10 Quirky Issues To Do In Key West, Florida (& Huge Journey Information)
Colourful coral reefs. Six-toed cats. A haunted doll. Key West, Florida could also be one of the crucial distinctive locations in America: roosters roam the streets, drag queens rule the nightlife, and Cuba’s shut proximity colours its historical past. Your entire island is a colourful, tropical feast for the senses. Is that this paradise? I believed it might be much less …. bizarre?
To actually respect Key West in all of its quirky glory, you additionally must get to know its lengthy historical past of pirates, bootleggers, and nonconformists; its resident ghosts and grave-digging iguanas; and the resident animals who name it dwelling.
So, we tapped an insider to provide us the news on Key West’s most unusual and fantastic locations to assist us out. Right here’s every little thing you’ll want to know to plan your journey, and all of the quirkiest, finest issues to do in Key West! Take it away, Haylee!
Psst: Planning a visit to Florida? Try our journey guides to different locations close by:
Key West FAQ’s
Listed below are a number of useful issues to know whereas planning your journey to Key West:
- When is one of the best time to go to Key West? The perfect time to go to Key West is late fall. By this time of yr, will probably be within the 80s-90s throughout the day and the wet season shall be ending, so that you received’t have to fret as a lot about random showers interrupting your day. The height summer season vacationer season will even have ended, so the island shall be much less crowded and locations to remain will usually be cheaper.
- Ought to I lease a automotive? I wouldn’t suggest it. The island is so small you may Uber/Lyft to the place you’re staying, then stroll or bike to just about every little thing else you’ll want to. For those who do select to lease a automotive, I’ve to warn you, as a horrible driver myself, I’d NEVER drive in Key West. The roads are tremendous busy, not solely with automobiles, however with mopeds and bicycles. For those who do select to drive, deliver change: you’ll be parking on the road more often than not and many of the meters solely take precise change. The one good thing about renting a automotive is that you would be able to take a scenic drive down the Abroad Freeway, the place you may cease and take footage of the ocean only some ft away from the highway.
- How do I get to Key West? You’ll be able to fly straight into the Key West Worldwide Airport and take a Lyft to your lodging. Though I hate most airports, I simply have to like this one. It’s only one room, with two baggage claims, and one safety guard who simply seems at you and nods. Yup, this airport is simply as relaxed as the remainder of the island. And if you wish to get began with the comfort the moment you get on the island, there’s a tiki bar. That’s the structure: tiki bar, safety guard, two baggage claims, and a rest room. It’s superb.
- How do I get round in Key West? You’ll be able to stroll and bike all over the place! Key West is a compact island, and many of the locations you’ll wish to go to shall be not more than a 5-15 minute stroll or brief bike trip, relying on the place you’re staying (extra on that beneath).
Issues To Know Earlier than Going To Key West
I’m fairly certain that due to all of the ridiculous information tales that come from Florida – from Florida Man memes to a lady whose pet gator rides a motorbike and wears garments – the remainder of the nation thinks that Florida (at the least outdoors of Disney World) is a bizarre thriller land.
Effectively, I’m not going to argue with that. However for those who actually need Florida weirdness, it’s a must to go to Key West.
Key West is Florida’s quirky little island paradise. It has an extended historical past of army involvement as a consequence of its strategic location, in addition to being thought of a protected place for LGBTQ+ folks. When you received’t discover Mickey Mouse right here, there are many drag exhibits, a residing doll, and lots of cats.
There are a number of extra issues you’ll want to learn about Key West earlier than you go (that will or might not really assist you plan your journey):
- There are lots of chickens in Key West. You’ll hear and see extra chickens than you ever have earlier than in your life right here. Cockfighting was widespread in Key West within the 1800s and 1900s, till it was banned. When that occurred, all of the chickens had been all of a sudden launched to the island. Nobody made an effort to eliminate them, and now they’re welcome on the island as pleasant wildlife. So don’t contact or feed them: they’re wild!
- Key West can be crammed with six-toed cats. I blame Ernest Hemingway, who lived there and had a 6-toed cat, so it’s doubtless lots of the cats on the island are associated. Whereas most of those cats are pleasant, please don’t attempt to pet them. They’re nonetheless wild animals and as a normal rule of thumb, don’t attempt to pet wild animals.
- … and in addition iguanas. The inexperienced iguanas are an invasive species believed to be stowaways on ships from Central and South America, they usually’re thought of fairly a neighborhood nuisance (apparently, they prefer to dig up graves). That stated, go away eradication to the professionals. Iguanas are superb, stunning animals and also you would possibly suppose it’s okay to choose them up for an image – however it’s not okay. It stresses the animal, they usually may severely harm you with their claws! In your personal security, don’t contact them.
- Key West is an LGBTQ+-friendly place! Within the 70s-90s, Key West was thought of a protected place for younger LGBTQ+ folks to go in the event that they wanted shelter. Right now, Key West’s tradition is essentially formed by LGBTQ+ traditions and occasions, and also you’ll see Pleasure flags flying everywhere in the island year-round! (The subtext right here is that if any of that makes you’re feeling uncomfortable, perhaps simply keep dwelling and do some inside reflection.)
- Florida has a big homeless inhabitants, particularly on Key West. Going to the Keys, you will notice poverty proper subsequent to very wealthy folks, and you probably have some additional change or meals, it received’t go unappreciated by them. Please needless to say the parents experiencing homelessness are our neighbors, and never a blight or an eyesore. Among the of us that you will notice may additionally be scuffling with psychological sicknesses. Though this may be startling, keep in mind that these individuals are in way more hazard than you might be, and are unlikely to hurt you in any method. Homelessness is traumatic, significantly for the mentally unwell, whose situations will be exacerbated by the stress of homelessness. Please take into account serving to the native homeless neighborhood by donating to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. You can also make a monetary donation on-line or donate clothes, non-perishable meals, and unopened hygiene gadgets at Loaves & Fish Meals Pantry at 2221 Patterson Ave in Key West.
