Most of Key West's action centers on Duval Street, which cuts across the island from the Gulf to the Atlantic. The epicenter? Head for North Duval in Old Town, where tourists spilling out of cruise ships meet the crowds that hopscotched islands via U.S. Highway 1.

Any weekday is an excuse for revelry, but things really heat up on the weekends, with partygoers crowding the sidewalks outside the flung-open doors of bars such as the cavernous Sloppy Joe's (201 Duval St.).

Sloppy Joe's serves as the headquarters of the Papa look-alike contest during the Hemingway Days festival in July. But if you want to drink where Ernest did, wander down to the diminutive Capt. Tony's Saloon (428 Greene St.), where the bras of female patrons past hang from the ceiling and Ernest's favorite barstool awaits his ghost.

Elsewhere, open-air bars, such as Schooner Wharf, stoke the party with drink specials and live bands, most of which have a Jimmy Buffett song or two in their repertoires. (There is not a night in Key West that doesn't include a round of Margaritaville somewhere.)

If blues and funk rock your world, try the Green Parrot Bar (601 Whitehead St. ) -- motto: "No Snivelling"[sic]. For something entirely different, catch one of the drag shows at La te da Hotel and Restaurant's Crystal Room Cabaret (1125 Duval St.), where song and dance revues are performed nightly.

Don't forget to eat -- there's plenty on the table. Alice's Key West Restaurant (1114 Duval St.) cooks up inventive dishes with flair, such as Aunt Alice's Magic Meatloaf, served with Magic Mushroom Sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and stir-fried veggies. Locals such as Camille's Restaurant (1202 Simonton St.), which showcases fresh seafood and steak on its dinner menu. Mangia Mangia Pasta Cafe (900 Southard St.) boasts economical and flavorful Italian dishes that have won over critics' tastebuds. Or leave the crowds behind and go for a quiet sunset dinner cruise aboard the DreamChaser, a 43-foot catamaran (305-292-8667).

Details: Monroe County Tourist Development Council; 305-296-1552; fla-keys.com.