Fun fact: My husband’s(much) younger brother currently lives in Key West, FL. Why? Well, ask the United States Navy. That’s where they’ve put him for the time being.
So, it gives us a terribly convenient excuse to take a mini-vacay…which is exactly what we did in the fall. We made the absolute most out of our time down there in just 3 quick days. So, let’s talk about the bevy of things you can do to keep yourself entertained! Bonus: these are all family friendly activities! We’ve added a map at the bottom of the post from the Fla-Keys website, but we’ve tried to put these places in some sort of order that would make sense.
Stroll down Duval Street in the quiet early morning hours or early afternoon to people watch (Or go at night at your own risk)
-Located, well, all along Duval Street
-Open daily, but like I said only at night at your own risk (and without the kiddos). Be wary of certain “smells” early in the morning too.
Ah, the Duval crawl – the most famous street in Key West with it’s lively nighttime escapades – transforms into a quiet shopping and people watching experience by day. Duval has some great shopping and eating too. We’ll get more in depth into the eating scene next, but plenty of spots to pull up a chair to some good grub and watch the unique characters that make the area stroll by. You can also find several of the local key lime shop gems along Duval Street.
Walk among a million fluttering butterflies at the Key West Butterfly Conservatory (Don’t Miss!)
-Located at 1316 Duval Street (before you hit the end of Duval street, you’ll want to duck inside here)
-Open daily from 9am-5pm; tickets are $12 for adults and $8.50 for kids (4 and under are free).
We did not make it back here this trip, but it was one of the few things we got to do on our first trip to Key West years ago and very much worth the $12 price tag. Talk about close encounters – you find yourself immersed in a room filled with butterflies and birds. They fly around you, land on you, and you can get some amazing pictures. They do have a few rules about not running, speaking in a low conversational tone, etc. So may not be suited for very young children that cannot control themselves. Otherwise, a great family friendly place to visit.
Stand at the Southernmost Point of the Continental United States
-Located at the corner of South and Whitehead Streets (once you hit the end of Duval Street, head one street over to Whitehead and you’ll be here)
-Another FREE point of interest to visit
While this is technically not the true southernmost point and while it’s not a lot to see (just a giant painted buoy), it’s still neat to visit and think about being so far south and so close to Cuba. Best of all though, as I said, it’s free. So something to stroll by as a family, stop and get a picture for Facebook while walking around.
Climb the Lighthouse and take in a view of the whole island
-Located 938 Whitehead Street (walk north along Whitehead Street, you’ll see it up ahead)
-Open daily from 9:30AM – 4:30PM; tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids (6 and under are free)
This isn’t something we did because we ran out of time, but I imagine it would be well worth it for the view alone.
Visit the Hemingway Home and pet a six-toed cat.
-Located at 907 Whitehead Street (basically across the street from the lighthouse)
-Open daily 9am-5pm; tickets are $13 for adults and $6 for kids (5 and under are free)
Visiting the Hemingway Home was one of our favorite things of this trip; the house and property is beautiful. You can really envision Earnest Hemingway hanging out by the pool or sitting in the garden with his crazy cats soaking up the Key West sun.
Experience American history at the Truman Little White House.
-Located at 111 Front Street (keep heading north along Whitehead street; it sits towards the other end – it’s not ON Whitehead, but you’ll see the entrance to the Annex from Whitehead at Caroline street)
-Open daily 9am-5pm with house tours every 20 mins starting at 9:00 and ending at 4:30 (a guided tour is the only way to see the house); tickets are $16.13 for adults and $4.50 for youth (hint: you can save a bit by buying online and locals get in for FREE)
I was surprised by how much we enjoyed the tour of the Little White House and all that we learned about President Truman. This was a great educational tour, so would be wonderful for kiddos or history buffs. Originally built as the command center for the Naval station during several wars, it became the winter getaway for President Truman in 1946 when his doctor ordered him to take a warm vacation to rest after an exhausting 19 months in office. The house in Key West was chosen for it’s proximity as part of the Naval base and for the wonderful tropical climate of the area. He would return to the house 10 more times during his presidency.
