With this list of the best things to do in Key West, you are sure never to get bored.
If you are looking to go on a tropical vacation, you do not have to leave the country to find a great destination. In fact, the crystal clear waters and sunny white beaches or paradise can be found on the southern tip of the Eastern seaboard. You guessed it. We are talking about the much loved island of Key West. Without a doubt, Key West has to be one of our nation’s most popular destinations. And for a good reason too. With plenty of sunny skies and turquoise blue waters, you truly feel like you are in paradise down here. Today, we are going to go over our list of some of the top things to do in Key West, Florida. From great dining to great beaches, we have got you covered.
1. Stroll through Duval Street
Credit: Patrick Emerson
When it comes to the iconic landmarks of Key West, one of the best things to do in Key West is to pay a visit to the iconic Duval Street. Duval Street is a beautiful commercialized strip that draws in hundreds and thousands of tourists each year. This popular street runs north and south from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Although it is a little over one mile in length, it is jam packed with so much fun and entertainment. In fact, you can spend a whole afternoon here and not get bored.
This iconic street is named after the first territorial governor of Florida, William Pope Duval. Most recently in 2012, the popular Duvall Street was designated as a “great street” by the American Planning Association. This is due to a multitude of reasons. But primarily, the beautiful Bahamian and Spanish influence in the Victorian Mansions of Duval Street has set the stage for a landmark that draws out hundreds. Not only that, but these beautiful mansions have been well preserved throughout the year. This preservation is what has helped Duval Street become the iconic location that it is today.
When you arrived here, there are plenty of activities you can take advantage of. One of the most fun activities that travelers look forward to is the are annual run with the bulls. The run with the bulls thankfully features a man made full as opposed to a real one. This bull is wheeled down through the streets during the annual Hemingway Days Festival.
Once you are done living out your wildest dreams of running with the bulls, it is time to stroll through the many shops in search for the perfect souvenir. There are plenty of souvenir shops that line Duval Street. Whether or not you plan on purchasing anything is besides the point. Popping into the shops for the experience itself is an adventure all on its own. Of course, it would not be a popular landmark if there were not plenty of ghost tours offered here either. One of the best things to do in Key West is to take advantage of their popular ghost tours that happen regularly during the evening and night time hours.
Finally, Duval Street is home to some of the tastiest foods that Key West has to offer. From Seafood to Cuban food to the perfect slice of Key Lime Pie. Your taste buds are sure to fall in love. One thing is for certain here. Duval Street has a little bit of something for every type of traveler. This makes it one of the best things to do in Key West.
2. Visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
One of Key West’s most hidden gems is the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Contrary to what you might think, there’s plenty more than just palm trees and white sandy beaches at Key West has to offer. The butterfly and nature conservancy is one of the best things to do in Key West. Especially if you want to truly enjoy the wonder and beauty of the natural ecosystem here.
When it comes to the types of butterflies here, visitors can expect to encounter over 60 different species of beautiful butterflies. What makes this Conservatory so beautiful is the fact that the butterflies are housed in a glass domed 5,000 square foot aviary. Here, the butterflies have the freedom to roam around in a natural and beautiful environment.
To add to the beauty of the aviary, visitors can expect to find over 3,500 different plants here as well. The plants provide a habitat for the butterflies to thrive in. Lastly, the butterflies are not the only ones who are taking advantage of the foliage here. There are over 20 different species of exotic birds that love to flock through the air in all their majesty.
The Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is wonderful for so many reasons. For starters, it is the perfect place to go to if you are looking to get away. While there are so many fun things to do in Key West, this conservatory offers visitors an opportunity to relax. Visitors can mingle among nature in absolute tranquility. It is the perfect place to go to if you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main town. Not only that but what we love is that this nature conservancy is not just for adults to enjoy. In fact, many children love coming here and soaking in the beauty surrounding them.
If you are traveling with children, then you must take advantage of the educational opportunities here as well. A short film on the life cycle of butterflies is sure to amaze any young visitor. This short film details all that there is to know about these majestic creatures for the first time.
Hours of Operation and Admission
The hours of operations and admissions are pretty favorable here. Not only that, but the Nature Conservatory can work with nearly any travel plan that you have. You can come here every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to experience the natural wonder of the butterflies. If you are coming late, you must make sure to arrive no longer than 4:30 in order to be admitted in. (However, we do recommend you come earlier so that you have adequate time to explore.)
Adult tickets will run you at $12 a person while children aged 4 to 12 cost $8.50. For a great way to spend a morning or afternoon, you can not go wrong coming here. Visiting the Nature Conservatory is easily one of the best things to do in Key West.
3. Visit Dry Tortugas National Park
Credit: US National Archives
One of the neatest and easily one of the best things to do in Key West, Florida is to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park. Right off the bat, this park is easy to identify. This stunning park is an iconic location of the beautiful Key West, Florida. Not only that, but it is home of some of the best beaches in Florida.
To experience this park in its entirety, you will need to take either a private boat or a seaplane to get here. However, there is a daily concession ferry that takes visitors out as well. The difficulty of access to this park is due to the fact that the park stretches almost 70 miles and is mostly open water with seven small Islands. While navigating the park may be a bit tricky, it is absolutely well worth the visit.
