Key West Florida & Things to Do Key West, Florida
Key West Florida is closer to Cuba than Miami and is a completely unique city located on the very southernmost tip of the USA. Key West has some of the best weather in the world, with a tropical climate that makes it the driest and balmiest city in Florida. It is also the only city in America to have never had a recorded frost.
Alongside the tropical vibes, Key West is also notable for its historical heritage. The old town is filled with gingerbread mansions built in the 1800s, and notable buildings include Ernest Hemingway’s house and “The Little White House”, regularly visited by president Harry S. Truman during the cold Washington winters (now open to tourists).
As the visiting cruise ships wave goodbye to Key West, everyone gathers around Mallory Square to take part in the ‘sunset celebration’, where entertainers and musicians say goodbye to the sun as it dips beneath the horizon.
Main Attractions Key West Florida
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
There is a wide range of museums and attractions in Key West, but a highlight is this unusual maritime museum where gold, silver, and more traditional treasures recovered from shipwrecks are on display. Treasures from famous wrecks such as The Henrietta Marie make for a fascinating look into the colonial history of America and the Key West.
The spirit of Key West can be found in the main drag of Duval street, which provides shopping and snacks in the day, and comes to life at night. Duval Street has a range of venues for every taste, including jazz bars, piano bars, country, and blues at the Hog’s Breath Saloon or hilarious drag shows at the gay bars. Duval street has a quirky and friendly atmosphere that will make every evening unforgettable.
What To Do
Explore Old Town by Bike
A popular choice amongst visitors to Key West is to rent a bike and cycle around the attractive, palm tree-lined streets of historic Old Town. Cycle alongside the laid-back pace of the residents of Key West and admire the pastel-colored mansions that occupy the Old Town. A popular stop in Old Town is the Ernest Hemingway museum, based in his old house. This quirky museum matches the personality of the great writer, and the museum includes over 50 polydactyls (seven or more toes) cats, of which Hemingway was fond.
Where To Stay
Key West has its fair share of tropical beaches, with plenty of resorts on the beachfront, complete with seafood restaurants and spa treatments to ease you into your vacation. The Hyatt Resort and Spa is a luxurious choice, with breezy beachfront accommodation and unbeatable views across the ocean.
There is also a range of resorts and upmarket hotels to choose from in the Casa Marina area of Key West, close to the marina where you can go on sunset boat tours and take part in the range of water activities in the area.
Many of the mansions in Old Town also serve as authentic and friendly bed and breakfast spots in a great location.
Top 10 Things to Do Key West, Florida
As a native Floridian, the Florida Keys is my playground–it’s a prime vacation spot for us just as much as the tourist passing through Florida in search of the Conch culture you can only find in one spot on earth. Key West is the southernmost point in the continental United States, and it seems as though the further south you get the less “Florida” there is to experience–a fact the Key West natives are very keen to keep in place!
Snorkeling is one of the Top Things to Do in Key West!
Top Things to Do in Key West
The island is small, just 7.4 square miles and yet the locals have packed in a whole lot of things to do into just one small spot way down there at the end of the chain of islands known as the Florida Keys. From sightseeing the local structures to snorkeling, museum hopping, sunbathing, and sunsets, we have ten of the “can’t miss” items when you travel down south on your Florida travels.
Snorkel, Boat, Dive — Find a Way to Get in the Water!
Island culture dictates the sightseeing in Key West, and that means you simply have to find a way to get yourself out on the water, or else I daresay your visit to the Keys doesn’t really count! There are countless tour operators near the Harbor Walk and the information counters will be happy to give you a lowdown on various options. I highly recommend snorkeling for families visiting Key West because it’s an activity that nicely suits all ages and the reefs are right off the coast.
Experience Sunset at Mallory Square
I’ve taken in the Mallory Square boardwalk many times over the course of 25 years and the heart of the experience is pleasantly unchanged. As the pinks, purples, and oranges riot across the sky with the setting sun the local artists and performers bring their act to the boardwalk and entertain the masses. Expect sword swallowers, fire jugglers, tightrope walkers, and all sorts of performances. This is wonderful fun for the entire family and a great place to pick up souvenirs.
Take a Trolley Tour
The heat during the day can really soar high and it’s important to keep yourself hydrated and out of the mid-day sun when it’s at its hottest. But if you’re only in Key West for a couple of days you might lament at the prospect of hiding in your hotel room. That’s where the trolley and bus tours come in handy, all of the companies offer shaded tours around the island with guided, live commentary of the highlights and fun facts.
Visit the Hemingway House
Ernest Hemingway is one of the more famous and popular Key West residents and you’ll find enthusiasm for his work, life, and legacy throughout Key West. Visiting Hemingway’s house can be a highlight for literary buffs in search of the man behind the wonderful prose; knowledgeable guides offer hourly tours and guided commentary through each room in the house if you so choose, or you can explore at your own pace!
Rent a Bike to See all of Key West
For the ambitious who are really looking for some fun things to do in Key West, wear a hat and bike around the island, taking in the houses, the sunshine, and the slow pace of life. The Conch culture (as the locals prefer it to be called) is pretty hard to describe and it’s something you can let seep into your bones as you slowly pedal through the shady tree-lined streets.
Eat Key Lime Pie!
This is a can’t miss. Please, take it from me, no matter how many pieces of key lime pie you have had in the past, none will come close to the scrumptious recipes secretly guarded and still used all over the island. You can try it frozen and on a stick in the heat of the day, in a take-out container for your boat rides, or sit down in the cool shade of a restaurant and delight your tastebuds with a tasty treat!
Explore and Photography the Wooden Structures
The local architecture and color palette throughout Key West is a photographer’s dream! I found myself happily lost walking the small residential streets and finding the colorful and historic clapboard houses taking right back in time. Many of the wooden houses throughout the island have been carefully and meticulously restored to retain the intricate and ornate wood carvings and details on the Key West houses.
Hit the Bars on Duval Street
I’d be seriously remiss if I failed to mention the party and drinking culture on the island. Like island life anywhere, you’ll find some great bars with a cool ocean breeze and creative local artists crooning on the stage. Many of the more popular bars are attached to past celebrities who lived on the island and they all seem to have a distinctly different vibe so you’ll have a good night out on the town!
Visit the Southernmost Point in the US
I was surprised to see the international tourists just as enthused as the Americans to take their picture next to the large structure marking the southernmost point in the continental US. The icy blue waters lie just beyond the painted structure and since there is normally a queue all day long the person in line behind you will customarily take your photo for you!
Visit the Museums
There are countless museums scattered throughout the town and you can fill your head with facts about Flagler’s railroad and how that changed the island –head to the Customs House for that. Or brush up on your shipwreck knowledge and lore at the Key West Shipwreck Museum (with panoramic views of the island as a bonus).