Colourful coral reefs. Six-toed cats. A haunted doll. Key West, Florida could also be probably the most distinctive locations in America: roosters roam the streets, drag queens rule the nightlife, and Cuba’s shut proximity colours its historical past. All the island is a colourful, tropical feast for the senses. Is that this paradise? I assumed it could be much less …. bizarre?
To essentially respect Key West in all of its quirky glory, you additionally need to 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 residence.
So, we tapped an insider to present us the inside track on Key West’s most unusual and fantastic locations to assist us out. Right here’s every part you have to know to plan your journey, and all of the quirkiest, greatest 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 here are just a few useful issues to know whereas planning your journey to Key West:
- When is the perfect time to go to Key West? The very best time to go to Key West is late fall. By this time of 12 months, it is going to be within the 80s-90s in the course of 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 time vacationer season may also have ended, so the island shall be much less crowded and locations to remain will usually be cheaper.
- Ought to I rent a car? I wouldn’t advocate it. The island is so small you’ll be able to Uber/Lyft to the place you’re staying, then stroll or bike to almost every part else you have to. Should you do select to rent a car, 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. Should you do select to drive, convey change: you’ll be parking on the road more often than not and many of the meters solely take actual change. The one advantage of renting a automotive is that you could take a scenic drive down the Overseas Highway, the place you’ll be able to cease and take footage of the ocean only some toes away from the highway.
- How do I get to Key West? You may fly instantly into the Key West International 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 appears 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 format: tiki bar, safety guard, two baggage claims, and a rest room. It’s superb.
- How do I get round in Key West? You may stroll and bike in every single place! Key West is a compact island, and many of the locations you’ll need to go to shall be not more than a 5-15 minute stroll or brief bike journey, 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 woman whose pet gator rides a motorcycle and wears clothes – the remainder of the nation thinks that Florida (no less than outdoors of Disney World) is a bizarre thriller land.
Nicely, I’m not going to argue with that. However should you actually need Florida weirdness, it’s important to go to Key West.
Key West is Florida’s quirky little island paradise. It has a protracted historical past of navy involvement as a consequence of its strategic location, in addition to being thought-about a secure place for LGBTQ+ folks. Whilst you received’t discover Mickey Mouse right here, there are many drag reveals, a residing doll, and numerous cats.
There are just a few extra issues you have to learn about Key West earlier than you go (which will or could not truly aid you plan your journey):
- There are numerous chickens in Key West. You will hear and see extra chickens than you ever have earlier than in your life right here. Cockfighting was well-liked in Key West within the 1800s and 1900s, till it was banned. When that occurred, all of the chickens have been abruptly 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 full of six-toed cats. I blame Ernest Hemingway, who lived there and had a 6-toed cat, so it’s seemingly numerous 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 likewise iguanas. The inexperienced iguanas are an invasive species believed to be stowaways on ships from Central and South America, and so they’re thought-about fairly a neighborhood nuisance (apparently, they like to dig up graves). That stated, depart eradication to the professionals. Iguanas are superb, lovely animals and also you may assume it’s okay to select them up for an image – however it’s not okay. It stresses the animal, and so they might critically damage you with their claws! On your personal security, don’t contact them.
- Key West is an LGBTQ+-friendly place! Within the 70s-90s, Key West was thought-about a secure place for younger LGBTQ+ folks to go in the event that they wanted shelter. At present, Key West’s tradition is basically 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 are feeling uncomfortable, perhaps simply keep residence and do some inner reflection.)
- Florida has a big homeless inhabitants, particularly on Key West. Going to the Keys, you will note poverty proper subsequent to very wealthy folks, and when you have some further change or meals, it received’t go unappreciated by them. Please needless to say the oldsters experiencing homelessness are our neighbors, and never a blight or an eyesore. Among the people that you will note can also be scuffling with psychological sicknesses. Though this may be startling, keep in mind that these persons 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 ailing, whose circumstances may be exacerbated by the stress of homelessness. Please take into account serving to the native homeless group by donating to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. You may make a financial donation online or donate clothes, non-perishable meals, and unopened hygiene objects at Loaves & Fish Meals Pantry at 2221 Patterson Ave in Key West.
