Back in February when I represented VISIT FLORIDA at the Boston Globe Travel Show, it seemed like every other person was planning a summer vacation to the Florida Keys.
The Keys is one of those destinations that fills up fast, so the earlier your plan your trip, the more time you have to scout out a deal.
June 6-10: Key West Pride. Key West. The festival honors diversity, openness and freedom in the city that is consistently recognized as one of the world's top gay and lesbian vacation destinations. Visitwww.pridefestkeywest.com.
June 16: The Original FKCC Swim Around Key West and Swim Meet. Key West.This United States Masters Swimming-sanctioned event is a 12.5-mile swim clockwise around the island of Key West. Age groups 18 through 65 and older can register. Visitwww.fkccswimaroundkeywest.com or call305-809-3562.
July 12-15: Mel Fisher Days. Key West. This annual celebration brings together Mel Fisher fans and treasure hunting enthusiasts in a celebration of the anniversary of Fisher's discovery of the shipwrecked Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha. Visit www.melfisher.com or call 305-296-6534.
July 14: 28th Annual Underwater Music Festival. Big Pine & the Lower Keys. A quirky concert broadcast underwater for divers, snorkelers and the occasional mermaid emphasizes reef preservation. The submerged songfest is held at Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Visit www.lowerkeyschamber.com or call 305-872-2411.
July 17-22: Hemingway Days. Key West. The 32nd annual celebration of the legendary author's work and lifestyle features literary readings, a short story competition, fishing tournament, Sloppy Joe's Look-Alike Contest and more. A celebration will be held July 21 honoring the 113th anniversary of Hemingway's birth. Visit www.sloppyjoes.com for look-alike events or www.hemingwaydays.net for all other events.
July 27 – Aug. 5: Key Largo Food & Wine Festival. Key Largo. Set on an island known for its bountiful tropical fruit, fresh snapper, tuna, mahi-mahi, shrimp and lobster, the nine-day festival incorporates gourmet wine dinners with cultural specialties, feasts and fiestas, palate-pleasing adventures and wines from around the world. Visitwww.KeyLargoFoodandWineFestival.comor call 305-394-3736.
Aug. 8-11: Captain Tony Days. Key West. The late Captain Tony Tarracino was an American icon, saloonkeeper, boat captain, gambler, former mayor of Key West and inspiration for Jimmy Buffett’s “Last Mango in Paris.” The festival is a celebration of Tony’s life, featuring storytelling contests, street fairs, film showing and more. Call 305-296-0160.
Aug. 30 – Sept. 3: Third Annual Key West Brewfest. Key West. Dozens of beers and micro-brews are on tap at this "tasty" event that benefits Key West Sunrise Rotary Club of the Conch Republic. Beer tastings, food and musical rhythms round out the weekend activities. Visit www.keywestbrewfest.com or call 800-354-4455.
Sept. 4-9: Womenfest. Key West. This festival for lesbians and their friends features parties and gatherings, sailing and snorkeling, live music, comedy performances and other activities. Visitwww.womenfest.com or call 800-535-7797.
Sept. 13-16: Phil Peterson’s Key West Poker Run. Florida Keys. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the U.S. are to travel the Keys' scenic Overseas Highway from mainland Florida to Key West to raise money for charity. Stops are arranged throughout the Keys with a final celebration in Key West. Visit www.petersonsharley.com or call 800-545-2561.
Sept. 22: Conch Life Scramble. Islamorada. This wacky on-the-water charity golf tournament brings together four-person teams to enjoy a game of nine holes by boat. Proceeds benefit Keys charities. Visitwww.conchlifescramble.com or call Lee Christine Young at 305-522-1590.
Sept. 26-30: Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Festival. Marathon & Lower Keys. A celebration of the natural wonders of Florida wildlife takes place at the peak of the fall birding season. The event includes presentations and field trips focusing on education and conservation as they relate to Keys birds and wildlife, and an environmental fair. Visitwww.keysbirdingfest.org or call 305-872-0774.