Prepare to bathe in glitter and shoot around with adrenaline because Fantasy Fest is here! Before and after Halloween, Key West is just another town in Florida where everyday is filled with sunshine and sandy beaches adorn its beaches but during Halloween it turns into a parade packed blowout! Naughty or nice, it’s the place to be if you’re looking to have a bit of fun.
This street side party happen every year during the last week of October. You have costumes, beads, alcohol, body paint and any thing that makes a party perfect. The Parade Day is the highlight of the whole fest, but the rest of it is just as much fun, if you know how to do it right!
Dates: The last of week October. 18th October to 21th October in 2013 and 17th October to 26th October in 2014.
Location: Duval Street, Key West, Florida, United States
Entrance Fees: Entry cost varies from event to event, but looking at the parade is free.
In and Around the Festival
Conch King and Queen are the two of the most symbolic people during Fantasy Fest. These titles are given to two of the residents of Key West that selected every year.
There’s a lot going on in Key West during the Fantasy Fest aside from just the main events that you should know about if you’re going to have the time of your life! Be warned though, the festival is for the open minded. For example, there’s a place called the Garden of Eden where clothes are optional. It’s a rooftop bar that open every day for like minded souls who want to walk around in their birthday suit.
Another hot spot is Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration! Two hours before the sun goes down, hoards of people gather around to see the art, guzzle down the food and stare with awe at the street performers. Eventually, they all turn to the setting sun and it dims below the horizon.
Fantasy Fest is something you have to indulge yourself in at least once in your life, but you should probably leave the kids at home. Everyone that’s 21 and above is present to have a bucket load of fun!
The best thing about Key West is that no matter how crowded it gets or how many people are jammed into one location, it very rarely gets violent.
Fantasy Fest is packed with different events that will tickle every fantasy. No matter what kind of party you enjoy, there’s bound to something that’s been tailored just for you!
Goombay – This is two day street party that happens in the Bahama Village. It celebrates the Bahamian heritage of Key West with rhythmic music on goatskin drums while everyone dances and eats a lot of food.
The Royal Coronation Ball – Every year this event is where the Conch King and Queen are crowned.
The Pet Masquerade and Parade– The festival isn’t just for humans but for animals as well. Dress your pets up in costumes and let them parade the streets showing off their skills.
Pretenders in Paradise – This costume contest is the one that rewards the most amount of money! $10,000 for the winner, which is only more money to enjoy the party even more!
The Masquerade March – Crowds of hidden faces and costumes galore, be whoever you want be this one night of the fest, and let loose on the dance floor.
The Street Fair – A nice mix of arts, crafts and food vendors of you to indulge yourself and pick up a few trinkets to take back home to your friends. It’s the perfect place to pick up something to remember your trip by.
The Fantasy Fest Parade – The main highlight of the festival! $150 per head to participate but it’s an experience like no other!
Each year the theme for every party changes though the basic concept stays the same, so be sure to check out the official website so that you know which costumes to make!
Hotels are available but most people choose to book a vacation home and a spot at the many Key West bed and breakfasts to have the complete experience. Around the time of the Fantasy Fest, it’s all a little expensive, so make sure you make your reservations well in advance. The vacation rentals cost around the amount as hotels except that they have multiple bedrooms, private hot tubs and even full kitchens. It’s a handy option, especially if you’re traveling in a group because you can split the bill rather than book multiple rooms at a hotel.
Tips for your Trip
Dressing up and picking a costume is the main allure of the Fantasy Fest. Don’t wait till the last minute and don’t buy your costume in Key West, other wise you’re going to see at least another 10 to 20 people in the same costume as yourself. Keeping costumes in mind, it’s also best to be comfortable. You’ll be in costume for a long time so make sure you can go to washroom while wearing it, drink water and have access to your wallet.
Even though October is meant to be chilly, Key West tends to stay relatively warm. Will the high temperatures and around 70,000 people each year, the sweat factor is always on the rise. Make sure you costumes and your clothes can accommodate that.
Be camera ready! No, I don’t mean keep your camera charged. In the digital age, things go viral very quickly, so depending on your activity, make sure you take steps to protect your identity. Maybe if you’re doing to get body paint, wear a mask.
There’s a lot of walking involved during the fest so be sure to wear something comfortable rather than high heels, and don’t even think about going barefoot, unless your want your shoes trampled on.
Last of all, travel light! It’s gonna be crowded and it’s going to be a lot of walking around, you don’t want to weigh yourself down in a bulky costume or with a heavy purse.