It’s straightforward to consider the final of the Keys as extra of a celebration location than a family-friendly vacation spot, however with so many issues to do in Key West with youngsters, it shortly turned one in all our favorite stops in our Florida Keys itinerary.
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Set proper on the far southernmost tip of Florida on the finish of the 113-mile Abroad Freeway, there’s loads of historical past to find alongside boat journeys within the Nationwide Marine Sanctuary surrounding the Keys plus some enjoyable household sights.
However among the finest elements of a go to to Key West with youngsters is how laid-back it feels: straightforward to walk across the streets, nothing is ever too distant and the historic centre feels very walkable – right here’s my choose of the very best.
Key West Conch Prepare tour
Probably the greatest methods to get your bearings, and a good way to discover Key West with youngsters when it’s scorching or humid, the brilliant yellow and black Key West Conch Prepare putters across the streets with a guided commentary on the world.
There are 4 stops alongside the best way, together with one for some purchasing, so you may hop on and hop off, or keep on for the entire 75-minute tour.
Alongside the best way you’ll see quirky sights just like the Southernmost Southernmost Home – that’s its actual identify, not me by accident typing twice! So the story goes, its proprietor was decided to dwell in Florida’s Southernmost Home… however when its homeowners wouldn’t promote up, she constructed a brand new property simply throughout the road and claimed the title that manner.
There are additionally tales of wreckers and pirates, together with the truth that a few of the earliest inhabitants of Key West made a dwelling by merely claiming a share of income from any wrecks off the coast – the remainder of the time, they bought to sit down again and loosen up.
Add in hyperlinks to Cuba and the Bahamas, tales of cigar-making and saloons, an opportunity to see Ernest Hemingway’s Dwelling, Harry Truman’s Little White Home and study Mel Fisher’s treasure looking (learn on for extra about that!) plus the Key West Lighthouse, Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory and a complete lot extra, it’s the right introduction to Key West for households.
Tickets are legitimate for one or two days, and provide you with free entry to the Sails to Rails Museum.
Key West Previous City Trolley Tour
If the Conch Prepare trip has whetted your urge for food, otherwise you need to discover additional afield, try the Key West Previous City Trolley Tour as nicely, which has 13 stops alongside its route, together with a string of Key West inns.
With trolley automobiles operating round each Half-hour, it’s straightforward to make use of it to get past the walkable centre of Key West, operating from stops close to the waterfront round Mallory Sq. to Bahama Village and all the best way right down to Fort East Martello Museum, in addition to the Southernmost Level.
Tickets are legitimate for the day and provide you with free admission to the Sails to Rails Museum.
Take a ship journey
You possibly can’t go to Key West with out getting out on the water a minimum of as soon as – the largest choice isn’t whether or not to take a ship journey, it’s which one to take as you’ll be spoiled for alternative.
There are dolphin-spotting excursions, snorkeling journeys, in addition to the possibility to easily sail round and absorb the surroundings.
One of many stand-out operators is Trustworthy Eco, which makes use of Key Wst’s first electric-powered constitution boat, Squid, charged by photo voltaic panels, together with a dolphin watch and snorkel journey.
Or how about watching the solar set from the deck of a ship? Sundown cruises are higher for older youngsters and youths than toddlers and little ones who’re going to get a bit bored watching the surroundings, however my 11-year-old undoubtedly wasn’t the one youngster absorbing the sunset-inspired soundtrack on our journey.
We took a two-hour sundown sail with Sebago Watersports with an open bar (together with employees topping up glasses with champagne) or you may as well head out on a schooner with Basic Harbor Line, whereas Sundown Water sports activities has their very own tour.
Key West Aquarium
The very first attraction in Key West, the Key West Aquarium first opened its doorways in 1935 – admission 15 cents (and 5 cents for teenagers) again then!
It may cost a bit extra lately, nevertheless it’s a stunning place to go to in Key West with youngsters, particularly when you can catch one of many excursions, sharing details about the marine life inside.
The aquarium isn’t large, with a few foremost rooms and a few outside house, however you may simply whereas away an hour or so taking a look at all of the tanks lining the partitions, residence to reef fish, moon jellies, and tropical fish galore, in addition to recognizing eels and barracuda.
Don’t miss the contact tank too, which is enjoyable with younger youngsters, the place you will get arms on with sea stars and extra.
