Key West

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More than just a pretty party town, Key West, with its rich literary and maritime history, has multiple attractions and museums worth exploring. Against the glittering backdrop of the sea you’ll also find interesting shops and meet the traditionally irreverent, salty locals, called “Conchs,” after the island’s symbol.

Things to do in Key West

Audubon House and Gardens

Once a sea captain's home, legendary naturalist/artist John James Audubon used the grounds to sketch birds in 1832; several first-edition Audubon works are on display here and in the on-site gallery. Brick pathways wind through nearly an acre of tropical gardens with hundreds of orchids and carefully labeled flora.

205 Whitehead St., FL, 877-294-2470, 305-294-2116, www.audubonhouse.com
Tags: family | things to do | history

Captain Tony’s Saloon

Drink in local flavor at the joint that housed Sloppy Joe's in the early '30s. Renamed in 1958 for its then-owner, the late Tony Tarracino (bootlegger, gambler, Key West character), it's decorated with business cards, abandoned bras, and a tree growing through its ceiling.

428 Greene St., FL, 305-294-1838, www.capttonyssaloon.com
Tags: nightlife | lounge | things to do | bar

Ernest Hemingway House

See the Spanish Colonial home where Hemingway cranked out many of his novels and short stories in the 1930s, when he wasn't fishing or throwing one back at Sloppy Joe's Bar. European antiques and African animal skins from his travels adorn the property and descendants of his famous six-toed cats still roam about.

907 Whitehead St., FL, 305-294-1136, www.hemingwayhome.com
Tags: family | editor pick | things to do | history

Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

Gain a greater understanding of the local ecology at this free, child-friendly science center operated by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This educational look at the Keys' (land- and sea-based flora and fauna features a mock-up of the Sanctuary's Aquarius underwater ocean lab which is deployed 9 miles south of Key Largo), habitat exhibits, and a short, well-made nature documentary.

35 Quay Rd., FL, 305-809-4750, www.floridakeys.noaa.gov
Tags: family | great value | things to do

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Key West isn't known for its beaches, but this one is a gem. Tour the fortress completed in 1866 or skip to the sands at the southern end for snorkeling, picnic tables, and a snack bar. Two short nature trails loop through the tropical vegetation.

Entrance at Southard & Whitehead Sts., FL, 305-292-6713, www.floridastateparks.org/forttaylor
Tags: beach | family | things to do | outdoors | history

Key West Aquarium

SeaWorld it’s not, but kids still love the indigenous nurse sharks, turtles, stingrays, and tarpon fish, as well as the hands-on interaction that touch tanks provide with creatures like sea urchins, starfish, sea cucumbers, and hermit crabs. Visit during one of the four daily tours to see the shark feedings.

1 Whitehead St., FL, 800-868-7482; 305-296-2051, www.keywestaquarium.com
Tags: family | things to do

Key West Museum of Art & History

Visit the imposing red-brick 1891 Custom House (once a post office, later a government center) with its dramatically steep gables. Folk art from early 20th-century painter Mario Sanchez, possessions belonging to Hemingway, and other exhibits showcase Key West's heritage. Whimsical outdoor sculptures make for great photo ops.

281 Front St., FL, 305-295-6616, www.kwahs.com/customhouse.htm
Tags: family | things to do | culture | history

Margaritaville Café

Yup – that Margaritaville. Although touristy, it's always fun to be able to say you paid a visit to the restaurant/bar opened by the famous singer Jimmy Buffett.

500 Duval St., FL, 305-292-1435, www.margaritaville.com
Tags: nightlife | editor pick | lounge | things to do | bar

Sloppy Joe's

Made famous as a Hemingway hangout, the cavernous flag-bestrewn room offers up different music acts every night.

201 Duval St., FL, 305-294-5717, www.sloppyjoes.com
Tags: nightlife | editor pick | dancing | things to do | bar

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Observe up to 60 types of butterflies, including the conservatory's signature iridescent Blue Morpho, fluttering freely through a lush, climate-controlled glass habitat filled with tropical foliage and water features. The butterflies range in size from a two-inch in wingspan (heliconias) up to a dramatic 11 inches (Owl butterflies).

1316 Duval St., FL, 305-296-2988, www.keywestbutterfly.com
Tags: family | things to do | wildlife | gardens

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