- Key West as soon as seceded from the USA and declared itself the Conch Republic. In 1982, the usgovernment arrange a roadblock supposed to seize the numerous immigrants coming from Cuba, simply 90 miles away. It additionally inconvenienced vacationers, who’re the monetary spine of the native financial system. Effectively, Key West is just not a spot for passive folks, and that didn’t sit nicely with them. So Key West’s then-mayor declared himself Prime Minister of the Conch Republic and instantly declared warfare on the USA of America by symbolically halving a stale loaf of Cuban bread over the top of an individual sporting a U.S. Navy costume. He surrendered one minute later, however that wasn’t the top of the Conch Republic’s battles with the US authorities: within the mid-90s, the Republic attacked a Coast Guard ship with water balloons, conch fritters, and off bread. They dispersed when the Coast Guard sprayed a hose again at them. Wikipedia has a brief run-down on the whole tongue-in-cheek-but-also-not-really historical past!
- Take the trolley! If you’d like a fast method round city AND to get some historical past when you’re at it, use the Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour, which matches to 13 spots round city and is a enjoyable, academic option to spend a day. The trolley additionally doubles as a ghost tour late at evening – extra about Key West’s resident ghosts later.
- Pack a raincoat. Concentrate on the truth that it may well rain at actually any minute, particularly within the mid-summer to early fall season. And when it rains, it pours. A mini-rainstorm can come out of nowhere and disappear 15 minutes later. For those who hate rain, my finest recommendation is to both be taught to adore it, or pray to the rain gods that you just’ll be blessed sufficient to not expertise any rain. If these choices don’t work, simply deliver a poncho.
- Key West seashores are literally fairly rocky. Regardless of its picture-perfect look in most pictures, lots of spots on the island are fairly rocky on the shore, then step by step the rocks give option to a sandy backside. These could be a ache to stroll over to get to the sandy a part of the ocean, so water sneakers or Teva sandals are really helpful.
What To Pack For Key West
I’m not going to let you know precisely what number of attire or pairs of shorts to pack (I belief you may determine that out by yourself) BUT I do have some recommendations for must-have necessities. Throw these in your carry-on suitcase (that is our favourite!) and also you’ll be all set.
- Light-weight Journey Clothesline: Keep away from the dreaded seashore chafe and cling your bathing fits up on this sturdy clothesline that matches within the palm of your hand! Tip: cling it up in entrance of a sunny window fairly than in your damp, darkish toilet for sooner drying.
- Reef-Secure Sunscreen: Going into the ocean? You’ll have to put on coral-friendly sunscreen. Except you hate coral, fish, and in addition all of human life. Reef-safe sunscreen is designed to biodegrade and never hurt ocean life. Common sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift dying from local weather change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, don’t put on common sunscreen within the ocean! Right here’s a full-sized bottle and right here’s a travel-sized model for carry-on baggage.
- Mineral Sunscreen: That is the least dangerous sort of sunscreen, in response to science. It’s higher each on your physique and for the setting.
- Rash Guard: Because you’ll be snorkeling and swimming and usually spending lots of time together with your naked again going through the tough solar, I extremely suggest bringing alongside a rash guard, which is specifically designed for swimming in salt water. There are even swim leggings made out of swimwear materials, which is ideal as a result of my butt is at all times the very first thing to burn after I’m snorkeling. This cuts down on the quantity of sunscreen you want, which is a win/win since I hate sporting sunscreen and it’s not nice for marine life!
- Snorkel Stuff: Bringing your personal snorkel gear is a lot extra snug than the equipment often supplied with excursions, and it offers you the choice to snorkel by yourself on the areas really helpful beneath! As many of the locations really helpful listed below are protected to snorkel and not using a tour you need to throw a snorkel masks and somewhat bottle of anti-fog spray in your suitcase.
- Water Footwear: For each minute that you just’re not sporting flippers, you’ll wish to be sporting these. Whether or not you’re attempting to stroll over rocks – they’re fairly, however they harm so unhealthy – or simply wading into some water, your un-cut ft will thank me later. I swear by my trusty Tevas, and Jeremy likes basic close-toed water sneakers. A reader not too long ago urged these nifty water sneakers that appear like cute tennis sneakers and will be worn out and in of the water, and we’re excited to attempt them out! (Right here’s the dude model.) You’ll be able to learn extra about our favourite journey sneakers in our journey sneakers evaluations for males & for ladies.
- Journey Towel: I at all times deliver a light-weight, quick-drying, packable full-sized journey towel with me to the seashore! I additionally suggest bringing a sandproof Seaside Mat to take a seat on.
- Fast Drying Shorts (His & Hers): Jeremy picked up a pair of these shorts to double as each his warm-weather every day clothes merchandise and his swimsuit. They’re a 2-for-1, which is tremendous handy for journey, they usually work nice! They dry shortly, making them good for hopping out and in of the ocean after which resuming your regular journey actions. They by no means get soiled or wrinkly and at all times look trendy. There’s additionally the ladies’s model, made out of the identical stretchy quick-drying materials as my mountain climbing pants.
- Extremely-Mild Rain Jackets (His & Hers): Our favourite rain jackets are among the finest jackets for journey. They’re ultralight and pack down into nothing in order that they’re simple to hold round, they usually’re extremely water repellant. They’re an ideal just-in-case merchandise to throw in your day bag, together with a travel-friendly umbrella.
For extra packing ideas, take a look at our curvy-girl pleasant seashore packing listing!
The place To Keep In Key West
Except you’re planning on making the 2-hour drive from the mainland to Key West twice in at some point, you’re going to want someplace to remain. I like to recommend staying proper in the course of all of it near Duval Avenue within the stunning, historic Previous City space.
One key factor to notice, although: though there are many AirBnBs on the island, native rules require a 28-night minimal keep. So for those who’re not a distant employee on the lookout for a month in paradise, you’ll wish to e book a resort, resort, condominium, or correctly licensed trip rental. I’ve included a number of picks beneath.