On the centre, a few of the rescue sea turtles which make their residence right here and an opportunity to study extra in regards to the totally different species. There are some open-air tanks too within the surrounding house, residence to rays and sharks.
E-book skip-the-line tickets with free cancellation right here
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
There’s one thing in regards to the phrases treasure hunter that grip you, regardless of how outdated you’re. And the story of Mel Fisher, who spent 16 years trying to find the wreck of the Spanish galleon Atocha, makes for an amazing story by themselves.
One of the best a part of the story, in fact, is that he lastly discovered the fabled treasure ship, nonetheless full of riches centuries after it sank in a hurricane off the Florida Keys in 1622.
A go to to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum brings that story to life, with particulars of his lengthy search, in addition to placing a few of the priceless items on show.
There’s additionally background on the Spanish conquest of South America, details about every day life and why the ships have been crusing in hurricane season, however essentially the most memorable half is seeing the astonishing finds, resembling golden plates and fabulous jewelry.
Upstairs there are extra rooms linked to the historical past of the Florida Keys, together with tales of piracy (and the pirate’s code for any small buccaneers), in addition to reveals on slavery and on the Cuban Missile Disaster. One in every of our favourites, it’s an amazing place for the entire household.
Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum
Key West’s historical past is tightly linked to the seas surrounding it – not least all these inhabitants who made a dwelling from the waves, from pirates and smugglers to wreckers, serving to make Key West the richest metropolis per capita in the entire USA by the mid 1850s.
As a result of whereas the reefs surrounding Key West make it a implausible place for snorkeling and swimming as we speak, they’ve been deadly for ships over historical past – and this quirky little museum is devoted to all of the shipwrecks within the Florida Keys.
The household pleasant Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum is about over two flooring in a recreation of nineteenth century wrecker tycoon Asa Tift’s warehouse, with real finds recovered from wrecks across the Florida Keys,
There are costumed storytellers in addition to audio and video that can assist you uncover extra, plus some enjoyable interactive reveals, like making an attempt to elevate the 64 pound silver bar from the 1656 shipwreck of the Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas.
And to complete the go to, head up the 65 foot lookout tower for a few of the greatest views of Key West.
Key West Lighthouse
The primary lighthouse in Key West was accomplished in 1825, shortly after the US Navy established a base right here, to attempt to hold all vessels secure among the many reefs within the shallow water of the Keys
Simply over 20 years later, the present lighthouse was opened, half a dozen blocks from as we speak’s seafront, to interchange the unique 65ft tower.
Decommissioned half a century in the past, it’s now a museum and guests can stroll up the 88 steps to the highest of the sunshine (once more, not the most suitable choice when you’re visiting Key West with toddlers!) and study extra about its historical past.
That features tales of a few of its Keepers – the primary to be in cost of the present lighthouse was a girl, virtually exceptional on the time – in addition to seeing a few of their belongings, pictures and even learn the phrases of some who lived right here.
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
An ideal possibility for teenagers who love animals and nature, there’s an opportunity to stroll among the many 50-60 totally different species of butterflies which dwell on the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.
A fast flap of the wings from the Southernmost Level market, over on Duval Avenue, the conservatory homes butterflies from all over the world below its glass domed climate-controlled habitat.
Beginning with a 15-minute movie sharing details about the life cycle of butterflies, in addition to some enjoyable trivia, you may as well study extra in regards to the wonderful Monarch migration and see caterpillars feeding alongside the best way.
There are unique birds to identify as nicely, together with two pink flamingos, Rhett and Scarlett. Flamingo followers may even guide to flamingle with them as soon as a day at 4.30 – with a most of six company, you have to prebook to affix this.
Sails to Rails Museum
There’s one other likelihood to study life at sea across the Florida Keys on the Sails to Rails Museum – included in tickets for the Previous City Trolley Tour and Conch Prepare, so it’s straightforward to cease in for a fast go to.
Uncover how sail energy introduced treasure fleets from Mexico and South America previous the Keys on their manner again to Europe, in addition to the nineteenth century Navy makes an attempt to rid the Caribbean of pirates, plus the best way transport helped Key West growth.
Then there’s an opportunity to study extra about how steam energy took over and the Age of Sail got here to an finish, as railroads opened up new frontiers throughout the nation, its progress via the Civil Warfare years, and the way sail endured in Key West regardless of all of it.
