Anyone going to Fantasy Fest 2015 in Key West? Part 1

Discussion in 'Florida' started by The Travel Slut, Aug 16, 2015.

  1. The Travel Slut

    The Travel Slut 6 continents, 87 countries & 64 cruises so far

    This October Halloween week festival will be my lucky 13th Fantasy Fest experience and I can hardly wait to return to Duval Street and all my favorite places in my various costumes and bodypaint.

    Hello and get ready to enter the world of Fantasy Fest in Key West , Florida which I have sometimes referred to as "Mardi Gras on Steroids"....without the side effects.

    I also think you should be informed before you go as either a FF veteran or 1st timer to FF about some tips that may make your experien ce more fun.

    In addition while in Key West, learn about the nightly meets by various groups and learn where the best parties are for each night as many are announced only on the day of the party.

    The TravelSlut® 's Top Tips for First Time Fantasy Fest attendees

    While I've only been 12 times to FF (and about 30 times to Key West), I have learned a few things through personal experience or from the experience of others: (in no particular order):

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Key West is a walking town especially on and around Duval Street so comfortable, soled shoes or sandals are a must. Don't walk downtown in barefeet as the streets are likely to have either debris or glass, etc. that could cut up your feet. Also, in the heat, both streets and sidewalks heat up tremendously and you don't want to either burn your feet or have to do an emergency purchase of shoes/sandals from a downtown vendor.

    Toiletries & Medical Supplies: Essentials if you plan do to the "Duval Crawl" include: aspirin, Tylenol, antacids, Pepto-Bismol, and Chaser Plus. You should also have available at your hotel or B&B at least some insect repellent, sunscreen & aloe vera gel or know where the nearest source of these items.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: If you plan to do the beaches, bring a blanket and or chair and some sort of sun protection. The sun is brutal on skin not normally exposed to this heat and at this latitude.

    Transportation: During high season or any major event, parking can be almost non-existent near Duval Street even if you have a reservation at the Bed & Breakfast, motel or hotel. Don't even think about parking in a resident's zone unless you have specific permission--the fine and/or tow bill will be huge.

    There are parking garages, meters and some free side-street parking but again, if there is something going on in Key West (which seems to be most every weekend), then parking may be both expensive and extremely limited. Thuis is especially true for Fantasy Fest week when Key West's island population swells from 25,000 to over 50,000.

    Be cautious driving on the one-way streets, the narrow streets and the streets where the conch train operates. Watch out for bicycles, pedalcabs, small electric vehicles and of course, pedestrians. Open drinking and walking occurs 24/7. Be careful in all regards-driving or walking.

    Key West is small and compact in size and some streets are both narrow and have obscured sidewalks or side paths so watch your step--especially at night. Some walkways are not level or are obstructed or even having debris.

    Be extremely careful driving as pedestrians (sometimes intoxicated, sometimes jaywalking) will walk right out in front of you from previously hidden or obscured areas.

    Be careful on the streets of bicylists and people riding scooters or mopeds that may not be used to operating them. Plus the electrical vehicles are nearly silent, And finally, It is easy to be distracted while looking and at the sites of Key West.

    Key West also has a "conch train" that operates on both main and side streets-be sure to give it leeway as it is a very long train.

    Coming into Key West's "new town" at the north end of the island, is a culture shock after driving the previous 50 miles or so. Key West is modern and developed and but always seems to have ongoing renovations and construction of new condo units, etc. Be cautious of traffic controls, traffic workers, and slow-downs. Don't be in a hurry. Remember, you are on "Island Time" now and the 25,000 full time residents will appreciate patience as will your additional fellow 50,000+ Fantasy Fest revelers.

    Traveling along Highway US 1 (now called North Roosevelt Blvd. and at mid-town, Truman Avenue), you will start to see the signs of the Fantasy Fest celebration as many people decorate their homes and businesses in the colors or theme of the event.

    2015's theme is “All Hallows Intergalactic Freak Show†and is the 36th Anniversary of Fantasy Fest and this year runs from Friday, Oct. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 1 with the big parade on Saturday, Oct. 31 basically culminating the week of fun.

    Key West during Fantasy Fest is definitely not for the timid or shy and small children should not be downtown after dark (or at all if possible). Bodypaint, nudity and skimpy, sexy clothing (or lack thereof) rules and is very prevalent especially in the Fantasy Zone on Duval Street!

    Nightly costume , both official and unofficial can be found on the main Fantasy Fest website of

    You really should consider costumes for every night for the best interactions and fun participation.

    Here is my short overview of the nightly theme nights I regularly attend or have experienced since 1999.

    1st SATURDAY NIGHT-- Little Black Dress Night at Capt. Tony's Saloon. Anything goes but keep it PG on the streets as there are still many tourists and residents prepping for FF and unaware of the quasi-clothing-optional nature of FF. Save the risque fun for the bars and clubs and use common sense to cover up on the street.

    SUNDAY NIGHT--Pirate, Wench and Booty Night with the earlybirds of Fantasy Fest getting warmed up with fun at various venues around town and Capt. Tony's has been the place to be the past few years to the point that police have shut down Greene Street south of Duval Street to accomodate the overflow.

