key west Travel Guide
Cycling / Florida Travel / Biking / Bike Tours / Key West / Active Travel / → All Tags
November is a tricky travel month, because the onslaught of cooler weather usually puts quite the damper on any outdoor endeavors. That’s why we say to follow millions of others and head down to Florida. We’re not going to play bridge all afternoon and then head out for the early bird special; we’re going to ride our bicycles. Thanks to retired police sergeant Bubba Barron, we have the BubbaFest Bike Tour. It’s a 200-mile cycling event from Key Largo To Key West, and you don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to do it.
Bikers are encouraged to go at their own pace and make frequent pit stops to swim, snorkel, and snooze away part of the day. The whole course over US Highway 1 is pretty flat, so if you can ride a bike and have some patience, you should have no problem pedaling the approximate 45 miles per day. If you do get a little tired, or just lazy, support vehicles follow the whole time and can give you a free ride. Things kick off on November 7 and wrap up on November 13, with a few layover days to soak in the sun.
Summer-Signature-Cocktails-Map / Beer Travel / Drinking Travel / Key West Travel / Florida Keys / → All Tags
While the summer is at its peak and you're no doubt tired of chugging bottled water under the sun at tourist sites, we're going to hit some of the world's best watering holes and down their famous summer cocktails. Bottoms up!
When one thinks of an evening spent in Key West, sipping some of the more alcoholic local flavors, drinks like Key Lime Martinis or the Key West Cooler come to mind, but at local favorite Green Parrot Bar, the regulars tipple something decidedly more down-home.
For one of the cheap, but tasty Root Beer Barrel Shots at the Green Parrot, you must first bypass all of the tourist-trap bars along Duval Street. The Green Parrot isn't faronly a couple block away on Whitehead Streetbut it's divey, Florida Keys laid-back ambience is a world away. Sure you can get key lime drinks here as well, but if you've been scarfing key lime pie all day anyways, we'd recommend the Root Beer Barrel.
Key West Travel / Spring Break / Beaches / Food Travel / Drunk Travel / Kayaking / Snorkeling / Water Sports / → All Tags
Wanting to do something active to counterbalance all the beer and pie, we bought tickets for an adventure cruise on a big catamaran called Island 'Ting. Casting off from the docks at 10:00 a.m. under the guidance of Captain Johnny, we broke our fast with scrambled eggs and juice and headed to an offshore reef for snorkeling. As was the case with the previous evening's sunset cruise, it was interesting to get to know the crew, which generally consisted of lifestyle junkies who take fun, low-paying, seasonal jobs around the world. Our snorkeling instructor Misty, for example, alternated between sailing jobs in Key West and Maui, and a fire fighting job in Oregon.
Key West Travel / Spring Break / Beaches / Food Travel / Ernest Hemingway / Cats / Drunk Travel / → All Tags
Of the few cultured things we did in Key West, the best was our visit to the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum on Whitehead Street. Hemingway lived in the handsome colonial mansion from 1931 to 1939, penning some of his greatest works from a detached study. An animated and somewhat prickly tour guide took us through the rooms and explained how Hemingway's wife Pauline had all the ceiling fans removed for aesthetic purposes, and spent extravagantly on installing one of the island's first in-ground swimming pools, prompting Ernest to surrender to her his "last penny."
As for Hemingway's famous cats, their descendants are still there roaming around and getting underfoot, and they do indeed have six and sometimes seven toes. It makes them look like they're wearing little catcher's mitts on their hands.
We just got back from a blissful spring vacation and the old trope is true again: it went by all too quickly. We were in dire need of rest and recreation, so instead of planning an ambitious and brainy trip to Angkor Wat or Ottawa or something, we decided to press the easy button and head to Key West, Florida for four nights. We took the Acela from Penn Station to Washington D.C. (nice train ride, decent microwave cheeseburgers), dropped Zachary off with his grandparents, and then flew unencumbered to Key West via Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport, which is unbelievably huge.
The heat hit us as soon as we stepped on the tarmac of the island's tiny airport and it felt great. We had left the chill of the north far behind and escaped to the subtropics. Before long we were in a shared taxi van with a gregarious local driver who provided a running commentary on all the sites we were driving past, pointing out the capsized sailboats in the water, unmoored in a recent storm.
Maps / Travel Gear / Key West / → All Tags
We're headed to Key West next month and I've been geeking out on the research, poring over all the travel guides I can find and lining up a few bars, restaurants and museums to check out while we're there. I wanted to pick up one of those Streetwise maps, but they don't have one for Key West yet, so instead I ordered a Rand McNally Fab Map for six bucks from Amazon, and I'm glad I did.
