|Key West Baby!!|
However, Key West also has a very stateside vibe to it as well. Yea, yea, I know, it is part of the US. What I mean is, restaurants, shops and attractions exist almost everywhere you turn in Key West. The vibrancy of Key West reminds me of the city that never sleeps, yet it is not at all like NYC. To be perfectly honest, Key West reminds me very much of New Orleans. In fact, Duval Street would definitely rival Bourbon Street or any other street in the French Quarter on any given day.
Key West and New Orleans are two of the most charming, vibrant, and culturally rich places I have ever visited. A part of my heart belongs to both cities. And both cities are very similar in many aspects. No, I did not bar hop on Duval Street after dark like so many do. It really is not my scene. I am just not a bar person anymore but there were some really cool joints where I could have sat in a less loud and crazy atmosphere and enjoyed a talented jazz or blues band while sipping on some top notch scotch for a few hours. That was nice to know. Perhaps next time. I just wasn't feeling it this trip.
Besides, there was a cute little Tiki bar at my hotel that was not at all overcrowded and had a beautiful view of the water. Now that was my scene. Regardless of what my scene was, I will say that there is something for everyone in Key West, no matter if you are 18 or 83. There are beaches like Ft. Zachary Taylor Park. One of the most photographed wooden sign posts in the world happens to be located in this park near the snack bar. You may recognize it in the photo below. I will say, it is even more lovely, and colorful when viewing it in person. It's also enormous.
|The famous mile post in Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West|
There are also several other famous wooden sign posts and wall murals located throughout the island of Key West. Art is a very prominent characteristic of Key West culture and the artistry does not disappoint at all. Next time I visit, I would like to visit and photograph as many of the signs, murals and sculptures as possible because they are so much fun. I enjoy the colors, the details and their uniqueness. The Key West Art and Historical Society does an amazing job of not only promoting but also conserving the art and history of this beautiful island. Below are just some of the treasures I had the pleasure of seeing on my tour of the island.
|Gorgeous, gigantic recreation of the most famous kiss.|
|Quirky metal sculptures|
|Colorful metal rooster sculptures in Mallory Square|
|Barnacle art. Quirky and Eye catching!|
A view of the waters from Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park
|The color of the water just boggled my mind.|
Near the Southernmost Point Buoy, which I gush about here, there are also several beaches to enjoy. I hope to go back and visit them all. As for lush, tropical nature, you definitely get to witness some beautiful, exotic eye candy of the botanical type on this island. Harry Truman's Little White House is a beautiful part of the city to stroll around and enjoy gorgeous trees, plants and flowers. The buildings are breathtaking as well. The Audubon House is also a gorgeous home with lush foliage draping it's entire perimeter.
|Little White House|
|I believe this is a ficus tree. Stunning!|
|The fountain and courtyard of the Little White House|
|The grounds of the Little White House are insanely gorgeous.|
Hemingway House which I wrote about here and The Key West Butterfly Conservatory which I wrote about here are MUST SEE attractions, especially if you are a lover of nature. They are both spectacular, fun and rather informative attractions with some of the most beautiful botanical displays I have ever seen. And the admission prices are most definitely fair in my opinion. They are bargain for the experience. There truly are many, many places in Key West you can visit to appreciate the beauty of this island's tropical nature. I hope to visit a few more of these gems on my next visit as well.
Taking a stroll along Whitehead Street will give you an opportunity to take a photo at Mile 0. You can choose the beginning of US Route 1, the ending of US Route 1 or both for your photo op. Mile 0, the beginning, is a much nicer sign in my opinion. I took a slew of selfies there and made my son pose for about 15 photos as well. It's what I do. I enjoy every single sight and every single moment of my vacations, adventures and experiences. I do not miss anything taking my photographs. But, I will most certainly spend some time preserving the memories I am making via photograph as well. You never know when you are going to lose your mind. At least I will have pictures for when that occasion arises. Always be prepared!
The beginning and end of US Route 1 in Florida. The only other place you will see this is Maine.
|Fun Stuff in Mallory Square|
The Sponge Market, Shell Warehouse and Conch Store were like walking into a mermaid's lair. These stores were filled with such enchanting and gorgeous maritime anything and everything! I was awestruck by all the merchandise available. I spent a good amount of time in there browsing and cursing because I wanted to take everything home with me. I so much am going back to buy a conch shell next visit. I was too chicken to buy one this trip because I was afraid of my checked bag being overweight. I was so pissed when I found out I was actually 30 pounds underweight. Such a newbie to flying I was.
