Wild Time at Fantasy Fest in Key West
Fantasy Fest is a street party held annually during the last week of October. It is known for its eclectic spirit of creative expression, risqué costumes and body painting. The 2022 theme was “Cult Classics and Cartoon Chaos”
We had been to Key West once before during that time, but we were spectators, not participants in the parades. This time our pirate krewe of Santa Margarita decided to attend the event and to march in some of the parades.
As we did not have much time, we decided to fly instead of making the long drive from Tampa. It is a short flight, but Silver Airways only use small propeller planes for that route, so it is not for the faint-hearted.
We usually stay at hotels, but this time we rented an Airbnb cottage a block from Duval Street. The location was convenient, but the bed was far smaller than the queen they advertised. It was a good experience for this type of events, but next time we will definitely try to find something in a more modern building.
We only had a couple of hours to check-in, buy groceries and get our rental bikes before our first parade. Most of our pirate krewe friends had been in town for almost a week, so they were already in full action. Our group decided to dress-up as dctors and nurses for this year’s Masquerade March. We all met near Duval Street and walked to the start of the parade. It was a hot afternoon and we did a lot of walking. The atmosphere was very friendly and a lot of locals were also participating, wearing all kinds of costumes. The parade lasted a few hours. On the way back to our cottage we had dinner at Duffy’s Steak & Lobster House, originally a tavern that first opened in 1948. They have good food at a reasonable price.
The next day we rode our bikes around town and walked back and forth on Duval Street. We had a great lunch at the Old Town Mexican Cafe (https://oldtownmexicancafe.com/.) Award-winning Chef Gail Brockway takes her inspiration from New Mexican foods of Santa Fe. Instead of Tex-Mex, they call it Fresh Mex. That evening was the largest parade of the week, so we went back to our cottage after lunch to get ready. Our group decided to dress-up as Mad Max characters for this year’s Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade. We all met at the staging area a couple of hours before the start of the parade. We even had a truck that was transformed as a vehicle you would see in a Mad Max movie. The parade winded through Duval Street from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Tens of thousands of spectators, many of them in costumes, were enjoying the floats, the costumed characters and the different bands. The parade started at 7:00pm, but it was almost 10:00pm when it ended. We were famished and we luckily found a table at Martin’s, a fantastic restaurant that we will visit each time we are in Key West. It has a very diverse menu with European influence.
Fantasy Fest ends on a Sunday and we still had a couple of days in town before going back home. We rode our bikes to the beach and came back to town to have lunch at Sloppy Joe’s, a Key West institution that was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite watering hole during his time on the island. We spent the rest of the day walking and shopping downtown. We discovered a great Thai restaurant one block from Duval Street named Misohappy. They serve sushi along with traditional and regional Thai dishes.
Our last full day in Key West was Halloween. We expected a crowd, but most people had left at the end of Fantasy Fest. We had breakfast at one of our favorite places, the Blue Heaven. They are known for their Floridian-Caribbean cuisine and key lime pie. You sit in an outside patio with live music and roosters running around. We rode our bikes most of the day and went to the beach. For our last evening we had dinner reservations at La Trattoria, an Italian restaurant we had visited many times. However, this time the food was not good and we were disappointed. We will be looking for a new Italian restaurant the next time we are in town.
Our flight was in the early afternoon and we had breakfast at Croissants de France on Duval Street. It’s a little bit pricey, but they have great omelets. We arrived at the airport early and found out an hour later that our flight had been delayed. We did some research and found out that our plane had a technical problem and never left Tampa. A replacement was supposed to come from Orlando, but we could not wait any longer and decided to rent a car instead and drive back home, as we had an appointment the next morning. The only good thing out of it is that we discovered a great hotel in Key Largo, where we spent the night. We stayed at the Playa Largo Resort & Spa, an Autograph Collection property part of the Marriott portfolio. It's a beachfront property with pools, spa and restaurants. We had dinner at La Marea, their Mediterranean restaurant. We will definitely come back to spend more time in this wonderful property.