One of the most iconic landmarks is the popular Fort Jefferson. Fort Jefferson is located on Garden Key and is noted as one of the nation’s largest 19th century forts in the United States. The unique structure of the fort is comprised of magnificent brick walls that are surrounded by a beautiful mote.
The fort is not the only highlight of this beautiful park. Another popular draw of Dry Tortugas National Park is all the snorkeling and diving that you can do here. The coral reef in this state park drawers out thousands of visitors every year. You can swim with some of nature’s most beautiful creatures in this crystal clear water. In fact, many will tell you that snorkeling or diving at least once here is one of the best ways to experience this park.
If you plan on staying the night, then we encourage you to try out camping at the Dry Tortugas campsite. Camping here is one of the most serene experiences you can have. For starters, the environment is cool all night long so you are sure to feel like you are camping in a tropical paradise. Not only that, but due to the lack of light pollution, the night time sky comes alive with the millions of stars twinkling above you. Wake up to gorgeous sun rises and you will truly understand why Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the best things to do in Key West.
4. Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
Credit: Audubon House
Step back into time and visit the beautiful Audubon House and Tropical Gardens. Ask any Key West native, and they will tell you that this is one of the best things to do in Key West. What makes this destination so unique is the eclectic nature that it offers visitors.
The house itself was built in the 1840s by Mr. John Huling Geiger. However, the house takes its name after the popular ornithologist John James Audubon. When you enter, you will be greeted by some of the most beautiful colonial furniture that has been preserved over the years. Not only that, but you are sure to find plenty of tropical greenery in the garden that was established by the naturalist John James Audubon.
The decor of the house is simply stunning as well. In fact, if you are a travel photographer, then this is one of the best locations to grab some beautiful shots at. And when you head outside to the gardens, you will be in for a treat as well. The lush greenery of the gardens offers the sense that you are in a tropical haven. For many, the gardens of the Audubon House is the biggest attraction. From the many different herbs and beautiful orchards that are housed here, you are sure to be blown away by the beauty. And of course, in true Florida fashion, you are sure to find plenty of colorful tropical flowers that will heighten your experience.
For more in depth experience, visitors should certainly take advantage of the knowledgeable guides here. Not only will they give you an in depth explanation of the grounds, but they will walk you through all there is to know and answer any questions that may pique your curiosity.
Hours of Operation and Admission
To experience the Audubon House, you will simply need to make your way to Old Town. Just one block away from Duval Street, you are sure to find the Audubon House. The hours of operation are every day from 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 pm. If you are an adult, the admissions will run you $14. Children can get in for an admissions fee of $5. And children 6 years and younger are free. If you are a student, then you can get a discounted rate as well. If you are looking to save a dollar off your admissions fee, then simply head on over to the Audubon House’s website and read up on their save a tree coupon. When you mention this coupon, you will get $1 knocked off of your admissions price.
From its stunning beauty, to its rich gardens, visiting the Audubon House is easily one of the best things to do in Key West, Florida. If you are looking for a beautiful place to sightsee and do not have much time to spend, then visiting here for an hour or two is something you are sure not to regret.
5. Visit Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Credit: Fort Zachary
If you ask any local, they will tell you that the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is one of the best state parks our nation has to offer. With all that is going on here, we have to agree strongly. For starters, the state park is situated in the westernmost point of the island. This seclusion here has allowed it to be one of the best kept state parks around.
Not only can you find some of the best Waters in Key West here but the beaches are absolutely in pristine condition. Unlike many beaches across the East Coast, the beaches here are well maintained so they are always nice and clean.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, then the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is a playground for you. There is so much that nature lovers can take advantage of here. For starters, there is plenty of sunbathing to go around. As the saying goes, a bad day in Florida is a good day and anywhere else. So you must take advantage of it.
Along with lounging on the beach and soaking in the sun’s rays, hiking trails are a staple here. Get out into nature and explore the wilderness once you have strapped on your favorite hiking shoes. When you are done exploring the land, it is time to get into the water and explore the underwater mysteries that await for you. When it comes to snorkeling, the best snorkeling is right on the shoreline of Smathers Beach. If you do plan to go snorkeling here, just bring along some water shoes with you. Those who have been here will tell you that the sand is rocky and rough. If you do not tread on it carefully, you run the risk of cutting yourself.
Finally, history buffs can get back onto land when it is time to appreciate the historic significance of Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. In this park, it is a must that you explore the historic fort that is located in the park. This fort dates back to the mid-1800s and was a hotspot during the Civil War and the Spanish American War. To really appreciate the historic significance here, you can take advantage of the guided tours. Typically, there are guided tours that are offered twice every single day.
Hours of Operation and Admission
If you plan on visiting, you will need to time your trip a bit. This State Park is open every day from 8 a.m. until sundown. However, if you want to visit the fort, then you will need to make it out there before 5 p.m. as that is when it closes. If you plan on entering the park with a car, then your standard vehicle will typically run you about $6 for admissions while motorcycles are $4 for admissions. And if you are walking or biking, then admissions is a reasonable $2 per person.
