Jimm Sherrington

Key West has transcended its fun-and-sun clichés, emerging as a cultural destination firing on all cylinders. The Studios of Key West, an artists’ studio complex with a gallery, recently moved to a new location on Eaton Street; nearby, the new Key West Theater has a resident theater company, On the Rock.

Both art complexes are near the San Carlos Institute on Duval Street, the site of the annual Key West Literary Seminar, a writer’s conference and literary festival. This winter, KWLS will present Shorts, an examination of literary short forms, featuring Key West icon Tom McGuane. 

The new Saint Hotel, an off-shoot of the New Orleans boutique hotel, has a ripe New Orleans saints-and-sinners sensibility, with “Play Naughty. Sleep Saintly” signs everywhere, and a huge Buddha over the pool. The nearby NYAH Key West (Not Your Average Hotel) is more restrained, as is The Gardens Hotel, which just added four new guesthouses.

Related: Changing Florida Keys

The city’s evolved dining scene is now recognized with a culinary walking tour. On the funky end, the beyond-atmospheric Blue Heaven launched the even more casual Andy’s Cabana (pictured) and retooled Salute on the Beach. Andy’s and Salute are tasty, cheap, and easy, just like Key West Should be.

Tom Austin is based in Miami and covers the Florida beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter at @TomAustin

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