The Florida Keys is the Place to Be!

The Florida Keys are full of fun and flavor and this summer is the best time to check it out. Whether you enjoy swimming, camping or just plain partying, the Keys has something for everyone.

The discovery of the keys was some-what accidental. The Florida Keys were discovered by the Spanish explorers Ponce de Leon and Antonio de Herrera on Sunday, May 15, 1513. They stumbled upon the pretty islands while searching the new world for the fountain of youth.

Today the Keys are famed around the world for their clear, warm waters, and their fabulous scuba operators that attract almost 800,000 scuba and snorkel aficionados annually. The islands are situated in a unique location. They are near the equator but are graced with ocean breezes that keep the temperatures moderate all year round, making the islands perfect for exploring.

This summer and fall are the best months to visit the islands because of all the unique and exciting things to do. Besides the normal festivals that take place almost every weekend, there are some very special and somewhat quirky celebrations taking place all through the summer and fall.

The most original of all the celebrations is the Chicken Fest Key West. This celebration, which occurs each June, honors the vivacious, squawking Key West chickens with a variety of lighthearted events culminating in the “Poultry in Motion” parade.

There is also an Underwater Music Festival. This unique annual concert in July is broadcast underwater for divers and snorkelers. It is held at Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

For those of you Ernest Hemingway fans, there’s the Hemmingway Days Celebration in July. Fans of Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize-winning literature commemorate the author’s July birthday each year in Key West, which is the island where the author lived and wrote for over a decade. Events during the celebration include a “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike contest at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the catch-and-release Drambuie Key West Marlin Tournament and the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition.

You can also celebrate your love for Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons at the Fantasy Fest. This annual, 10-day party with thousands of costumed revelers is the most outrageous of all fall events in the Florida Keys. It occurs in Key West during late October and features elaborate costume competitions, promenades and street fairs, masquerade galas and a grand parade with lavish floats and eccentric marching groups.

If you like scuba diving and pumpkin carving then there’s the Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest. This is the perfect opportunity for divers to carve pumpkins among the marine life. This event is held off of Key Largo as part of the island’s Halloween festivities.

Besides the goofy celebrations happening this summer and fall, there are plenty of other things to do at the Keys. Especially if you love the outdoors.

For those who can’t wait to get into the water and start exploring, there are tons of exotic destinations to explore in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys. One of the most famous places to visit is the undersea park and the adjacent features of the nine-foot-high “Christ of the Deep,” a 4,000-pound bronze statue installed as an underwater shrine. Created by Italian sculptor Guido Galletti, the statue stands on a 20-ton concrete base in 25 feet of water. The “Christ of the Deep” was a gift to the Underwater Society of America from industrialist and undersea sportsman Egidi Cressi. It has become one of the most photographed underwater sites in the world and is a popular spot for underwater weddings.

Experienced scuba divers also can investigate the two vintage sister Coast Guard cutters purposely sunk off Key Largo in 1987 to serve as artificial reefs. Positioned just south of Molasses Reef, the 327-foot vessels rest on white sand in 120 feet of water.

Another popular destination is Big Pine Key. This island is noted for the Looe Key Reef, rated by many as one of the most spectacular shallow-water dive experiences to be found. Just west of Looe Key, the 210-foot island freighter Adolphus Busch Senior rests on the bottom of the ocean as an artificial reef providing additional habitat for marine species as well as another site for divers.

If you’re not into swimming there are also a ton of prime locations for camping and picnicking. Once visitors travel past the Seven Mile Bridge, there are campsites abound in the Lower Keys. Foremost is the facility at Bahia Honda State Park. Bahia Honda incorporates swimming sites on both the Atlantic and the Gulf sides of the island. Both beaches have sandy bottoms – a rarity in the Florida Keys. There is also Long Key where campsites are located on the water, with nature trails and canoe rentals on premises.

The Florida Keys is a combination of vivid coral reefs teeming with exotic sea creatures, lodging properties for camping, hiking and picnicking, and special events and festivals. Visit the Florida Keys this summer or fall and see it for yourself. For more information about the Florida Keys visit: http://www.fla-keys.com/.

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