We at Water Gallery have never explored South Florida or the Keys before, so when we learned of two exciting festivals being held within a week of each other in April 2016, we knew we wanted to attend both. Since we are based in Southern California, we didn't want the hassle or cost of flying back and forth between festivals, so we decided to turn our Florida trip into an epic two-week adventure!
The first step of our trip after arriving in Miami was to drive straight to beautiful Key West. And as soon as we arrived in much-anticipated Key West, we were ready to try some fabulous food. For lunch, we chose a spot that got rave reviews from many people we talked to: Hogfish Bar and Grill. After topnotch ceviche and local beer, we walked out back and immediately we were greeted by one of our favorite creatures, a manatee!
Interestingly, he was nibbling on some dead fish (we thought manatees were herbivores!). This little fella (or should we say big fella) was splashing around, enjoying the warmth of the day in the shallow waters near the dock. We went a little wild when we saw it-- it's quite a novelty for us to see one of these creatures up close in the wild like this. But the locals weren't phased. They see them all the time. For us, it felt like a magical omen that it was going to be a fun and fruitful trip.
Next up was a stop at the Wyland Gallery, where we had some time with "the man" himself!
It was also really great to spend some time talking to the consultants who work directly with the art and some collectors who were browsing in the gallery, passionate Wyland fans who were there from all over the country. We always love strolling through any Wyland gallery, being amongst the vibrant paintings, graceful sculptures, and unique pieces. And of course we couldn't resist asking Wyland to sign a few bottles for us, one of which we are running a contest to give away right now!
The next day was dedicated to setting up for Ocean Fest, the first of our two festivals. Prepping for festivals is always a major task, requiring lots of endurance, patience, and careful planning. But when a festival is great, there's nothing quite like it-- meeting people face to face, getting their immediate and organic reactions to our glass water bottles, and contributing to a good cause (the Mote Aquarium was the host of this particular festival, so all vendors at Ocean Fest contribute to the aquarium). Ocean Fest was awesome, despite the sweltering heat! We sold a ton of bottles, ate some great food, and made a lot of really meaningful connections.
After Ocean Fest, we treated ourselves to the "Duval Crawl" on Duval Street, an iconic stretch of shops, restaurants, and bars in the heart of Key West. We spent time in the Little White House, reading about American president Harry S. Truman and his time spent in Key West. We spent another fascinating hour in the Ernest Hemingway House, taking advantage of the guided tour. Then it was lunch time, capped off with some fabulous not-to-be-missed Kermit's key lime pie, the first of many slices. After lunch, it was fun to stroll through neighborhoods, looking at all the magnificent palm trees and getting a feel for old Key West. We popped into a local favorite The Green Parrot for a quick pint. Finally, we ended our day with a stop at Mile Marker 90, the southernmost point in the continental US, exactly 90 miles from Cuba. Pretty cool.
We were off to an exciting and interesting start to our trip. You can't beat the beauty and history of Key West!