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Key West FL Phone: Historic homes and some of the city's most popular tourist attractions can be found along Duval Street, which stretches from Mallory Square to the Southernmost Point marker. This area is also host to several events and festivals throughout the year, the most famous of which is the Hemingway Days Festival , held each summer. Tourists can get a good overview of the area and its history on the Conch Tour Train , which visits Duval Street, as well as Old Town , Hemingway's House , and the waterfront area. This minute narrated tour offers perspective on the railroad days, the depression, and WWII, as they relate to Key West.
Resident cat in the gardens at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.
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The legendary author Ernest Hemingway bought this Spanish Colonial house in and lived in it until It features a lush tropical garden and the salt-water pool that he claimed nearly wiped him out financially, and contains his "last penny" pressed into the concrete. Tourists can see the restored interior as well, which displays the writer's own collection of 17th- and 18th-century Spanish furniture. More than forty descendants of Hemingway's original brood of house cats still roam the property.
Official site: www. Visitors to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory have the unique opportunity to walk among more than fifty species of butterflies in the natural garden habitat of a glass conservatory. In addition to the colorful butterflies, there are more than 20 species of exotic birds that reside here, making a visit to the conservatory a truly special experience.
The Learning Center provides visitors with an educational film about the life cycle of butterflies, and there are also exhibits that explain the stages in detail, as well as a live caterpillar viewing area, where you can see real butterflies going through their transformations. This is a popular tourist attraction for nature-lovers as well as families. Official Site: www. Mallory Square, a former warehouse area, is now the location of a nightly sunset-watching ritual with live entertainment. This is one the most popular free things to do in Key West.
Tourists gather on the dock to marvel at the stunning pinks and reds as the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico. Jugglers, vendors, musicians, and other street performers create a carnival-like atmosphere, including some truly unique performances like dog unicycling, cats on a tightrope, and straightjacket escapes.
The area has become one of the tourist highlights of Key West, particularly in the late afternoon. There are shops and other attractions located on and around Mallory Square as well, including the historical Key West Sponge Market , a treasure-hunting store, and multiple surf shops. Dry Tortugas National Park is an archipelago of seven reef islands located around 65 miles southwest of Key West.
They were so named by explorer Ponce de Leon due to the number of turtles tortuga meaning turtle in Spanish found on the islands. The "dry" part was added later, referring to the lack of fresh water on the islands. The fort operated as a prison for Union deserters during the Civil War and also housed Dr.
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Samuel Mudd, who was arrested as a co-conspirator in Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Soft sand beaches and wonderful opportunities for snorkeling also add to the allure of the park. Catamaran Boat Excursions to the Dry Tortugas , which include snorkeling and snorkeling equipment, as well as lunch, leave from Key West.
The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum tells the story of diver Mel Fisher, who discovered several shipwrecks, including one that carried exceedingly valuable artifacts and another that holds a wealth of historical value.
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First discovered in , an English ship was found about 35 miles west of Key West. Later identified as the Henrietta Marie , this was a slave ship that had disappeared in shortly after selling African Captives in Jamaica. Although the ship did not carry a wealth of gold and jewels, its remains hold invaluable artifacts, which provide a look at the history and conditions of the maritime slave trade, and is the oldest slave ship wreck to be discovered. In , Fisher's dive teams discovered the wreck of the Santa Margarita , a 17th-century Spanish ship.
This wreck held an astounding assortment of valuable objects, from gold and silver bars and coins to elaborate jewelry. The museum displays numerous artifacts from these wrecks and others, including a The museum also has exhibits on underwater archaeology and diving, as well as films and hands-on demonstrations.
The restored Harry S. Truman first visited the house in , and during his presidency used it several times as a vacation retreat.
The original furnishings and decor have remained intact from the Truman era, and it has been used by subsequent presidents and officials as it still is today. Visitors can see Truman's piano and the desk he used during his "working vacations," and guides add insight into the building's history and the political significance it held during the Cold War.
Tourists will also enjoy a self-guided tour of the home's botanical gardens.
The Martello Towers are two brick fortifications, built in to protect Fort Zachary Taylor from the east. The fort was never completed and never saw hostile action, although the eight-foot-thick granite walls would certainly have withstood artillery attacks. The central tower provides a spectacular panoramic view of the Atlantic coast of Key West.
Army Corps of Engineers. The Key West Garden Club took possession of the fort in and began a cleanup and planting to beautify the dilapidated fort. Today, visitors can stroll the grounds, through lovely courtyards and gardens.
Romantic pathways, arches, a waterfall, and water lily pond are some of the highlights. It now houses the Martello Gallery -Key West Art and Historical Museum , with a diverse collection of local art and sculpture and other exhibits related to the development of Key West. This s home was built by ship carpenters for Captain John Greiger, a noted harbor pilot and wrecker. It was originally built by Richard Cussans in a different location and later moved to Duval Street. The house offers a chance to see and learn a little about the history of Key West.
