When visiting Key West, no trip is complete without a visit to Mallory Square. A row of shops, art and restaurants like no other, Mallory Square does golden hour like no place else in the world. Stand awestruck every night at the truly moving Key West sunset while local musicians play setlists combining riveting originals and indisputable classics; it’s as though there’s a score to your island vacation. If getting in tune with the spirit of your destination is important to your traveling experience, there is no better way to feel the spirit of Key West than by exploring enchanting Mallory Square.
A Brief History of Mallory Square
Mallory Square dates back to 1823, when Commodore David Porter established it as a base of operations for the U.S. Navy’s West Indies squadron dedicated to suppressing piracy. Once this goal was achieved, Mallory Square became an essential aspect of the booming wrecking industry of Key West from the 1830s up until the turn of the 20th century. This industry became synonymous with Key West, making it the wealthiest city in the United States per capita at that time. Buildings on the Mallory Square waterfront property were used to store and auction an array of salvaged goods from shipwrecks.
During the American Civil War, Mallory Square served as a base for both Union and Confederate troops, adding to the outright peculiar position of Key West during the Civil War. The southernmost city in the United States was also home to the only fort in Confederate territory occupied by Union forces (Fort Zachary Taylor).
Roughly a century after the Civil War, Mallory Square, and Key West around it, modernized. In 1961, the City Restoration Foundation, in a conjoined effort with the City of Key West, decided to restore Mallory Square back to its original 19th century appearance. The 1960s in Key West also saw the birth of the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration, which has since grown into a nightly celebration of the arts among locals and tourists alike. A couple famous attendees of Mallory Square’s Sunset Celebration include playwright Tennessee Williams and author Ernest Hemingway.
Know Before You Go
On an early December evening, some time around 5:30 pm, the incomparable Key West sunset is the reason for the occasion. It is a gathering for conchs and tourists, and Mallory Square is its gracious host. The nightly Sunset Celebration begins two hours before sunset and carries on into the late evening. Local food vendors, street performers, painters, sculptors and more line the streets, showcasing their talents and creations for all of Key West to see.
With no admission charge to the nightly Sunset Celebration, it is known to attract large eager crowds. Arriving as early as half an hour before sunset is advised to ensure you have the best possible view of the spectacle.
The Shops at Mallory Square are curated to display the most exciting artistic and retail spaces in Key West. Many Mallory Square tenants have backgrounds selling their works and products in local farmers and flea markets throughout Key West, giving The Shops at Mallory Square a distinctly home-grown feeling. Home to art studios, whose mediums range from painting to pottery and more, The Shops at Mallory Square have earned a stellar reputation.
Mallory Square also boasts a strong reputation around its restaurant and food vendor scene. El Meson de Pepe has been serving authentic Cuban food to the Key West community for over 30 years, with no signs of stopping any time soon. The food vendors in Mallory Square paint the most honest cultural picture of Key West, getting right to the heart of what the island city is all about, with staples such as Conch Fritter Mike, Holy Guacamole, and Randesh Fresh Coconuts. The freshest ingredients are put on dazzling display by the expert eateries of Mallory Square.
Mallory Square’s Nearby Attractions
Serving as the cultural center of Key West, Mallory Square offers those who visit a long list of attractions fit for families, thrill seekers, history buffs and more. Here are the top seven attractions in and around Mallory Square.
#1 Key West Aquarium
If you’re looking for an educational and mesmerizing attraction perfect for the whole family, look no further than the Key West Aquarium. Home to a number of riveting exhibits, this Mallory Square attraction brings an array of experiences to all those who visit. Get up close and personal with marine life in a way you never thought you could with the aquarium’s touch tank. Pet the local mascot, conchs, as well as starfish, sea urchins and more! Join the Key West Aquarium for live shark feedings! And, learn all about Key West’s beloved sea turtles through their Sea Turtles Conservation Tour. With all kinds of events happening throughout the week at the Key West Aquarium, visiting and revisiting this Key West gem is high on any list of Mallory Square attractions.
#2 The Key West Shipwreck Museum
A city catapulted to the top of the heap in the 19th century thanks to its booming wrecking industry, the Key West Shipwreck Museum captures that story like no other place in Key West. A real glimpse through time, learn all about the brave wreckers of the past, fighting deadly storms to save lives and perform treacherous cargo recoveries. At the Key West Shipwreck Museum, visitors can hear real accounts of these occurrences as well as stand face to face with real artifacts from wrecks. The Key West Shipwreck Museum paints a historical picture of Key West at its conception in a young America.
#3 Sails To Rails Museum
An attraction especially for the nautical history buffs out there, the Sails To Rails Museum takes guests on a real journey through the history of Key West. Learn all about Henry Flagler’s vision of turning the Florida Keys into the Riviera of the United States, lift a genuine silver bar and experience 500 years of Key West history dating all the way back to the days of Spanish explorers. With such a range of information available at Sails To Rails, guests could spend days getting lost in the fascinating exhibits, learning something new with every passing moment.
#4 Truman Little White House
A political figure on the largest stage in American politics, the legacy of former president Harry S. Truman lives on at the Truman Little White House in Key West. Having played host to a number of important meetings and decisions, this monument inserts guests right into one of the most important venues of Truman’s political career. The Truman Little White House is the only presidential museum in all of Florida, providing a unique historical experience specific to Key West.
#5 Fury’s Commotion on the Ocean Sunset Sail
A celebration with live music and the best view of the Key West sunset from the water, Fury’s Commotion on the Ocean Sunset Sail reminds all those aboard that life is good! Dance the night away with your favorite beverage in hand, tasty snacks at your disposal and lively company aboard a sailing catamaran straight out of a postcard. The Key West sunset is a spectacle like no other, and Fury’s Commotion on the Ocean is the best way to appreciate it in all its glory.
#6 Fury’s Double Dip Snorkel Sunset Sail
This Fury adventure has thought of everything so that you don’t have to. This afternoon snorkel and sunset sail combo combines adventure and leisure, totally encompassing the spirit of Key West. Sail out to the reef on a state-of-the-art catamaran, put on top-of-the-line snorkel gear and reef-safe sunscreen and bask in the wonders below the surface. Then, when the snorkeling portion of the trip is over, take in the picturesque Key West sunset with a complimentary beverage in hand. Fury has devised the perfect day for all those who love the sea.
#7 Fury’s Glass-Bottom Boat
This Fury Eco Tour lets you see North America’s only living coral reef from the comfort of an air-conditioned cabin and a nearby snack bar. Peer down through the crystal-clear glass bottom of the luxurious boat and witness the marvelous ecosystem just beneath you. A great way for slower swimmers to obtain the full deep-sea experience, Fury’s Glass-Bottom Boat is an Eco Tour like no other. Book your spot on this Fury Water Adventure today!
Where are the restaurants in Mallory Square?
All over! With tens of restaurants throughout Mallory Square, you’re likely to find a great dining option on any given street in Mallory Square.
What types of shops are in Mallory Square?
The Shops at Mallory Square consist of an array of arts and retail spaces, many of which double as art studios where artists create and sell creations such as pottery, paintings, jewelry, sculptures and more.
How do you get to Mallory Square?
Mallory Square is located at 400 Wall Street in Key West. Buses are a popular option.
Is there parking available nearby?
There is a good amount of metered parking along the streets of Mallory Square. There is also a parking garage at the Opal Key.
Are there public restrooms in Mallory Square?
According to the pee.place website, there are seven public restrooms in Mallory Square.
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