This popular Florida resort town was the first to pursue the LGBT dollar and it continues to be one of the top gay destinations in the United States. An inspirational haven for writers such as Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, Key West is paradise for the queer literary or history buff. In June, thousands of gay and lesbian travelers from around the world get caught in this intoxicating tourist trap. The occasion? PrideFest Key West!
From gay dance parties and drag shows to street fairs, the atmosphere during PrideFest is amped up beyond belief and it's an experience not to be missed. This year, the festivities kick off on June 6th beginning with a pride luncheon with Erin Davies, Pride Grand Marshal and the creator of FagBug. The FagBug campaign began when Davies' Volkswagen Beetle was vandalized with homophobic slurs. In response, Davies decided to travel the country in the car to help bring awareness to gay issues. She also filmed and produced a documentary based on the experience.
The Miss, Ms. and Mr. Pride competitions are always hits. The contestants are judged on looks, talent and most importantly, personality! The pageants may be high-pressure on high-heels for the finalists but they're a lot of laughs for the audience.
On Saturday, June 9th, wake up bright and early and take part in the annual GLCC Pride Ride. It's a great opportunity to trek across the island with hundreds of other proud cyclists of all ages. When you've finished your morning exercise, head over to the KW Pride Street Fair. Bars, restaurants and shops between the 700 and 900 blocks of Duval Street show off their goods, set to beats offered by popular DJs including Nick Hatziantonio and Edwin Lucas.
If you're heading to Key West for the first time, you have to hop on the Gay KW Trolley Tour. It's a fabulous way to experience the city "with a gay twist." The tour lasts about an hour and includes stops at mainstream and gay historic spots, narrated by experienced guides.
After a day of biking, shopping and sightseeing, head over to the Waterfront Playhouse and enjoy "Fruit Fly," a one man show hosted by one of the most hilarious 'mos in the business, Leslie Jordan. The show dives into Jordan's childhood memories, more recent adventures and asks the age-old question, "do gay men really become their mothers?"
Sunday evening it's all about the main event, the Key West Pride Parade. Revelers descend on Duval Street for an elaborate, colorful and flamboyant celebration. The parade begins at 5 pm and ends around 7 pm, followed by drunken, exuberant partying spilling over into the surrounding gay bars.
Most of Key West's gay bars are located on Duval Street. From dance clubs to piano bars, there's a venue to suit each and every taste or preference. Bourbon Street Pub is the most popular dance club on the island. In addition to great music, the venue also offers drag shows, karaoke and live entertainment. Kwest offers happy hour specials and a popular piano-sing-a-long party each week. Leather daddies and the sons who love them head to Saloon One. It's the only gay leather bar in Key West, located behind Bourbon Street and 801 Bourbon Bar.
One thing you should know before embarking on a trip to Key West is that it's a great place to get naked. The incredible climate encourages many to head to a clothing-optional resort or to the beach and strip down. There's also a watering hole for you brazen exhibitionists. Garden of Eden is the only clothing-optional bar on Duval Street. The venue, located above the Bull & Whistle Bar attracts an eclectic crowd. Just be sure to leave your modesty at the door.
Ladies looking to mingle with other fine ladies head to Pearl's. This is a tropical-themed lesbian bar featuring amazing specialty drinks like the "Cosmopearlitan" and "Pearl's Passion." Want to keep the party going after closing time? There's a clothing-optional bed and breakfast attached to the bar. Be sure to make your reservation well before PrideFest.
You don't have to take your clothes off to have a good time in Key West, oh no, especially during PrideFest. During this week, attending one of the popular pool parties is a must. Big Ruby's, Pearl's and Kwest are just a few of the venues hosting pride poolside soirees. In addition to great drinks and scantily clad hotties, there are also contests and incredible live performances.
Whether you're looking for a pride experience that's balls to the wall or looking for a relaxing dream gay beach getaway, Key West will not disappoint! When you leave this homo-utopia, you'll understand why the city's motto "One Human Family" applies not just during PrideFest, but all year round.
Creative Director & Founder, therepubliq.com
Director, Marketing/Promotions & Co-Founder, The OUTlander Project
Producer, OutCast Austin
Chase is the founder and Creative Director of therepubliq.com and co-founder and Director, Marketing & Promotions of The OUTlander Project. He is also a producer and engineer for OutCast Austin, an award-winning LGBT weekly radio program on KOOP 91.7 FM in Austin. In 2011, he was named the Critics Pick for 'Most Gaybiquitous' in the Austin Chronicle's Best of Austin.
Additionally, Chase runs PlanetChase, LLC, a consulting firm providing a variety of business development services including web development, marketing, branding, technology to small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs; as well as meeting planning services for the financial services industry.
On his spare time, Chase has volunteered with local organizations including AIDS Services of Austin, the Octopus Club, the Austin Gay Basketball League and Volleyball Austin. In 2007, he was appointed by then-Austin Mayor Will Wynn to serve on the Austin Area Comprehensive HIV Planning Council where he served as the chairperson of the Community Access & Nominations committee.