Ernest Hemingway Dwelling and Museum
In case your youngsters are followers of Ernest Hemingway’s works, attending to set foot inside the home the place he lived within the Nineteen Thirties is unbeatable.
Realistically the Ernest Hemingway Dwelling and Museum goes to attraction extra to teenagers than preschoolers, though exploring the home continues to be enjoyable for youthful youngsters who’ve by no means learn any of the creator’s books. There’s a brief tour of round 20-Half-hour included within the go to.
Look out for the swimming pool within the grounds too: created at large expense, it was an infinite luxurious again within the days earlier than Key West even had recent operating water.
In case your youngsters aren’t a fan of Hemingway’s work, there’s one other temptation for youthful youngsters – cats! Round 60 dwell on the museum grounds – and look out for some with six toes, descendants of the creator’s personal six-toed cat Snow White.
Harry Truman’s Little White Home
One other likelihood to stroll within the footsteps of the good and good with a go to to Harry Truman’s Little White Home – additionally higher with older youngsters than little ones.
The thirty third president spent 175 days at this website in Key West throughout his presidency, and you’ll take a guided tour to study extra about its historical past – which began lengthy earlier than Truman set foot inside.
Inbuilt 1890 as quarters for the Naval Base Commander and Paymaster, it was additionally visited by President William Taft, whereas Thomas Edison lived right here for a number of months. President Dwight Eisenhower recuperated right here after a coronary heart assault, whereas John F Kennedy met the British Prime Minister right here in the course of the Bay of Pigs incident – to call just some.
And it’s right here that President Truman labored on the Marshall Plan and the Truman doctrine, whereas additionally profiting from any time away from his duties to benefit from the Key West life-style, with historical past tellers sharing some extra about him personally in addition to the home’s place in historical past.
Go to the Southernmost Level marker
Take your home on the southernmost level within the continental United States – which apparently can be the bottom latitude of land within the continguous North American states at nearly 18 ft above sea degree.
The brightly painted concrete buoy is a reminder that you just’re solely 90 miles from Cuba right here, far nearer to the Caribbean islands than Washington DC.
For those who simply need a glimpse, you may see if from the Conch tour practice and the Previous City Trolley tour, so if in case you have your digicam on the prepared, you may seize a fast picture as you cross. If you would like the basic picture of your loved ones with the marker, prepare to attend some time to your flip.
It’s greatest to keep away from going within the peak warmth as the road typically stretches down the block, though folks are usually useful about taking the picture of these in entrance – if you will get there early, you’ve bought extra likelihood of attending to the entrance quick and avoiding very bored youngsters questioning why they’re hanging round for this!
For an additional picture opp, you may as well discover Mile Marker 0 in Key West on the on the nook of Fleming Avenue and Whitehead Avenue – it’s round a 15-minute stroll from the Southernmost Level. The signal itself typically will get taken as a memento (a bit simpler to steal than an enormous concrete buoy) so there are sadly no ensures although!
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
The southernmost state park within the continental US, Fort Zachary Taylor predates the Civil Warfare – and nonetheless homes the most important cache of Civil Warfare armament on the planet.
You possibly can discover the buildings to get a way of how the troopers posted right here would have lived, in addition to pretending to fireside the cannon and defend the gun ports towards the enemy (digital enemies, in fact, so whoever you select to think about).
There are every day excursions at 11am in addition to info to assist share extra background on the half the fort performed within the Civil Warfare and the Spanish-American conflict, with re-enactments each third weekend of the month.
In case your youngsters have a brief consideration span for historic websites, the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park can be residence to a sand and pebble seaside if you wish to swim, snorkel and even fish after (or as an alternative of!) exploring inside, with some implausible coral reefs that are perfect for newcomers studying to snorkel.
Maintain an eye fixed out for gopher tortoises as you discover the park, plus there are bike trails, nature trails and geocaching actions too.
Hit the seaside
There are a number of seashores to select from at Key West, together with a few of Florida’s greatest seashores with youngsters.
Smathers Seashore is among the hottest with households; Key West’s largest public seaside, it stretches for round half a mile with watersports rental together with kayaking and paddleboarding and umbrellas for rent. Deliver food and drinks although as there’s not a lot to purchase when you arrive.
