What to do in Key West.
June 10, 2005 10:55 AM   Subscribe

A friend and I are travelling down to Key West, Florida, on the 19th for a week. What are some fun, cheap, off-the-beaten path things to be seen and do while there? (We're both 20 years old, if that matters.)
posted by itchie to Travel & Transportation around Key West, FL (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Visit the Little Whitehouse, which was Truman's vacation home. It's my life's mission to take a dump there. I don't know why, but it would be cool to dump where Truman did.
Let's see, there's also the Hemingway House. That was a pretty neat tour. You can hang out with all of his cats' offspring too. I've never been on a tour where they let you hang out as long as you want to afterwards. That was nice.
There's also the Audobon House, but I've never been there.
One trip you *have* to do while you're in Key West is the snorkeling trip out at Fort Jefferson. That's something I could do over and over again. Fort Jefferson is on Dry Tortuga, far away from Key West. It takes a while to get there by boat, but it's well worth it.
If you like deep sea fishing, there's tons of that going on. It could be really expensive, but I've seen a couple of dudes walking around looking for other small groups to go in on a fishing excursion together. I think a half day is around $500. Depending on who you go with, that is.
Other than that, it's an alcoholic's paradise. Get drunk and try to tune out all of the Jimmy Buffett.
posted by NoMich at 11:27 AM on June 10, 2005

Rent bikes or mopeds and ride around all the charming, quiet residential neighborhoods.

There's a funky old cemetery that's interesting if you're into that kind of thing (I am).

As NoMich suggested, the snorkeling (and diving, if you're certified, or want to get certified) is excellent. I've gone there several times on diving trips.

Fort Zachary Taylor is also cool if you're into that. The beach there is pebbly but has really good walk-in snorkeling.
posted by GrammarMoses at 11:34 AM on June 10, 2005

You know, I just noticed that you are only 20. Forget the getting drunk part then.
One more suggestion and this one is food related: eat at El Siboney as often as you can as you will never have Cuban cuisine that good ever again. Unless you go to Cuba, then forget what I just said.
posted by NoMich at 11:41 AM on June 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

I went on a glass bottomed boat the one time I was there. It was nice, as much for just being out on the water as for looking through the glass bottom.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:51 AM on June 10, 2005

Touristy as all hell but there's also a few places on the west of the island where you can rent some waverunner time and jet around like a jackass. Don't bother renting more than 30 minutes, you'll be tired and sore in that amount of time easy.

Plug: the family of friends of mine own Cypress House and I recommend it highly as a chill place to stay, provided you have no issue with a gay-friendly B&B. Their off-season rates are reasonable and their stumbling-distance location from Duval Street is a big plus, though as 20 year olds I am sure you never imbibe. *eye roll* NoMich is very trusting.

Piece of advice from a former SoFla doorman: FL law says the only valid IDs for purposes of serving are a passport or a CURRENT AND VALID state issued ID. Yes, you don't stop being your age because your DL expires but apparently being given an old expired license is how a lot of people get fakes. Don't be an ass about it - the bar's concern is staying open to serve drinks tomorrow and so on, not getting your pissant $3 for a Bud.

When it's eating time I cannot more highly rate anything you can do for lunch other than Bo's Fish Wagon on Caroline and... eeeemmm I think William. Yep. The price is right and the food excellent.

Amazingly nobody has suggested you go to the Southernmost Point. Again, touristy, but how do you not go? It's fun to be able to say you stood as far S as you could in the continental US and it's a huge concrete colorful thing that's fun to take your picture with. (We used to make them out of wood but they got stolen all the time. Try taking this one, stickyfingers!)

If nobody else has said it, let me tell you not to waste your time at the beaches. They're mediocre and you're better off on South Beach if that's your thing. Sand's better and the east side of KW doesn't have much worth seeing so you'll spend too much time traveling & parking to lay&bake which you an do anywhere. All the character and, more importantly, SHADE, is on the west side of the island.

Little WhiteHouse -is- neat and I second NoMich's suggestion you see it, and Hemingway house although I believe full access to either will cost you a few bucks.
posted by phearlez at 12:00 PM on June 10, 2005

It's not off the beaten path, but Mel Fisher's Attocha shipwreck museum is very cool. You can heft a real gold bar or buy an emerald from the wreck.

I've heard that the clothing-optional rooftop bar, The Garden of Eden, atop the Bull and Whistle on Duvall can be fun.
posted by wsg at 12:26 PM on June 10, 2005

You gotta eat some conch fritters and have a cuban sandwich while you're there, too.
posted by wsg at 12:28 PM on June 10, 2005

Yes, the house tours do cost money, but it's cheap and interesting.
Sunset is a nice time to watch the street performer freaks do their thing on the very western part of the island. You may want to cough up a few bucks for their entertainment.
Yes, Bo's, eat there. Great fish sandwich. Yum.
Lastly, chickens. Everywhere, chickens.
posted by NoMich at 12:31 PM on June 10, 2005

Pirate weddings!

