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The southernmost city in the U.S., Key West is famous for key lime pie, the home of Ernest Hemingway, and its tropical laid-back vibes. Boasting a colorful history with breathtaking views and plenty of opportunities to indulge in island activities, travelers flock to this tiny seven square mile oasis for its unique mix of cultural influences. To fully appreciate the city’s charm, here are the top things to do in Key West.
Indulge in World-Class Water Activities
What Is It? To truly appreciate all that Key West has to offer, one has to indulge in some of the world-class water activities that are available.
Why Do It? It’s a perfect chance to appreciate Key West’s beautiful landscapes. Some of the most popular activities include guided kayak tours through the mangrove islands, diving through one of the sunken wrecks, and observing wild dolphins on a sunset sail from a catamaran.
Good to Know: Fishing enthusiasts will also be spoiled for choice with plenty of snapper, grouper, and tuna in the waters in addition to opportunities to go deep-sea fishing and catching lobster.
Join the Action on Duval Street
What Is It? Considered Key West’s main tourist strip, Duval Street is a mecca for pastel historic buildings, famous restaurants, and legendary bars that make this city so famous.
Why Do It? Stretching from the Atlantic to the Gulf, Duval is the heartbeat of the town with an energetic atmosphere.
Good to Know: Make sure to visit popular attractions such as the Hog’s Breath Saloon, Key West Aquarium, and nearby Green Parrot Bar.
Take a Day Trip to Smathers Beach
What Is It? While Key West has a few picture-perfect beaches, Smathers Beach is considered the best.
Why Do It? Popular with day-trippers wanting to see one of the island’s famous sunsets, the views are unbeatable at the largest public park in Key West.
Good to Know: The beach also offers picnic areas, volleyball courts, and a range of water sports rentals available for those wanting to make a day trip out of it.
Observe Vibrant Coral Reefs at Dry Tortugas National Park
What Is It? An archipelago of seven reef islands, Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote islands in the United States.
Why Do It? Here the shallow waters are crystal clear and filled with exotic and tropical fish, coral, and marine life right at your fingertips. Nearly 99 percent of this 100-acre park is completely submerged underwater and is popular for snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and bird watching.
Good to Know: Visitors can explore Fort Jefferson, the largest masonry striation in the Western Hemisphere.
Try a Slice of Key Lime Pie
What Is It? The quintessential Florida dessert is made with fresh limes, egg yolks, condensed milk, and often topped with meringue. Tart-but-sweet, the most authentic version of this creamy pie is yellow in color.
Why Do It? One cannot visit Key West and not sample a proper slice (or two) of the famous Key Lime Pie.
Good to Know: Key Lime Pie Bakery offers delicious slices of the epic dessert, or you can try the traditional recipe with a twist at Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, where they dip a slice of the famous pie in chocolate!
Catch a Sunset at Mallory Square
What Is It? The epicenter of Key West come sunset, Mallory Square is a must-see on your visit to Key West.
Why Do It? This former warehouse area boasts a nightly celebration and sunset-watching ritual with live entertainment, shops, and eateries.
Good to Know: Sun-seekers gather on the dock to marvel at the breathtaking views as a variety of entertainment such as musicians, vendors, and even jugglers perform, creating a vibrant carnival-like atmosphere.
Explore a Literary Icon at The Ernest Hemingway House
What Is It? A piece of Key West’s unique history, the Ernest Hemingway House allows literary enthusiasts to explore the residence where Hemingway lived with this wife, Pauline, and their two sons, from 1931 to 1941.
Why Do It? Not only will visitors be able to see the place where Hemingway resided for a decade, but they’ll also hear vibrant stories of the celebrated author.
Good to Know: As an added bonus, visitors are able to observe the approximately forty six-toed cats that are descendants of the late author’s former pet, Snow White.
Interact with Nature at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
What Is It? Filled with over 50 species of butterflies, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a popular family-friendly attraction in Key West.
Why Do It? It is an impressive 5,000 square foot aviary where visitors can explore butterfly anatomy, physiology, life cycle, and the migratory world of these gorgeous winged creatures.
Good to Know: In addition, the conservatory has over 20 exotic bird species, 3,500 plants, and tranquil waterfalls, making it a perfect day trip for nature lovers of all ages.
Relax at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
What Is It? Florida’s southernmost state park, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is a National Historic Landmark and is known for having some of the best waters in Key West.
Why Do It? Visitors will find plenty of opportunities for sunbathing, hiking, biking and fishing, in addition to a heavy dose of Florida history. It’s also considered one of the best snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys.
Good to Know: Built in the 1800s, the fort here was used to defend the nation’s coastline during the Civil and Spanish-American War.
Snap the Famous Buoy on the Southernmost Point
What Is It? Located at the intersection of Whitehead and South streets, the famous buoy is said to be just 90 miles north of Cuba.
Why Do It? Made of concrete and colored in with red, black, and yellow design, here visitors will find a picture-perfect backdrop for souvenir photos.
Good to Know: Enjoy the atmosphere around the Southernmost Point, which includes a lively area filled with street vendors and performers.
Celebrate the End of Prohibition at Sloppy Joe's
What Is It? Sloppy Joe’s is an iconic drinking hole in Key West that has been serving libations to Key West locals for many decades.
Why Do It? A must-see destination for history enthusiasts, Sloppy Joe’s is famous for having served Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s.
Good to Know: It opened its doors to its patrons on December 5th, 1933, the exact day Prohibition ended.
Experience the Paranormal at the East Martello Museum
What Is It? The inspiration behind Chucky, one of the most terrifying film franchises to date, Robert the Doll is currently located in the Fort East Martello Museum.
Why Do It? Similar to the movie, Robert is a 111-year-old toy that is said to be cursed and possessed by evil spirits. Once owned by Gene Otto in the 1900s, there are claims that the doll terrorized visitors and would laugh manically while neighbors spotted the doll pacing in front of the windows of its home.
Good to Know: Now safely in a museum, paranormal enthusiasts can visit the haunted doll in a glass case.