- Key West as soon as seceded from the US and declared itself the Conch Republic. In 1982, the united statesgovernment 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. Nicely, Key West isn’t a spot for passive folks, and that didn’t sit effectively with them. So Key West’s then-mayor declared himself Prime Minister of the Conch Republic and instantly declared conflict on the US of America by symbolically halving a stale loaf of Cuban bread over the pinnacle of an individual carrying 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 rancid bread. They dispersed when the Coast Guard sprayed a hose again at them. Wikipedia has a brief run-down on the complete 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 whilst you’re at it, use the Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour, which fits to 13 spots round city and is a enjoyable, academic method 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 possibly 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 quarter-hour later. Should you hate rain, my greatest recommendation is to both be taught to adore it, or pray to the rain gods that you simply’ll be blessed sufficient to not expertise any rain. If these choices don’t work, simply convey a poncho.
- Key West seashores are literally fairly rocky. Regardless of its picture-perfect look in most photographs, numerous spots on the island are fairly rocky on the shore, then regularly the rocks give method to a sandy backside. These could be a ache to stroll over to get to the sandy a part of the ocean, so water shoes or Teva sandals are really helpful.
What To Pack For Key West
I’m not going to inform you precisely what number of clothes or pairs of shorts to pack (I belief you’ll be able to determine that out by yourself) BUT I do have some ideas for must-have necessities. Throw these in your carry-on suitcase (this is our favorite!) and also you’ll be all set.
- Lightweight Travel Clothesline: Keep away from the dreaded seaside chafe and hold your bathing fits up on this sturdy clothesline that matches within the palm of your hand! Tip: hold it up in entrance of a sunny window reasonably than in your damp, darkish toilet for quicker drying.
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Going into the ocean? You’ll have to put on coral-friendly sunscreen. Except you hate coral, fish, and likewise all of human life. Reef-safe sunscreen is designed to biodegrade and never hurt ocean life. Regular sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift loss of life from local weather change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, don’t put on common sunscreen within the ocean! Here’s a full-sized bottle and right here’s a travel-sized version for carry-on baggage.
- Mineral Sunscreen: That is the least dangerous sort of sunscreen, in keeping with science. It’s higher each on your physique and for the setting.
- Rash Guard: Because you’ll be snorkeling and swimming and usually spending numerous time along with your naked again dealing with the tough solar, I extremely advocate bringing alongside a rash guard, which is specifically designed for swimming in salt water. There are even swim leggings constituted 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 carrying sunscreen and it’s not nice for marine life!
- Snorkel Stuff: Bringing your personal snorkel gear is a lot extra comfy than the equipment normally supplied with excursions, and it provides you the choice to snorkel by yourself on the places really helpful beneath! As many of the locations really helpful listed here are secure to snorkel with out a tour you must throw a snorkel mask and just a little bottle of anti-fog spray in your suitcase.
- Water Shoes: For each minute that you simply’re not carrying flippers, you’ll need to be carrying these. Whether or not you’re attempting to stroll over rocks – they’re fairly, however they damage so unhealthy – or simply wading into some water, your un-cut toes will thank me later. I swear by my trusty Tevas, and Jeremy likes basic close-toed water shoes. A reader lately advised these nifty water shoes that seem like cute tennis sneakers and may be worn out and in of the water, and we’re excited to strive them out! (Right here’s the dude version.) You may learn extra about our favourite journey sneakers in our journey sneakers critiques for men & for women.
- Travel Towel: I at all times convey a light-weight, quick-drying, packable full-sized travel towel with me to the seaside! I additionally advocate bringing a sandproof Beach 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 day by day clothes merchandise and his swimsuit. They’re a 2-for-1, which is tremendous handy for journey, and so they work nice! They dry shortly, making them excellent 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 women’s version, made out of the identical stretchy quick-drying materials as my climbing pants.
- Extremely-Gentle Rain Jackets (His & Hers): Our favourite rain jackets are a few of the greatest jackets for journey. They’re ultralight and pack down into nothing so that they’re straightforward to hold round, and so they’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 suggestions, try our curvy-girl friendly beach packing list!