- Boutique Resort: The charming Wicker Guesthouse is positioned only one block from the Ernest Hemingway Home, with a tropical backyard and an out of doors pool. Rooms embrace microwaves and a small fridge, you may lease bikes on-site, and also you’re solely a 10-minute stroll from South Seaside.
- Trip Dwelling: The Secret Backyard provides an enthralling non-public oasis, with two bedrooms, a totally stocked kitchen, and entry to a shared pool.
- AirBnB: The brilliant, sunny Sugarpoppy Cottage is colourful, charming, budget-friendly, and has one of the crucial inviting non-public swimming pools I’ve ever seen – simply steps from the bed room. It’s only a block from Duval Avenue, so that you’ll have your personal non-public oasis within the heart of all of it. I’ve by no means been so tempted to choose up and transfer to Key West for a month as I’m taking a look at this place.
The Greatest Issues To Do In Key West
Go Snorkeling in a Coral Reef
One of the enjoyable methods to benefit from the native setting is snorkeling! People, I’m OBSESSED with snorkeling. Coral reefs are a complete new world to discover: beneath the blue water there may be an abundance of fish and neon-colored coral to see. With all of the life right here, you may keep within the water for hours and nonetheless end up noticing new particulars, with sea critters swimming each which method.
However earlier than you go snorkeling, a number of essential notes: at all times use the buddy system, don’t contact the coral -for your security in addition to its – and be sure you’re sporting reef-safe sunscreen, NOT common sunscreen.
For those who’re not assured about your snorkeling expertise otherwise you’ve by no means gone earlier than, we included a number of guided tour choices.
What wildlife can I see whereas snorkeling?
Key West has lots of huge, stunning fish! Among the ones to maintain an eye fixed out for whereas snorkeling are:
- Parrotfish: Key West has an abundance of Parrotfish! Rainbow Parrotfish are particularly eye-catching, and the Humphead Parrotfish are bigger and rarer. For those who go snorkeling and see these fish close to coral, cease swimming for a second and listen- Parrotfish hold coral clear by utilizing their enamel to scrape them, and you’ll really hear this within the water.
- Manatees: Manatees are tremendous cool to see within the water! You usually tend to see them in areas with seagrass fairly than a coral reef, since they graze on seagrass. For those who see a manatee, take into account your self fortunate since you simply noticed a mermaid. It’s thought that sailors began the legend of mermaids by mistaking manatees for people with tails from afar.
- Dolphins: The Keys are crammed with bottlenose dolphins, so the probability of you seeing a number of leaping and taking part in within the water is fairly excessive. Dolphins in Florida oftentimes give delivery in spring and summer season, so for those who go to throughout these instances attempt to hold an eye fixed out for any small calves swimming proper underneath their moms. Sure excursions, like this one, will take you to particular spots the place bottlenose dolphins have a tendency to hang around!
- Stingrays: To see stingrays in Key West, you’ll have to essentially hold an eye fixed out. Stingrays have a tendency to put within the sand and relaxation so that you would possibly swim proper over one with out even noticing it! The best option to spot a stingray in sand is by on the lookout for a sandy rock that seems to have eyes, and typically a tail if the actual stingray is feeling too lazy to bury itself in all the best way. Nonetheless, if a Large Manta Ray passes by you, you positively received’t be capable of miss it. When these rays are born, they’re already six ft huge, and an grownup can soar by the water with lengths of 24 ft.
- Sea Turtles: For those who’re actually fortunate, you would possibly see a sea turtle! A number of species dwell within the Keys. The commonest ones are Loggerheads and Inexperienced sea turtles. Sea turtles are most frequently discovered floating alongside within the currents, trying extra relaxed than any beach-goer.
- Sharks: Most sharks right here aren’t significantly harmful species- nurse, lemon, and sandbar sharks are the most typical. I really noticed a sandbar shark one time whereas snorkeling! There has by no means been a deadly shark assault within the Keys- simply don’t be the primary by attempting to pet one, as cute as they’re.
The place can I’m going snorkeling in Key West?
Key West is surrounded by reefs, however they’re somewhat methods offshore – the best option to get to them is by boat. That stated, there are a number of nice locations across the island to snorkel and see a few of these ocean creatures of their native habitats:
- Fort Zachary Taylor State Park: The one reef I do know of that you would be able to moderately swim to is the one in Fort Zachary Taylor. The admission for pedestrians is $2.50 and you’ll spend the whole day there- there’s not solely swimming, however the park is understood for having many tropical species of birds you may see. These reefs could also be your finest likelihood to catch a glimpse on the elusive sea turtle as nicely! Since you may be by yourself on this reef, be sure you deliver your personal snorkeling gear or lease one on the park (both method, pack anti-fog spray).
- Dry Tortugas Nationwide Park: Due to efforts by the native authorities to maintain the island reefs alive, this reef is wholesome and glad – so if you wish to see one that’s actually thriving that is the place to go. It’s colourful, with quite a lot of coral species and loads of fish to see! Dry Tortugas can be dwelling to historic Fort Jefferson. Observe that in an effort to get to Dry Tortugas it’s a must to take a ship and buy an entrance price to the Nationwide Park. This present day journey contains spherical journey ferry service, snorkel gear, breakfast and lunch, and an non-obligatory guided historic tour.
- E-book a Snorkeling Tour: The advantage of snorkel excursions is that they may present snorkeling gear and assist from the guides, together with the information’s data on the world and native animals. This snorkel tour takes you out to the Nice Florida Reef – the one residing coral barrier reef in the USA and the third-largest on the earth – on a 69-foot catamaran for Three hours of enjoyable within the water. Or, take a raffle on the Island Journey Eco Tour: every tour is completely different and the snorkeling location varies relying on the climate and what animals are swimming round the place! It’s also possible to select to finish your afternoon with kayaking at sundown – what an ideal Key West day!
