Close your eyes for a minute and think about Key West.
What comes to mind?
Warm sun, friendly people and a slice of weirdness pie? The naked unicyclist, the Duval Bar Crawl and sunset celebrations in Mallory Square?
All of the above? Good. You’re beginning to understand why people keep coming back to the Keys.
There comes a time in Key West, usually after one or two or five too many Rum Runners along Duval Street, when you need a little less…something. Or, perhaps, you’ve traveled down with the family for a week of rest and relaxation and you’re looking for a few, fun, low-alcoholic low-Key (ha!) things to do.
Here are seven things to do in Key West that give you a great feel for the place and won’t involve untagging yourself in facebook photos from last night.
In no particular order….
7 Things to Do in Key West
1. Rent bikes. When you’re ready to leave the mayhem of Duval street behind and see the rest of Key West, renting a bike is the way to do it. Grab a free Sharon Well’s Walking and Biking Guide from the Visitor’s Center or download the app version of the guide and get pedaling. Island Safari Rentals delivered bikes to our house early one morning and we managed to ride though little neighborhoods, old town streets, parks and the town cemetery long before any Key Westians (?) were out of bed. Traffic can be a little hairy along the main roads, so it’s best to stick to the side roads and bike paths.
2. Take the un-tour. Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour isn’t really a bike tour. It’s more of a rolling Lloyd show. Lloyd is a colorful, passionate New York transplant who will take you through the streets of Key West accompanied by a commentary you’ll never forget. You won’t learn about architecture or Key West history but you’ll probably taste a mango he hacked from someone’s tree and wobble down a few side streets to discover something you wouldn’t have on your own. Suitable for families but not for the easily offended.
3. Visit Hemingway’s House. Passionate guides take you through the house where Papa Hemingway penned A Farewell to Arms, To Have and Have Not and other short stories. Even if you aren’t a Hemingway fan, the stories about his “complicated” relationships are deliciously scandalous and the house interior gives you a real taste of old Key West. If you have a thing about Hemingway’s six-toed cats, you’ll be in heaven. Loads of the little creatures (named after famous people, as per Hemingway) are running through the property. You can book ahead here, although we had no problem just walking up in the afternoon.
4. Tour the Little White House. I honestly had no idea this existed or that President Truman spent so much of his time in Key West. The Little White House was, in essence, the Winter White House. I can’t decide what I liked most about the tour, the little bits of history that left me feeling smarter, the fun of poking around a Presidential home or the fact I own so much of the same retro furniture. Spend some time after or before the tour wandering through the Truman Annex, once a part of the Key West Naval Air Station.
5. Check out the Tropic Cinema. This little theater is a great place to spend a rainy (or hot) afternoon. Set up by passionate film-goers and volunteers, it opened in 1999 as a venue for independent and artsy films. It expanded its offerings a bit to include Kids Club films and some fabulous retro choices (The Big Lebowski or Frankenstein vs. the Gila Monster anyone?).
6. Play pirate in the Dry Tortugas National Park. You can make the 70 mile journey to the Dry Tortugas by float plane or ferry. The float plane offers a spectacular overview of the seven islands and the early flight lands long before the ferry visitors arrive, giving you a chance to enjoy an almost empty park. The ferry takes two hours each way and offers food service, air conditioning and interesting commentary. I recommend checking the weather and bringing along some dramamine for the seasick-prone among you if you take the ferry. Visitors must bring everything they need to the Fort since there are no services (except bathrooms) in the Park. You’ll spend a full day swimming, snorkeling, playing Captain Jack Sparrow along the ramparts of Fort Jefferson and having a fabulous time.
7. Head to Fort Zachary State Park for the sunset. Granted, it doesn’t have the leopard-thonged fire-eater of the Mallory Square sunset celebration, but it is an uncrowded, mostly local, chill way to celebrate another fabulous day in the Keys.
Leave a comment below if you have something to add to the list (or you just want to say hi….)
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