A New Kind of New Year’s in the Florida Keys

Stop watching New Year’s Eve on TV; pack your bathing suit and head to the Florida Keys for a day of celebrations you won’t forget. Every December, festivities from Key West to Key Largo allow tourists and locals to celebrate the new year, island style. No glittering diamond ball drops here — instead, you’ll see giant conch shells, pirates, and even a drag queen in a big red shoe dropped to mark the start of 2017. Wacky spin-offs, warm weather, and spirited crowds make the Florida Keys New Year’s Eve experience one for the books. Read on for the best events of New Year’s 2017.

Sloppy Joe’s 24th Annual Dropping of the Conch Shell

Every year on Duval Street, a gigantic conch shell hangs high above Sloppy Joe’s Bar. A rooftop host keeps the crowd entertained. The crowd catches beads thrown from the rooftop, dances, and watches the clock. A favorite attraction for locals and tourists alike, the shell drop tradition started as a way to unite the crowds that would wander Duval Street aimlessly until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Artist Tobias McGregor shared the idea with Sloppy Joe’s in 1993, and ever since, the giant conch has dropped at midnight as confetti, streamers, and lights fill the sky above the crowd. “The crowd at the corner of Duval has grown each year,” according to Sloppy Joe’s website.

Lowering of the Pirate Wench at Schooner Wharf

The creative spin-off fun continues at Schooner Wharf Bar, where a pirate wench is dropped each New Year’s Eve at midnight. “Rigging” in the new year at Schooner Wharf is a nautical tradition that involves pirate wench Evalena Worthington “descending dramatically against large, illuminated numbers” on the mast of the tall ship America 2.0, according to their website. At midnight, a cannon sounds, and the “crew” of Schooner Wharf, dressed as pirates, run out from the ship to mingle with the crowd. The party doesn’t stop with the wench drop — Schooner Wharf rocks until 4AM with a DJ, drink specials, and more. It’s no wonder AOL rated the celebration as second most-fun to the traditional Times Square ball drop!

Shoe Drop Celebration at Bourbon St. Pub

Walk down the street from Sloppy Joe’s to witness a 6-foot red high heel shoe carrying world-famous drag queen Sushi descend into the crowd. Because it’s closed to traffic for the night, the street allows people to easily go from one attraction to the next. This might be the biggest celebration on Duval Street, drawing massive crowds every year. If you want the ultimate Shoe Drop experience, you can purchase VIP balcony tickets to watch Sushi descend from two stories up. As midnight strikes, Sushi will land and pop a ceremonious bottle of champagne. Bring your own bottle and join in the fun!

Fireworks on Blackwater Sound

On New Year’s Eve (and also on Fourth of July), the town of Key Largo shoots fireworks high above Blackwater Sound. If you’re with the family, consider ringing in the new year comfortably in beach chairs with fireworks bursting overhead. Or watch from some of the best viewing spots in the Keys, including the Key Largo Marriott, Sundowners, Cactus Jack’s and the Caribbean Club.

Key West Dachshund Walk

If you’re looking for a daytime celebration, head downtown at noon to watch 200 dachshunds take over the streets. Their website calls the event a “wiener wonderland,” a seemingly applicable description for anyone who doesn’t hate dogs. Don’t miss the dogs and owners stroll through Key West’s picturesque downtown; the fun occurs on Fleming Street between Whitehead and Duval streets.

Ready to book a trip to the Florida Keys for New Year’s Eve 2017? Check out the best rentals in Key West and Key Largo on RentalSpot.com.