Test Out Key West’s Historic Properties
Key West’s historical past has formed it into the quirky vacation spot it’s right now, and is mirrored in its many historic properties and native legends. Understanding Key West’s historical past makes wandering its colourful streets all of the extra fulfilling!
Earlier than the island’s identify was anglicized, to Key West, it was referred to as Cayo Hueso, or Bone Island, by the Spanish who charted the island in 1513 after they had been off on the lookout for the Fountain of Youth.
Earlier than the arrival of the Spanish, the Florida Keys, together with Key West, had been inhabited by the Calusa and Tequesta peoples, who had been often called expert fishermen and knowledgeable sailors. Sadly, each the Calusa and Tequesta folks had been decimated by the late 1700s as a consequence of European illnesses and conflicts.
The island was an necessary burial floor for the Calusa folks and the Spanish named the island after the numerous human bones they noticed, however there may be some debate that the identify may be attributed to the limestone rocks and reef formations that additionally seemed like big sun-bleached bones.
Whereas Key West’s waters might have hosted pirates on occasion, it wasn’t till the early 1800s that there have been everlasting Spanish residents of the island. Ultimately, Spain transferred management of the island to the USA in 1821, nevertheless it’s simple to see the affect of Spain, and close by Cuba on the island to this present day, particularly in Key West’s historic properties and landmarks.
Listed below are among the most well-known historic spots you may take a look at on the island:
Hemingway Home & Museum
Hemingway Home & Museum is in Previous City Key West, and this yellow, ethereal, many-windowed house is within the French Colonial fashion with many artwork deco accents on the within. This can be a actually huge attraction on Key West for good cause – Hemingway was a prolific author throughout the 1920s and 30s, and he wrote two of his most well-known books on this very home: A Farewell To Arms and To Have and Have Not.
Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West for years, making the island his everlasting place of residence within the 1930s, and is the person who I’ve determined to completely blame for all of the cats on the island (in response to the official web site, greater than forty cats, who’re all named, dwell right here).
On a private notice, did anybody else have an English instructor that was WAY too into Hemingway? Or was it simply me??
Customized Home/Key West Museum of Artwork & Historical past
The second home you need to see is the enduring purple Customized Home, simply off of Mallory Sq. in one of many primary components of city. The home was constructed within the 1800s and was the Customs constructing in Key West. Through the Spanish-American Struggle, the Customized Home was dwelling to the U.S. Navy Division’s board of inquiry into the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana, which ultimately led to America formally declaring warfare on Spain.
Right now, the Customized Home is the location for the Key West Museum of Artwork & Historical past. A lot of its everlasting exhibitions relate to the Spanish-America Struggle, the Cuban Missile Disaster and Key West’s function in these historic occasions. Since there’s a naval base on the island, radar and intelligence stations had been arrange on Key West throughout the 1960s. Through the blockade of Cuba, reconnaissance planes had been housed right here to simply fly over Cuba and monitor for the presence of nuclear weapons.
For true crime lovers like me, there are additionally a number of darker displays chronicling among the tales that might be straight out of a Gothic novel. One in all these displays is a couple of “love story” (psyche, it was really horrifying and creepy) between a neighborhood German physician and his affected person, who died of Tuberculosis.
As an alternative of accepting her dying – and the truth that she simply wasn’t into him – homeboy stole her corpse, slapped some make-up on it, and lived with it for SEVEN YEARS till he was caught (AHHHHH). You’ll be able to be taught all in regards to the creepy story of Carl Tanzler on the museum.
Audubon Home Museum & Tropical Gardens
Now often called the Audubon Home, this dwelling was initially owned by John Geiger within the 1840s, a person who profited off of shipwrecks and enslaved human beings. Within the 1800s, the wrecking trade was huge in Key West due to the treacherous close by reefs, and males like Geiger – uh, government-sanctioned thieves, I suppose? – would take and resell valuables from the ships. He turned one of many richest males on the island.
Throughout this time, anti-abolitionist, white supremacist, and chicken fanatic John Aubudon visited the house and was fascinated by its gardens, and right now is assumed to have discovered inspiration from the birds flitting in regards to the colourful foliage. He later rose to fame as, roughly, “that man who pants birds.”
A lot of his chicken work line the home to this present day, and when the museum was opened in 1960 full along with his art work, it was named after him. You’ll be able to go to the museum to get an thought of how rich folks as soon as lived in Key West.
- Editor’s Observe: Sadly, evidently the museum has chosen to depict a one-sided narrative concerning the rich former house owners of the house and the well-known painter it’s now named after, fairly than tackling the hard-to-swallow reality about how their wealth was made by potential by enslaved women and men. It’s excessive time for museums like this one to transform their narratives to be extra trustworthy, and for us as vacationers to withhold our monetary help till that shift takes place. For historic accuracy in regards to the ugly actuality of rich life within the Antebellum south, we suggest visiting the Owens-Thomas Home in Savannah, Georgia – learn our Savannah submit to seek out out why – or one in all these historic home museums as an alternative.
Meet Key West’s Resident Animals
Key West has no scarcity of tropical birds, lizards, and bugs on the island – to not point out the roosters and cats, which aren’t tropical in any respect, however are very a lot part of Key West life.
If you wish to get to know a number of of Key West’s resident animals, there are lots of nice locations to go to do precisely that:
This park has one of many nicest sandy seashores on the island! For $2.50, you may spend the whole day swimming, snorkeling and on the lookout for the numerous tropical species of birds the park is understood for.
You’ll doubtless see herons and cormorants for those who hold an eye fixed out and go searching less-populated mangrove areas, the place these birds prefer to wade to catch fish. For those who’re actually fortunate, you would possibly even see a sea turtle out by the reefs, that are accessible from the shore.
The birds in Key West are all stunning, however my favourite is the Roseate Spoonbill. (Enjoyable Truth: I believed it was the Rose Spoonbill till I seemed it as much as fact-check myself, so perhaps I shouldn’t name it my favourite.) For those who see a pink chicken that appears like a small flamingo, that’s your spoonbill!
