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Key West, Florida


By Brandon Gee

Read a typical travel brochure for Key West, Fla. and you will learn of countless tourist attractions―the southernmost point of the continental United States, the home of Ernest Hemingway, and comely beaches, to name a few. The real allure, however, won't be found in most brochures. You would come closer to discovering its charm through the whisperings of a Jimmy Buffett album.

But, to truly realize the attraction of this storied island, you must journey Duvall Street yourself. You must eat at a rundown, authentic and delicious Cuban restaurant. You must find a cheap hotel, grow a beard, fix a drink and hit the beach. Then, and only then, will you experience the irrepressible appeal that is Key West―the real Key West.

The epicenter of Key West culture resides on Duvall Street. A night spent walking up and down this strip is sure to please. The perfect Duvall Street experience begins at its foot. There, without fail, a nightly sunset festival takes place at the pier and nearby plaza. There's no better way to begin your night than to pull a stool up to the edge of the pier and enjoy a drink as you watch the sun elegantly drop between two offshore islands. All the while, gorgeous sailboats fill the water, gracing you with unparalleled atmosphere. Such an experience can soothe even the most cantankerous in spirit.

Once the sun settles behind the Caribbean, the party begins, as does the journey east. On the plaza you can enjoy such entertainment as a live band or an escape artist. As you head away from the water you will find sidewalk musicians and curbside peddlers selling everything from jewelry to dirty jokes. That's right, dirty jokes―the more you pay him, the dirtier they become. As the trek continues, you will find yourself relentlessly cajoled by the countless options in fine dining, bars, gentlemen's clubs, shops, and dance clubs.

In Key West, the unexpected lurks at every corner. You are guaranteed to see something that has never crossed your path before. Therein lies one of the island's most beloved appeals―no one can feel out of place. Even those of the most peculiar and eccentric persuasion in wardrobe and/or lifestyle are sure to find their place amidst the island's variegated culture. Of course, the more traditional and wholesome travelers need not avoid a trip to Key West too. Despite its mere two-by-four mile size, the island's salacious features can be avoided. Just pick up a brochure.

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