Sitting pleasantly just beneath the continental United States is an island city that boasts pristine beaches, watering holes with whimsy and enough history to fill a college course. Key West is an amazing vacation destination for thrill seekers, beach loafers and everyone in between. Discover your new favorite bar along iconic Duval Street, or embark on an ocean adventure with Fury Water Adventures. Whether you plan to spend your time in Key West lounging in the sun or dancing the night away, we’re here to ensure you find just what you’re looking for by sharing a couple of things to know before you go.
Fun Things to Know About Key West
After planning your trip to Key West, there are a few things that you might want to know before you go, so you don’t feel out of the loop. For instance, all the Key West locals are referred to as “conchs,” alluding to the large conch population in the waters surrounding the island city. Dishes featuring the tasty mollusk, such as conch fritters and conch salad, are commonplace throughout the city’s dining establishments. While Key West-born locals are referred to as “conchs,” those who have settled in Key West from other parts of the world are called “freshwater conchs.” This fun moniker for the citizens of Key West inspired the island’s new name, The Conch Republic, when it briefly seceded from the United States in 1982.
When you’re on Duval Street, a hub for commerce and attractions in Key West, you are on the longest street in the world! … not really. But, Duval Street was nicknamed “the longest street in the world” for the way it runs from the north coast of the island to the south, touching both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. One thing to know before you go to Key West is that Duval Street has the answer to any question of what to do while you’re there. Take part in any number of pub crawls along Duval Street or try a new eatery for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
Every time you step foot on one of Key West’s white sand beaches, you are in touch with a piece of the Caribbean. One of the things to know about Key West is that the naturally occurring shores are composed of crushed bits of rock and coral. This doesn’t exactly feel great on your bare feet, so the city of Key West imported over 11,000 tons of sand, mostly from the Bahamas. Now, conchs and tourists alike can relax on white sands thanks to our Caribbean neighbors.
Closer to Cuba than it is to Miami, Key West is regarded as the southernmost city in the continental United States. Marked by the iconic Southernmost Point Buoy, you can stand 90 miles from the city of Havana and have your picture taken at one of the most photographed landmarks in the United States. You may want to know before you go that the Southernmost Point Buoy is more symbolic than anything else. It is not certified for navigational uses.
The Florida Keys are incredibly expansive and made up of over 800 islands! One of the more interesting things to know before you go, these islands are host to a number of unique attractions, each bringing something special to your vacation. The Keys add about 120 miles to the state of Florida, reaching out into waters where the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet. The Florida Keys are a premier location for fishing, scuba diving and more, and offer a tropical vacation without having to bring your passport.
What to Know Before You Go to Key West
One thing to know about Key West when you’re planning your vacation is what is the best time to visit. While there is truly no bad time to visit Key West, the seasons are distinct, each catering to a different style of vacationer. December to February is peak season in Key West, offering refuge from cold northern winters. If you’re planning a trip during these winter months, you’re going to want to make your arrangements as soon as possible!
As winter turns to spring in the months of March, April and May, the large crowds tend to thin out, and the perfect tropical weather persists. It is very nice to visit Key West, but it is important to know before you go that hotel and flight prices are close to the highest they will be all year during this time. However, you may consider it a small price to pay if you’ve just endured a harsh winter.
An important thing to know about Key West summers is that they are brutally hot. June, July and August are considered off-season when it comes to Key West tourism, and the high temperatures can explain why. If you’re considering visiting Key West in the summertime, you may want to know before you go that June, July and August are the heart of hurricane season.
That brings us to the autumn months of September, October and November. An autumn day in Key West is like July in New England. The conditions are perfect for a week on the beach, and Key West shares the tourist season with the autumn foliage of northern states, so you can avoid the peak-season crowds. The best thing to know about Key West is that the autumn months of September, October and November are the best times to visit.
Now that you’ve decided which Key West season fits what you’re looking for, it’s time to iron out the details of your itinerary. For instance, will you be driving while you’re there? You certainly can; however, most everything in Key West is within walking distance. Remember the world’s longest street? Duval Street? Well, it’s hardly over a mile long, yet teeming with excitement! If there are any attractions included in your plans that you deem “too far to walk,” they are no more than a 15-minute taxi ride away.
One of the best things to know about Key West is that it has some of the best shops and restaurants in the country. An often overlooked foodie destination, Key West is the birthplace of a citrusy favorite — Key lime pie. Sit oceanfront and enjoy refined plates executed with the freshest seafood ingredients. Wash down a perfectly greasy bite of fried fish with an ice-cold beer in your new favorite pub — an excellent way to end a day of perusing the remarkable Shops at Mallory Square. Take home the right souvenir from local vendors peddling pottery, clothing, jewelry and more.
