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12 reasons Key West is great for kids

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12 reasons Key West is great for kids

Key West for families with kids

Key West for families with kids

Key West, Florida, is a place known for pub crawls and debauchery, but that doesn’t mean visitors with children can’t also have a family-friendly vacation there.

My husband and I have visited Key West both as a couple and with children, and we have found the Conch Republic to be a great getaway no matter what.

Here’s a list of reasons Key West is fun for kids!

1. Weird stuff. If seeing occasional people in strange outfits isn’t enough, there are the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, the Ghosts & Gravestones tour, and the nightly spectacle of live performers at Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration. Watch jugglers, joke tellers, musicians and other entertainers — even cats doing circus acts — at this unique gathering spot on the ocean while everyone watches the sun set over the water.

Key West's Mallory Square performer

Key West's Mallory Square is the scene of the nightly Sunset Celebration, where you'll find all kinds of performers

2. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. This Florida state park has a nice beach and, as the name indicates, a historic fort dating back to the Civil War. Swim, snorkel, dive, fish (kids under age 16 don’t need a license to fish), bicycle, walk the nature trail, do some birdwatching and have a simple lunch at the park concession. Best of all is the entrance fee: A car full of people (up to eight) can get in for $6, or $2 for pedestrians.

3. Tram tours. Ride the streets of Cayo Hueso in a trolley lookalike with Old Town Trolley Tours or in a “steam train” tram with Conch Tour Train. These open-air trams provide narrated sightseeing as they roll through the town, so you can learn a bit about the history as well as easily get from one attraction to another. Some tram packages offer the tram tour in addition to visits at some attractions. Best of all, kids 12 and under ride for free.

4. Food. Key lime pie on a stick? Homemade ice cream? Fresh fish sandwiches in the funkiest restaurant without walls? Eating outside while stray cats walk by? Key West is a great place for finding great eats.

There are plenty of interesting places for kids to uncover in Key West

There are plenty of interesting places for kids to uncover in Key West, like B.O.'s Fish Wagon

5. Butterflies. Visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory to wander through an enclosed garden full of butterflies and coloring songbirds flitting everywhere. Kids under 4 are free; kids 4-12 get in for $8.50; adult tickets are $12.

6. The Southernmost Point. OK, kids might not be impressed by the black, yellow and red marker that stands at what some consider the southernmost point in the continental United States. But some kids will like the photo opp at a true Key West landmark.

7. Cruise ships. You might arrive in Key West on a cruise ship (it’s a popular port for many Caribbean-bound trips), but if you don’t, you can still visit Mallory Square to see these giants come and go.

Key West is a port of call for many cruise ships

Key West is a port of call for many cruise ships

8. Water fun. Kids will enjoy splashing in a resort pool, digging in the sand at the beach or watching the boats go by. Better yet, get your family out on the water. Check out the ferry that takes you to Dry Tortugas National Park well off the coast of Key West where you can tour Fort McKinley and snorkel before coming back to Key West, or one of the many kayak, snorkel and stand-up paddleboarding tours. And if your family snorkels or dives, this is a great place to do it.

9. Six-toed cats. Visiting the Ernest Hemingway home may or may not hold a child’s interest, but seeing the descendants of the famous author’s cats roaming the grounds — some of which are polydactyl, or have an extra toe on their feet — may interest a kid enough that you can enjoy the tour yourself. Kid tickets are only $6, or free if the child is 5 or younger.

10. Petting a shark and holding starfish. The Key West Aquarium is a must-do if you have kids. Kids flock to the touch tank, and the fearless will feed fish to the nurse sharks. There are also lots of tanks full of fish — and alligators! Kids can get in for less than $10, and if you buy your tickets online, it’s cost-effective for everyone.

Kids can touch and feed the sea creatures at Key West Aquarium

Kids can touch and feed the sea creatures at Key West Aquarium

11. Pirate booty. Well, treasure in general. Key West is steeped in pirate lore and the discovery of treasure. Visit the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum (kids get in for $6.25) and the Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum (kid tickets are $8.59). The kids will even learn some history. For a bonus pirate experience, check out the Schooner Wolf for a sail on a tall ship or the Fort Taylor Pirate Invasion, Dec. 6-8 this year.

12. Wild chickens. Kids get a kick out of seeing roosters, hens and chicks strutting around like they own the island. Because, well, they kind of do. The chickens are free to roam, and you will see them here and there around Key West, taking curious onlookers in stride.

Key West rooster

Key West roosters and hens have the run of the island

Key West is still the place for the outrageous, eccentric, bawdy and artistic. But there’s no reason to keep kids away from the outdoor, historical and downright fun aspects of the island. Especially if you stick to mostly daytime activities, a family can create a memorable trip to Key West.

  1. That’s a great list of things to do with the kids in Key West! We haven’t been there in ages and always hold back going because we don’t think the kids would enjoy it! But I guess, now I don’t have an excuse anymore. :)

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