Fantasy Fest Key West: A Guide to the Wildest Party in Florida

Fantasy Fest is an annual 10-day party held in Key West, Florida that has been taking place since 1979. The event was created by a small group of locals to bring visitors to the island during a typically quiet season. Since then, it has grown into a wild extravaganza that attracts people from all over the world.

During Fantasy Fest, the island is transformed into a lively and colorful party destination. The event features a wide range of activities, including costume contests, street fairs, and live music performances. One of the highlights of the festival is the elaborate body painting that takes place. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of food and drink options, as well as explore the historic city of Key West.

With its unique blend of creativity, imagination, and sheer madness, it’s no wonder that the festival has become one of the most popular events in Florida.

About Fantasy Fest Key West

Started in 1979 by a group of locals, Fantasy Fest is a street party held annually in the last week of October in Key West, Florida. The party was created to bring visitors to the island during what was typically a quiet but beautiful season. The first Fantasy Fest was a small, one-night affair, but it was successful in drawing crowds to the island.

Back in the 1970s, despite reliably beautiful weather, from a retail and tourism standpoint, October was quite in Key West. Shops up and down Duval Street put out the “gone fishing” signs and closed up for months at a time. Two businessmen in Key West held the very first Fantasy Fest in October to help stimulate the local economy during this time.

Since its inception, Fantasy Fest has grown every year and is now a ten-day celebration that includes balls, a parade, costume parties and competitions, fundraisers, body painting, and more. The festival has become one of the wildest extravaganzas around, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to Key West each year.

The festival’s theme changes every year, and participants are encouraged to dress up in costumes that fit the theme. Over the years, the festival has had themes such as “Pirates, Pundits, and Political Party Animals,” “Freaks, Geeks, and Goddesses,” and “Aquatic Afrolic.” The festival’s culminating event is the Fantasy Fest parade, which features elaborately decorated floats, marching bands, and costumed revelers.

Today, Fantasy Fest is one of the most popular events in Key West, drawing visitors from all over the world. It has become an integral part of the island’s culture and economy, providing a much-needed boost during the slow season.

Themes and Events

Every year, Fantasy Fest Key West has a different theme that inspires the costumes and decorations for the week-long celebration. In 2023, the theme is “Uniforms and Unicorns: 200 Years of Sailing into Fantasy.” This theme encourages attendees to dress up as sailors, pirates, or any other uniformed profession, as well as mythical creatures like unicorns.

Throughout the week, there are many events to attend, including daily diversions, parties, and parades. The Fantasy Fest Parade is one of the most popular events, featuring elaborate floats, marching bands, and costumed performers. The parade takes place on the final Saturday of the festival and draws large crowds of locals and visitors alike.

Other events include the Fantasy Facade Masquerade March, where attendees can show off their creative masks and costumes, and the Fantasy Fest Pit Stop Party, which features live music and food vendors. The Fantasy Market is a great place to find unique souvenirs and gifts, while the Call to Artists event showcases the work of local artists.

For those who want to take a break from the festivities, there are also opportunities to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Key West. The official Fantasy Fest website offers live streams of several events and webcams that provide a glimpse into the fun happening on the island.

Current Year and Future Dates for Fantasy Fest Key West

  • October 20 to October 29, 2023
  • October 18 to October 27, 2024
  • October 17 to October 26, 2025
  • October 16 to October 25, 2026
  • October 22 to October 30, 2027
  • October 20 to October 29, 2028

Overall, Fantasy Fest Key West is a unique and exciting celebration that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in dressing up, dancing, or just enjoying the lively atmosphere, there are plenty of events and activities to choose from.

Check out the Fantasy Fest Schedule of Events

Costumes for Fantasy Fest

Fantasy Fest is known for its extravagant costumes and creative outfits. Participants go all out to create unique and impressive costumes for the event. The festival attracts people of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities, with many coming from out of town to participate.

The costumes at Fantasy Fest are not limited to any particular theme, but they generally fall into two categories: sexy or humorous. Participants often dress up as their favorite characters from movies, TV shows, and books, or they create their own original costumes. Some of the most popular costumes include pirates, mermaids, superheroes, and animals.

The festival also features costume contests, where participants can show off their outfits and compete for prizes. There are contests for both individuals and groups, as well as categories for pets. The costumes at Fantasy Fest are not limited to humans, and many participants bring their pets along and dress them up in creative costumes as well.

Overall, the costumes at Fantasy Fest are a major part of the festival’s appeal. Participants put a lot of time and effort into creating their outfits, and the result is a colorful and vibrant display of creativity and imagination.

Planning Your Visit

Best Time to Visit

Fantasy Fest is an annual 10-day party that takes place annually in October. The festival typically starts on the third Friday of October and ends on the following Sunday. The best time to visit Key West for Fantasy Fest is during the festival, as this is when the town comes alive with events, parties, and parades. However, it is important to note that this is also the busiest time of the year, so book your accommodation and transportation in advance.

Accommodation Tips

As Fantasy Fest is a popular event, accommodation in Key West can be difficult to find during the festival. It is recommended to book your accommodation as early as possible to ensure you get a good deal and a place to stay. There are a variety of accommodation options available, from hotels to vacation rentals. It is important to research the different options and choose one that suits your needs and budget.

Our recommended Key West hotels & resort include:

  • The Reach Hotel Key West
  • Casa Marina Key West, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel
  • Ocean Key Resort
  • The Pier House
  • Sunset Key Cottages

Click here to learn more about our recommended hotels in the Florida Keys and Key West.

Travel and Transport

Key West is a fairly small island and the best way to get around during Fantasy Fest is on foot. Many of the events and parties take place on Duval Street which is closed to traffic during the festival. It is recommended to park your car and walk or rent a bike to get around. If you are flying to Key West, there is a small airport on the island with flights from both Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Alternatively, you can drive to Key West from the mainland via the Overseas Highway. It is important to note that traffic can be heavy during the festival, so plan accordingly.

Overall, planning your visit to Key West for Fantasy Fest requires some preparation, but it is worth it to experience this unique and exciting event. Book your accommodation and transportation early and be prepared to walk or bike around the island.

Jerry Joyce

Jerry Joyce has been a Florida resident since 1988 and has lived in a variety of places in the South Florida area. Jerry is an avid boater & water sports enthusiast, beach aficionado, a lover of great food, muscle car fan and a theme park annual passholder for many years. Some of his favorite places in Florida include the Florida Keys, Walt Disney World, Cedar Key, the Loxahatchee River, St. Augustine and Ten Thousand islands.

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