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Best things to do in Key West

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Where in the world: USA  /  Florida  /  Florida Keys  /  Key West
You'll find an ever-expanding list of things to do in Key West, sitting just north of Cuba. Many local venues offer waterskiing, jet skiing, parasailing, and paragliding. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum allows tourists with literary interests to revisit the era in which one of America's greatest writers lived and worked. Other options include dolphin and whale watching, snorkeling and scuba diving, shopping, dining out, and enjoying a vibrant nightlife at a range of trendy bars lining the main street.

Key West is best known for its Landmarks, Parasailing & Paragliding, and Specialty Museums.

Top 15 things to do in Key West

1. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Take a look at a writer's creative space at The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, offering short tours of the house once occupied by the Nobel Prize-winning artist. Hemingway wrote some of his best works here, including the classics "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," "To Have and Have Not," and "Green Hills of Africa." Originally built in 1851 in the Spanish Colonial estate style, the house is 5 m (16 ft) above sea level, making it one of the highest sites on the entire island. Descendants of Hemingway's famous polydactyl cats (with six or more toes per paw) still roam the estate. Take a walk through the tropical garden, where the writer often entertained friends, or head inside to see Hemingway's writing desk, where he typed out the first drafts of many of his short stories and novels.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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2. Scuba & Snorkeling

Sail along the scattered islands of Florida Keys before plunging into the alluring waters of the Gulf of Mexico on a snorkeling or scuba tour from Key West. With a variety of tours to choose from, you'll easily find one that meets your preferences. Whether you decide to spend a lazy afternoon aboard a schooner or fill your day with water sports--from kayaking to parasailing--snorkeling and diving alongside sea turtles, stingrays, dolphins, and manatees remains the focus of these tours that can last between 2 and 6 hours.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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3. Boat Tours & Water Sports

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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4. Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

Surround yourself with the colors and tranquility of the "flowers of the sky" at Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. The conservatory, which features several climate-controlled, glass-enclosed habitats, offers a collection of more than 50 species of butterflies, as well as dozens of exotic birds and plants. Stroll through the tropical paradise of cascading waterfalls and flowering plants to admire hundreds of free-flying butterflies. Head to the learning center for more information on the life cycle and migration of these beautiful insects. Don't miss the permanent exhibit, Wings of Imagination, with its butterfly-inspired artwork.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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5. Mallory Square

Soak in the orange and pink glow melting into the Gulf horizon at one of the most famous sunset spots in the world, Mallory Square. During the day, the square is a bustling hub of souvenir shops and beachfront restaurants, ideal for a stroll or casual meal. Located adjacent to the cruise ship port in the heart of downtown Key West, the square is home to a nightly sunset celebration, where thousands of visitors gather to watch the famous Key West sunset and peruse the dozens of food vendors, art exhibits, and night entertainers that line the oceanside boardwalk.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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6. Duval Street

Feel the laid-back southern charm of Key West while strolling down palm tree-lined Duval Street. Stretching just over 1.6 km (1 mi) from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, the street serves as the area’s main destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Peruse the eclectic mix of trendy boutiques and souvenir shops, or take a tour of a century-old Victorian mansion to appreciate the city’s rich cultural heritage. Stop for a meal at one of the street’s famous restaurants, such as Sloppy Joe’s or Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. Southernmost Point

The very tip of the southeastern United States, Southernmost Point, is a popular spot for photos. A sign once marked the spot, but a more permanent concrete buoy stands at the lookout point today. The attraction's name is misleading--the actual southern point is in a private yard next to the buoy's location--but it’s close.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. Truman Little White House

A taste of presidential history, Truman Little White House offers guided tours of rooms filled with original furnishings and memorabilia. This house, originally built in 1890 for officers of the local naval base, served as Truman's winter residence for a total of 175 days during about a dozen vacations. Though many of Truman's private possessions still lie scattered about the rooms, he was not the only notable figure to spend time in the house. Thomas Edison lived here during World War I, and presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton used the house for government functions. The interior is open for guided tours only, but you can walk around the surrounding botanical gardens on your own.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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10. Fishing Charters & Tours

Cruise the nutrient-rich waters off Key West, where legends like Ernest Hemingway cast their fishing rods, on a private charter or guided fishing tour. Your crew will show you how to reel in a big catch, from blue marlin and tuna off shore, to giant sharks and monster grouper on the reef. In addition to fishing rods, reels, bait, safety equipment, and light refreshments, first timers will be given casting lessons and fishing instructions. Ideal for small groups and families, these tours last between 4 and 6 hours.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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11. Dry Tortugas National Park

Encompassing the most isolated and far-flung islands of the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas National Park showcases vibrant coral reefs, tropical landscapes, and an island fortress. Set in the Gulf of Mexico nearly 109 km (68 mi) away from Key West, the park can be accessed only by sea. You climb aboard the official ferry service licensed by park authorities to reach the seven islands. Stop by the visitor center located inside Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century brick castle occupying the second-largest islet, for information on the park's history, oceanic ecology, and archaeology. Watch carefully for some of the park's nearly 300 species of birds, including nesting pelicans, terns, and frigatebirds.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
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12. Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key

Nestled within the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda State Park offers 212 hectares (524 acres) of white sand beaches, lagoons, and hardwood forest. You can take advantage of the park’s pristine environment via roads, nature trails, campsites, and its marina. Grab some snorkel gear from the on-site rental shop and explore the surrounding waters, renowned for having some of the most snorkel-friendly reefs in Florida. Join a snorkeling tour, or simply stop by the park's visitor center for details on the local ecosystem and ocean wildlife.
Suggested duration: 3h 30 min
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13. Fort Zachary Taylor

Offering a mix of history and recreation, Fort Zachary Taylor centers on a military fort from the Civil War era. Construction began in 1845 and lasted nearly 20 years. The fort played an important role in a network of military garrisons located along the southeastern coast. Deactivated in the 1940s, the fort contains the largest collection of Civil War cannons in the country. Take a short tour of the military establishment, and then spend time swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving on the sandy beach. To escape tourist crowds near the fort, hike or cycle the natural trails crisscrossing the park.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Alan S. Maltz Gallery

Stop by Alan S. Maltz Gallery to pick a perfect memento of your trip to Florida. The gallery features a diverse collection of both abstract and impressionistic images of nature. In 2019, the gallery celebrated its 20th anniversary with a new portfolio of artist's works and the release of the sixth coffee table book by Maltz. Glass prints, note cards, and fine art screens are also available for purchase.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. Dolphin & Whale Watching

Sail along the scattered islands of Florida Keys on a dolphin- and whale-watching tour from Key West. This family-friendly marine adventure takes you to some premium snorkeling spots, including coral reefs and shipwrecks, where you can get close to sea turtles, stingrays, and colorful fish. You can even ask your captain to lend you spear fishing gear and try to bring aboard a lobster dinner. If not, enjoy the refreshments available on board. Half-day tours are the standard, but shorter options are also available for those on a tight schedule.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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