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.
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.
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.
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.