If you are looking for family fun entertainment, and are traveling with children, or simply looking to have a relaxing getaway, then the where you need to be. The Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is easily one of the best things to do in Key West.
6. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Calling all literary lovers, this next destination is for you. Visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is easily one of the best things to do in Key West. For starters, this destination is an absolute beauty. The home of the iconic Ernest Hemingway it is one that truly captures the Persona of the legendary icon.
What makes this particular house so unique is the fact that it was here where some of his finest works were crafted. In fact, his famous titles A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls were conceptualized and written In this very building. If you are suffering from writer’s block, then there is no better place in the state to go to then the house of the master himself.
When it comes to the house itself, visitors are sure to be surprised. The house was one of the first homes in Key West to experience the luxuries of indoor plumbing and pools. Along with the house, when you enter, you are sure to find curious feature. There is an incredible amount of cats who roam the grounds. Legend has it, that many of these cats are direct descendants from Hemingway’s own cat, Snow White. In fact, it is estimated that there are about 40 to 50 cats who roam the dwelling today.
To learn more about the life of the legendary Ernest Hemingway, there are several tours that you can take advantage of. Knowledgeable tour guides will take you on a 30 minutes exploration of the grounds as the guides regale you with the tales of the late Ernest Hemingway. Lastly, on your tour, you must make it a point to visit the beautiful gardens. The landscaping design was in fact delegated by Hemingway’s wife herself, Pauline.
Hours of Operation and Admission
If this sounds like a place that you will enjoy, then we are sure you will not be disappointed. To visit the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum, you can come practically every day of the year including holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admissions for adults is $14 while admissions for kids is $6. The great thing about the admissions fee is that guided tours come fixed into the price. However, before you head out here, you will need to remember to bring cash with you. Cash is the only method of payment that the museum accept. Before you head out, be sure to pop over to the on site bookstore and gift shop. Here, you can find wonderful little trinkets and gifts to take back home with you.
7. Visit the Southernmost Point of The United States
If you plan on visiting Key West, then it is an absolute must that you venture out to the southernmost tip of not only Key West, but the United States as a whole. The southernmost tip of the United States is defined by a colorful buoy that indicates your location. This buoy is easy to locate as it is situated on the intersection of Whitehead and South Streets.
When you get here, you will notice that the buoy is clearly marked with the indication that Cuba is only 90 miles away. For many, the realization of the proximity to Cuba is one that is rather remarkable. While you soak that realization in, you must make it a point to visit the memorial plaque that is located here as well. This plaque is a commemoration for all the Cuban lives that were lost here. The popularity and promise of the United States sent hundreds of Cubans flocking to its shores. Unfortunately, many did not make it on the water. The plaque was placed here to remember all those who lost their lives at sea.
Although visiting the popular landmark is free, its popularity has drawn the downside of plenty of crowds. In order to avoid the crowds, we suggest that you make it out here at the crack of sunrise before all the tourists make their way here as well. If you happen to be a late riser, then you can come during the evening hours as well. The buoy is open 24/7, but it’s much more wonderful to experience during the bright hours of the day.
No matter what type of traveler you are is this easy to say that visiting the southernmost tip of the United States is easley one of the coolest and best things to do in Key West.
8. Visit the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters
Get in touch with the spirit of the island by visiting Key West’s landmark lighthouse and its keeper’s quarters. For many who have not grown up by the sea, visiting this location is simply one of the best things to do in Key West Florida.
This iconic lighthouse was first built in 1848. Since then, the lighthouse has beckoned travelers safely to shore for years. What makes this lighthouse so unique is the fact that it has been preserved so well. Not only that but today this lighthouse is now a museum that gives visitors an in depth understanding of the history of lighthouses in the Florida Keys. The museum is home to some beautiful photographs that take travelers back into time. Not only that, but you can also find some wonderful artifacts that bring the history of lighthouses to life.
Experiencing the lighthouse itself is not for everyone. For starters, you need to be able to make your way up the 88 constricting steps that will take you to the top. However, when you do get to the top, you are sure to fall in love with the view. For many, the view of here is simply one of the best views that Key West has to offer.
Once you have gotten the chance to soak in the beautiful scenery from the top, you must make your way over to the keeper’s quarters. The keeper’s quarters is where the museum is currently housed. When you walk into the keeper’s quarters, you will truly get a sense of what it meant to be the lighthouse keeper back in the mid eighteen hundreds.
Hours of Operation and Admission
Accessing the lighthouse is not without a fee. Admissions for adults currently cost $10. For children who are 6 years and older oh, the admissions fee is half that price. While this quick experience has some arguing that the admissions price is not worth the visit, the view at the top does a great job counterbalancing this thought. After all, if you plan on visiting the Ernest Hemingway home and museum, then it is a must that you cross the street to visit this iconic lighthouse. For many, the history itself here is enough to label it as one of the best things to do in Key West.
With so many wonderful things to do in Key West, Florida, you can easily spend a whole week here and not get bored. For a relaxing getaway that will be one for the books, be sure to include this list of things to do in Key West in your travel plans.
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