The marathon begins at 5:30 a.m. Saturday and the half marathon at 6:15 a.m. The start and finish lines for both are at 528 Front St. at Pat Croce's Rum Barrel, the event's presenting sponsor.
Racers in the marathon are to run a flat, fast course that includes Key West's historic Old Town, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico shorelines, neighboring Stock Island and a section of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway bike path. Half-marathon contenders are to race along Key West's Atlantic and gulf shorelines and through portions of Old Town.
Water and "fueling" stations are to be located along both courses.
Runners can pick up their packets at the Rum Barrel from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, or from noon to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9. An associated race expo is scheduled at the Rum Barrel from noon to 6 p.m. Friday.
In addition, food and beverage specials for racers are to be offered at the Rum Barrel and other Key West restaurants and watering holes.
A finish line party is set for 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Rum Barrel, with an awards ceremony scheduled at noon. The expo continues Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For runners seeking a shorter challenge, 10k and 5k races are scheduled Sunday, Oct. 11, based at Key West's Salute! On The Beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at 1000 Atlantic Blvd. The races start at 8 a.m. followed by a finish line party and awards.
Registration is $120 per person for the full marathon, $90 for the half marathon, $50 for the 10k and $25 for the 5k until Sept. 1. Thereafter, prices are $140, $120, $60 and $30, respectively.
Race information and registration: somomarathon.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest
Participants are to traverse the Overseas Highway (U.S. Highway 1), the 113-mile roadway from mainland Florida to Key West, crossing 42 bridges and discovering long vistas of breathtaking open water. As well as offering a unique motorcycling experience, the Poker Run raises funds for the Diabetes Research Institute and charities of the Key West Sunrise Rotary Club.
Through Aug. 31 bikers can register to ride online at petersonsharley.com. Beginning Sept. 1 registration is to be open at Peterson's Harley-Davidson of Miami, 19400 NW 2nd Ave., and Peterson's Harley-Davidson South, 19825 S. Dixie Highway.
Upon registering, each participant receives a poker sheet and can purchase a weekend parking band. Drivers of cars and trucks also can participate in the run.
Bikers who want to explore the Florida Keys prior to the main event can participate in parties and adventure tours around the island chain Monday through Wednesday, Sept. 14-16.
Starting at 8 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, Poker Run participants are to ride the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West, stopping at designated points to draw cards. Holders of the 10 best poker hands are eligible to play in a winner-take-all round of Texas Hold 'Em, competing for a new Harley-Davidson 500 Street motorcycle or $6,000 cash. The high-stakes round is set for 11 p.m. Saturday at Rick's/Durty Harry's Entertainment Complex, 202 Duval St.
A section of Key West's lower Duval and Greene streets is to be closed to car traffic and open only to motorcycles and pedestrians during much of the Poker Run, so bikers with weekend parking passes can park on the street to display their bikes. Other attractions include a Thursday night "Upper Duval Crawl" and bar stroll, bike merchandise market, "Biker Bash" and street party, custom bike show, tattoo contest, blessing of the bikes and parties at Key West watering holes.
Events conclude Sunday, Sept. 20, with a waterfront brunch at the Conch Republic Seafood Co., 631 Greene St. in Key West's Historic Seaport.
Event information and schedule: petersonsharley.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest
Each one joins existing accommodations in showcasing aspects of the Keys' character, culture and historic influences.
The new properties begin at the head of the island chain in Key Largo with the elegant Playa Largo Resort & Spa, the latest hotel to join Marriott's Autograph Collection, set to open in late 2015. The 14.5-acre waterfront resort features 144 luxury rooms and suites, 10 private bungalows and a three-bedroom beach house ideal for private or corporate events.
Amenities include a private marina, multiple bars and gourmet restaurants, full-service spa and fitness offerings, a wide range of watersports, wedding and conference facilities including a ballroom and bayside event lawn, a secluded white sand beach and much more.
In Islamorada, four leading lodgings — Postcard Inn Beach Resort at Holiday Isle, La Siesta Resort, Pelican Cove Resort and Marina and the Islamorada Resort — now comprise the Islamorada Resort Company and are receiving significant enhancements.
The first of the group of properties to complete renovations was Pelican Cove Resort and Marina, which reopened in early 2015. All of its 63 waterfront guestrooms and suites were redecorated with a contemporary coastal design and upgraded with modern amenities. In addition to enhancements to the meeting areas, pool and restaurant, Pelican Cove now offers a variety of programs including yoga, sunset paddleboarding, sunrise oil painting and a macramé beading class.