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 someday, you’re going to want someplace to remain. I like to recommend staying proper in the midst of all of it near Duval Avenue within the lovely, historic Outdated City space.
One key factor to notice, although: though there are many AirBnBs on the island, native laws require a 28-night minimal keep. So should you’re not a distant employee on the lookout for a month in paradise, you’ll need to e book a resort, resort, condominium, or correctly licensed trip rental. I’ve included just a few picks beneath.
- Boutique Resort: The charming Wicker Guesthouse is situated only one block from the Ernest Hemingway Home, with a tropical backyard and an out of doors pool. Rooms embody microwaves and a small fridge, you’ll be able to hire bikes on-site, and also you’re solely a 10-minute stroll from South Seashore.
- Trip Dwelling: The Secret Garden presents a captivating non-public oasis, with two bedrooms, a completely stocked kitchen, and entry to a shared pool.
- AirBnB: The brilliant, sunny Sugarpoppy Cottage is colourful, charming, budget-friendly, and has probably the most 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 middle of all of it. I’ve by no means been so tempted to select up and transfer to Key West for a month as I’m taking a look at this place.
The Finest 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! Of us, I’m OBSESSED with snorkeling. Coral reefs are a complete new world to discover: beneath the blue water there’s an abundance of fish and neon-colored coral to see. With all of the life right here, you’ll be able to 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, just a few essential notes: at all times use the buddy system, don’t contact the coral -for your security in addition to its – and be sure to’re carrying reef-safe sunscreen, NOT common sunscreen.
Should you’re not assured about your snorkeling abilities otherwise you’ve by no means gone earlier than, we included just a few guided tour choices.
What wildlife can I see whereas snorkeling?
Key West has numerous large, lovely 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. Should you go snorkeling and see these fish close to coral, cease swimming for a second and listen- Parrotfish hold coral clear by utilizing their tooth to scrape them, and you may truly 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 reasonably than a coral reef, since they graze on seagrass. Should you 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 full of bottlenose dolphins, so the chance of you seeing just a few leaping and taking part in within the water is fairly excessive. Dolphins in Florida oftentimes give delivery in spring and summer time, so should you go to throughout these occasions 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 may swim proper over one with out even noticing it! The best method to spot a stingray in sand is by on the lookout for a sandy rock that seems to have eyes, and generally a tail if the actual stingray is feeling too lazy to bury itself in all the way in which. Nonetheless, if a Large Manta Ray passes by you, you undoubtedly received’t have the ability to miss it. When these rays are born, they’re already six toes vast, and an grownup can soar via the water with lengths of 24 toes.
- Sea Turtles: Should you’re actually fortunate, you may 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 truly 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 am going snorkeling in Key West?
Key West is surrounded by reefs, however they’re just a little methods offshore – the best method to get to them is by boat. That stated, there are just a few 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 could moderately swim to is the one in Fort Zachary Taylor. The admission for pedestrians is $2.50 and you may spend the complete day there- there’s not solely swimming, however the park is understood for having many tropical species of birds you’ll be able to see. These reefs could also be your greatest probability to catch a glimpse on the elusive sea turtle as effectively! Since you can be by yourself on this reef, be sure to convey your personal snorkeling gear or hire one on the park (both method, pack anti-fog spray).
- Dry Tortugas National Park: Due to efforts by the native authorities to maintain the island reefs alive, this reef is wholesome and blissful – so if you wish to see one that’s actually thriving that is the place to go. It’s colourful, with a wide range of coral species and loads of fish to see! Dry Tortugas can be residence to historic Fort Jefferson. Word that as a way to get to Dry Tortugas it’s important to take a ship and buy an entrance price to the Nationwide Park. This day trip contains spherical journey ferry service, snorkel gear, breakfast and lunch, and an non-compulsory guided historic tour.
- Ebook a Snorkeling Tour: The benefit of snorkel excursions is that they’ll 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 US and the third-largest on the planet – on a 69-foot catamaran for 3 hours of enjoyable within the water. Or, take a big gamble on the Island Adventure Eco Tour: every tour is completely different and the snorkeling location varies relying on the climate and what animals are swimming round the place! You can even select to finish your afternoon with kayaking at sundown – what an ideal Key West day!
