So, you are thinking of planning a trip to Key West, and you are wondering what the best things to do while you are there. The great thing about Key West is that it’s beautiful and there is always something to do, but if you do nothing, you are still going to have a great time. Fortunately, we have put together a top ten list of what we think are the best things to do in Key West.
Driving Through the Keys and the 7-Mile Bridge
We start with this one, and sure, it’s not technically Key West, but it is one of the ways you get to Key West. You have the option to fly straight into Key West, but the best way to get to the Conch Republic is to drive through the Florida Keys.
There really is something magical about crossing over from Miami/Homestead into Key Largo, where the water changes colors and things just slow down. The drive is a bucket-list item for many and once you drive it, it is easy to see why that is.
Best plan – fly into Miami, rent a convertible, put the top down, take your time, and drive all the way down. Stop when you see something you want to do or experience. There are a million recommendations we could give you through the Florida Keys, but this blog is about getting to Key West. We’ll plan another blog for that. 😉 You’ll go over the 7-mile bridge as you get closer to Key West and that is a very cool experience. Nothing but road over crystal blue water, for 7 miles. This is number one on the list for a reason! Check out this self-guided narrated tour you can even take along with you to learn more along the way.
Mallory Square Sunset
Toasting the sunset truly is a celebration in Key West. Once we did it the first time in Mallory Square, we came home and now try to do it anytime we are home or free anywhere to do so. Mallory Square is the best location because it has a great view over the water to see the sunset, but also there are musicians, like our fave, Mustafa, vendors selling drinks, and other people to enjoy the sunset along with you. It’s just a really positive environment, and we just love it! Make time for at least one sunset at Mallory Square while you’re in the Conch Republic.
Jet Ski Tour
We are so excited this is on the list. We did this for the first time this past trip, and it is one of the most fun adventures in the Keys that we’ve ever had! If you’re down for an adventure, this is for you! What is better than experience in Key West on land? Let us tell you… experiencing it from a jet ski on the water! Barefoot Billy’s jet ski tour allows you to hop on a jet ski and take a tour of the blue sea around Key West. You get to see marine life, go at your own pace, but see Key West from a point of view that you’ve never even imagined! Love this and you will too!
Similar to the jet ski adventure, when you are in the Keys, one of the things you have to take advantage of is a water adventure. The waters in the Florida Keys are crystal blue, and gorgeous! Going snorkeling doesn’t take any extra certifications and is easy to learn. You can book a boat snorkeling trip easily, and they are a lot of fun! There are a ton to choose from with different themes, but essentially most of them take you out on a reef where you can see a lot of marine life, colors that you would never see on land or in the water close to shore. It’s a great way to experience the ocean and appreciate it.
Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
The butterfly conservatory is not only a place to go and visit butterflies, it’s an experience. It is more like butterfly heaven, with flamingos and birds, too. When you walk through, you feel a little like Snow White or like you’re in a Disney fairy tale. You all of a sudden slow down, feel at ease, and if you weren’t on island time already, well, you will be here. It’s magical! It’s supposed to be good luck if a butterfly lands on you, so here’s hoping one lands on you while you are there. The butterfly conservatory is not only beautiful, but it’s a great way to get a break from the heat. No matter what time you visit the Lower Keys, it’s usually hot. So, when you venture inside, it’s usually a respite from the high temps. You can also book the Key West Conch Train Tour which will take you all around Key West’s tourist spots, including the Conservatory, so you can hop on and of as you please.
Rent a Bike and Ride Around the Island
Key West, the island itself, is fairly small. However, when you visit, you’re on foot most of the time. You usually only see the parts that you can walk to because you don’t have a car, or don’t want to get into a car to get to the other side of the island for any reason. Renting a bike allows you to maneuver your way through back streets off of Duval and see parts of the island that you wouldn’t see otherwise. We have been able to go to a local farmer’s market that we wouldn’t have known about, a plant nursery where we bought an aloe plant that we still have and love, dined at restaurants that are off the beaten path and had drinks at local dives that you don’t see on the tourist websites. Riding a bike on the island is how you experience Key West through the back door.
You probably wouldn’t think of going to Key West without going to visit the bars on Duval, but just in case, we added it to the list. Partaking in drinks at the Key West bars on Duval is most often called the “Duval Crawl” for a reason. Duval Street has many bars: Sloppy Joe’s, Rick’s, Captain Tony’s, Hogs Breath… all of the bars that you’ve heard of and are synonymous with Key West, but there are a ton of other bars that you may not have heard about that are just as fun! We highly recommend that you hydrate, but definitely experience the drinking aspect of Key West! There are really great bartenders who make fantastic cocktails, so don’t just stick to the piña coladas and margaritas,(those are yummy) ask the bartenders what their specialties are and try those out! You may find a new fave! You can book the Duval Crawl here.
Eat at Key West Locally Owned Restaurants
Similar to the drinking aspect, you must come to Key West prepared to eat. Though there are restaurants that we adore on Duval- Bagatelle is a fave, we highly recommend that you venture off of Duval here and there. Venturing off of Duval gets you to some really great dining like Cafe Marquesa, Pepe’s, Two Friends, Abbondanza, just to name a few, but let’s not forget the dessert restaurant, Better Than Sex that is a huge inspiration for some of our fave cocktails! Leave your diet at home when you come to Key West!
The Ernest Hemingway House is one of those historic homes that you may think you should pass up, but no, we really recommend this. Ernest Hemingway is one of the great stories of Key West! You can venture the property on your own, but do yourself a favor and at least go through the house and property with a tour guide once so that you get all of the fun stories of Papa. You’ll have some really great memories of Papa and Key West to take home with you. Bonus- you’ll get to see a lot of the Hemingway six-toed cats. They are a lot of fun! They have really cute names like Joe Dimaggio, Bette Davis, and Ava Gardner, just to name a few. If you are a Hemingway fan, the Hemingway’s Life and Local Food Walking Tour is a great option.
Go See a Cabaret or Drag show
Last but certainly not least, you must, must, must go see a drag or cabaret show! There are a few places to do this, but Aqua and 801 Bourbon have really great choices for drag and La Te Da for cabaret. The best talent in the world is in Key West! Cher even hires her own Cher impersonator from Key West. Good times, indeed!
There are a ton of other things to do in Key West that are not on this list, but we wanted to pick what we thought were the best 10 out of all of the times we have visited. We hope this list helps you in your planning, and that you enjoy your time in the Conch Republic as we do!
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