Particularly notable is the relaunch of the Islamorada Resort as Amara Cay Resort, an upscale boutique hotel. Property renovations included increasing the number of rooms and suites to 110, updating outdoor amenities and creating an Italian-style eatery. Guests can anticipate daily food and beverage experiences and an available Mercedes-Benz shuttle to Islamorada's most popular locales.
Also in Islamorada, after a yearlong multimillion-dollar renovation, the Islander Resort has joined the expanding collection of Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts. Renovations include upgrades and added amenities throughout both the main 114-unit oceanside property and the 25-unit bayside marina townhouse compound. The small collection of Guy Harvey Outpost resorts and lodges showcases Harvey's marine wildlife art, scientific research and conservation advocacy.
Vacationers should be able to spot the Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club with ease: it incorporates the famed Faro Blanco Lighthouse, a Middle Keys landmark since the 1950s.
With the lighthouse as its "beacon," the Marathon property features an upscale 125-room Hyatt Place hotel with two pools, a fitness center, meeting space and a waterfront restaurant and outdoor bar called Lighthouse Grill. Boaters can enjoy a 74-slip state-of-the art marina capable of handling vessels up to 100 feet long.
Another Middle Keys property seeing renovations over the next several months is Banana Bay Resort and Marina. Situated on 10 acres, the resort features 59 newly renovated deluxe guestrooms, a remodeled lobby and a restored pool area. All renovations are slated for completion by fall 2015.
At the southernmost tip of the Keys island chain is eclectic, artistic Key West — and travelers now are welcomed at the island's entrance by the Keys Collection, a trio of newly built properties located on North Roosevelt Blvd.
The first among them, The Gates Hotel, debuted its initial building in spring 2015 and plans to open the second building in October. The new 245-room hotel blends refined luxury, minimalist design, artwork, food and music into a chic and comfortable lodging experience.
Highlights include the Rum Row bar, two large swimming pools with cabanas and daybeds, a restaurant featuring breakfast, lunch and dinner, fitness and business centers, and a distinctive atmosphere reminiscent of "old Key West."
The second Keys Collection property, the Fairfield Inn and Suites, opened its doors in May 2015 with 133 rooms including 17 suites. Amenities include poolside cabanas, business and fitness centers, and daily complimentary breakfast.
Slated to open in December, the Hilton Garden Inn is to complete the trio of Keys Collection properties. The hotel is to have 141 new rooms, some featuring balconies. The property's on-site amenities include an outdoor resort-style swimming pool with poolside service, a restaurant open daily for breakfast and a lobby bar. Guests also will have access to 24-hour business and fitness centers.
Guests who want to stay in Key West's Historic Seaport district can check into The Marker Waterfront Resort, a 2-acre luxury property that debuted in December 2014.
The 96-room resort combines a modern and timeless aesthetic with the free spirit and tropical nature of the Key West community. Guests can relax and swim at multiple swimming pools surrounded by lush landscaping, complete with poolside cocktail service, or savor Cali-Mex-inspired cuisine at the on-site Cero Bodega.
Not far away in Old Town Key West the property formerly known as the Southern Cross Hotel was purchased in early 2015 and has been transformed and rebranded into the Saint Hotel Key West. The historic two-story building features 37 renovated guest rooms and six suites. Offerings include a large landscaped pool, cabana area, sprawling lobby bar and a balcony overlooking Duval Street that can accommodate up to 75 people.
In addition, three other Old Town properties have been purchased and are slated for improvements in the coming year.
Two of them, Ocean Breeze Inn and Southwinds Motel, have been combined into one entity that now operates as the Southwinds Motel. The 32-room budget-friendly property has undergone renovations and upgrades to its appearance including landscaping, painting and enhancements to all guestrooms.
The third property, formerly known as the Spindrift Motel, is to be transformed into H2O Suites, a luxury accommodation featuring 22 one-bedroom suites. Plans call for 11 of the suites to have private plunge pools, while the resort also will feature a rooftop swimming pool for all its guests. The new property is set to open in summer 2016.
Appealing as they are, these are only a handful of the Keys properties debuting enhancements or opening. Others include Islamorada's renovated Smuggler's Cove Resort and Marina, Marathon's new Courtyard by Marriott, the renovated Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort and Captain Pip's Marina & Hideaway. Several Key West properties have been or will be renovated including the Doubletree Grand Key Resort, Crowne Plaza Key West La Concha, Olivia by Duval and La Te Da Hotel.