Test Out Key West’s Historic Houses
Key West’s historical past has formed it into the quirky vacation spot it’s at present, 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 pleasant!
Earlier than the island’s title 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 have been off on the lookout for the Fountain of Youth.
Earlier than the arrival of the Spanish, the Florida Keys, together with Key West, have been inhabited by the Calusa and Tequesta peoples, who have been often known as expert fishermen and professional sailors. Sadly, each the Calusa and Tequesta folks have 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’s some debate that the title is also attributed to the limestone rocks and reef formations that additionally seemed like big sun-bleached bones.
Whereas Key West’s waters could have hosted pirates once in a while, 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 US in 1821, however it’s straightforward 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 here are a few of the most well-known historic spots you’ll be able to try on the island:
Hemingway Home & Museum
Hemingway House & Museum is in Outdated 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 large attraction on Key West for good purpose – Hemingway was a prolific author in the course of the Twenties 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 Thirties, and is the person who I’ve determined to totally blame for all of the cats on the island (in keeping with the official web site, greater than forty cats, who’re all named, dwell right here).
On a private observe, 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 must see is the long-lasting crimson Customized Home, simply off of Mallory Sq. in one of many essential elements of city. The home was constructed within the 1800s and was the Customs constructing in Key West. Through the Spanish-American War, the Customized Home was residence 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 conflict on Spain.
At present, the Customized Home is the location for the Key West Museum of Art & History. Lots of its everlasting exhibitions relate to the Spanish-America Struggle, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Key West’s function in these historic occasions. Since there’s a naval base on the island, radar and intelligence stations have been arrange on Key West in the course of the Nineteen Sixties. Through the blockade of Cuba, reconnaissance planes have 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 just a few darker reveals chronicling a few of the tales that could possibly be straight out of a Gothic novel. One in all these reveals is a couple of “love story” (psyche, it was truly horrifying and creepy) between a neighborhood German physician and his affected person, who died of Tuberculosis.
As a substitute of accepting her loss of life – 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 may be taught all in regards to the creepy story of Carl Tanzler on the museum.
Audubon Home Museum & Tropical Gardens
Now often known as the Audubon House, this residence 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 industry was large in Key West due to the treacherous close by reefs, and males like Geiger – uh, government-sanctioned thieves, I assume? – would take and resell valuables from the ships. He grew to become one of many richest males on the island.
Throughout this time, anti-abolitionist, white supremacist, and chook fanatic John Aubudon visited the house and was fascinated by its gardens, and at present 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.”
Lots of his chook work line the home to this present day, and when the museum was opened in 1960 full together with his art work, it was named after him. You may go to the museum to get an thought of how rich folks as soon as lived in Key West.
- Editor’s Word: 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, reasonably than tackling the hard-to-swallow fact about how their wealth was made by attainable by enslaved women and men. It’s excessive time for museums like this one to transform their narratives to be extra sincere, and for us as vacationers to withhold our monetary assist till that shift takes place. For historic accuracy in regards to the ugly actuality of rich life within the Antebellum south, we advocate visiting the Owens-Thomas House in Savannah, Georgia – read our Savannah post to find out why – or one among these historic house museums as a substitute.
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 just a few of Key West’s resident animals, there are numerous nice locations to go to do precisely that:
This park has one of many nicest sandy seashores on the island! For $2.50, you’ll be able to spend the complete day swimming, snorkeling and on the lookout for the numerous tropical species of birds the park is understood for.
You’ll seemingly see herons and cormorants should you hold an eye fixed out and go searching less-populated mangrove areas, the place these birds prefer to wade to catch fish. Should you’re actually fortunate, you may even see a sea turtle out by the reefs, that are accessible from the shore.
The birds in Key West are all lovely, however my favourite is the Roseate Spoonbill. (Enjoyable Truth: I assumed it was the Rose Spoonbill till I seemed it as much as fact-check myself, so perhaps I shouldn’t name it my favourite.) Should you see a pink chook 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 she or he’ll use her birds as official witnesses. I actually need to see a marriage right here, I feel it’d be superior.