On this distinctive sanctuary, you’ll meet rescued abandaned, mistreated and undesirable macaws, cockatoos and parrots rescued lovingly by Nancy Forrester, an environmental activist and educator. You’ll be taught all about these clever, social birds and may even maintain them and pet them, so long as you’re mild.
Additionally, Nancy is an all-faith wedding ceremony officiant, and he or she’ll use her birds as official witnesses. I actually wish to see a marriage right here, I feel it’d be superior.
That stated: the worst half about this place is that the birds would possibly POOP ON YOUR VERY NICE AND NEW SHIRT YOU GOT FOR THE TRIP. Be smarter than me. Don’t put on good garments to play with animals who will poop on you with out warning!
The conservatory looks like paradise, crammed with colourful butterflies and birds, tropical flowers and waterfalls. There are about 50 species of butterflies right here. Perch on a butterfly-shaped bench and sit and watch them snacking on fruit – for those who’re fortunate, one would possibly even land on you to say hiya.
You’ll additionally see additionally flamingoes, turacos, lizards, and different brightly coloured birds that I don’t know the names of (simply know they’re all tropical and really pleasant). In your method out, choose up a glass-sculpted butterfly hand-crafted by the conservatory’s proprietor within the reward store as a memento!
Simply roaming on the island is a good way to see loads of cats and chickens in Key West. As I discussed earlier, it’s thought that Ernest Hemingway is the primary one that spurred the cat increase to Key West since a lot of them have six toes fairly than the traditional 5, identical to his cat. (That is referred to as polydactylism in cats.)
The cats of Key West particularly like to laze round underneath the shady canopies of the palm bushes. Most of the cats will also be seen close to the docks, watching small fish swim round within the ocean beneath them. I’ve but to see a cat leap in to seize one, however I’m certain they wish to.
The chickens are right here as a result of within the 1800s, cockfighting was widespread on the island till it was banned and all of those chickens had been deserted on the island. Regardless of being descended from hardened combating chickens, the chickens appear to get alongside fairly nicely with the cats. I’d have guessed the cats would chase the chickens, however there are by no means any chicken-cat territory wars or chases.
In springtime, you’ll see lots of lovable child chickens working round on the island! I like seeing a rooster stroll out with one or two infants behind her, then a number of seconds later three extra infants come out of the bushes and stroll in a line behind her throughout the highway.
- Editor’s Observe: For those who occur to get a photograph of a 6-toed cat, a rooster, and an iguana multi function shot, you simply received Key West bingo! And please share your photograph to us within the feedback as a result of we’d very very like to see it.
Go to Mallory Sq.
Mallory Sq. is crammed with native retailers and stalls promoting souvenirs alongside handcrafted items and domestically made artwork (plus a number of chain shops and vacationer traps thrown within the combine). Procuring will be a good way to help native companies and peek at native curiosities.
Listed below are the highest issues to do in Mallory Sq.:
- Purchase a Sponge: Key West has a big sponge inhabitants. Sponges, of their pure habitat, shortly regrow when items are taken off. The sponging trade was as soon as a serious supply of earnings for Key West. – you may be taught extra about that historical past on the Sponge Market. However traditionally, sponges had been harvested utilizing a hooking method that rips off most of a sponge, leaving the sponges with lower than a 50% likelihood of survival. Right now, they’re harvested by slicing strategies which solely takes a bit off at a time so the sponge can regrow. As a result of this, they could be a bit dear, however they final for a very very long time and work as pure exfoliants if you bathe. Whenever you go snorkeling within the pure reefs round Key West, hold an eye fixed out for sponges! You’ll be able to see them in shallow waters. However don’t contact them or take them dwelling with you – buy a sustainably harvestested one at a neighborhood store as an alternative.
- Strive some Rum: On Mallory Sq., Key West’s First Authorized Rum Distillery (self-proclaimed the official rum of the Conch Republic!) has loads of rum to freely pattern and purchase. The distillery is positioned in an previous turn-of-the-century constructing that used to function a saloon in 1900 – you may take a free non-public tour of the distillery to be taught extra!
- Get Your Fill of Key Lime: At Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe, you will get your fill of Key Lime something. There’s far more than pie here- pattern the important thing lime salsa and lime shnappes, then get a shirt in your method out.
- Try some Life-Measurement Bronze Sculptures: In Mallory Sq., in entrance of the aforementioned Customized Home, you’ll discover lots of bronze statues. Seward Johnson was a sculptor who donated his creations to numerous museums across the nation – and the statues are circulated amongst completely different museums each few years.
Editor’s Observe: One other widespread native landmark is the Shell Warehouse, however we don’t suggest patronizing it due to the injury that the demand for seashell souvenirs trigger to marine environments – learn extra right here.
Take A Photograph At One Of The Key’s Distinctive Spots
Since Key West has such an previous historical past, there are many particular locations to go to and take distinctive pictures as a memento of your journey!
Not solely are you able to take a look at some wonderful views, however you may as well go to the southernmost level of the US. Listed below are among the finest photograph spots in Key West:
- Key West Lighthouse: This lighthouse is precisely what you image if you consider a basic lighthouse: tall, white, and stately. Constructed within the mid-1800s, you may’t miss its bleached white exterior in opposition to the inexperienced and blue panorama. Step inside and you’ll be taught somewhat in regards to the lighthouse’s feminine keeper, Barbara Mabrity, and the way lighthouse keeper was one of many first non-clerical authorities jobs that had been open to ladies. Subsequent, climb the 88 steps to the highest of the tower to see sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean in panoramic glory. This lighthouse could be very well-maintained, and I feel it’s the most effective locations to take footage. Sadly for me, these pictures are wasted, as a result of the one ones I’ve are tremendous blurry selfies of me in center college with a bizarre facet half and nobody is ever allowed to see that once more.