Clarence S Higgs Memorial Seashore – or Higgs Seashore for brief – is nearer to Previous City Key West, and has shallow calm water for fairly a manner out, making it possibility with youthful youngsters. There’s umbrella rental plus some free parking right here too, in addition to the one shore-accessible underwater marine park in the USA.
Higgs Seashore can be residence to Fort West Martello and several other monuments, together with one documenting the location of a nineteenth century slave cemetery right here.
Or Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is among the closest to the Mallory Sq. space (although it’s nonetheless fairly a stroll with youngsters), with some nice snorkeling for teenagers, in addition to the fort’s historical past.
There’s additionally a splash pad on the Truman Waterfront park, which is nice enjoyable for toddlers and younger youngsters
There are many probabilities to kayak in Key West with youngsters – when you’ve bought your personal, simply select one of many three seashores to set off and discover, or you may hire kayaks at Smathers Seashore.
For a guided journey, you’ll find excursions to the Florida Marine Sanctuary if you wish to get additional out to sea.
However for one thing a bit totally different, head out into the mangroves to see a unique facet of the Florida Keys. This Key West Kayak eco-tour is led by a information specialising within the space’s nature – you might spot dolphins, rays and turtles, in addition to iguanas, birds and different native wildlife, whereas studying in regards to the space’s seagrass beds and mangrove forests.
You do have to go to Geiger Key, close to Boca Chica Key for this two-hour tour, nevertheless it’s solely round a 20-minute drive from Key West – implausible in case your youngsters love nature.
If that’s too far, or your youngsters are too younger for the kayaking, head to the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Centre (open Fridays and Saturdays) together with an interactive mangrove exhibit
Key West Ghost and Graveyard Tour
For some spooky enjoyable, climb aboard the Trolley of the Doomed to find Key West’s darker facet – though this isn’t a tour that’s going to terrify you out of your wits.
Anticipate sinister tales, macabre reminiscences and a big serving to of comedy on the one-hour Ghost and Graveyard Tour (from Previous City Trolley Excursions), which additionally heads contained in the Key West Shipwreck Museum for a haunted home bonus, to listen to a few Depend and his misplaced bride.
Key West was named one of many prime 10 most haunted cities in America, so the tour isn’t in need of materials – all the pieces from lynching and homicide to island superstitions and Key West’s most haunted places, together with the Hanging Tree.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not appropriate for youngsters below 4 and is really helpful for teenagers and older. You possibly can go along with below 13s although relying the way you assume they’ll get pleasure from it – greatest in case your youngster will love listening to about hauntings and horror or in the event that they’re going to have nightmares for every week.
Bike tour of Key West
What’s higher than cruising spherical Key West on two wheels? A bike tour of Key West with Key Lime pie included!
This journey from Key Lime Bike Excursions takes you thru the Previous City, passing Mile Marker Zero and the Southernmost Level, in addition to Harry Truman’s Little White Home, Ernest Hemingway’s Home, the Key West cemetery and Higgs Seashore alongside the best way.
There’s a information to share a few of Key West’s historical past, from smuggling to shipwrecks, with the three-hour tour ending with a slice of Key Lime Pie.
You too can hire bikes immediately if you wish to discover at your personal tempo, with youngsters’ bikes and child seats obtainable, though you might want to order these when you’re in search of one thing particular as there are restricted numbers obtainable.
Take a stroll
One in every of my favorite issues about Key West is how walkable all of it appears, and it’s made for strolling round.
We visited at Halloween, which meant all over the place was embellished for the vacation, however everytime you go to there’s a lot to see – together with Key West’s well-known roaming chickens.
Take a stroll across the marina and Mallory Sq., wander the size of Duval Avenue – that is the guts of Key West and one in all its oldest elements, residence to the Oldest Home Museum and Backyard, a conch cottage in-built 1829.
Or head right down to the harbor the place the boat excursions set sail, with loads of seats exterior the eating places and shady spots to cease as nicely.
You possibly can even get self-guided walks of Key West like this Previous City Treasures smartphone tour, to study extra about what you’re seeing alongside the best way.
Save time to cease in Mallory Sq. Dock in the direction of the top of the day for Sundown Celebration too, with road performers (sometimes a bit risque), road meals, and stalls promoting tempting arts, crafts and souvenirs pop up for the night, whereas everybody waits for the solar to sink under the horizon.
