By Sharon Kurtz~
Closer to Cuba than Miami, Key West is Florida’s southernmost tropical Paradise with a unique mixture of history, climate, natural beauty, and romantic appeal. What was once a rollicking buccaneer’s town is now the quirky heart of the Florida Keys.
Even better? Getting there is quick and easy. A direct, low-cost flight to Key West International Airport from DFW is only 2.5 hours, which means you’ll be sipping a tropical beverage on the beach before you know it.
Here are some of the things I loved best about Key West.
“See you at Sunset” is a phrase that has embodied the spirit and history at Key West’s Mallory Square Dock.
Nightly gatherings and festivities offer everything any visitor could ever hope to stumble upon. Street performers, delicious food, and local artists combine for an incredible experience. Kick back, relax, and watch as the sun sinks into the Gulf of Mexico.
Or step aboard a classic sailing Schooner for an evening champagne sail. You’ll sail through the crystal-clear waters with a warm ocean breeze and a magnificent sunset as a backdrop. Here’s a toast the end of another perfect day in Paradise.
The Hemingway House is nearly 170 years old but is preserved to look as it did when Hemingway lived there in the 1930s.
Spanish-Colonial-style house rests amid lush green palms. Portraits of Hemmingway are shown with snippets of information about his life, his writing, and, of course, his multiple marriages.
The polydactyl cats (cats with extra toes) are a famous part of the house and are hard to miss. Sailors favored polydactyl cats, believing they were good luck, and one sailor gifted Hemingway a white polydactyl kitten named Snow White. Today, it’s possible all these Hemingway cats are related.
The well-preserved Victorian architecture, featuring balconies and wrap-around porches, is a big part of Key West’s charm.
Look up at the porch ceilings as you pass. These light blue ceilings are a common sight in Key West, part of a tradition dating back to African descendants from the West Indies who believed that evil spirits called haints couldn’t cross water. By painting their ceilings blue, they sought to confuse the spirits and keep them from entering their homes.
A white-painted brick lighthouse rises from the grounds of the Keeper’s Quarters Museum. It opened in 1848 with a woman as its keeper, nearly unheard of during the 19th century.
Visitors can climb the 88 steps to the top and venture onto the balcony for uninterrupted views over the island’s western shore out to the Gulf of Mexico.
If Florida could ever lay claim to a president, its best would be Harry S. Truman. Today, Truman’s Little White House is a living museum and Florida’s only presidential site.
The Key West site once served as the functioning White House of President Harry Truman, who spent 175 days there across 11 visits. Built in 1890, the house served as a naval headquarters during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is an oasis on Duval Street. Enter a magical world with more than 50 butterfly species along with many types of exotic birds.
Visitors can enjoy the breathtaking experience of being surrounded — and settled upon — by dozens of its fluttering inhabitants. A charming pair of pink flamingos named Rhett and Scarlet are fun to watch as they preen in an elaborate courtship dance.
At only two miles wide by four miles long, the island of Key West is tiny. My favorite way to experience Key West is by bicycle. You can rent one from any of the dozens of bike shops around the island.
You can also rent a golf cart. With seating for up to six passengers, carts are allowed on all the island roads and compact enough to wind through the tight streets of Old Town.
Key West suits a wide range of travelers, from couples to families to retirees. With plenty of museums, marine parks, and cultural attractions, it’s perfect for a relaxing, fun-filled getaway.