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The Travel Slut

Tips for 1st timers (or anyone) going to Fantasy Fest in Key West, Florida Part 1

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Hello and get ready to enter the world of Fantasy Fest in Key West, Florida which I have often referred to as "Mardi Gras on Steroids".

You may want to consider ideas before you go as either a FF veteran or 1st timer to FF about some tips that may make your experience 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 original and favorite group: (The main website including access to the gallery, weekly Monday & Thursday night chatroom online, nightly meetings @ Capt. Tony's Saloon, and even a monthly newsletter). The Krewe de Krazy Life is an AWESOME group.

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

You are in for a treat both for the Fantasy Fest event itself and for Key West which is a great, eclectic island-city in and of itself.

While I've only been 14 times to Fantasy Fest since 1999 (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 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 unless absolutely necessary. Consider having a lightweight/foldable rain poncho for those occasional showers to protect bodypaint or costumes.

Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Essentials (especially if you plan do to a "Duval Crawl" include: Aleve/Tylenol, antacids, Pepto-Bismol, and or special hangover OTC meds. Also have available at your hotel/B and B some insect repellent, sunscreen, and aloe vera gel or know where the nearest source of these items can be found.

Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: If you plan to do the beaches, bring a blanket and or chair and some sort of strong UV sun protection. The sun is brutal on skin not normally exposed to this heat and UV's at this latitude. A beach or gear bag works also for carrying around Key West even at night while in costume.

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

There are parking garages, meters and some free side-street parking but again, Key West parking during Fantasy Fest will be both expensive and extremely limited. This is especially true for Fantasy Fest week when Key West's island population swells from 26,000+ to well over 50,000+.

Be cautious driving on the one-way streets and the narrow streets where the Conch Train operates. Watch out for bicycles, pedalcabs, small (silent) electric vehicles, mopeds and of course, pedestrians. Open drinking and walking occurs 24/7 so be careful in all regards with driving and/or walking.

Key West, while small and compact in size, has some streets that are both very narrow and have obscured sidewalks/driveways so watch your step--especially at night. Some walkways are not level, are obstructed, or even have debris of some type.

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

Be wary on the streets for bicyclists and people riding scooters/mopeds that may not be careful or skilled in operating them. Finally, it is easy to be distracted while looking at the people and sites of Key West so concentrate on driving and walking.

Key West's "Conch Train" operates on both main and side streets so be sure to give it leeway and right of way as it is a very large and long train.

Coming into Key West's "new town" at the north end of the island there can be a culture shock after driving the previous 50 miles or so. Key West is modern and developed and always seems to have ongoing renovations/construction. 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 26,000+ full time residents will appreciate patience as will your additional fellow 50,000+ Fantasy Fest revelers.

Traveling along Highway US 1 (aka 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.

2018's theme is “Oh, The Games We Play" and is the 39th Anniversary of Fantasy Fest and this year runs from Friday, Oct. 19 to Sunday, Oct. 28 with the big parade on Saturday, Oct. 27 basically culminating the week of Halloween-type 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/see through clothing rules day and night and is very prevalent especially in the Fantasy Zone on Duval Street!

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

You really should consider costumes for every night for the most interactions and best-fun participation--and expect to be photographed/videotaped in all public areas. If you are camera shy for any reason (work, kids, etc), then wear a mask of some type.

The official events and activities of FF can be found here:

Refer to this for a comprehensive list of activity/party options.

Other unofficial events, parties and activities occur regularly around Key West and some are even spontaneous so ask veteran Fantasyfesters for the latest updates.

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