- Bonus Tip: On the prime of the tower, search for yachts on the water and bear in mind the names of them so you may look them up – typically well-known folks cruise by!
- Southernmost Level Buoy: Positioned at (you guessed it) the southernmost level of the island, close to the US Naval Base, that is basically only a painted buoy statute marking that it’s the southernmost level of the continental United States. (Solely 90 miles to Cuba!) It was marked by a small signal, however in 1983, the town constructed this concrete buoy. What’s actually spectacular about this buoy is that it’s survived a number of hurricanes (together with the devastating Hurricane Irma) and has solely gotten a bit scratched. Since that is such an iconic image of Key West, the road to take an image of it’s often ridiculously lengthy at most instances throughout the day and, for my part, not price it. For those who actually wish to get an image with out ready in line, go early within the morning or actually late at evening.
- Mile Marker 0: Mile Marker Zero is a neat little place to take a photograph! You’ve reached the top of the highway (actually), and have discovered what comes afterward: Paradise. I don’t suppose too many individuals learn about this signal right here as a result of I’ve by no means seen it crowded. Mile Marker Zero is a avenue down from Duval, on Whitehead, and is definitely worth the brief stroll to get a fast photograph alternative.
- Abroad Freeway: If you’re driving down from the mainland to Key West, you may be driving down the Abroad Freeway. The freeway will take you nicely above the crystal clear waters of the Keys, and you’ll see reefs from the bridge. Different components of the freeway will take you solely ft from the water, and you’ll pull off and take footage proper on the shore of the mangroves. The distinctive half about taking a photograph on the freeway is that you would be able to seize the string of islands from the seashore subsequent to the freeway.
- Duval at Night time: Duval at evening time is lit up by all of the bars, retailers, and partiers. If you wish to take pictures with rather a lot occurring in them, stroll round Duval at evening with a prepared digicam. Who is aware of what is going to stroll by in entrance of you? A drag queen, a person sporting an indication proclaiming the top of the world (talking from expertise), or a person with parrots on his shoulders are simply among the belongings you would possibly see.
Get A Fast Chew (& Save Room For Dessert!)
Key West might be most synonymous with one factor, and that factor is Key Lime Pie! Key Lime is a particular sort of lime that’s extra fruity and fewer acidic than the traditional limes you will discover at a grocery retailer. They solely develop natively in, you guessed it, the Keys!
Key Lime Pie is a refreshing summer season dessert, and whereas some folks say you will get the identical taste with different limes, these pies merely received’t stack up- it’s lacking the richness of taste and at all times falls flat in comparison with the recent Key Limes harvested within the Keys.
One thing chances are you’ll not know is that with Cuba being simply 90-miles south of Key West, the island takes many culinary cues from their neighbor as nicely. To be taught all about Key West’s culinary scene whereas sight-seeing (and, in fact, consuming), take a look at this local-led meals & strolling tour!
Listed below are among the must-stop locations on the island to seize a chew:
- Seize a Cuban Espresso: Since Cuba is so shut, Key West has at all times been a spot that attracted Cubans, and with them, Cuban tradition. Within the 1800s, Cubans moved to Key West to seek out extra freedom, bringing together with them items to Key West like cigars and low. Which brings us to Cuban Espresso Queen, aka the BEST espresso ever. Cuban Espresso Queen relies in a small, standalone shop- the easiest way to seek out it’s by on the lookout for a line of individuals ready for espresso. Get a espresso, and perhaps get a roast to go too. I at all times get a bag of Gallo Loco, which is chocolatey and nutty. When you get your espresso, head to the close by docks and sip it whereas watching birds dive out and in of the water.
- Breakfast, Key West Fashion: As soon as you end up hungry for breakfast, go to Croissants de France for some French breakfast with a Key West spin. The proprietor is from France and he and his spouse determined to maneuver and open up a bakery. Clearly, the croissants are superb – huge and baked to a flaky and crunchy perfection – however you could get a Key Lime Tart. Their Key Lime tart is a tangy, lightly-colored inexperienced pie with a wholesome serving to of meringue slathered excessive.
- Breakfast and a Present: Blue Heaven is very easy to overlook (search for the signal on a gate behind some bushes), however consuming at this out of doors restaurant feels such as you’re inside a jungle shaded by large banyan bushes, banana palms, and colourful hibiscus flowers. The restaurant is dwelling to cats, chickens AND child chickens, so that you simply would possibly make some animal associates when you eat! For those who’ve by no means had fresh-caught seafood, that is the place to attempt it, and their Surf-N-Turf dish serves as a incredible introduction. The fish melts in your mouth and is nicely seasoned with a novel mix of spices that’s barely salty and spicy. Blue Heaven additionally has a Rooster Graveyard, which accommodates the stays of cockfighting roosters and a few of Blue Heaven’s more moderen rooster residents. Each morning Blue Heaven hosts native musicians taking part in calming music that can assist you begin your day on the island, so grabbing breakfast right here is bound to get you within the island spirit.
- Dessert that’s Higher than Intercourse: Higher Than Intercourse is THE romantic dessert date spot to go to. Two Key West locals opened it in 2008, and it bought so widespread they needed to transfer to a much bigger location the following block over inside two years! Whereas it has not too long ago expanded out of state, that is the unique and the place the house owners reside, so you need to cease right here at the least as soon as to get some sweets. I’m an enormous lover of dessert, and let me be the bearer of fine information: Higher Than Intercourse has desserts that make me weak within the knees. A lot of the desserts have enjoyable names, like Missionary Crisp and Tongue Tub Truffle – the Kinky-er Key West Cream Pie is an effective domestically themed alternative. Their cake can be superb – fluffy slices piled excessive with icing – with scrumptious caramel and raspberry drizzles that, I’m not ashamed to confess, I fortunately drown my cake in. Yum!