Dry Tortugas Nationwide Park
Whereas the Dry Tortugas Nationwide Park isn’t in Key West itself, it makes for a implausible day journey whilst you’re on the tip of Florida.
Finest for households with teenagers and older youngsters, because it takes some effort to succeed in – the Nationwide Park is round 70 miles from Key West, so you should journey by boat or airplane to this archipelago of seven small islands. It’s superbly unspoiled however that additionally means there’s not one of the services you would possibly want with younger youngsters.
The coral reef and shipwrecks are excellent for snorkeling and diving although, and the surroundings is just idyllic, so it’s nicely well worth the effort. Seaplane Seashore, North Swim Seashore and South Swim Seashore are a few of the greatest seashores.
The Yankee Freedom Ferry is the official park ferry, together with entrance payment to the Nationwide Park and Fort Jefferson, or when you’ve bought the finances, the seaplane to the Dry Tortugas has half-day and full day constitution choices.
The place to eat in Key West with youngsters
You received’t wrestle to search out locations to eat in Key West with youngsters – there are some nice household pleasant eating places, to not point out loads of locations to seize an ice cream.
For someplace actually memorable, head over to Blue Heaven in Bahama Village with its outside tables below the bushes, dwell music, and Floridian-Caribbean menu.
Hemingway as soon as refereed boxing matches right here, though it’s calmer lately! Well-known for its breakfasts (though go early), there are restricted reservations for dinner that are nicely price doing – the Key Lime pie to complete was the scale of my head.
We additionally had some wonderful pizza at Clemente’s Wooden-Fired pizza on Fleming Avenue, which was nice for sharing in case your youngsters received’t handle a complete one every.
There are additionally loads of locations to seize a fast meal together with fish, sandwiches, tacos and burgers, like Two Buddies Patio restaurant on Entrance Avenue.
Or Cuban Espresso Queen has nice smoothies and breakfasts in addition to Cuban sandwiches.
The place to remain in Key West with youngsters
You’ll discover loads of family-friendly locations to remain in Key West, together with our personal attractive base for our journey at Opal Key Resort.
With rooms overlooking the marina, there’s a implausible pool and poolside bar, breakfast overlooking the water and spacious ethereal rooms in cool blue and inexperienced tones. Downtown Key West is correct on the doorstep too, so we couldn’t have had a greater location, plus it manages to really feel luxurious and family-friendly on the similar time.
To be sure you’re by no means too removed from the sights, attempt to choose someplace near Mallory Sq. or the marina, or near Duval Avenue (though not on it, because the eating places and bars are buzzing till late).
Discover extra concepts of inns in Key West right here, together with massive identify chains like Hyatt and Marriott though these are usually farther from Previous City, in addition to locations like Parrot Key Resort.
For those who desire having your personal house, I’m a giant fan of Plum Information which vets its residences and villas individually, and has a few properties in Key West.
When to plan your Key West break
It pays to time your break in Key West with youngsters to get the very best of the climate and to attempt to keep away from the crowds – as there’s famously one main highway via the Florida Keys, you don’t need to spend it caught in visitors on the Abroad Freeway!
And whereas March to Could has a few of the greatest climate, Spring break wouldn’t be my first alternative for a household journey!
December to February is cooler (for Key West) however you may nonetheless anticipate temperatures within the mid 70s, which is ideal for exploring with youngsters.
Once we visited in late October/early November, it was heat, the climate was nonetheless typically superb (though sometimes a bit windy for boat journeys) and we weren’t preventing the crowds so it’s one other good time to contemplate.
Hurricane season sees the worst tropical storms from mid-August to the beginning of October, so it’s greatest to keep away from these weeks when you can too, in addition to dodging the excessive temperatures and humidity of midsummer.
Lastly, when you can test when cruise ships are visiting, do: it made a giant distinction between our first day exploring when one ship was docked and the remainder of our keep after the day trippers had gone residence. You too can test when main occasions are deliberate on the Florida Keys Tourism web site.
Disclosure: This publish accommodates affiliate hyperlinks – any purchases you make are unaffected however I’ll obtain a small fee. Some content material was freed from cost for the needs of evaluation, however all opinions are my very own
Conch practice/harbor/boat journey/aquarium/maritime museum/mile marker/meals/Opal Key Resort copyright MummyTravels, all different photos courtesy of Depositphotos/Shutterstock