Experience the Amazing Sunset Celebration Key West

There are a lot of beautiful things to see and do in Key West, but one of the most iconic is sunset.

“See you at Sunset” has a special meaning down in Key West, Florida. More than a valediction, it’s an invitation.

Sunset Celebration Key West is a spontaneous celebration as jugglers, tourists, clowns, fishermen, psychics, island musicians, artists, food vendors, friends, and thousands of tourist gather each night to celebrate the close of another day in Paradise.

It’s not uncommon for people to go out on their boats or kayaks near the end of the day and watch as the sun sinks below the horizon. If you don’t have your own boat or kayak, no worries!

This art festival takes place nightly at Mallory Square Dock in Key West, Florida and it doesn’t cost a penny to attend.

When is Sunset Celebration Key West?

It begins each night around two hours before sunset. At this time, masses of people flock to the water’s edge to experience a multicultural happening and to watch the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico.

sunset celebration key west palm tress

When the sun finally sinks into the ocean, it does so to raucous applause.

Fun fact: Legend has it that Tennessee Williams initiated the ritual of applauding the sunset at Mallory Square, gin and tonic firmly in hand.

Where is Sunset Celebration?

Sunset Celebration is located on Mallory Square Dock and Plaza in Key West, Florida.

It’s right off the north west side of Duval St., close to where it intersects with Front Street–which makes getting here a piece of cake!

Mallory Square has a long history as being a center of activity in Key West.

Once the chosen anchorage of pirates, it later became the base for anti-pirate campaigns orchestrated by Commodore Porter in the 1800’s.

Mallory Square has also been the center of the wrecking industry and the assembling point of American forces for four wars.

How do I get to Sunset Celebration?

The easiest way to get to the event is by walking or bicycling. If you are going to drive, there’s a parking lot at Mallory Square but it can be expensive ($4/hour).

It’ll also be congested during sunset hours, so we recommend parking on the street and walking in instead!

How did the Sunset Celebration begin?

It’s said that Sunset Celebration took off in the late 1960’s in the hands of carefree gypsies.

There were about 30-40 regulars who would come down to the pier each night and get high on LSD. They claimed they were watching Atlantis arise from the clouds at sunset.

Thankfully, by the 70’s and 80’s the festival had taken a clean turn, turning into a flea market type celebration, but it was still less than legal as vending on the dock was not allowed.

It was when merchants began to complain that the City of Key West stepped in.

Sunset celebration, Mallory Square, Key West, Florida Keys, Florida USA

Thanks to a group of citizens forming a legal entity called the Key West Cultural Preservation Society, Inc. (a not for profit corporation) in 1984 Sunset Celebration was preserved.  

Today, Sunset Celebration is an internationally known attraction that supports a cottage industry in Key West.

Do the street performers get paid?

Great question. The street performers do not get paid.

sunset celebration KEY WEST tightrope walker

They make all of their money from tips, so if you watch a performer’s show please be considerate and leave them some cash!

Your kindness and generosity will be greatly appreciated.

A gathering point for talented artists from around the world. For more information, visit the official Sunset Celebration website.

40 thoughts on “Experience the Amazing Sunset Celebration Key West”

  1. oh, that is right up my alley! I wish I could come to that, because it sounds like so much fun!! Another item on the “don’t miss list” in case I’m ever in that area :)

  2. What a fun celebration. I would love to see Key West and experience a fun celebration while learning a bit of history.

  3. I’d love to visit Key West during the sunset ceremony. I’m glad the celebration is ..shall we say “cleaner” now than it was in decades past. Key West looks like such a beautiful place.

  4. My husbands family had a home in the Keys for a long time. I’ve heard so many stories about this wonderful place.

  5. The sunset at Mallory never gets old. I’ve been sitting there watching the sun go down for about 30 years and it’s always just as wonderful!

  6. That looks like so much fun! I have always wanted to go to Key West. When I finally make it there, I will be sure not to miss out on the sunset celebration.

  7. That sounds amazing. If I ever make it to Key West in the summer, I hope to make it to Sunset Celebration. Entertainment and shopping sounds about perfect!

  8. Sounds like a nice place to go to see all of this.I will remember this for when we visit and maybe i will get to see it.

  9. my brother serves down there with the Coast Guard and he’s always attending the festival. He tells us about and takes pictures of the “cat guy” who does tricks with his cats.

  10. The last vacation my husband and I took before he passed away was in Key West. I do remember the amazing sunsets. It holds special memories for me

  11. With this polar vortex that’s supposed to be hitting this week, I sure wouldn’t mind a trip somewhere warm on the beach!

  12. I think it would be cool to see the Sunset Celebration. We lived in Palm Beach for a long, long time and never went to Key West. I kick myself repeatedly for it now that we have moved.

  13. I had no idea the history associated wit the sunset celebration at Key West. So glad it took that clean turn.

  14. We love to travel, have been to Florida several times, but have never been to Key West. It looks marvelous from your photos!

  15. What a fun little lesson! I had no about about that. I love flea markets, but I think visiting gypsies would have been pretty fun too! Minus the LSD part. haha

  16. Not only beautiful and gorgeous but I love to learn the history of places. So fascinating. Great photography as well.


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