Meet The Ghosts of Key West
Key West is without doubt one of the most haunted cities in Florida, and the useless are stated to outnumber the residing right here. Some say its as a result of the limestone rock formations anchor spirits to the island, stopping them from passing into the afterlife. Or it might be as a result of within the 1700s, Key West was primarily utilized by smugglers and pirates as a hideout…
Over the centuries, Key West has been dwelling to many individuals, together with pirates and Cuban refugees, and bears the scars of a spot marked closely by tensions between itself and the outer world, particularly throughout the Chilly Struggle. In Key West, you may see the lasting marks of a checkered historical past.
I extremely suggest studying native Key Wester David Sloan’s e book Ghost of Key West. The e book takes a deep dive into the numerous tales that encompass Key West and the horrifying legends that some locations on the island have.
Right here’s the place to satisfy a number of of Key West’s notable ghosts:
You understand how many of the dolls are made to be at the least semi-cute? Not Robert.
Robert was made within the early 1900s, within the likeness of his proprietor, Robert Otto. There’s such an absence of facial particulars in Robert that it seems like his face has been worn right down to the naked fundamentals – beady eyes, a flat nostril, lips, and most distinctively, a number of holes in his face as a consequence of age (he’s 111 years previous).
Throughout his keep along with his authentic proprietor, folks reported his facial features altering and the doll shifting by himself. After his proprietor’s dying, he was moved to the Fort East Martello Museum, the place he lives right now.
This doll resides with a toy canine in a case in his personal room, however the freakiest factor is that the partitions are plastered with letters asking for his forgiveness. The museum’s caretakers say they get about 1-Three letters a day, a lot of that are from individuals who made enjoyable of him or took his photograph with out asking permission first and at the moment are experiencing unhealthy luck.
Talking of that, don’t snitch to Robert that I stated his eyes had been beady…
The Trolley of the Doomed will take you on a late-night journey by essentially the most haunted components of Key West…and hope you handle to see the sunshine of day once more. This tour goes throughout city and your Ghost Host will lead you on the macabre journey of your life.
- Go to the Key West Cemetery
If you are interested within the supernatural apparitions of Key West, the Key West Cemetery is a superb place to get your spooky repair. Apart from the supernatural, this cemetery accommodates a USS Maine memorial and one other memorial devoted to the fighters within the 1868 Cuban Revolution.
Since a big Cuban demographic existed in Key West throughout the time of the revolution, there was lots of help on the island for Cuba’s fighters to win. This led to some Cuban-Individuals returning to combat within the revolution, with solely their our bodies returning dwelling.
Different components of the cemetery are much less critical; Key West’s useless residents have fairly the sense of humor- most of the epitaphs are sarcastic sayings and references to books and movie. As a lover of The Hitchhiker’s Information to the Galaxy, seeing a tombstone engraved with the well-known quote, “So Lengthy & Thanks For All The Fish” was hilarious. I feel I’d slot in completely in that cemetery – I feel I’d like my epitaph to learn “Over My Lifeless Physique”.
All jokes apart, for those who go right here, please respect the useless… or else the ghost of the cemetery would possibly hang-out you. I’ve by no means seen her (fortunately), however legend has it that for those who disrespect the cemetery in any method, an previous Bahamian girl will method you and scold you, or threaten you if she finds you deserving of it. Additionally, , the grave-digging iguanas would possibly get you.
The Ghost Hosts are undead guides, costumed as one of many island’s well-known ghosts and greater than keen to share all of the grotesque particulars of their very own dying and the deaths of others on the island to you.
Since animals are such an enormous a part of Key West, it’s no shock that a few of its resident critters have their very own cemetery. Within the aforementioned, DELICIOUS Blue Heaven restaurant, there’s a small rooster cemetery!
The cemetery is devoted to the roosters who died in cockfights, and even a few of Hemingway’s six-toed cats that roam the island too (in a former life, Blue Heaven was even a pool corridor, the place Hemingway as soon as refereed a boxing match).
That is in all probability the one restaurant in America that has a graveyard in it, but when I’m improper, inform me – I have to see what different restaurant is wacky sufficient to have a cemetery in it.
Off To The (Drag) Races
Being so secluded from the mainland, Key West was largely unparalleled till the 1970s, when it turned a LGBTQ+ vacation spot as a consequence of giant influxes of LGBTQ+ members shifting in and renovating the older properties on the island.
Within the 1980s, Key West even elected one of many U.S.’s first brazenly homosexual mayors, Richard A. Heyman. With such a big presence of homosexual males, drag – the artwork of feminine impersonation – is an enormous factor on Key West.
That stated, it’s necessary to be a courteous traveler. Visiting a homosexual house is thrilling and enjoyable, however remember that it is usually an area the place LGBTQ+ folks can specific themselves safely and freely. Up till not too long ago, homosexual golf equipment had been one of many few locations that LGBTQ+ folks may go with out concern of violence or authorized penalties.
Attending a drag present is a feast for the senses: think about essentially the most dramatic costumes you have got ever seen, material and feathers in all types of colours and patterns, excessive make-up you may see from a mile away, and extremely outlined shapes. Drag is each visible and efficiency artwork – and comedy at its best.
It’s best to know that drag exhibits are a staple of homosexual areas, and oftentimes have sexual content material. If you’re unfamiliar with drag, take a look at RuPaul’s Drag Race on Hulu or take a look at some performances on YouTube. It’s additionally customary to tip your favourite drag queens, so you’ll want to deliver some money!
For those who’re able to have time, right here’s the place to go for a drag present:
801 Bourbon started in 1987 as a piano bar, however as time went on, the main target turned much less on the piano and extra on the drag performances. Only one factor: at 801, the queens don’t lip-sync! They’re nice singers and you’ll take heed to them dance and sing earlier than the comedy portion of the present.
Honest warning: for those who’re within the entrance rows, you’ll in all probability get teased by the queens. However hey, getting made enjoyable of by a drag queen in entrance of a dwell viewers is a reward.
