It’s no secret that Florida is my absolute favorite state to visit; from the historic towns, beautiful beaches and theme parks, to the multi-cultural experiences, nature and the clear blue and turquoise water traveling through the Keys. While my family does spend a lot of vacations in Orlando, I was excited when we took a Carnival Cruise that had Key West as a port of call. The hubby and I had visited Key West a few years before our daughter was born and fell in love with the island vibe that the people and scenery give off. We had been anxious to go back and were excited to share Key West with our daughter.
Being the southernmost point in the continental U.S., and only about 90 miles from Cuba, it is a town brimming with energy, beautiful colors, gorgeous waters and history. There is so much to do whether you are traveling with adults or a family with kids. Duval Street is full of shops, bars and restaurants. Stop by Sloppy Joe’s Bar and hang out in one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite places. You will hear music pouring out of the many bars and restaurants as you walk up and down Duval Street. Since we were on a cruise, we only had a few hours to explore but here are some of our favorite places to visit in Key West when you are only there for a short time.
Key West Aquarium – Don’t underestimate this aquarium based on its size, it may look smaller than some other aquariums but it is one of the best aquariums we have been to. They have some unique sea life that that we hadn’t seen anywhere else and the staff members are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. My daughter spent over thirty minutes talking to a staff member about a rare sea animal they had on display. She was so excited that the staff member never made her feel rushed, took her time in answering questions and gave her so much information about the waters surrounding the keys. This was definitely one of her favorite places to visit.
Key West Shipwreck Museum – If your kids, or you, are fascinated by shipwrecks then you will want to make time to stop at the Key West Shipwreck Museum (located near the aquarium). Here you will enter a recreation of an 1800’s wrecker’s warehouse and see some incredible artifacts discovered in the waters near Key West. If you stop here, don’t forget to climb the stairs to the top of the museum, the view is breathtaking!
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum – This was the actual residence of Ernest Hemingway for more than 10 years. Take a guided tour through this beautiful home that was built in the 1800’s. Explore the lush gardens and don’t be surprised if you see a cat, or several! There are more than forty cats that call this their home and are believed to be the descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s cat. You may also notice something a little different about these friendly felines, many have 6-toes due to a gene called the polydactyl gene which causes cats to have kittens with 6 toes. Sailors believed these cats to be good luck and are they still roam the grounds of Ernest Hemingway’s home today.
Before you head back to the ship, don’t forget to take a few pictures at the iconic landmarks. The Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S. Monument is located at Whitehead St. and South St. This iconic buoy is popular so give yourself time to get your picture and get back to the ship. This monument is located at the far end of the island on the opposite side from the cruise ship docks. Head over to Mile Marker 0 on Whitehead St. and take a picture to show you made it to the end of the highway. If you happen to be staying in Key West overnight, you will want to head to Mallory Square to catch the sunset. This waterfront square is full of shops and restaurants and is the most beautiful place to watch a breathtaking sunset. There are plenty of street performers and people watching to do as you wait for the sunset (you may even see a chicken or two).
Unfortunately we only had a few hours to explore Key West this last time so we didn’t get to enjoy the festive environment of Mallory Square at sunset or a lot of other activities but we know we will be back! Key West is truly a one of a kind destination and there is so much to experience that I hardly scratched the surface with this post. If you haven’t been to Key West yet, now is the perfect time to plan, you’ll be happy you did.
Have you visited Key West? Drop me a comment on your favorite place or activity that you experienced.