Families enjoy visiting Key West. The southernmost city in the continental United States is filled with cool attractions, engaging museums, and exciting options for outdoor adventure. Whether you're visiting Key West for the day or staying overnight at one of the Florida Keys’ family-friendly resorts, you’ll find something for every interest and age group. Many families fall in love with the Florida Keys on their visit and return to the area for a longer stay.
If you’re planning to take the kids to Key West, here are seven great things to do while you’re there:
1. Head to the Beach. Beach loving families can certainly find their place in the sun in Key West. Smathers Beach offers beach equipment rentals, food concessions and a number of water sport activities. The beautiful palm-studded beach offers a number of shady spots for sitting. Gradual entry into the shallow water here makes it a good choice for families with younger children, too.
2. Ride the Conch Train. This cute open-air train is a great way for families to eliminate long walks and get an overview of the city on clear days. The 90-minute hop-on, hop-off tour covers all of Key West's highlights including the Southernmost Point. If the weather is bad or you'd like to make more stops, the enclosed Old Town Trolley may be the best bet. Children ages twelve and under ride free on both the Conch Train and the Old Town Trolley.
3. Get Close to Nature. Walk through the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory's tropical paradise and marvel at hundreds of free-flying butterflies and over 25 species of exotic birds from around the globe. About 50 to 60 different species of butterflies can be found in this climate-controlled, glass enclosed habitat. Then visit the Key West Aquarium, Key West's oldest attraction and home to hundreds of species of local sea life. The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center is another excellent place for families to learn about the underwater world and natural habitats of the Keys.
4. Get Out On The Water. Catamaran cruises are a relaxing way for families to spend the day and get a close-up view of Key West's spectacular nearby reef and crystal blue waters. These ultra-stable, roomy boats take their guests out to North America's only living coral reef. Here, families can enjoy snorkeling with tropical fish or lazing on the deck soaking up the sun. Glass-bottom boat tours are also available for families with little ones or those who don't want to get wet. Nature kayaking tours around the mangrove creeks and shallow flats surrounding Key West are also fun for families. It’s common to see sea life on these tours including conch shells, nurse sharks, tropical fish, herons, egrets and other birds. Two-person speedboat tours are also popular with families. Kids must be at least six years of age to go on most kayaking and speedboat tours in Key West.
5. Cruise Around. It's easy to tour Key West on comfortable beach cruiser bikes available from several rental shops on the island. Guided bike tours are also offered for families with children ages ten and up. Families can also rent "Conch Cruisers," golf cart-like electric vehicles that will accommodate up to four passengers, from Key West Cruisers and other local companies.
6. Explore Key West's Cool Museums. Key West has a number of captivating museums that reflect its fascinating history. There’s even a Little White House here. Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, was one of Key West's most famous residents and his home is open to the public for tours. Other notable sites include the Key West Heritage House, Key West's Shipwreck Historeum, and the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is another popular stop for families visiting Key West. With over 10,000 square feet of space showcasing over 550 exhibits, this Ripley’s location displays such things as a real shrunken human torso originally owned by Ernest Hemingway, two-headed animals and more. Children of ages five and under are admitted free of charge.
7. Watch the Sunset. Sunsets are anything but boring in Key West. Every evening, the Sunset Celebration festival is held at Mallory Square Dock beginning about two hours before sunset. While Key West’s fiery sunsets are the main event, kids will enjoy watching the street performers put on their shows. Entertainers often include skilled jugglers, unicycle riders, singers, sword swallowers and more. Visitors can also enjoy sampling tasty delights and shopping for unique handicrafts at the many booths set up around the square.
If You Go:
Families often prefer to stay close enough to Key West to sample its attractions, but far enough away from the crowds to relax and enjoy the true spirit of the Florida Keys. Hawks Cay Resort fits the bill perfectly. Set on 60 waterfront acres on secluded Duck Key, Hawks Cay is a family-friendly AAA Four-Diamond Award-winning resort that offers a wide variety of activities and attractions for all ages.
Hawks Cay features 420 two- and three-bedroom villas and spacious hotel rooms, along with four restaurants, the resort’s Cliff Drysdale Tennis program with eight lighted courts, and the award-winning 7,000 square foot Calm Waters Spa. Hawks Cay guests can enjoy five swimming pools and a massive saltwater lagoon complete with sandy beach areas and shaded lounge chairs – very popular with families.
Hawks Cay Resort is well known for its outstanding kids programs including Camp Hawk for ages 5-12 and an awesome game room with activities for teens ages 13-17. Programs are based at Coral Cay, a large adventures and activities facility for kids. This area features a cool Pirate Ship Pool with slides, tunnels and even water shooting cannons. There’s a large shallow-entry pool there, too. Families also enjoy biking around the resort’s property, kayaking and fishing. When parents want to enjoy a romantic night out, babysitting and a Kid's Night Out program for ages 5-12 are available as well.
Fishing is a great way to make lifelong family memories and Hawks Cay is the perfect place to do it. The resort is home to NBC Sports’ highly rated “Saltwater Experience” fishing show. There’s a wide variety of fishing options available here to suit every experience level, from beginners to highly seasoned anglers. Charter boats with knowledgeable captains are available for both offshore and backcountry fishing.
Hawks Cay’s Dolphin Connection Program is also very popular with families. Hawks Cay has the only resort-based program where guests can mingle and swim with dolphins in their natural environment, and it’s the only facility in the mainland U.S. where visitors can watch trained dolphin viewing free of charge. Guests, including young children, can take part in the Dolphin Connection’s programs which range from Dockside Dolphins (where interactions take place from training docks) and shallow water Dolphin Discovery interactions – all the way up to the in-depth Dolphin Trainer for a Day. These programs are very popular and reservations are strongly recommended. Book your program as far in advance as possible to ensure your date and time of choice.
For more information on planning a family vacation at Hawks Cay Resort, visit their website at www.hawkscay.com.