That stated: the worst half about this place is that the birds may 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, full of 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 – should you’re fortunate, one may 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 growth to Key West since a lot of them have six toes reasonably 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 may also be seen close to the docks, watching small fish swim round within the ocean beneath them. I’ve but to see a cat bounce in to seize one, however I’m certain they need to.
The chickens are right here as a result of within the 1800s, cockfighting was well-liked on the island till it was banned and all of those chickens have been deserted on the island. Regardless of being descended from hardened preventing chickens, the chickens appear to get alongside fairly effectively 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 numerous lovable child chickens operating round on the island! I really like seeing a rooster stroll out with one or two infants behind her, then just a few seconds later three extra infants come out of the bushes and stroll in a line behind her throughout the highway.
- Editor’s Word: Should you 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 Square is full of native outlets and stalls promoting souvenirs alongside handcrafted items and domestically made artwork (plus just a few chain shops and vacationer traps thrown within the combine). Purchasing may be a good way to assist native companies and peek at native curiosities.
Listed here 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 business was as soon as a significant supply of earnings for Key West. – you’ll be able to be taught extra about that historical past on the Sponge Market. However traditionally, sponges have been harvested utilizing a hooking method that rips off most of a sponge, leaving the sponges with lower than a 50% probability of survival. At present, they’re harvested via slicing strategies which solely takes a bit off at a time so the sponge can regrow. Resulting from this, they could be a bit expensive, however they final for a extremely very long time and work as pure exfoliants while you bathe. If you go snorkeling within the pure reefs round Key West, hold an eye fixed out for sponges! You may see them in shallow waters. However don’t contact them or take them residence with you – buy a sustainably harvestested one at a neighborhood store as a substitute.
- Attempt some Rum: On Mallory Sq., Key West’s First Legal Rum Distillery (self-proclaimed the official rum of the Conch Republic!) has loads of rum to freely pattern and purchase. The distillery is situated in an previous turn-of-the-century constructing that used to function a saloon in 1900 – you’ll be able to 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 may 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-Dimension Bronze Sculptures: In Mallory Sq., in entrance of the aforementioned Customized Home, you’ll discover numerous bronze statues. Seward Johnson was a sculptor who donated his creations to varied museums across the nation – and the statues are circulated amongst completely different museums each few years.
Editor’s Word: One other well-liked native landmark is the Shell Warehouse, however we don’t advocate patronizing it due to the harm that the demand for seashell souvenirs trigger to marine environments – read more here.
Take A Picture 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 photographs as a memento of your journey!
Not solely are you able to try some glorious views, however you too can go to the southernmost level of the US. Listed here are a few of the greatest photograph spots in Key West:
- Key West Lighthouse: This lighthouse is precisely what you image while you consider a basic lighthouse: tall, white, and stately. Constructed within the mid-1800s, you’ll be able to’t miss its bleached white exterior in opposition to the inexperienced and blue panorama. Step inside and you may be taught just a little 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 have been open to women. 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 top-of-the-line locations to take footage. Sadly for me, these photographs are wasted, as a result of the one ones I’ve are tremendous blurry selfies of me in center faculty with a bizarre facet half and nobody is ever allowed to see that once more.
- Bonus Tip: On the high of the tower, search for yachts on the water and bear in mind the names of them so you’ll be able to look them up – generally well-known folks cruise by!
- Southernmost Point Buoy: Situated 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 once 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 normally ridiculously lengthy at most occasions in the course of the day and, for my part, not price it. Should you actually need to get an image with out ready in line, go early within the morning or actually late at evening.
- Mile Marker 0: Mile Marker 0 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 assume too many individuals learn about this signal right here as a result of I’ve by no means seen it crowded. Mile Marker 0 is a road down from Duval, on Whitehead, and is definitely worth the brief stroll to get a fast photograph alternative.
- Overseas Highway: In case you are driving down from the mainland to Key West, you can be driving down the Abroad Freeway. The freeway will take you effectively above the crystal clear waters of the Keys, and you may see reefs from the bridge. Different elements of the freeway will take you solely toes from the water, and you may 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 could seize the string of islands from the seaside subsequent to the freeway.
