So you’re going to Key West? You’re going to have a great time–there is no more laid-back place on earth. There’s a reason Hemingway chose here of all places to call home, and it’s because there are really no troubles in Key West.
It has beautiful beaches and island scenery, with none of the bustle. There’s no stress, no rush, no emergencies. Just the Keys, the sunshine and maybe you.
This is a popular destination for South Floridians who want to get away, and for that reason it can get overly crowded on Labor Day, Memorial Day and Fantasy Fest weekends. Avoid these dates if you want to experience Key West the way you’re meant to–one sunset at a time.
For those looking to get in a little bit of tourism, I highly recommend getting a Groupon for one of the hop-on, hop-off buses that takes you to all the stops.
Parking can be a pain in such a small area (Key West is only 7.4 square miles) so it’s convenient to have the route planned for you. Not to mention, if you book on Groupon, you won’t spend more than $20 for the day. I’m always on the lookout for ways to make a trip more affordable.
I would advise against walking. It is very hot in Key West and a block will seem like a mile in the afternoon sun.
Here are some of your must-see stops if you only have 24 hours in Key West:
1. The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
This place is like a dream. It’s like walking into a garden paradise, with flamingos dancing on ponds while framed by flowers and butterflies. There’s a walking path through covered with lush greenery and fruits in bloom. You won’t believe your eyes, and if you’re a nature photographer you’ll want to make sure to add this to your list.
While small, the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a great way to kick off your visit. It’s also air conditioned and one of the stops on the trolley tour.
2. Southernmost Point in the USA
Only 90 miles to Cuba! You gotta stop here and get your landmark picture if yourre in the area.
The problem is, the lines to take a picture here are out of control. I went mid-day, and boy was that a bad idea. Still, I thought, I’m already here, I can wait. No, no I couldn’t. Because no one likes to feel like human bacon and there is absolutely no shade or place to sit while you wait and boil in the sun, not to mention everyone takes their sweet time taking a picture. I don’t mean to rant, but I really cannot stress enough how bad of an idea this was.
Instead, go first thing in the morning or late at night after you’ve hit the bars on Duvall Street. There will be no line, and you can take unobstructed pictures.
3. Hemingway House
I didn’t get to visit the Hemingway House because they were cash only and there are no ATMs within walking proximity. Learn from my mistakes and bring cash! I believe it’s $13 admission at the moment.
Even not having gone in, we could admire the house from outside, and definitely noticed an abudance of cats in and around the premises. The myth is true! For some reason, they really like the place. There was also a wedding being organized in the yard when we arrived, a unique choice of venue, but the Hemingway force is strong in these parts.
Pictured above is a lovely Banyon tree, they’re abundant in the area.
4. Audubon House
This is a low-key house and gardens with a historical museum and collection of bird paintings inside. It’s nice to stop in and enjoy the air conditioning and rocking chairs on the second floor balcony. It also doesn’t hurt that you’ll probably learn something new while there.
There’s a nice gift shop as well–if you have a bird lover in your life this is the place to purchase something.
5. Key West Lighthouse
Right across from the Hemingway House, and happily accepting those credit card holders who did not properly plan ahead, is the Key West Lighthouse.
There is a lighthouse keeper’s museum with an audio tour so you can learn more about the lighthouse, which opened in 1848 with a woman as its keeper (Key West has always been progressive). No surprise, she did an awesome job.
Today, visitors can walk up 88 steps to the top and get a view of downtown Key West that reaches out to the ocean.
6. Duvall Street
Key West is eccentric, and nowhere will you see that better illustrated than on Duvall Street.With plenty of music, tourists and cafes, this 1 1/4 mile-long strip is party central. During the day the street is packed with tourists exploring the shops and restaurants. At night it comes to life with bars and clubs that keep you entertained till sunrise.
By all means, enjoy yourself! Just be weary before venturing up to the rooftop at the Garden of Eden, since clothing is optional.
7. Eat a Sloppy Joe
Key West claims to have invented them, so if you’re not a fan of key lime pie, like me, this is your chance to try a local staple. Dig in!
Have you been to Key West? Feel free to post thoughts or comments below!
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