If you are going to buy conch shells, wind chimes, signage or other similar decor/souvenirs, make your purchases at these stores. They are anywhere from $1 to $10 cheaper than any other store in Key West or the Florida Keys in general. The only other place where I was able to find some decent deals was in the Rain Barrel Artisan Village in Islamorada. The Sandal Outlet actually had some great prices too but they were a designer outlet so the prices were out of my range anyway for this trip. Who knew they sold Uggs in the Florida Keys? I did not.
Mallory Square is also home to the Shipwreck Museum, Key West Aquarium, Haunted Trolley Tours and The Conch Tour Train Station. I did none of these. Haha. The little conch train was actually really cute though. It reminded me of a smaller version of the Tram Car on the Wildwood boards. It was also 100% less annoying than the Wildwood Tram Car. The conch train takes visitors on a little tour of the city. I think the price is a little high but I also think it could be worth it.
|Thank you for welcoming us! Weeeeeeeee!!!|
Beautiful items from the Shell Warehouse and Sponge Market.
The Shipwreck Museum and Haunted Trolley Ride.
|All sorts of goodies for everyone all over Key West.|
As for food, well if you like Key Lime and seafood, they Keys are right up your alley. Key Lime Pie shops as well as many other delectable dessert havens are everywhere. Chances are you will come across several just in a few blocks radius. My Key Lime experience in Key West was nothing short of wonderful. I documented it here. Seriously though, Key Lime is a certainly a part of the Florida Keys culture but do not worry if you are not a fan. There is honestly just about every dessert known to man available on this island. I would love to try Better Than Sex desserts on my next visit. They do not open until 6pm though, so it was not in the cards this trip.
|The Six Toed Cat Cafe|
My family and I wanted to try Blue Heaven for breakfast but we happened upon the Six Toed Cafe a block away from the Hemingway House. We were planning to tour the house so, to me, this was a perfect starting point for a day of Polydactyl encounters. Also, a friend of mine highly recommended this cafe. He was dead on in his recommendation. While the meal, like most meals in Key West, was not cheap, every single thing we ordered was made from scratch and the portions were beyond huge!
|Steak and Egg Burrito. The best I ever had!|
Cupcake Sushi and Cupcakes. Key West is a dessert lover's dream!
Hogfish, Tilapia, Mahi Mahi, Grouper and Tuna are just a few of the popular fish dishes in Key West. And almost every menu I looked at had Key West pink shrimp and conch offered as a meal or appetizer. Again though, no worries if you are not a seafood fan. There are many restaurants that have a wide variety of chicken, pork and beef dishes. There are also Italian, Cuban, Bahamanian, Thai, Chinese and Mexican restaurants on the island. In other words, just about every food known to man can be found in some form or other in Key West.
Just keep in mind, you are going to pay more for hamburgers and other beef dinners in the Keys since it costs more to bring the beef down from the mainland. Cows grazing on the side of the road are an almost everyday sight when driving along the roads of Pennsylvania. They are everywhere. In the Keys, I did not gaze upon one cow. Not one. There may be cows in Key West but I certainly did not see one. I saw roosters.
Roosters are as much a part of the Key West culture as sunsets, Hemingway, bicycling and Key Lime Pie. Roosters, hens and baby chicks are EVERYWHERE. I mean everywhere. And they are well loved by locals and tourists alike. God bless the person that messes with a Key West rooster. I almost yelled at a kid for chasing a few of them around Mallory Square. He wouldn't let up. Leave them be! These birds are obviously used to being around people. The babies are a little skittish but they are babies so it's understandable. I found it so unbelievably cool to see these birds living in harmony with their human peeps.
Roosters of Duval Street! Tres Chic
Some of the many roosters we encountered on our trip.
My visit to Key West was everything I imagined and then some. I will certainly be visiting Key West again. I fell completely in love with it. Even if I go down alone for a long weekend I will definitely be visiting again. I found my place to stay in Sugarloaf Key. It is only ten minutes north of Key West and 15 minutes south from No Name Key. There is so much I have yet to experience. I would like to put some extra dough aside to really dive in and make it a total culinary adventure! Maybe I will even do the Duval Street thing. Who knows? All I know is I cannot wait to get back there again.
Until then, it's not goodbye, it's just see ya later!
Key West Hot Spots