It is not as extravagant or as lovely as some of the city's other historical houses that are open to the public, but it has its own unique charm. Within the house are some original furnishings, family portraits, and displays on the history of Key West. Ship models and information on the history of the industry in the area are on display. At the rear of the house is a garden and a cookhouse, which was typical of the period. There is also an exhibit pavilion containing additional documents of interest. The Key West Aquarium first opened its doors in , making it one of the first open-air aquariums in the U.
For practical purposes of algae control, a roof was later added, and the facility was upgraded. Exhibits include the "Atlantic Shores" and the large outdoor holding pens. A number of tanks house local marine life, including puffer fish, snappers, and angelfish. There are also tanks with barracuda and sharks, and a "touch tank," which allows visitors to get up close and personal with conch, starfish, and other invertebrates. During the tours, visitors can watch the sharks being fed and touch a juvenile nurse shark.
Key West's claim to fame as the southernmost point in the continental U. Street vendors and performers congregate around the site to sell souvenirs and showcase their talents. The marker itself, dedicated by the Key West public Works Department in , is less than inspiring but nonetheless, visitors often have their picture taken at the marker. A similar landmark and equally popular place for Key West photo-ops is the US1 mile-marker "0" sign which marks the beginning of the route which runs up almost the entirety of the east coast.
Stretching for nearly 2, miles, the interstate ends in Maine, passing through several major cities. The Shipwreck Treasure Museum is housed in the replica of a 19th-century wrecker's warehouse with exhibits exploring the fascinating history of the salvage industry in the area. Wrecking, the practice of salvaging cargo from the various ships that perished along the Florida reefs, was once a major part of Key West's economy and an extremely lucrative - but dangerous -industry.
From atop observation towers like the foot example here at the museum, wreckers would watch day and night for ships in trouble and race to the site. The first to arrive could claim the rights to the largest share of the salvage profits, a process overseen by special "wrecking courts. Here, at the museum, actors in period costume recount the story of the Isaac Allerton , which sank in , as well as show what life was like for the daring wreckers who risked their lives to not only recover treasure but also save the lives of the reefs' victims.
Artifacts from the shipwreck are displayed, and visitors can also watch films and videos on the subject. The observation tower provides excellent views and photo opportunities of the surrounding land and seascape. Founded in after the island's original cemetery was destroyed by a hurricane, the headstones in Key West's cemetery mark the graves of more than 35, people. This historic cemetery has several religious and memorial sections, including dedicated Jewish and Roman Catholic areas, the Los Martires de Cuba memorial commemorating the Cuban martyrs who were killed during the s independence movement, and a plot dedicated to the sailors who died when the USS Maine sank in Many visitors enjoy the intricate iron work and carved monuments that adorn family plots and tombs.
The Key West Lighthouse was built in and opened in with a female keeper, a rarity in that time. Over the years, its keeper's quarters and lenses were upgraded until technology rendered both obsolete, and it was decommissioned in The Key West Art and Historical Society adopted the property, initially turning it into a military museum and then later restoring the lighthouse and quarters to reflect life here at the beginning of the 20th century.
Today, it houses original furniture, household items, and photos of the many keepers who kept the light burning through even the worst of storms. The lighthouse stands at 86 feet high, and visitors can climb up its 88 steps for great views from the observation deck near the top. A short video presentation also provides an interesting look at the history of the Key West Lighthouse. Key West is compact and easily walkable, but the best place to stay is near Duval Street, in the heart of downtown.
Budget-minded travelers will have to search farther afield to find reasonable prices. Located just a block off Duval Street, The Gardens Hotel is a beautifully appointed property, with lush gardens surrounding a pool.
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Mid-Range Hotels: Hotels in this price range tend to be a little farther back from the action but still on the island of Key West. The Chelsea House is a charming boutique hotel housed in two buildings from and respectively. It features a very large pool, by Key West's standards, and is just a short walk to the southernmost point in the United States.
This hotel is set on large, lush grounds and features renowned tropical gardens. Budget Hotels: The budget options tend to be a bit older and farther out from downtown. The Ibis Bay Beach Resort has a shuttle to downtown and is close to restaurants and grocery stores. Another option, three miles from downtown and featuring beautiful views out over the water, is The Laureate Key West. You'll need a car to stay here as there is no shuttle, and no restaurants are nearby. Crystal clear waters and coral reefs surround Key West, and a boat tour is a great way to explore these habitats and the abundant marine life.
Taking an organized tour also means you don't have to worry about renting a boat and navigating your way through unfamiliar waters. Below are some fun tours that guarantee the lowest price and offer a great option for getting around town hassle-free:. In addition to making your Key West vacation itinerary a breeze, an expert guide narrates the ride, providing interesting facts and telling fascinating stories about the island's history and lore.
Dolphins and Snorkeling Boat Tour: The three-hour Key West Dolphin Watch and Snorkel Cruise whisks you away from the coast on a catamaran to see wild dolphins swimming and playing in the water a few feet from the boat.