Sunset watching at Mallory Square, Key West, Florida, USA
Steve Dunwell/© Steve Dunwell
Will Soto performs a juggling and high-wire act at the Sunset Celebration in Key West, Fla. Soto has been entertaining for over 30 years at the nightly celebration in Mallory Square that draws crowds of people to watch buskers perform, browse vendors’ wares and applaud as the sun sinks below the horizon beyond Key West Harbor. Photo by Rob’ONeal/Florida Keys News Bureau
Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau
Key West is billed as “the Home of the Sunset,” which means every time the sun sinks below the horizon, it’s time for a party. Since the 1960s, Mallory Square’s dock has been hosting this nightly celebration, which begins two hours ahead of sunset with jugglers, musicians, artists, and street performers showing off their talents while food carts serve up conch fritters and Key lime pie. Soak up the quirky scene while waiting for the big show in the sky.
Waiting For the Key West Sunset
As I walked along the pier at Mallory Square, I checked to see how long we had until the sunset celebration. Sunset in Key West at Mallory Square is one huge party. Kiosks offer ice cream, caramel corn, candy, and other Key West goodies. There are many things going on at the same time - jugglers, singers, stilt walkers. Every evening there is a show to enjoy. There are a couple of restaurants and bars at Mallory Square. You can stand in the Square or sit at a restaurant. Either way, you’ll be in on the fun and get to see the gorgeous sunsets of Key West, Florida.
A Souvenir to Remember the Experience
As a Colorado native, I’m used to sunsets taking place in a slightly different manner. The sun dips down behind the mountains, sometimes revealing a streak of color across the sky. It’s nice. Sometimes spectacular. But always short-lived. Then I head off to sea level. There is something magical about experiencing a sunset as the sun falls towards the horizon, dipping into the ocean waters. And in Key West Florida, they put on a show every night to celebrate the magic. You can spend hours perusing many things. The street vendors. The entertainment. The magic shows. The food. The many carts with their humble souvenirs. Yet it’s the show that everyone wants most. As the sun sets in the distance and the boats cruise by, you know there is no other place on Earth. And every time you glance at your small token treasure, you’re reminded again and again of the experience.
Mallory Square Sunset: A Key West Tradition
Mallory Square hugs the waterfront along the Gulf of Mexico and serves as the disembarkation point for most cruise ships who port in Key West. Every night, street performers, craftsmen and food carts arrive about two hours before sunset to start the party. While I can’t say I was bowled over by the street performers, I have to admit I got a kick out of the amazingly strange French cat guy. I can’t even describe the absurdity of his act, mostly because I didn’t understand what he was saying, but when you visit Mallory Square, you really must check him out. Regardless of my thoughts on the performances, the institution of Mallory Square at sunset is one you shouldn’t ignore during a visit. You can grab a mojito, stroll along the waterfront and make friends with the artisans who peddle their wares. It’s definitely the best place in town to people watch.
Mallory Square & Sunset Celebration
No matter how many times I go to Key West, it’s imperative that I arrange my schedule to be in Malory Square during sunset. I recommend looking up the time that the sun is scheduled to set before hand to plan your day and locations accordingly. The Key West Sunset Celebration is a tradition that took off in the 1960s and remains today. The glowing pink sky is unlike any other in Florida. There’s always great anticipation as visitors gather along the coast as sailboats float along the sandy shore. The sky is full of pink and purple clouds that evolve as the sun meets the surface of the ocean. Once the sun goes down, the real party starts. The street is filled with live music and creatives in costume. As you make your way off the dock, travelers are suddenly immersed in Key West at its best with street performers, food truck, psychics, singers, dancers, etc. During my trip I looked in one direction and saw a gentleman swallowing a 2-foot sword and another way saw a man walking the tightrope. My group and I washed it all down with a few fresh coconuts that were being sold along the square. It’s truly the most quintessential Key West experience.