Key West Travel Guide
It's a shame to come to Hemingway's tropical hideaway and not take the official tour, which start every 10 minutes and are led by a ramshackle group of stand-up comics turned literature lovers.
Off the beaten path in an old Armory building, this nonprofit creative arts community center serves as an artist residency to more than 40 different artists each year. Mediums include writing, hair and headdress designing, dancing, painting, sculpting, and music.
The Yankee Freedom II takes visitors from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park. The 70-mile excursion aboard this high-speed-catamaran takes a little more than two hours, and guests have about four hours to enjoy Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas beaches.
A jazzy live band accompanies the rough-looking bartenders, who serve $3 brews to a wide range of characters beneath twinkling green lights.
Yacht owners tie up their boats and grab seats on the wraparound porch at this marina bar and slurp Key lime–garlic oysters during happy hour (4–6:30 p.m., when starters and drinks are half-price).
The circa-1891 Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House features a dripping-with-malice portrait of Truman Capote, waving a 1976 American Bicentennial flag and pistol, a Vote for the Man sign and a bloody young couple in the foreground: it was done by Capote’s fellow all-star of w
This recently renovated hotel restaurant hosts its very own cabaret; men in drag do nightly impersonations of celebrities like Madonna and Cher at the Crystal Room. Skip the overpriced poolside restaurant for a fresh mojito on the black-and-white-marble patio.
The Museum of Art & History at the Custom House occupies a prime location on the port, but for Art Basel–quality work, head to this one-room gallery. The small collection of contemporary Cuban artists includes vibrant canvases by Luis Abreux and painted wooden folk carvings by Mario Sanchez.
Catch an art film at the nonprofit Tropic Cinema (founded, in part, by writer Jean Carper and George Cooper, a retired law professor and author).
Self-proclaimed environmental artist Nancy Forrester is the mastermind behind this oasis off Simonton Street. Like a patch of rainforest, it has dense foliage, squawking birds, and plenty of hidden nooks.
Cuban cigars are embargoed in the United States, so buy a legal version at this warren-like shop directly across from Mallory Square.
Owned by a Key West native who stocks her well-appointed accessories boutique with candles from Diptyque and Tocca, antique clocks, spicy red pepper–flavored Belgian chocolates, and enough Dr. Hauschka and Kiehls beauty products to keep you moisturized for life.
At the improbably first-rate theater, local boy Richard Wilbur once helped out with Molière translations.
Spend the day at the 1850s park (don’t miss the fascinating antique desalination plant). Here, you’ll also find one of the few beaches in Key West with showers and picnic tables. Tip: bring waterproof sandals—the beach is pebbly.
The National Marine Sanctuary–owned museum, devoted to the largest coral reef in North America, opened in January 2007; permanent exhibits highlight the Keys' 11 habitats, the living reef, and local weather patterns.