Traveling with your kids as they get older can be a challenge, especially as they become teenagers. It can be hard to find a destination that has enough to do to keep them entertained and engaged while still providing enough for you to enjoy. Fortunately, a trip to Key West can offer you a vacation the entire family can enjoy.
Visit Duval Street: Key West’s Own Main Street
This is the heart of Key West, where you’ll find all of the shops, cafes, boutiques, and restaurants you could want to find. The street is roughly a mile long, with Southernmost Point at one end and Mallory Square on the other. Walk or bike the length of it at your leisure. Take the Conch Train Tour for a 90-minute tour of Old Key West with hop off/hop on stops around town. Hang around Mallory Square as the sun goes down for the nightly Sunset Celebration, where vendors, performers, and tourists gather to see the magnificent setting sun.
Discover the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
While it might be hard to think that butterflies could captivate a teenager, most people of any age would find it difficult to resist their charms when you get the opportunity to step into their world. At the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, guests are welcome to stroll through the screened habitat where dozens of butterflies, native plants and flowers, and exotic birds make their home. Time your visit for special twilight programs and “flamingle” events where you can even meet the flamingoes that reside at the conservatory.
Book a Food Tour
The cuisine in Key West is influenced by multiple cultures and a food tour is the best way to sample it all. From Southern American to Asian, Latin American, French, Italian, Mediterranean, and more, a food tour lets you explore it all. And if you’d rather arrange for a DIY food tour of your own, there are plenty of landmark places to stop. Start your list with the conch fritters and grilled lobster roll at Eaton Street Seafood Market. Plus, you’ll need to try the homemade key lime pie at Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Pie Shoppe. And don’t miss Duetto’s Pizza and Gelato, a Key West institution, with perfectly hand-tossed pizza dough and freshly made gelato served daily.
Explore American History at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Even if your teens thought reading The Old Man and the Sea in school wasn’t very interesting, they may find a tour of the author’s home enlightening. Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West for roughly ten years, and today his home and gardens are open to the public. Hemingway family heirlooms are on display, and descendants of Hemingway’s six-toed cats still roam the property. The grounds also feature an in-ground pool, a technological marvel for its time, around one hundred years ago. The tour guides do an excellent job of sharing with visitors some of the best stories to illustrate Hemingway’s larger-than-life personality and his affection for Key West.
Go Fishing as a Family
Even if you’ve never been fishing, booking a fishing charter makes it easy to spend the day out on the water. The crew provides all of the gear you’ll need plus pointers if you need them. The fishing charter boat captains are quite knowledgeable about where the fishing are biting so you’re likely to have good luck in catching your own tarpon, grouper, and more. Most charter fishing captains go out on half or full-day tours on reef, wreck, flats or deep water expeditions. Make plans to dine at Dante’s after your fishing trip because it’s one of the Key West restaurants that will cook your catch.
Have an Adventure at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum
Mel Fisher was a famous explorer of shipwrecks whose eponymous museum now showcases some of his most exciting hauls, along with exhibits that feature the science and technology that make locating and salvaging sunken ships possible. The museum includes a working lab that focuses on archaeology and conservation. Guests can purchase tickets to behind the scenes tours that include lab access for an insider’s view of upcoming exhibits and artifact displays.
Get a Bird’s Eye View from the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters
For generations, sailors have counted on the lighthouse on Key West to keep them safe from rocky waters. While the lighthouse may have been decommissioned, it’s now open to the public. In just 88 steps, you can find yourself at the top of the lighthouse where panoramic views of the horizon may leave you speechless. The keepers’ quarters next door show guests just how important the role of the lighthouse keeper was, and exhibits include items from the daily life and work of the lighthouse keeper, a job upon which many sailors owed their lives.
Traveling with teens may seem like a challenge but when you find a location like Key West, where there is something for everyone–from history to shopping, culinary delights, nature, and adventure–it makes family vacations more enjoyable for all.