Airport News / Key West / Key West Travel / MIA / EYW / → All Tags
Attention, snowbirds: starting this week, you can kiss the airline terminal of your youth goodbye at Key West Airport. Citing the tourist traffic and second-home owners in the area, Key West has built a newer, spiffier terminal to replace the 1957 original building, although that too will eventually be remodeled and combined to double the size of the airport.
According to the press release, the 30,000-square-foot new terminal which opened yesterday now features a large restaurant with windows to watch the flights arrive and depart over the water, and all the concessions, baggage and security areas needed to support a healthy flow of passengers through Key West. It is also very possible that this large of an improvement will convince visitors and locals to go through their home airport instead of adding the commute up to Miami International.
Expect the entire fresh terminal (including the renovated 1957 but) to be completed rather soon in June, prime time for early summer vacations but safely shy of the bulk of hurricane season.
[Photo: Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau]
Thanksgiving Alternatives / Thanksgiving-Alternatives-Map / Thanksgiving / Florida Keys / Kiteboarding / → All Tags
If you’re going to skip town on your family for Thanksgiving, you might as well go somewhere warm. Heading down to the Florida Keys is a good bet for nice weather and beach time, and the relaxed atmosphere doesn't allow for Black Friday insanity.
For dinner, head to Pepe's on Caroline Street. This is one of the oldest restaurants in Key West, and the place serves up a Thanksgiving-style meal every Thursday.
Then, instead of watching the parade on TV, head out to the water where kiteboarders are planning to congregate during the holiday weekend to put on a show for anyone watching. If the winds are blowing the right way on Saturday, a group plans to ride about 80 miles through the water from Islamarada to Key West.
[Photo: Stig Nygaard]
Missed Mardi Gras? Get your revelry in this calendar year with Key West Fantasy Fest (October 17-26), a week-long grownups' Halloween with drag shows, body paint and--frat boys take note--even a toga party.
The festival invigorates a typically slow time for Keys tourism with KISS cover bands, a "danceapalooza" and a Jello-shot "tea party." The '08 costume contest with a theme of "Pirates, Pundits and Political Party Animals" make us think we should work on our Sexy Subprime Mortgage costume a little more.
If you want to speed along the water this summer, but aren't too keen chartering a gas-guzzling boat then harness the power of wind with a kiteboard. Kiteboarding, or kitesurfing, is just what it sounds like: The kite pulls you along the water and waves and even lets you get airborne. If you're gonna give it a try, do it with the pros at the Kitehouse.
A tour company and outfitter founded by a competitive kitesurfer, Kitehouse gives one-on-one instruction and even has "assisted kiteboarding," so no matter how awful you are, you'll have a good time.
Kitehouse has locations in the Caribbean and Costa Rica, but it appears that the best action is at the original in Key West. Packages vary with experience level, but all feature equipment, a support boat and a goodie bag with snacks and drinks. A five-day, 20-hour package starts at $1,095, without lodging or transportation. At least there's no charge if the wind isn't blowing when you're out on the water.
· The Kitehouse [Official Site]
· More than Just a Vacation: Learn Kitesurfing in Morocco [Jaunted]
· Active Travel coverage [Jaunted]
[Photo: Colby Otero!]
Music Travel / Music Festivals / Festivals / Live Music / Key West Songwriters Festival / → All Tags
If you're looking for a late spring getaway and are musically inclined, don't miss the Key West Songwriters Festival which hits Key West from April 30-May 4. This annual event draws over 100 performers in more than 30 shows on over 25 stages, so you're bound to find some tunes you like.
Shows are staged at intimate, audience-friendly tropical spots, waterfront taverns and other sites in KW and there's also a "big stage" outdoor show just off famed Duval Street. We hear it's 5 days and nights of laid-back music lover's fun.
The best perk of the whole gig? Admission to all performances is absolutely free, so you just have to pack the booze money. Oh, and find a place to stay. Try the The Conch House for a cozy B&B feel just minutes from Duval or take advantage of the "Songwriters Special" at the larger Beachside Resort & Conference Center where rooms are $199 a night.
Airports / Architecture / EYW / → All Tags
On January 16, Key West International Airport will celebrate the anniversary of the first international passenger flight over water, made in 1928. A Pan Am Fokker Trimotor--with eight passengers in wicker seats--made the 90-mile run between Key West and Havana.
While remembering the past, EYW will also be showing off the future, with tours of its new McCoy Terminal Complex. The new facility will take over for the existing one, built in 1957. Back then, about 25,000 passengers a year used the airport; these days more than 500,000 flyers pass through every year. Needless to say, regular commercial service to Cuba doesn't account for the increase.