The 125-mile Florida Keys island chain offers a rich natural environment, flourishing creative community, balmy subtropical climate and a friendly laidback vibe that seems worlds away from everyday cares. These new and revitalized properties — with their diverse designs, amenities, prices and locations — will add their own unique flavors to the intriguing mix as they welcome visitors eager to experience and explore the Keys.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
Headlining performers include the all-female five-piece band Sister Funk, heating up the stage with an electric blend of original tunes and pop/rock/dance covers; singer-songwriter Jennifer Corday, who has opened for stars ranging from Cher to the Dave Matthews Band and is known for her passionate vocals; and DJ Citizen Jane, who has played Pride festivals across the U.S.
Womenfest attendees also can enjoy a sizzling Saturday night show starring Key West Burlesque and delicious drag performances by some of the island's top female impersonators.
In addition, showings of the "Girl Noticed" empowering charcoal mural project and "Easy Abby" are to take place at The Studios of Key West, 533 Eaton St.
The Womenfest schedule begins with an opening night party set for 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at Aqua Nightclub, 711 Duval St. The Studios of Key West showing follows, as do drag performances by the Aquanettes at Aqua and Sushi and the 801 Girls at the 801 Bourbon Bar, 801 Duval St.
Sister Funk takes to the water Friday, Sept. 11, with a concert at sea presented by Sunset Watersports from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Other Friday highlights include a late-night party at Aqua with DJ Citizen Jane.
Saturday's fun includes two pool parties, an offbeat bicycle parade and a 6-8 p.m. sunset sail presented by Fury Water Adventures with live music by Corday.
As well as performances the festival schedule includes a beach party beside the Atlantic Ocean, soirees that showcase the island city's club scene, a Texas Hold 'Em poker afternoon and Sunday evening "gay bingo" hosted by Key West's outrageous QMitch.
Womenfest concludes Sunday night with a drag show at Aqua.
Womenfest information: womenfest.com
The first, set for Saturday, Sept. 12, is the annual Key Largo to Key West Cycle Challenge hosted by Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours.
Racers are to depart from Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours' shop at mile marker (MM) 92. Wave starts begin at 8 a.m., and riders are to check in at transition points along the way. The finish line is at Salute! On the Beach restaurant, located at 1000 Atlantic Blvd. on Key West's Higgs Beach.
Solo riders and two- and four-person teams can compete. Teams must provide their own support crews and vehicles, and can change riders at any time during the race by handing off designated "slap bands."
A pre-race meeting is scheduled for 5-6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, at Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours, with a second pickup and meeting at 6 a.m. Saturday before the race.
Registration fees are $150 for individual riders, $200 per two-person team and $250 per four-person team. A maximum of 100 cyclists can enter and all participants are to receive a medal and race T-shirt.
The second biking event, the new ReMARCable Tour de Keys, is set for Saturday, Sept. 26. A cycling destination ride rather than a race, the event raises money for MARC, a Monroe County nonprofit agency that serves adults with developmental disabilities.
Riders are scheduled to leave the Holiday Inn Key Largo, 99701 Overseas Highway, at 8 a.m. Saturday and pedal along the Overseas Highway's scenic oceanside surroundings.
Participants can ride solo or form teams of up to four people. The ride can be relayed, with the 100 miles split among team members. Along with the registration fee, each rider is asked to raise at least $100 in pledges to be donated to MARC.
Before the ride, participants must attend a mandatory packet pickup meeting at the Key Largo Holiday Inn — either from 3-7 p.m. Sept. 25 or 6-7 a.m. Sept. 26.
Riders can enjoy a 4-7 p.m. finish line party at the Westin Key West Resort & Marina at 245 Front St. Any riders still on the road by 6 p.m. will be picked up and brought to the Westin.
Participants can bring their own bikes, have them shipped to Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours' shop or rent road or hybrid bikes from the company for $80. To register for a rental bike, visit keylargobike.com.
The registration fee is $75 per person before Aug. 14 and $85 per person thereafter. To register, visit raceroster.com.
