Duval Street is the Bourbon Street of Florida. Amid the T-shirt shops and clothing boutiques, you'll find bar after bar serving neon-colored frozen drinks to revelers who bounce from bar to bar from noon until dawn. Bands and crowds vary from night to night and season to season. Your best bet is to start at Truman Avenue and head up Duval to check them out for yourself. Cover charges are rare, except in gay clubs, so stop into a dozen and see which you like. For the most part, Key West is a late-night town, and bars and clubs don't close until around 3 or 4am.
The Gay Scene
Key West's bohemian live-and-let-live atmosphere extends to its thriving and quirky gay community. Before and after Tennessee Williams, Key West has provided the perfect backdrop to a gay scene unlike that of many large urban areas. Seamlessly blended with the prevailing culture, there is no "gay ghetto" in Key West, where alternative lifestyles are embraced and even celebrated.
Although restaurants and businesses welcome visitors without discrimination, nightlife is inevitably nightlife. In Key West, the best music and dancing can be found at the predominantly gay clubs. While many of the area's other hot spots are geared toward tourists who like to imbibe, the gay clubs are for those who want to rave, gay or not. Covers vary, but are rarely more than $10.
Two popular adjacent late-night spots are the 801 Bourbon Bar/One Saloon (801 Duval St. and 514 Petronia St.; tel. 305/294-9349 for both), featuring great drag and lots more disco. A mostly male clientele frequents this hot spot from 9pm until 4am. Another Duval Street favorite is Aqua, 711 Duval St. (tel. 305/292-8500), where you might catch drag queens belting out torch songs or judges voting on the best package in the wet-jockey-shorts contest.
Sunday nights are fun at La-Te-Da, proper name: La Terraza de Martí, 1125 Duval St. (tel. 305/296-6706), the former Key West home of Cuban exile José Martí. This is a great spot to gather poolside for the best martini in town -- but don't bother with the food. Just upstairs is the Crystal Room (tel. 305/296-6706), with a high-caliber cabaret performance featuring the popular Randy Roberts in winter. For more cabaret-caliber entertainment, check out The Keys, A Key West Piano Bar, 114 Duval St. (tel. 305/294-8859; www.akeywestpianobar.com), featuring live music from show tunes and standards to rock and roll. An outdoor garden bar, The Off-Key Bar is the place to be if you happen to be there during a time when a tone-deaf customer takes advantage of the open mic policy.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.