Walk through the tropical gardens of the Audubon House and mesmerize at wealth in the island’s early years.
-Located at 205 Whitehead Street (not quite a block north on Whitehead)
-Open daily 9:30am-5pm with the last tour starting at 4:15; tickets are $12 for adults, $7.50 for students, and $5 for children 6-12 (hint: there is a coupon online to save $1 off an adult)
Lots of very unique history at the Audubon House – it stood for over a century as a point of pride of the Geiger family on a large corner lot with a clear view of the Wharf where Captain John Geiger (a maritime pilot) could see ships coming into port. He was also more often than not the first captain to arrive on the scene for many of the ship wrecks that happened on the shallow reef and shoals of the Keys’ – this is how he became one of the wealthiest men in Key West at the time. The grounds and tropical gardens are lovely – in fact the house got it’s name from John James Audubon, an American ornithologist and naturalist who is known for painting “The Birds of America” series meant to be a field guide with life-size drawings of a wide variety of birds. Local folk lore would have you believe he visited the house and stayed with the family, but his time in Key West pre-dated the home itself. He did, however, paint a Geiger tree in one of his images which can also be found on the property.
Take a stroll and bird watch through the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Gardens
-Located at 5210 College Road (the large garden is actually located on Stock Island by the Navy base along the Overseas Hwy)
-Open daily 10am-4pm (except certain holidays); tickets are $7 for adults and children under 12 are free
Okay, so this one is a bit out of place, since it’s a car ride away, but if you want to get out of the sun for a bit – a variety of flora and fauna and birds can be found and seen at the Key West Botanical Garden. Best of all? Most of it is pretty shady. There is also a nifty exhibit of Cuban Chugs – a few of the real boats that Cuban immigrants have come over to Key West in making the treacherous 90 mile journey through the Florida straits.
Touch a Sting Ray at the Key West Aquarium
-Back to Old Town; Located at 1 Whitehead Street (on Mallory Square if you continue further north).
-Open daily 10am-6pm; tickets are $15.04 for adults, $8.59 for kids 4 and up (Hint: save by purchasing online).
While it may not be the most impressive Aquarium, especially if you are coming from East Tennessee where we have two very famous ones in our backyard (Chattanooga and Ripley’s), it’s great for kids because they can get up close to and pet live Stingrays!
Watch the sunset and boats roll-in at the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration
-Every night at um, sunset, of course
-Set up time for performers is 5:45 and artists is at 6:00.
From then until after sunset you can stroll through the square, check out local artisan’s handiwork and watch the street performers. Or get there early to grab a good spot along the edge to watch the boats and sunset. This is the only way to end a day of sightseeing in Key West! Best of all: FREE!
Map from www.fla-keys.com – they have an interactive map of all the Florida Keys so you can pick an area and drop in accomodations, attractions, shopping, restaurants, etc
Key West is a beautiful historic town full of character – lots of sights and sounds for all the senses. It’s proximity to Cuba and South America leave it a cultural mecca brimming with life. Sadly, it’s a beach town with no “real” beach. Seriously, the sand is pumped in from Miami, but there is plenty of other stuff to do and see without needing an afternoon soaking up the sand and sun on a beach. Because of it’s coral reef and shoal lined shores, there are a TON of outdoor, water activities too. You can jump on a boat and take a snorkeling tour, rent a kayak and go down back country through the mangroves or just catch some gentle waves on a paddle board or catch some big waves on a jet ski and ride over to Sunset Key. Key West definitely has a little bit of everything to please everyone who makes their way down south to visit. We really were pleasantly surprised by the number of family friendly things to do found in a city often known for being, um, shall we say wild and free. While we might not put Key West in our Top 10 destinations to visit or vacation to, it’s definitely a place to see at least once in a lifetime! It may even call you back to stay like it did for so many other historic figures.
If you want to know more about any of these attractions or other in Key West, give us a shout. We are always glad to share our experiences with you.
We received two free VIP Media passes from Newman PR – the PR firm for the Florida Keys tourism, which got us free entry to most of these attractions in exchange for writing up a post about our trip. As always, all opinions are our own and we aren’t afraid to be honest about our experiences.