The pirate themed options are myriad.
posted by tweak at 1:05 PM on June 10, 2005

outside of KW: John Pennekamp park is ranked one of the top ten places to dive in the world and it's not too far north of you. You don't say if you're driving down from Miami or flying into KWI but if you have a car you can drive N about an hour (and it's a beautiful drive) and take any of a bazillion charter boats out to scuba or snorkle. http://www.flkeysdiving.com/ seems to be a "non-partisan" site but light on lower keys info.

Personally I'm partial to Islamaroda key but it's farther north. If you're flying into KW that may not be achievable for you, if anything is.

Really, for a snorkeling operation (if you're not a certified SCUBA diver) the most important thing is that they take you somewhere you can enjoy free-diving (as opposed to SCUBA where you mind less if it's very deep) and they have some staff to bail your ass out if you are not a strong swimmer and need rescuing. Or if you're a strong swimmer and need help, for that matter - you can get some serious current out there depending on conditions.
posted by phearlez at 1:29 PM on June 10, 2005

when i went 2 years ago, we stayed at a place called Pegasus International Hotel right on Duvual St, which was right above/next to the Ripley's Musuem (which is cool, but if you have been to one you have been to them all) but anyway there is this little almost a convience store on Southard, right across from the hotel called Romeo's. i had the best breakfast ever there. egg and cheese with bacon on good cuban bread and a cup of coffe to die for. it seemed like a locals only type of place which only made it better. plus they have a really cool dog (Romeo)...look for it
posted by ShawnString at 1:37 PM on June 10, 2005

I've never been to Key West. But I have been to Hong Kong, fulfilling a goal I'd had for years. Curiously, once there, I found I didn't care for it, wanted to end my trip early. My father had the same reaction to Key West, a place he'd always wanted to visit -- but of course, YMMV.

Now, I want to go to Key West, not so much for the destination, but for the journey along the Overseas Highway. A new road replaced the original, in the 1970s, but it runs right along the original, which is what I want to see, especially the Bahai Honda bridge.
posted by Rash at 2:35 PM on June 10, 2005

A family friend owns Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe, which sells all sorts of key-lime flavored and/or scented stuff, and he makes a wicked Key Lime pie that has been featured on Food Network. Not sure if that is of interest to a 20-year-old or not, but maybe if you need a present for someone?
posted by SashaPT at 2:36 PM on June 10, 2005

You are both 20 years old. That does matter a bit. Have you thought about paying a few bucks for some decent fake IDs? Even if you don't drink, you'll be able to get into a lot more places, and there are some very interesting places down there.

If you have a car, don't be afraid of driving an hour or two north to see things. I've always found the drive through the keys to be very relaxing, and the time just flies by. Plenty of interesting things to see along the way.

Make sure you get to the sunset festival at least once, if not every night.
posted by bh at 3:41 PM on June 10, 2005

I will second most of the suggestions above, particularly the cemetery, moped riding, and "southernmost point." Also, be on the lookout for the polydactyl cats that roam around (sometimes called "Hemingway's cats"). But for most tourists KW is mainly about the sunsets, food, and booze.

The drive down US-1 through the keys is scenic, particularly if you have (or rent) a convertible and put the top down. But it *is* the rainy season, so be ready to put it back up.

Also, if you are flying into Miami (god help you) and want something at the corner of weird and cheesy to do on the way down, you can always stop at the Coral Castle. It's on the mainland, but you practically have to pass it to get to the Keys.
posted by mkhall at 3:56 PM on June 10, 2005

Now, I want to go to Key West, not so much for the destination, but for the journey along the Overseas Highway. A new road replaced the original, in the 1970s, but it runs right along the original, which is what I want to see, especially the Bahai Honda bridge.

You could just rent True Lies and watch the bit when Ahnold lifts JLC out of the limo before it goes off the bridge. That was actually filmed going -southbound- on the old highway (which now usually just has fishermen on it.

A family friend owns Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe,

OH. MY. GROD. How did I forget to tell you to insure you have a frozen key lime pie on a stick? You'll find them at many convenience shops in the area or straight at the source but they are wonderful chocolate-dipped bits of heaven. I think they're Kermit's creation but even if not the little convenience store across the street from Bo's will have them.
posted by phearlez at 4:11 PM on June 10, 2005

You don't need to go deep sea fishing. Close to shore is more fun. Rent a rod at a tackle shop for the day and go catch lots of snappers, snook, permit inshore and off the jetties and piers. Take 'em down to the beach or park and BBQ 'em.
posted by zaelic at 1:50 AM on June 11, 2005

Great idea zaelic. I didn't know there was room to do that off the shores of Key West.
You can also take your catch to a restaurant and they'll do all the nasty cleaning work, cook it any style you want and serve it up to you, for a reasonable amount of money. We did that last December as a matter of fact. Yum!
posted by NoMich at 9:19 AM on June 11, 2005

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