Way down south, as far south as you can get in the United States, you'll find a quirky little town called Key West. Check that. I'm not sure many of the residents would regard their location as part of the U.S.
To them, they are proud members of the Conch Republic.
How about a quick look at the fun story of how Key West seceded from the nation on April 23, 1982?
Actually, all the Florida Keys claimed secession from the United States in response to a federal blockade set up at the head of the Keys. The border patrol checkpoint was aimed to check for drugs and illegal immigration after scores of Cubans entered Florida via the Keys during the 1982 Mariel boatlift.
The roadblocks strangled traffic along the lone roadway into and out of the Keys, effectively choking off the tourism that the region depends on. In response, Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow declared the city's independence from the U.S. and also declared war. The city, however, quickly surrendered and demanded $1 billion in foreign aid from the U.S. It was a symbolic response to real frustrations encountered as a result of the roadblocks, which quickly disappeared after the publicity generated by the "secession."
Key Westers still revel in their independence. The city holds Independence Day celebrations every April 23, as well as dozens of other parades and festivals throughout the year. Just because!
A visit to this one-of-a-kind city will tap into your free spirit, too.
When you go, don't miss ...
Key Lime Pie -- Join in on the debate. Whipped cream or meringue? Key West locals do have an opinion. Key limes are indigenous to the region, and you'll find the best pies in the world here. You won't wander too long before you find a store cranking out the delicious desserts. Make sure your pie is yellow, not green.
Hemingway's House -- The legendary writer's residence is preserved at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum on Whitehead Street. Hemingway bought the run-down 1851 house in 1931 and had it restored to living condition. Hemingway lived in the home from 1931 to 1940 with his wife and two sons before he left for Cuba. The property still features much of the furnishings and decor. Also, the residence is home to 50 to 60 cats, many with six toes. Some of these cats are descendants of "Snowball," the original polydactyl cat given to Hemingway by a ship captain.
Southernmost Point -- This is among the most photographed spots in Florida, and lines persist throughout the day. The buoy marks just what you'd think: the southernmost point in the United States, just 90 miles from Cuba.
Duval Street -- This is where the action happens. Bars, restaurants, parades. The famous "Sloppy Joe's" bar sits at the corner of Duval and Green streets. Just a walk along here any day of night is a feast for the senses. Then, slide into a great eatery or pull up a bar stool and get lost in the music and atmosphere.
Butterfly and Nature Conservatory -- The facility on Duval Street is home to thousands of butterflies. You can take a stroll among the 50-plus species and observe their amazing colors in a lush tropical setting. They often will tag along with you during your visit (see photo at right). The conservatory building also is home to a variety of birds, including a flamingo pair.
Thanks for reading.