- Duval at Night: Duval at evening time is lit up by all of the bars, outlets, and partiers. If you wish to take photographs with lots happening in them, stroll round Duval at evening with a prepared digital camera. Who is aware of what’s going to stroll by in entrance of you? A drag queen, a person carrying an indication proclaiming the top of the world (talking from expertise), or a person with parrots on his shoulders are simply a few of the stuff you may 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 selected sort of lime that’s extra fruity and fewer acidic than the traditional limes yow will discover at a grocery retailer. They solely develop natively in, you guessed it, the Keys!
Key Lime Pie is a refreshing summer time dessert, and whereas some folks say you may 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 you might not know is that with Cuba being simply 90-miles south of Key West, the island takes many culinary cues from their neighbor as effectively. To be taught all about Key West’s culinary scene whereas sight-seeing (and, in fact, consuming), check out this local-led food & walking tour!
Listed here are a few of 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 Coffee 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 – large and baked to a flaky and crunchy perfection – however you should 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 residence to cats, chickens AND child chickens, so that you simply may make some animal associates whilst you eat! Should you’ve by no means had fresh-caught seafood, that is the place to strive it, and their Surf-N-Turf dish serves as a incredible introduction. The fish melts in your mouth and is effectively seasoned with a novel mix of spices that’s barely salty and spicy. Blue Heaven additionally has a Rooster Graveyard, which incorporates the stays of cockfighting roosters and a few of Blue Heaven’s newer 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 certain to get you within the island spirit.
- Dessert that’s Higher than Intercourse: Better Than Sex is THE romantic dessert date spot to go to. Two Key West locals opened it in 2008, and it received so well-liked they needed to transfer to a much bigger location the following block over inside two years! Whereas it has lately expanded out of state, that is the unique and the place the house owners reside, so you must cease right here no less than 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 selection. 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 among the most haunted cities in Florida, and the lifeless 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 could possibly 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 residence 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 in the course of the Cold War. In Key West, you’ll be able to see the lasting marks of a checkered historical past.
I extremely advocate 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 fulfill just a few of Key West’s notable ghosts:
You know the way many of the dolls are made to be no less than semi-cute? Not Robert.
Robert was made within the early 1900s, within the likeness of his proprietor, Robert Otto. There’s such a scarcity of facial particulars in Robert that it appears 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 together with his unique proprietor, folks reported his facial features altering and the doll shifting by himself. After his proprietor’s loss of life, he was moved to the Fort East Martello Museum, the place he lives at present.
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 1-3 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 have been beady…
The Trolley of the Doomed will take you on a late-night journey via essentially the most haunted elements 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 good place to get your spooky repair. Moreover the supernatural, this cemetery incorporates 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 in the course of the time of the revolution, there was numerous assist on the island for Cuba’s fighters to win. This led to some Cuban-Individuals returning to struggle within the revolution, with solely their our bodies returning residence.
Different elements of the cemetery are much less critical; Key West’s lifeless 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, should you go right here, please respect the lifeless… or else the ghost of the cemetery may hang-out you. I’ve by no means seen her (fortunately), however legend has it that should you disrespect the cemetery in any method, an previous Bahamian lady will strategy you and scold you, or threaten you if she finds you deserving of it. Additionally, you recognize, the grave-digging iguanas may get you.
The Ghost Hosts are undead guides, costumed as one of many island’s well-known ghosts and greater than prepared to share all of the ugly particulars of their very own loss of life 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 most likely the one restaurant in America that has a graveyard in it, but when I’m mistaken, 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 remarkable till the Seventies, when it grew to become 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 Nineteen Eighties, 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 area is thrilling and enjoyable, however bear in mind that it’s also an area the place LGBTQ+ folks can categorical themselves safely and freely. Up till lately, homosexual golf equipment have been one of many few locations that LGBTQ+ folks might go with out worry 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, cloth and feathers in all kinds of colours and patterns, excessive make-up you’ll be able to see from a mile away, and extremely outlined shapes. Drag is each visible and efficiency artwork – and comedy at its best.
