I spent much of my time in Key West being a tourist; albeit one who never set foot on a tour bus, a scooter or a golf cart. Call me old fashioned, but I think you get a much better feel for an area when you observe it at a walk.
I went through some museums, some outdoor activities and some retail therapy. Again, there was a lot of walking, but who minds that when it’s in the 70’s.
1) My favorite stop was the Hemingway Museum. Now I didn’t go into this being a Hemingway fanatic, but the stories were great, the furnishing authentic and you really got a feel for the man and his era. Among the tidbits I picked up:
- His fondness for cats with more than the usual allotment of toes was because he thought they brought good luck and he could use all he could get. There are now slightly fewer than 50 cats on the property truly living in cat paradise.
2) Mallory Square – I’ll include all the retail attractions, the sculpture garden and the park where everyone watches the sunset. Some of the retail was nice and the prices were surprisingly friendly for a tourist locale. The Sculpture Garden had a lot of great history – did you know Key West wasn’t really built for tourism until the Depression.
3) Duval Street – This is the street everyone talks about visitors needing to “experience.” By day, there are a lot of shops and restaurants, including Sloppy Joes (this is the name of the restaurant Hemingway frequented daily, but not the actual location – the original Sloppy Joes is now Captain Tony’s Saloon). By night, it’s a little wilder with a lot more music and you can buy adult beverages in “to go” cups.
4) Higgs Beach – A nice beach to kick back and enjoy the sun. White sandy beaches and a roped off swim area where the water is pretty shallow. Right next door is the White Street Pier, complete with fishing off the end.
5) Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park – We got a little lost trying to get to the Park. The map we were using had a lot of streets that looked like they led you to the entrance. But didn’t. Finally we found the entrance with part of the area an active military base, that you couldn’t access, and part a beach with a lot of sunbathers and a few fishers. Thankfully, the fishing and sunbathing were in different areas.
Early January, I escaped the Seattle weather for a week in Key West. It was my first trip to the area and I was anxious to see all the sights.
I took a redeye out of Seattle (note to self: don’t do that again) and I had a direct flight to Miami with a short connector to Key West International Airport. My first impression of Key West — and this with maybe 90 minutes of sleep – was “what are all these chickens doing here?” Really. I was later to find out that there are wild chickens (hens and roosters) all over the island, including the loading and unloading zone at the airport.
My second impression was, ahhhh; it’s warm. While the Seattle climate is much better than many people face in the winter, it wasn’t the mid 70’s to early 80’s temperatures I enjoyed for the next week. Here’s another note to remember – winter vacations to warm climates are nice.
Cars aren’t really needed in Key West. The area is incredibly walkable, and if you don’t like to walk, you can rent bicycles, scooters and golf carts. Tour buses are all over the place. A lot of companies advertise the most convenient, cheapest, interesting and flexible tour bus. I spent the first day, albeit in a sleep deprived fog, just walking. It kept me awake so I could get on Key West time and it gave me a great flavor for the town.
Visitors can fall in love with Key West; think the town, the atmosphere and the climate are perfect. I liked Key West. The week I spent there was great, but it was probably the ideal amount of time for me.