's first openly gay mayors before dying in 1994 of AIDS.

Popular annual events

* Key West Race Week - international sailing event – January
* Key West Literary Seminar – January
* Kelly McGillis Classic- Flag Football Tournament – February
* Conch Republic Independence Celebration – April 23
* Taste of Key West - April
* Red Ribbon Bed Race – April
* Survivors Party – May
* Queen Mother Pageant – May
* PrideFest – June
* Cuban-American Heritage Festival – June
* Hemingway Days Festival – July
* WomenFest – September
* Bike Week - September
* Fantasy Fest – October
* Goombay Celebration – October
* Robert the Enchanted Doll Day – October 24
* Parrot Heads in Paradise Convention (aka Meeting of the Minds) – (October 30 - November 2 in 2008)
* Boat and Holiday Parade – December

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