Mallory Square is located in the historic Old Town of Key West, Florida. It is a plaza that comes to life at sunset with a nightly Sunset Celebration. The Square faces the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the main tourist attractions on the island. The cruise ship port is nearby, but the Sunset Celebration takes precedence, and the ships vacate two hours before sunset and return only after sunset while the revelry takes over.
The Sunset Celebration
The sunsets seen from Mallory Square have enthralled people for centuries. Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams were both captivated by the sight. The Key West Sunset Celebration is an event that started in the 1960s. It begins two hours before sunset, so guests and locals alike enjoy the ever-changing sky and watch the brilliant red sun paint the sky with pink, orange and, finally, lavender before the twinkling stars appear on the velvet blue night.
The performers who entertain along with the Sun are magicians, clowns, jugglers, local musicians, psychics, artists as well as food vendors creating a cultural and festival atmosphere every night of the year. They attract people from all over the world who immortalize the experience in a myriad of photographs of every imaginable combination of color and entertainment.
The evening open-air entertainment includes tight rope walking by humans, dogs and cats. There is a great variety of music with bagpipes, island ballads, blues guitarists and pop tunes. The circus acts include sword swallowing, fire juggling, giant unicycles, balloon artists for the children and escape artists. There are also comedy and vaudeville acts. In fact, there’s never a dull moment.
Visitors can take the official ferry to the Dry Tortugas National Park or fly there by seaplane. The park is famous for the largest masonry structure in the western hemisphere. It is Fort Jefferson, started in 1824, and never actually finished. The intention was to have a base from which to suppress piracy in the Caribbean. Tours to visit the park and fort are planned with a delicious breakfast and lunch, and there is snorkeling gear, showers and guided tours of the fort, which is sometimes called the Eighth Wonder of the World.
There are so many watersports available near Mallory Square it is truly a watersport paradise. Jet skiing, sunset cruises, water trampolines, parasailing, kayaking, glass bottom boats, windsurfing and many, many more mean visitors never need to stop playing in the water. There are kayak tours through mangrove forests, reefs swarming with a huge variety of colorful tropical fish, dramatic wrecks and pristine, white sand beaches.
For those who would prefer to watch the sport, there are dolphin and sea lion shows as well as participation in animal training and swimming with the dolphins, sea lions and rays.
Getting close to Nature
There is a petting zoo with farm animals as well as alligators and turtles and snakes along with endangered animals and abandoned exotic animals. These animals have been rescued and are cared for in the zoo. Admission is free and adults as well as children enjoy the experience.
There is also a sanctuary for endangered birds. Abused and abandoned parrots are rescued and cared for in this unique environment. Children are welcome and encouraged to interact with the birds with music, food and to take photos.
Fishing is another hugely popular pastime on the island. There are boat charters that are dedicated to providing their guests with memorable adventures. The boats have first class amenities and families are welcome. The boats are safe and loaded with everything passengers need for fishing from light tackle to big game fishing.
Visitors can also take eco-tours and kayak around the Florida Keys Back Country seeing some of the premier wildlife preserves in North America.
Key West has been inspiring visual artists for decades. Photographs taken by the official photographer of the State of Florida are available in prints, books, glass prints and light catchers. These gorgeous photos forever bring to life vibrant moments with birds, trees, flowers and the sea. There are other galleries that show and sell local as well as international art, and two big art events take place during the winter season including the Key West Craft Show and Old Island Days Art Festival.
There is no shortage of fantastic food near Mallory Square. Excellent seafood is at the top of every menu, but there is much more. After sampling all the sea has to offer, visitors enjoy Italian, Spanish, Thai, Japanese, French, Chinese and Cuban. Of course, there are also fantastic burgers and fries. The venues include quiet, intimate dining with seating overlooking the Gulf, raw bars and tapas along with a huge selection of wine, beer, sangria and other spirits. There is even a restaurant with only desserts. The fragrance coming from the front door makes it difficult to walk past.
Some History and Famous People
The Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum has interactive exhibits and maritime salvaging history all to the purpose of making the city the richest in the U.S. The home of the first millionaire in Florida is filled with priceless antiques. Visitors can see Ernest Hemingway’s house where he lived for 10 years as well as the Audubon House where John James Audubon stayed when he visited the city in 1832. The house where President Harry S. Truman stayed was built in 1890 and has housed six presidents. Today, it is a museum of living history as the only presidential museum in Florida.
Where to Stay
Whatever their travel budget, there will be a home, hotel, resort or B&B available for every visitor. Some have views of the Gulf and some of the tropical gardens. Some are old time buildings with history attached and some are brand new. They all have the modern conveniences. There are even hostels for the backpackers traveling on the wind.
Mallory Square is the heart of Key West and the place to come to experience much more than a beach vacation. With the cultural offerings, entertainment and natural beauty, it satisfies each ones idea of a dream vacation.