If you wish to get interactive, this bar has karaoke each Sunday night! Oh, and for those who occur to be in Key West on New 12 months’s Eve, as an alternative of the ball drop, you may see 801’s premier Drag Queen, Sushi, dropping from a excessive heel shoe as an alternative. That’s Key West for you!
Additionally positioned on Duval, Aqua isn’t only a present – it’s additionally an evening membership. This place is LOUD. I may need talked about a number of instances that Duval is loud and this membership is unquestionably one of many the explanation why! Earlier than you see the present, seize a cocktail from the bar and put together for the present of your life.
Aqua hosts the extra conventional model of drag exhibits, with dancing, lip-syncing, and loads of costumes, with choreographed dances for each track. Not like 801 Bourbon, the drag tends to deal with feminine phantasm, the artwork of trying like a lady. To not say that they don’t have costumes (one featured on the web site is a queen in cow drag), however the focus is extra on queens trying like queens and dancing.
Come right here, see a present, after which occasion till the top of the evening and sleep it off so you may occasion once more the following day.
Attend a Quirky Key West Competition
For being such a small island (it has an space of about 4.2 sq. miles), Key West at all times has some type of occasion occurring. Test Key West’s official calendar for native performs, concert events, and video games.
A pleasant reminder earlier than you resolve you wish to come to 1: Key West festivals are multi-day affairs, with a LOT of consuming. However for those who’re up for a weirdly good time, listed below are the 2 finest festivals in Key West that showcase every little thing that quirky Key West has to supply:
Each April, the Conch Republic throws their 10 day independence day celebration. Whereas this pageant is about enjoyable (drag races, costume challenges, and drunk spelling bees are all a part of that), it additionally celebrates Key West’s setting and historical past.
There are naval parades and a seashore clean-up, so be sure you do this to get a way of the island past partying. If you wish to grow to be a Conch Republic native, purchase a passport to point out your standing, bought by the official Conch Republic’s authorities web site.
I’m a BIG fantasy nerd. I like D&D, I like dressing up, and I personal a sword. (Sadly, it’s only a high-quality faux one, however I’m studying find out how to sword combat with it, so be careful.) So imagine me after I say the Fantasy Fest is the PLACE for nerds like me!
Persons are dressed up in wild costumes- these aren’t low cost Halloween costumes, these are home made, high-quality costumes made by individuals who love the artwork. Dragons, mermaids, princesses, and actually, something the party-goers select to be. For those who attend this pageant, I’d strongly suggest bringing one thing to put on, even when it’s simply an previous Halloween costume. You don’t wish to be the odd one out not sporting one thing enjoyable.
I feel one of the best a part of this pageant is that its aim is to assist folks residing with HIV/AIDS and unfold consciousness. Within the eight weeks main as much as Fantasy Fest, there’s a fundraiser for AIDS Assist, a non-profit group. Key West is traditionally a protected house for minorities, particularly LGBT+ members, and the island was hit laborious throughout the 1980s AIDS epidemic.
The kickoff of the Fantasy Fest is a Coronation Ball, the place the 2 residents who donated essentially the most are declared King & Queen. After that, there’s 10 days of parades and contests. I’ve seen these festivals firsthand, and there’s no break from the partying, not even on the “quiet” components of the island. Oh, and you probably have a pet, there’s a Pet-Proprietor Masquerade Problem, the place you and your pet costume up in masquerade outfits for a prize.
I lived in Florida for years, so I welcome the humidity (my hair and pores and skin LOVE the moisture), however for those who’re not used to it, you would possibly end up sweating rather a lot. Fortunately for you, the Fantasy Fest considers physique paint and/or nipple pasties to be loads of clothes, so simply take off your garments! Dates for this pageant do change yearly, so check out the Fantasy Fest web site earlier than planning.
Benefit from the Sunsets
The sunsets in Key West are superb. I’m unsure what it is- perhaps it’s the best way the solar displays off the water – however the sunsets aren’t one to overlook. The skies flip pink and orange within the night, and the sky slowly fades from these vivid colours to a blue evening with tons of stars. There isn’t lots of mild air pollution within the Keys, so the celebrities shine brighter than they’d in cities.
It actually does appear like one thing out of a portray and cameras simply don’t do it justice! Listed below are a number of methods to take pleasure in Key West’s unimaginable sunsets:
Sundown cruises are actually widespread, and I’ve gone on one each single time I’ve been to Key West. The sundown cruises usually give out free drinks – as a result of Key West is at all times right down to occasion – and are the very best option to see the sundown.
Most of those excursions are about two hours lengthy, returning at round 7pm. Observe that since these are sailboats, the downstairs house of the boat is just about only a toilet and never an area to cover from the solar, so for those who burn as badly as I do be sure you deliver sunblock!
For those who’re touring together with your companion, e book an intimate cruise like Hazard’s Charters Wind & Wine Sundown Sail Sitting on a ship and watching the sundown collectively is such a romantic option to spend time with one another!
For a livelier night, Cool Key West is a superb alternative, with native musicians taking part in and loads of free drinks.
Each night in Mallory Sq., the Sundown Celebration occurs! This can be a actually cool half about Key West- each evening, performers and avenue artists arrange cubicles to promote their items and carry out. You’ll be able to take within the ocean breeze whereas celebrating the fantastic thing about the sundown and watching folks swallow swords or juggle hearth.
For those who (one way or the other) get tired of that, get your tarot playing cards learn at a psychic sales space and purchase conch fritters, scrumptious bits of fried conch, wrapped in a thick layer of breading, garlic, and pepper.
The sundown celebration is a good way to finish every single day, in Key West and is the proper option to have fun the final night of your go to to paradise.
About our Contributing Author: Hey! I’m Haylee and I’m majoring in Economics on the College of Arizona. My end-goal is to investigate financial and social public insurance policies, however for now, I’m specializing in surviving college and having fun with life because it comes. For me, that features discovering the bizarre and wacky components of life and having fun with them as a lot as potential. For those who like that too, then we will in all probability be associates.
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