I adore Key West! I fell in love with the tolerant atmosphere in May of 1995 and had to return again in December of 1995. I plan to make it an annual trek and will be down again in October of 1996.
All sorts of people visit the Keys from families to young couples, old couples and gays. It is great sitting out at one of the many bars/cafes along the main street of Duval and watch the passing parade. Most restaurants and bars are outdoor or garden setting.
Sunset celebration: held each evening at sunset at the 0 block of Duval along the piers of the Ocean Key House Hotel and the Pier House Hotel (live bands and waitress service and a good view) and also along Mallory Pier just south of Duval (all sorts of "carnival" type acts.) Check out both areas. The weird acts on Mallory are fun. DO NOT MISS SUNSET! Many charter boat companies also offer sunset cruises. You may book these at numerous kiosks found up and down Duval St.
Snorkeling cruises at reasonable prices can also be booked at the kiosks on Duval. Can't tell you more about that as I don't snorkel, but I did check out prices ($15- 20) for a couple of hours.
Eating: one of my favorite past-times on Key West! It is said that you can't get a bad meal here. My favorites (so far) include: Margaritaville - 500 block Duval for casual food starting at $5. cheeseburgers, grilled fish, I recommend the potato salad and the Key Lime pie!
Kelly's Caribbean Grill & Bar - 300 block Whitehead - garden seating in the historic Pan Am building (owned by Kelly McGillis), delicious Caribbean specialties like jerk pork/chicken, coconut shrimp, mango cobblers, conch fritters, etc. Around $20 for appetizer, entree and dessert.
Savannah - 900 block Duval - southern homemade cooking is fabulous. All entrees (some are seafood) come with cornbread, greens, black-eyed peas and potatoes & gravy. They also have excellent Key Lime Pie
Cafe des Artistes - 1000 block Simonton - French and pricey but oh so incredible (around $50 per person.) Reservations are a must. Great for a special occasion. Most restaurants on the island are extremely casual (i.e. shorts) but here you may want to put on nicer threads. I felt comfortable in a nice short-set.
I have also eaten at Mangoes on Duval, Turtle Kraals along the waterfront. Both were very good. Others I want to try include Blue Heaven, Palm Grill, Half Shell Raw Bar.
Night life: there is tons of it! The party will be hanging out into the streets on weekends. Some places such as Margaritaville have a small cover charge (rock, blues). Historic and popular hangouts include Hog's Breath Saloon, Capn Tony's, Sloppy Joe's - live entertainment nights and some afternoons. Many other bars along Duval have bands also, just walk up and down the drag and you can look in and listen to what you prefer.
Sites: I recommend the conch-train tour. This is 90 minutes of a complete tour of the island from an open-air tram for around $14. Well worth it. Do this first as they hand out discount coupons to other sites and bars after the tour. I have visited the Ernest Hemingway House - fee $6 - interesting even if you are not a fan. Found on Whitehead St
President Truman vacation home - The Little White House - is a good tour ($5). I learned some interesting things about a president I knew very little about. Off Whitehead in the Truman Annex.
Take a walk through the cemetery - above ground tombs many with poems and fund-to-read inscriptions, also a memorial to the USS Maine.
Pelican walking tour - do-it-yourself walk (with descriptive brochure_ of the historic homes and buildings of Key West. The train tour will hand out these brochures.) There are some lovely homes in the historic district.
There is also the island's lighthouse open to climb for a fee, a small aquarium, the shipwreckers museum, a couple of galleries of art.
Beaches: man-made mostly since the island is coral. The largest are Smathers along Roosevelt Blvd by the Sheraton Suites and the one at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The state Park has a $1.50 walk-in fee (more for vehicles.)
Lodging: if you don't have a vehicle then I would suggest staying in the historic "old town" centered around Duval St as everything will be within walking distance. If you have lots of bucks then the Ocean Key House has rooms with balconies overlooking sunset at 0 block Duval or the Pier House across the street. There is also the Hilton and Hyatt along the same waterfront. But big bucks.
Numerous guest houses abound in the historic district from $50 - $150 per night in season (end Dec. to End May) Call the Accommodation Hotline for assistance (305) 296-9298 or (800) 491-7736 (They can also help you with water sports.) This service is free.
I have stayed at the Sheraton Suites which I really liked (island decor, very nice, large rooms, good buffet breakfast and pool.) But it is 3 miles from downtown, although a free shuttle is offered.
I have stayed at a guest house along Simonton and I loved being able to walk everywhere and to be able to return to the room once in a while for dropping of packages (lots of shopping on the island) or changing clothes. However, I cant totally recommend the place I stayed.
There is also a "youth" hostel on Duval for around $15 a person.
in Woodstock, IL USA
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