Key West offers a wide array of historical, cultural, natural, and culinary attractions. It can be hard to decide what to do on your visit, especially if you’re only spending a few days in Key West, such as during a long weekend. Here are some of the best ways to spend your time in the city and sample a little of everything Key West has to offer.
Visit a Rum Distillery
While others may explore the rich history that Ernest Hemingway left in Key West by visiting his former home, now a museum, others choose to visit Papa’s Pilar Rum Distillery. Rum has a long and fascinating history in the area. Even though it’s not officially affiliated with the famed writer, the proprietors honor Hemingway’s legacy and spirit. Visit the former tobacco warehouse to learn about how rum is made and score a free sample. The tasting room is open for those who’d like to do further research.
Shop Duval Street
Tree-lined Duval Street is lined with shops, art galleries, restaurants, bars with the traditional Key West “look” that include clapboard buildings, gingerbread trim, whitewashed fences and balconies railings, and more. Daytime, it’s more family friendly and night-time, there’s a little more of a party atmosphere. There’s lots of opportunities for live music, portraits and caricatures from street vendors, and unique souvenir shopping. Whether you’re there for a day or just a couple of hours, the sights, sounds, and smells stand out for the rest of your trip. It’s a Key West institution.
Enjoy Fresh Seafood and Outdoor Dining
At Eaton Street Seafood Market and Restaurant, you can be assured of getting off-the-boat seafood that’s expertly prepared with housemade accompaniments and sides. The grilled lobster tail is a can’t-miss dish. Other favorites include the lobster roll, stone crab, and fried fish basket. You can buy fresh seafood for at-home preparation or enjoy your meal right away under umbrella-topped picnic tables. And if you can’t get enough of that Key West seafood, Eaton Street Seafood Market and Restaurant also offers shipping anywhere in the U.S.
Take a Key West Ghost Tour
Even if you’ve already heard of Robert the Doll, a Key West ghost tour can provide you with new thrills and chills year round. Book a ghost tour and explore Key West after dark. Let a local take you around to the most haunted spots in Key West, where history was made and historical figures may still walk the night. Locations toured often include Casa Antigua, the Artist House, and La Concha Hotel.
Indulge in Fine Dining
Key West’s historic district is home to Little Pearl, a gem of a restaurant serving a variety of locally caught seafood dishes paired with an extensive wine list in a cozy neighborhood atmosphere. Expertly prepared dishes taste as good as they look. Try the octopus lo mein, kombu cured diver scallops, sautéed snapper, and the house donuts for dessert. It’s the ideal spot to linger over a glass of wine and recap the day, relishing the fact that you’re on vacation.
The fishing in Key West is legendary. And whether you’re new to the sport or have been fishing for years, you’re welcome on any of the many fishing charter boats available. Trips are typically organized by the type of fishing you’d like to do, like wreck, reef or deep water fishing. Most captains go out on full- or half-day excursions. The charter company ensures that all permits, licensing, and gear are taken care of so all you need to do is show up and bring a cooler with lunch. If you’re unsure about the best fishing techniques, the on-board crew can often lend a hand with advice. Some Key West restaurants offer cook-your-catch dinners, so keep that in mind if you score the catch of a lifetime.
Make the Climb
The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Museum is not only open to visitors but you can actually climb the 88 steps to the top of the lighthouse yourself. The original Key West Lighthouse is more than 150 years old; it was decommissioned in 1969 and welcomed its first public visitors in 1989. Today, the lighthouse offers panoramic views of the sea. Museum exhibits show visitors what life was like for lighthouse keepers and how hard they worked to protect ships, their crew, and cargo from mishap at sea.
It can feel overwhelming to plan a Key West itinerary for your trip because there are so many things to see and do. Starting with these suggestions provides you with a variety of experiences that Key West is known for. Whether you’re visiting for a long weekend or a whole week, Key West visitors can enjoy tours, meals, shopping, and outdoor expeditions unlike those found any place else in the U.S.
Image Credits: Pedro Lastra