Celebrating 200 Years of Monroe County and the U.S. Navy in Key West

As we celebrate 200 years of Monroe County and the U.S. Navy in the Florida Keys, it’s an exciting time to be in Key West. The bicentennial of the island chain brings a wealth of activities, events, and celebrations, all in honor of the area’s unique history and vibrant heritage. From the founding of Monroe County by the Florida legislature on July 3, 1823, to the 200-year presence of the U.S. Navy in Key West, the Keys have a rich and diverse history that has shaped the area into the beautiful and culturally rich destination that it is today. The celebration is about looking back and recognizing the many communities, cultures, and natural wonders that make up this remarkable part of the world. There’s no better time to come together and celebrate all the Florida Keys offer. From March to the end of August, an array of events, parades, and festivals will be taking place throughout the islands.

To kick off the celebration, head to Key West’s Coffee Butler Amphitheater at Truman Waterfront Park for the “200 Years of Paradise Kick-off Concert.” This exciting event will take place on Saturday, March 25th, featuring performances by local musician Nick Norman and regional trop-rock all-star Howard Livingston. South Florida PBS’ documentary, “The Florida Keys: 200 Years of Paradise,” will also be shown. Gates will open at 5 p.m., and the program will begin at 6 p.m. Admission is free, so arrive early to get a good spot! Wait, there’s more! A drone “fireworks” display is scheduled to cap the evening’s attractions. Plans call for 250 drones illuminating the sky over Truman Waterfront Park with imagery highlighting the Keys and their bicentennial.  Learn more about the Florida Keys Bicentennial celebration: fla-keys.com/keys200

The U.S. Navy has a rich history in the Southernmost City dating back to March 25, 1822, when Lt. Matthew Perry arrived in Key West aboard the USS Shark to survey the island for a potential Navy port. After planting a flag and claiming the island as U.S. territory, Commodore David Porter returned the following year with “The Mosquito Fleet” and constructed the first U.S. Navy buildings, officially establishing the Navy’s presence on the island. This year marks 200 years of the Navy’s presence in Key West, a proud milestone for the island chain. The Navy has played a crucial role in protecting the nation’s security, and its contributions are woven into the fabric of the Keys’ rich history.

Soaring High with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels at the Southernmost Air Spectacular

The Naval Air Station Key West hosts the Southernmost Air Spectacular on April 15th and 16th. Navy Blue Angels, and gates open at 10 am, with the air show starting at 11 a.m.. Make sure to catch the Blue Angels performance at 2:30 p.m. There will be spectacular flying, static displays, Kid’s Zone souvenirs, and concessions, and another way to make memories. 

For history buffs, Key West offers a range of museums and historical landmarks to explore. The Harry S. Truman Little White House Museum, Florida’s only presidential museum, is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning more about Truman’s time in Key West and the important decisions he made while there. Ernest Hemingway’s former home and museum is also located in Key West, where he wrote some of his most notable works, including “To Have and Have Not,” a novel set in Depression-era Key West. And just across the road from the Hemingway Home and Museum is the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters, which dates back to 1848 and offers a panoramic view of the area from the top.

Photo courtesy of Martin PBM Mariners seaplanes on the ramp at Trumbo Point Air Station with crew and staff in front of the plane. U.S. Naval Air Station. U.S. Navy photo from the Scott DeWolfe Collection, Florida Keys History Center.

Join us in celebrating the bicentennial of Monroe County and the U.S. Navy and discover the magic of Key West. Whether you’re exploring the local museums and historical landmarks or participating in the many celebrations and events, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Be a part of the 200-year legacy of the Florida Keys and make memories that will last a lifetime. #somolife