Key Largo to Key West Cycle Challenge information: keylargobike.com or Mark Terrill at 305-395-1551
ReMARCable Tour de Keys information: raceroster.com or Jo Socha at 305-393-2466
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
Entrants in the annual Florida Keys Community College Swim Around Key West can register as solo competitors or in teams of two to six swimmers with or without fins. The challenge typically attracts athletes from the U.S., Canada and abroad to vie for awards in age categories ranging from 12 and under to 65 and over.
Sanctioned by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the 2015 swim is to begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Higgs Beach, located at 1000 Atlantic Blvd. on the Atlantic Ocean.
All solo swimmers and teams must check in Friday, June 12, at the Florida Keys Community College pool on campus at 5901 College Rd.
The clockwise route around the island encompasses the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, with swimmers ending where they began at Higgs Beach. The course takes participants past Key West landmarks including the Southernmost Point marker that designates the southernmost spot of land in the continental United States.
Each swimmer must provide a support crew and kayak or boat to accompany them around the island, but can't touch the boat except for teams making relay changes. Lifeguards and kayaks will be positioned throughout the course for safety.
Swimmers who prefer a shorter challenge can participate in 800-yard, 1-mile and 2-mile competitions in the Atlantic waters off Higgs Beach. Following a buoy-marked course, the shorter races are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Swimmers must register by June 12. The entry fee for the 12.5-mile race is $110 per solo swimmer, $180 per two-person relay team, $270 per three-person team, $360 per four-person team, $450 per five-person team and $540 per six-person team. Entry fee for each shorter race is $30 per person. Discounts are available for United States Masters Swimming and USA Swimming members.
The Swim Around Key West benefits the Florida Keys Community College swim program, Key West High School swim team and the Keys' Bone Island Swim Club.
The five-day schedule includes daytime pool and beach parties, late-night drag shows, on-the-water adventures ranging from snorkeling and kayaking to glass-bottom boat tours, a street fair, a 10k relay for tutu-wearing runners and walkers, and pageants to select Mr., Miss and Ms. Key West Pride.
Festival events are to begin Wednesday afternoon, June 10, with the unveiling of a rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of Duval and Petronia streets, the heart of Key West's LGBT entertainment district. Co-sponsored by the City of Key West and the Key West Business Guild, the rainbow crosswalk is to be imprinted permanently on the pavement connecting all four corners of the intersection.
Subsequent Pride highlights are to include the 2015 Stoli Original Cocktail Challenge's Wednesday night kick-off gala, Friday night run-offs and Saturday night final round. The contest features regional winners from LGBT bars in 14 North American cities, all competing to create an original Key West cocktail that communicates the island's creativity and spirit.
The final round is set for 7-10 p.m. Saturday on an open-air stage in the 700 block of Duval St. Eight finalists are to concoct their libations for a judging panel that includes Broadway actor and former "Queer Eye" television personality Jai Rodriguez, Emmy Award-winning comedy writer and actor Bruce Vilanch, clothing designer Andrew Christian, actress and singer Latoya London and famed Key West female impersonator "Sushi."
The winner is to be the honorary grand marshal of the 2015 Pride Parade alongside celebrity grand marshals Rodriguez and Christian. The all-welcome procession, to feature a 100-foot section of Key West's famed sea-to-sea rainbow flag, is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 14, and proceed up Duval Street from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.
Following the parade, the grand marshals are to entertain attendees at a Sunday night showcase at Key West's historic San Carlos Institute, 516 Duval St.
Event information and schedule: keywestpride.org
Believed to have originated in Key West in the late 1800s, Key lime pie was designated Florida's official pie in 2006 by the state legislature. Its primary ingredients are condensed milk, egg yolks and the juice of the tiny yellow Key lime, with the creamy filling typically nestled in a graham cracker crust and topped with whipped cream or meringue.
The Key Lime Festival was conceived by Key West author and baker David Sloan, who penned "The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook." Events begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 2, with a Key lime cooking class at Isle Cook Key West, 218 Whitehead St.
Friday's highlights are to include the Key Lime Talent Show Piestravaganza set for 8 p.m. at the Green Parrot Bar, 601 Whitehead St., where people can step into the "limelight" to display talents of all types. The show is free to watch.
Those talented in culinary consumption can compete in the Mile-High Key Lime Pie Eatin' Contest set for 11 a.m. Saturday, July 4, inside Sloppy Joe's Bar at 201 Duval St. Ten contestants will each attempt to devour an entire pie, topped with mounds of whipped cream, faster than their competitors — without using their hands.
