People love Key West. It’s one of the most popular vacation destinations in the U.S. year after year. And while many visitors love the climate, which is warm and sunny even during the winter months, it’s the wide range of things to do that keeps people coming back. Whether you’re into historic landmarks, outdoor adventure or the local food scene, there’s something for everyone in Key West.
Explore All of Key West
Like many American cities, Key West has a public transportation system of buses to help visitors and locals get around. This is also a bike-friendly community, so take advantage of bike rentals if your hotel offers them. Book a walking or biking tour on your first day in Key West to get a good overview of everything the island has to offer. Consider taking the Conch Tour Train; it makes four stops in some of the most popular areas in Key West, and because it’s hop on/hop off, it’s convenient, too. The tour guides provide riders with a history of the city and many of the highlights, landmarks, and special attractions.
For a unique view of Key West, book a sunset cruise. Many of these sailings include live music, light snacks, and an open bar. Tour guides share stories, insider tips about exploring the island, and local lore. You can also book a charter fishing trip, which also allows you to take part in one of the most popular reasons people visit Key West–the fishing. All of the gear you need is provided so you can enjoy the experience. Depending on the time of year, you might catch tarpon, grouper, mackerel, and trout with All In Fishing Charters.
The Most Exciting Things to See and Do in Key West
While the beaches in Key West are relatively small, they make up for it in amenities. From food and beach chairs to snorkeling gear, you could spend a whole day as Smathers, Higgs, and South Beaches with ease. Visitors to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park can also swim at the park’s beach. This state park, in addition to the historic tours of the fort, has biking and walking trails, fishing spots, and picnic areas to enjoy. Accessible only by ferry, Dry Tortugas National Park is world-famous for its snorkeling. Here, guests can also go kayaking, birdwatching, and swimming; tours of this park’s historic fort are available, too.
On the island of Key West, check out the Key West Aquarium, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, and the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden for a representative look at the plants and animals that stand out here. Some of these species are local only to this area, and can’t be found anywhere else. Take note of how close you can get to these creatures, including touch tanks at the aquarium and screened-in walk-throughs at the butterfly conservatory.
Round out your trip with visits to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the Harry S. Truman Little White House, and museums dedicated to shipwrecks, lighthouses, and more.
Shop All Day and Stay Out Late
Walk Duval Street for dozens of shops and boutiques to entice any visitor. There are art galleries that showcase local artists’ work, clothing and gift stores, souvenir shops, and specialty stores featuring locally made crafts and foods. Check out the cafes, jazz clubs, and live music venues after dark, or catch a film or two at one of the local movie houses. Get the night started early with the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, located at the end of Duval Street and open to all ages.
Depending on what time of year you visit Key West, you can enjoy the exciting activities that come with one of the many festivals that take place here all year round. From food and wine festivals to boat parades, fishing tournaments, themed weekends, and art exhibitions, these events showcase talents, entertainment, and attractions you won’t find anywhere else, like the New Year’s Eve conch shell drop, and Hemingway Days where plenty of Papa look-alikes descend on the island.
The Best Restaurants Around
For such a small island, Key West serves up the best of international cuisine, with local restaurants that share Italian, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Caribbean, and classic American meals. Specialty restaurants are common, so it’s easy to find exactly the right one to suit your mood. After a long day of fishing, bring your catch to Dante’s, where they’ll cook it for you and serve it family style. Duetto’s Pizza and Gelato are famous for their house-made pizza pies and frozen treats. Visit Eaton Street Seafood Market for freshly prepared lobster roll, conch fritters, and fish sandwiches.
Key West puts a world of new experiences within easy reach. It’s so close, most people can get there for a weekend away in just a few hours at most. The one-of-a-kind shopping, dining, cultural, and outdoor experiences make this destination stand out. It’s why people keep coming back to Key West, and why you’ll want to do the same.