You need to know that drag reveals are a staple of homosexual areas, and oftentimes have sexual content material. In case you are unfamiliar with drag, try RuPaul’s Drag Race on Hulu or try some performances on YouTube. It’s additionally customary to tip your favourite drag queens, so make sure to convey some money!
Should you’re able to have a superb 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 grew to become 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 may take heed to them dance and sing earlier than the comedy portion of the present.
Truthful warning: should you’re within the entrance rows, you’ll most likely 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 should you occur to be in Key West on New 12 months’s Eve, as a substitute of the ball drop, you’ll be able to see 801’s premier Drag Queen, Sushi, dropping from a excessive heel shoe as a substitute. That’s Key West for you!
Additionally situated on Duval, Aqua isn’t only a present – it’s additionally an evening membership. This place is LOUD. I might need talked about just a few occasions that Duval is loud and this membership is certainly one of many the reason 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 reveals, with dancing, lip-syncing, and loads of costumes, with choreographed dances for each tune. Not like 801 Bourbon, the drag tends to give attention to feminine phantasm, the artwork of trying like a girl. 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 celebration till the top of the evening and sleep it off so you’ll be able to celebration 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 form of occasion happening. Test Key West’s official calendar for native performs, live shows, and video games.
A pleasant reminder earlier than you determine you need to come to 1: Key West festivals are multi-day affairs, with a LOT of ingesting. However should you’re up for a weirdly good time, listed here are the 2 greatest festivals in Key West that showcase every part that quirky Key West has to supply:
Each April, the Conch Republic throws their 10 day independence day celebration. Whereas this competition 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 seaside clean-up, so be sure to try this to get a way of the island past partying. If you wish to develop into 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 really like D&D, I really like dressing up, and I personal a sword. (Sadly, it’s only a high-quality pretend one, however I’m studying sword struggle with it, so be careful.) So imagine me after I say the Fantasy Fest is the PLACE for nerds like me!
Individuals are dressed up in wild costumes- these aren’t low-cost Halloween costumes, these are selfmade, high-quality costumes made by individuals who love the artwork. Dragons, mermaids, princesses, and actually, something the party-goers select to be. Should you attend this competition, I’d strongly advocate bringing one thing to put on, even when it’s simply an previous Halloween costume. You don’t need to be the odd one out not carrying one thing enjoyable.
I feel the perfect a part of this competition is that its objective is to assist folks residing with HIV/AIDS and unfold consciousness. Within the 8 weeks main as much as Fantasy Fest, there’s a fundraiser for AIDS Help, a non-profit group. Key West is traditionally a secure area for minorities, particularly LGBT+ members, and the island was hit arduous in the course of the Nineteen Eighties 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” elements of the island. Oh, and when you 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 should you’re not used to it, you may end up sweating lots. 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 competition 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 undecided what it is- perhaps it’s the way in which 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 shiny colours to a blue evening with tons of stars. There isn’t numerous mild air pollution within the Keys, so the celebrities shine brighter than they might in cities.
It actually does seem like one thing out of a portray and cameras simply don’t do it justice! Listed here are just a few methods to get pleasure from Key West’s unimaginable sunsets:
Sundown cruises are actually well-liked, 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 celebration – and are the very best method to see the sundown.
Most of those excursions are about two hours lengthy, returning at round 7pm. Word that since these are sailboats, the downstairs area of the boat is just about only a toilet and never an area to cover from the solar, so should you burn as badly as I do be sure to convey sunblock!
Should you’re touring along with your companion, e book an intimate cruise like Danger’s Charters Wind & Wine Sunset Sail Sitting on a ship and watching the sundown collectively is such a romantic method to spend time with one another!
For a livelier night, Cool Key West is a good selection, 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 road artists arrange cubicles to promote their items and carry out. You may take within the ocean breeze whereas celebrating the great thing about the sundown and watching folks swallow swords or juggle hearth.
Should you (by some means) become bored with 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 each day, in Key West and is the right method to rejoice 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 faculty and having fun with life because it comes. For me, that features discovering the bizarre and wacky elements of life and having fun with them as a lot as attainable. Should you like that too, then we are able to most likely be associates.
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