At 2 p.m. that afternoon, aspiring bakers can prove their pie-making prowess during the Key Lime Pie Championships at the Smokin' Tuna Saloon, 4 Charles St. Entrants can vie for blue ribbons in multiple divisions, while spectators can purchase tickets to taste the pies and cast People's Choice votes.
Other festival events include the Key Lime Cocktail Sip & Stroll for libation lovers, a cookbook signing by Sloan and gatherings at the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, where attendees can tour the boutique distillery and sample locally crafted Key lime rum.
Festival information: keylimefestival.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest
The Key West Africana Festival features thought-provoking workshops, explorations of African and Cuban influences that helped shape Key West and island-style recreational activities. Events are headquartered at the San Carlos Institute, a Cuban heritage center at 516 Duval St.
Following a Thursday night kick-off gathering, the festival is to open Friday, June 19, with a celebration at the San Carlos Institute marking Juneteenth Independence Day. Observed in 43 states, the holiday honors June 19, 1865, the day slavery legally ended in the United States. Scheduled speakers include Florida Sen. Dwight Bullard and MSNBC contributor and Africana scholar Dr. James Peterson.
The following program spotlights the Key West site believed to be the United States' only African refugee cemetery. Presenters Corey Malcom, director of archaeology at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, and Miami-based artist and activist Gene Tinnie also are to lead a tour of the waterfront cemetery.
Historians believe the graves are those of Africans who died in 1860 after being freed by the U.S. Navy from three American-owned slave ships captured near Cuba. More than 1,400 rescued Africans were brought to Key West for care, but nearly 300 died after the forced ocean crossing.
At 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dr. Margo Natalie Crawford is to give the weekend's keynote address at the San Carlos Institute. Crawford co-authored the book "New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement," exploring the 1960s and '70s renaissance in African-American literature and art. The address is open to the public.
Also Friday night, attendees can learn about the shipwrecked Henrietta Marie at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, 200 Greene St. The vessel sank 35 miles west of Key West in 1700 after unloading 190 enslaved Africans in Jamaica. The program features a tour of the museum's rare Henrietta Marie artifacts.
Other festival events include a film screening in Key West's historic Bahama Village neighborhood; workshops on community, relationship, and physical wellness; watersports excursions and late-night gatherings with live music.
Registration is $125 per person and special accommodations rates are available at the host hotel, Crowne Plaza La Concha, at 430 Duval St.
Event information and registration: keywestafricanafestival.eventbrite.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest
Utilized as a cable layer and to haul freight, the Cayman Salvager, known also as Cayman Salvor, was in service from 1936 to 1985. Subsequently, following a government seizure resulting from the ship's 1979 role in carrying Cuban refugees during the Mariel boatlift, it sat neglected at the U.S. Navy harbor in Key West and was slated to be scuttled as a deep reef in 300 feet of water.
However, the ship unexpectedly sank at its dockside location in 1985. Raised and refloated, it was towed out to sea. During transport, much to recreational divers' delight, the tow cable snapped, sending the Cayman Salvager to the sandy bottom resting on its side.
The ship's stern sits in 92 feet of water, its engine room and interior compartments are located at 80 feet and open decks can be found at 70 feet. The dive site is close to the currents of the Gulf Stream, providing excellent visibility.
In 2005, a forceful surge from Hurricane Kate passing through the islands shifted the Cayman Salvager to sit upright. Although penetration is recommended only for well-trained wreck divers, the ship's cavernous open holds make for interesting exploration. Baitfish, grunts and massive resident goliath groupers find refuge here, and a green moray eel lives on or around the ship's highlight — a cable pulley built into its bow, encrusted with corals and sponges.
Cayman Salvager is among three Key West dive sites that help make up the Florida Keys Wreck Trek program, established in 2010 to attract recreational, wreck-specialty and advanced divers seeking a unique experience in the Keys.
A "2.0" edition of the program was offered between 2012 and 2014, and the current version, dubbed "Wreck Trek 3.0," continues through Jan. 1, 2016.
Participating divers can complete nine logbook dives during either one or multiple visits to the Florida Keys. Those who dive five wrecks included in the program's passport-style logbook, with one dive in each area of the Keys, receive a personalized collage print. Divers who complete all nine wrecks also are eligible to win prizes. Prizewinners are randomly selected. Visit fla-keys.com/diving/wrecktrek.
Florida Keys diving information: fla-keys/diving
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 800-FLA-KEYS (352-5397)