5 fun ways to ring in the New Year in wonderful Key West

Oh the weather outside is frightful, isn't it? For weeks before winter's official start date of Dec. 21, there has been record-setting cold temperatures, snow, and ice across much of the U.S., making it hard to enjoy walking in a Winter Wonderland this season.

New Year's Eve is just around the corner, but there's no need to hold the winter holidays hostage to winter's cold weather traditions.

For a special holiday celebration, head down to the southernmost point in the country, the island of Key West. Besides being a major tourist destination, Key West is also a community of proud residents who celebrate their own traditions, and they add their own twist to Christmas and New Year. Here are the five steps to having a spectacular, and warm, New Year's Eve celebration in Key West.

Step 1: Say "Goodbye to 2018" at the beach

When 2018 is on its last day, send it out in style: sitting on the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The part faces south and curves west, like a lovely wrap-around natural porch offering views of the spectacular sunset. For anyone interested in going for a swim, even on New Year's Eve the water should be in the 70's (bring sandals, as the sand can be a bit rocky in places, especially in the water).

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Beach and historic military fort
601 Howard England Way Key West

Step 2: Splurge on a fabulous dinner

Peel off those swimsuits and dress up for a nice dinner, because Key West is more than just a collection of bars on Duval St. The island boasts some of Florida's finest restaurants, and they unveil special NYE menus to celebrate the occasion. Local favorites like Azur (Below) and Cafe Marquesa offer elegant prix fixe specials, and the (absolutely delicious) restaurant at Island House Key West will serve a deluxe prime rib dinner. For a truly pinkies-up dining experience, empty your bank account and buy tickets for dinner at The Oldest House Museum, organized by the Old Island Restoration Foundation (which operates the delightful historic home tours around the island). Make reservations soon, because every table will be taken all over town.

Open Now

Azur Restaurant

A twist on Mediterranean
425 Grinnell St Key West

Step 3: See a show

New Year's Eve is always a rowdy affair in Key West, and the masses will start partying early, both in the bars along Duval St., and also outside on the street itself. Pace yourself, and stop in for a bit of entertainment, perhaps at the drag show at Aqua, or have a cocktail at the piano bar in La Te Da (below). The shows are excellent, so it's understandable that some patrons will stay for the rest of the night--but there is also a lot more planned outside!

La Te Da

A hotel complex
1125 Duval St Key West

Step 4: Watch The Shoe Drop

While thousands of people crowd into New York's Times Square to count down the final seconds of 2018, there will be a similar but far more charming countdown in Key West, with a bit less glamorous. Sushi, the famed drag queen who often performs at 801 Bourbon Bar, perches inside a giant red shoe and "drops" slowly to the ground as the clock ticks in the New Year. Thousands of people crowd in front of 801 to witness the spectacle while making lots of noise and drinking lots of liquor. 801 is also hosting a party inside with an open bar, for those who are serious about having fun and can't be bothered with changing venues throughout the night.

Monday Dec 31, 2018 7pm-2am
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Step 5: Party The Night Away

Once the clock strikes midnight, the festivities turn to one giant party throughout the entire city. Dancing boys aplenty can be found at Bourbon St. Pub, or mix and mingle in the street. After a night of so much excitement, there's nothing wrong with retiring with a bottle of champagne in your hotel room. Good night!

By Daniel Renzi