    MONDAY NIGHT-- features all those in leather, vinyl, rubber and all types of Fetish and Fantasy wear up to and including bodypaint (which is acceptable any night). It's not uncommon to see 100's if not thousands of people dressed in leather or latex or some variation for this various parties.Many others parties exist in non-sanctioned venues. Again, Capt. Tony's has a special celebration in their side rooms called Capt. Tony's Rubber Fetish Ball.

    Also, MONDAY is Leather & Fetish @ Kelly's Kinky Karnival at Kelly's Caribbean. (Personally, I've attended the leather-fetish party @ Kelly's Caribbean Bar & Grill for several years and this is definitely not the place for anyone shy or timid).

    I am sure that many of the people in attendance both on the streets and in the bars and private parties are amazed at the costumes and antics of the crowds. Words cannot describe here what you might see so you will have to use your imagination to get dressed up and experience what you see, hear and do. My photos in my Flickr Group and my YouTube videos only reveal a small aspect of happenings..

    TUESDAY NIGHT--features Plaid Nite & bodypaint @ Capt. Tony's Saloon and there are several other parties throughout Key West. This is also good as it keeps crowds down & separated so you don't feel so crowded & cramped for space.

    Remember, depending on the statistics used, Key West grows from a small town of 25,000 to almost 100,000 for Fantasy Fest and most are primarily situated in an area on a one-mile section of town called Duval Street (famous for the infamous Duval Crawl).

    There are also parties at Fat Tuesday's, the Headdress Ball, there is a free poster signing party and Capt. Tony's Saloon highlights the evening with its "Party in Plaid" event. I can usually be found spending my evening here.

    WEDNESDAY NIGHT--features Red Night @ Fogerty's & elsewhere on Duval Street and the crowds really start to arrive. Usually Duval Street is blocked off to allow only pedestrian traffic late at night and a two-four block long section of Duval which is labeled the "Fantasy Zone" where open containers of beer, wine or alcohol are permitted and are served from bars and vendors. I often try to use vendors that use a portion of their proceeds for local charities.

    The theme for the night is "Red"

    All the while these official events are occurring, many bars and saloons feature their own party theme and of course, thousands of people flock into the streets and sidewalks of Duval where people-watching takes on a new level.

    THURSDAY NIGHT--features Toga Night @ Sloppy Joes & everywhere else and there are thousands of togas and variations of them everywhere in Key West. After all, togas are relevant to party times and are easy to make or buy, and they feel great!

    Again, Duval Street becomes an event in itself with thousands of people costumed and as many taking photos or just watching.

    Cruiseship passengers that happen to be in port for the week sure get an eyeful.

    The remainder of the festival has many events both FRIDAY and SATURDAY NIGHTS with Friday's highlight being the Duval Street Fair, Masquerade March and Pimp N Ho party while Saturday night features a Bourbon Street Tea Dance, Bodypaint Contest @ the Green Parrot and Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest parade where 70,000 onlookers and 50+ or more floats are all part of the celebration's pending conclusion down Duval Street on Saturday Night.

    SUNDAY NIGHT: the town almost returns to "normal" and has a children's day at a local park and a conclusion somewhere that focuses on "it's not over until the fat lady sings".

    The drive back home or the flight back home is always a challenge. Between hangovers, crowds, and general dismay about returning to reality, leaving Key West and Fantasy Fest can be tough except for the knowledge that the next Fantasy Fest is less than 360 days away!

    Please check the separate 2015 Fantasy Fest events listed on
  2. jackthelad

    jackthelad New Member

    wow 12 times to Fantasy Fest? I've been to Key West and I can vouch that it's a tiny little town. Talking to locals there, I know they aren't all that crazy about Fantasy Fest. Then again, It's crazy how 100,000+ people show up to this event. Props to the event organizers! By the way, any ideas how this festival came int being? Would love to know about its history.
  3. The Travel Slut

    The Travel Slut 6 continents, 87 countries & 64 cruises so far

    Hi there...right from the website pages is a historical birth explanation:

    "In 1978, on Halloween Day, Joe Liszka asked me to accompany him to the intersection of Front and Duval Streets. He asked me to look up Duval Street and tell him what I saw. "What was I supposed to see?" "No cars moving, no people walking, lots of store fronts boarded up because the retailers take their vacation in this slow season?"

    "How is the weather," he asked. "Well, it is a typical beautiful day in Paradise, warm, with bright sunshine." "That's what's wrong," he told me. " Here it is the most beautiful weather day of the season and the town is deserted. Workers are laid off. Business owners have a tough time paying their expenses. It is a disaster season for the Key West economy."

    "I understand", I replied, "but what can we do about it?" "We need a fest, a carnival, a celebration, something that will entice people to change our moribund season to one of great fun; a party that will bring many people to understand that this season is one of our best," he replied.

    Liszka's creative inspiration was the birth of Fantasy Fest. Now, Halloween is the busiest day of the year with thousands of people visiting our town. Fantasy Fest week produces the most revenue of any week in the year. A moribund season has become our best. Thank you, Joseph Liszka."

    Frank Romano
    Board Member
    The Tourist Development Association of Monroe County, Inc.
  4. jackthelad

    jackthelad New Member

    cool, thanks. Interesting reading this excerpt. Now it makes sense (economic sense) why the festival is even allowed. Fair game...sounds like a win win situation for everyone.

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