South Florida is one of the most popular destinations for travelers this summer and while Miami might be better suited for singles, Key West is an ideal destination for a fun family getaway. Key West is filled with colorful gingerbread cottages, pirate museums, funky sidewalk cafes and lots of cool attractions that are sure to get your child’s stamp of approval!
1. Hit the Beach: Families staying anywhere in Key West can find their place in the sun. Smathers Beach offers beach equipment rentals, food concessions and a number of water sport activities. Fort Zachary Taylor’s beach features a historic fort, excellent snorkeling, a large picnic area, restrooms and showers, and plenty of shade for families who want to get out of the sun. Families with a car can drive to Bahia Honda State Park beach, voted one of the best in Florida.
2. Ride the Conch Train: This colorful open-air train’s 90-minute tour covers Key West’s highlights, including the Southernmost Point. If the weather is bad or you’d like to make more stops, the enclosed Old Town Trolley might be a better bet. The trolley tour offers 12 stops where families can get on and off and features more than 100 attractions and points of interest.
3. Sail Away on a Catamaran: These ultra-stable, roomy boats take guests out to North America’s only living coral reef for snorkeling. Glass-bottom boat tours of the reef around Key West are also available for those who don’t want to get wet. Kayaking around the mangrove islands and shallow with Lazy Dog Kayaks is another popular family adventure.
4. Get Close to Nature: Stroll through the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory‘s tropical paradise and marvel at hundreds of free-flying butterflies and over 20 species of exotic birds from around the globe. Then visit the Key West Aquarium, Key West’s oldest attraction and home to hundreds of species of local sea life. The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center is another excellent place to learn about the underwater world and natural habitats of the Keys.
5. Cruise Around the Island: It’s easy to tour Key West on a comfortable beach cruiser bike from Key West’s many bike shops. Families can also rent “Conch Cruisers,” golf cart-like electric vehicles that will accommodate up to four passengers, from Key West Cruisers.
6. Indulge in Retail Therapy: Key West shoppers will find a wide range of cool shops, boutiques, and factory outlets such as Coach and Birkenstock. Try on a pair of leather Kino Sandals, handmade in Key West and priced at under $20 a pair. Take the tropical smell of Key West home with a purchase from The Key Lime Shop and check out the unique gift items at the Haitian Art Company, Cuba! Cuba! and Yours and Mayan. Fast Buck Freddie’s, a department store that could rival Bloomingdale’s, is a local legend.
7. Soak Up Some Culture: Key West is a literary mecca. Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, and other famous writers enjoyed Key West’s tropical lifestyle. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where the author lived with about 50 six-toed cats and wrote some of his most famous novels. Affirmed “parrotheads” will feel right at home in tropical Key West. Jimmy Buffet used to hang out and perform here, and his presence is still felt everywhere – especially at the Margaritaville Café on Duvall Street.
8. Grab a Bite: Blue Heaven is a “don’t miss” choice for breakfast or a casual bite to eat. Their pineapple and pecan pancakes are out of this world. Key Lime Pie is Florida’s official dessert; so make sure to try the Key West Key Lime Pie Company’s decadent Frozen Key Lime Pie on a stick. Sample the Cuban shredded beef called Ropa Vieja at El Meson de Pepe, a family owned and operated Cuban restaurant. Kid’s menus featuring cheeseburgers, shrimp and chicken fingers are also available here.
9. Explore Key West’s History: Key West has one of the largest historic districts in the United States. Here, you’ll find the Audubon House with its gorgeous tropical gardens, the East Martello Museum, and even a Little White House. Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, was one of Key West’s most famous residents. Other notable sites include the Key West Heritage House, Key West’s Shipwreck Historeum, Pat Croce’s Pirate Soul Museum, and the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum. Those who climb the 88 steps of the Key West Lighthouse Museum’s tower will be rewarded with spectacular views.
10. Enjoy the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square: If your family enjoys carnivals, don’t miss watching the sunset at the docks at Mallory Square. This fun-tastic daily event is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. Here you’re likely to see acrobats, animal acts, street performers, musicians, portrait artists, craft exhibitors, food vendors and more. This event is extremely popular, so make sure to get there early to enjoy the show.
For more tips and ideas for planning Florida family vacations, visit the Family Travel Network’s website.