Mallory Square Sunset artwork, created on an iPad.

Key West, at the southernmost tip of the United States below Florida (and only 90 miles from Cuba), can leave you getting sucked into one attraction or tourist shop after another. And that can leave a dent in your wallet. But there are a few things to do in Key West that are both free and amazing. Check out our story “4 Fun Free Things To Do in Key West (+2)” for more on that!

One of those free things is the nightly Mallory Square sunset celebration. Mallory Square has existed as a gathering point for Key West’s social and commercial life since the mid 1800’s. Even today, that has not changed much. People start gathering (unless it is raining of course) nearly two hours before the official scheduled sunset (you can find out the official sunset time on the Mallory Square website here). And of course that means drinks, music, crafts festivals and other shenanigans.

The subject: Honestly, the Mallory Square sunset event is fun Key West kitsch at its best with a boisterous street fair atmosphere, people hawking crafts and food, psychics, street performers, and enough alcohol floating around to sink you. But watching the sun settle down into the Gulf of Mexico, painting different colors every night for one of the most spectacular sunsets anywhere in the world is the reason you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with masses of locals and tourists alike. The beauty is, the scene and the colors change every night. So go once, go twice, and go again and again.

The inspiration: It was early November when Therese and I joined the throngs gathering along docks at the water’s edge to witness the Mallory Square sunset celebration. The air was filled with laughter, music, and the constant hum of conversation as the sun began dipping toward the ocean. Then, as if on cue, hundreds of people holding mobile phones high and sometimes in selfie mode began snapping photos of an event that has been recorded by millions a million times before. I was having as much fun watching the silhouetted crowd as I was witnessing an amazingly colorful sunset.

Artist’s tools: As the light was disappearing too quickly, I worked, as I sometimes do, with a photo that my wife took to complete my artwork of the Mallory Square sunset. Looking at her photo projected on a large computer screen in front of me, and using a combination of various watercolor brushes, as well as special texture brushes available in Procreate, I worked with my Apple pencil to capture the intense colors of the sunset on my iPad Pro. I then used a charcoal pencil for the palm tree and to create the soft blurred effect of the fronds. Finally, using an ink pen and brush, I added the lamp and people in the foreground as well as my trademark birds – gotta have some birds flying in the sky.

A print of this digital painting on your wall is the next best thing to being there yourself…as well as a great gift for anyone in your life who appreciates artwork inspired by travel. Click on any image below to go directly to my online store to purchase prints, gift cards, coffee cups and more.

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Mallory Square sunset celebration captured in bright colors

Key West, at the southernmost tip of the United States below Florida (and only 90 miles from Cuba), can leave you getting sucked into one attraction or tourist shop after another. And that can leave a dent in your wallet. But there are a few things to do in Key West...
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Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is most certainly one of the most isolated parks in the national park system. It lies 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, and is accessible only by boat or seaplane.

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Running at Disney World turned me into an outlaw

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Map of Florida

In the map below, pins mark the exact location of all the sites mentioned in our articles on Florida. Zoom in or out on the map using the controls. Switch easily from map to satellite view. Click on each pin to pull up a tooltip with the name and any additional information. 

Disney World

Epcot Center

Castillo de San Marcos

Blowing Rocks Beach

Coral Castle Museum

Monkey Jungle

Christmas - Orange County

Daytona Beach Drive-In Christian Church

The Presidents Hall of Fame

Gasparilla Pirate Fest

Azucar - Little Havana

The World's Smallest Police Station

Cuban Coffee Queen

Yankee Freedom Dock

Dry Tortugas National Park

Eco-Discovery Center

Key West's Oldest House & Garden Museum

Historic Hellings House

West Martello Tower

Mallory Square Sunset Celebration

Sunrise at Dog Beach

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Michael Hodgson

Traveler at HI Travel Tales
Born to British parents in Canada, Michael Hodgson had been schlepped back and forth across the pond since he was a toddler. In college, he took the big leap and spent a few months in Kenya – and never looked back. His biology major somehow led him into a writing career, focusing on the outdoors, hiking and gear testing. Building on his lifetime of travel with travel writing was a natural, although he still loves to seek out the wilder side of a mountain – or a city -- for a good story. Michael also is a partner in a consulting business ( built on a passion to help specialty businesses and brands succeed both domestically and internationally.
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