Top 8 Things to Do in Key West
# 1 Take a Trip With Fury Water Adventures
Water sports, eco tours and Key West’s largest ocean water park. These are just a few of the thrills Fury Water Adventures offers those who vacation in Key West. Bounce along the waves on a banana boat ride that’ll leave you beaming. Of all the things to know about Key West, be sure to know this: Fury is ready to take you on the ultimate adventure.
#2 Travel Through Time in Key West’s History Museums
While many may think of Key West as a simple beach town with nothing more to it than its pubs with soothing ambience and its reefs billowing with marine life, the island city has a rich and largely overlooked history. Discover it all through the many history museums in Key West. Start at the Hemingway House and Museum overlooking the waters that inspired Ernest Hemingway’s masterpiece, The Old Man and the Sea. Make your way to the Truman Little White House, where throughout his political career, President Harry S. Truman hosted numerous meetings that shifted the course of this country. With so many things to know about Key West history, be sure to expand your vacation into the past.
#3 Iconic Duval Street
Welcome back to the longest street in the world. Again, not really, but with all the excitement running coast to coast, it might as well be! Duval Street gives you meals you’ll reminisce upon like your fondest childhood memories. Duval Street puts your hand on a real-life shark’s head and has you patting it as though it were your pet dog. Duval Street puts your fingers right on the pulse of Key West, and it’s beating to the tune of “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”
#4 Take Your Picture With the Southernmost Point Buoy
Since it was established in 1983, the Southernmost Point Buoy has become one of the most photographed landmarks in the United States. See how you look standing next to the 12 feet and 4 tons of solid concrete, and share your findings with all your friends and family. Just 90 miles from Cuba, the Southernmost Point Buoy represents the joining of worlds.
#5 Ghost & Gravestones Tours
A city built on wrecking over a backdrop of maritime misfortunes, one can sense the spirits looming about the island of Key West … if they know where to look. Ghosts & Gravestones Tours of Key West can reveal the spooky micro-histories of the island you won’t find in museums. Do you wish to dance with the departed of Key West? Ghosts & Gravestones can show you how.
#6 The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square
A nightly arts festival celebrating the homegrown culture of Key West, the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square is the best place for a land lover to see the sunset, eat food from local vendors and discover the incredibly talented artists just off the radar. For an ocean-top view of the sunset, take to the sea with Fury’s Commotion on the Ocean Sunset Sail — a party you won’t want to miss.
#7 Try Cuban Food
When you’re closer to Cuba than you are to Little Havana, you might want to consider chowing down on a bit of delectable Latin cuisine. Try a plate of tender ropa vieja, Cuba’s national dish, at El Meson de Pepe, one of Key West’s most highly regarded Cuban restaurants. Taste the heart of Cuban street food at Fritas Cuban Burger Cafe.
#8 Get Around and Find Out on Old Town Trolley Tours
Enjoy the best views above traffic with Old Town Trolley Tours Key West. Hop on at your convenience. Hop off at whatever stop you’d like. No matter which stop it is, we’re sure you’ll be happy to be there. The best way to see as much of Key West as possible, Old Town Trolley Tours puts you in the best seat on the island.
When is the best time to visit Key West?
Considering crowds, hotel and flight rates, and seasonal weather, the autumn months of September, October and November are considered the best months to visit Key West.
Is Key West dog friendly?
Many Key West establishments, such as its state parks and public beaches, do allow dogs — as long as they are leashed and well behaved. However, independent businesses, such as hotels, restaurants and shops, reserve the right to deny entry to your furry friend. If you’re planning to bring your canine companion on your Key West vacation, it’s best to reach out to these places ahead of time.
Can you walk to most destinations?
A great thing to know about Key West is that it is one of the most walkable cities in the country. Most destinations are within walking distance of each other, and at most a short drive away.
Are there family-friendly activities?
Absolutely! Key West is home to plenty of family-friendly attractions, such as the Key West Aquarium, the Sails To Rails Museum and the longtime favorite Conch Tour Train.
Is Key West worth visiting?
Does a bear go number-two in the woods? Key West is an incredible vacation destination. White sand beaches, museums, water sports, pubs and more! Key West is definitely worth a visit!
Are the beaches free?
Most public beaches in Key West are free with the exception of the beaches at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Bahia Honda State Park and Dry Tortugas National Park, each charging small fees for entry.