There is definitely a party vibe to America's southernmost point, but don't let that deter you from bringing the whole family to this unique destination. There are so many things to do in Key West with kids, and its laid back and charming atmosphere is perfect for families. You'll get all the great elements of a Caribbean vacation without having to get a passport. If you're looking to visit Key West, read on to find out how we spent three fun-filled days exploring the Florida Keys...and we didn't forget the pie.
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Things to do in Key West with Kids
Old Town Key West
Other Key West activities for kids
7.) Spend the day at Dry Tortugas National Park
8.) Visit the Southernmost Point of the US
9.) See the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
10.) Visit the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum
11.) Tour Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
12.) Spend the day on a Key West Florida beach
Get on the water - the best way to visit Key West with kids
Since you are on an island, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of things to do for families on the water in Key West. Not only that, but there are lots of tour companies offering everything from parasailing, jet skiing, and snorkeling, to sailing, diving, and deep sea fishing. You are sure to find something that fits your family's interests, abilities, and schedule.
Snorkel with Fury Water Adventures Key West
There is an abundance of water sports and tours in Key West for kids. We booked our first activity with Fury Water Adventures Key West for a double dip snorkel adventure to see North America's only living coral reef. I'll admit that I was a little nervous about this one because I get a little motion sick, and the ocean scares me somewhat. The snorkeling is in the open ocean as opposed to a protected cove, which can be intimidating, but our kids jumped right in and had the time of their lives!
By the second stop, they were jumping straight off the side of the boat...no easy-does-it stairs for them!! Now, for those of you like me, let me put your mind at ease. There are two highly trained lifeguards on board, and one of them gets in the water with you. They also have life jackets that you can wear in addition to the flotation device that comes with your snorkel gear. You can even add a pool noodle for extra buoyancy and support if you need it. I felt completely safe and in good hands with our captain and lifeguards.
The reef is totally worth seeing, with its colorful fish and beautiful coral. We were all amazed by the natural beauty and excited to find all the sea life beneath us. So even if, like me, the ocean makes you a little nervous, I encourage you to put those fears to rest and experience something magical and memorable with your family on this Fury adventure. The whole excursion lasts about three hours, and there are restrooms on board, which is important when you are traveling with kids! They also provide a variety of drinks - water and soft drinks, beer, and wine are all included in the price. If you choose the morning adventure, you'll be back at the dock just in time to enjoy lunch at the Conch Republic Seafood Company.
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Enjoy the epic Florida sunsets with a sunset cruise with Sebago Watersports
A sunset cruise is a great way to visit Key West with kids, and on this trip, we booked with Sebago Watersports. The views were simply stunning. Even though this is billed as Champagne Cruise, and alcohol is served to adults, children are definitely welcome. There were quite a few kids on board, actually, and plenty of soft drinks to go around. All the drinks were included with the cruise, however, snacks were only available for purchase.
The crew for our cruise was fun, personable, and professional. They were great with the kids, as they interacted and told stories about their adventures on the sea. They also made sure everyone had a great view when it was time to see the sun dip down below the horizon. This trip was so relaxing after a long day of exploring Key West, and the scenery can't be beat. We all loved feeling the breeze on our faces and watching the sun put on a dazzling display of color. This tour takes about two hours and is a perfect way to unwind and truly feel like you are on vacation.
Exploring Historic Key West With Kids
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
One of the things we were most looking forward to seeing was the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Ernest Hemingway was one of the most important American writers of the 20th Century, and perhaps in all of American literary history. He was also a tortured soul, a womanizer, and an alcoholic. I realize that so far this doesn't sound like one of the best things for kids to do in Key West, but let me tell you, our kids loved it.
The real appeal for our kids at the Hemingway Home was the six-toed cats! You read that right. I bribed my kids to go to a historic site that belonged to an author they've never heard of by using their love of cute, fluffy kitties.
When Hemingway lived in the house, a ship's captain gave him a polydactyl, or six-toed, cat named Snow White; which the notoriously superstitious Hemingway gladly accepted for good luck. Today, the museum and grounds are home to about 40-50 of these well taken care of cats, many of whom can trace their lineage back to Snow White. It's just one of the many quirky things about this house.
These cats rule the roost at the Hemingway Home, and they aren't bothered one bit by the thousands of visitors a year who come to see them and to learn about the famous author. You aren't allowed to pick them up, but they do enjoy some attention, so petting is fine. Naturally, our little animal whisperer ended up with one in her lap, as tends to happen everywhere we go. For this reason, we think it's one of the best things to do in Key West for kids and families. They'll love it!
As for the house itself, this place is a gorgeous piece of history that is preserved with many of Hemingway's belongings. Be sure to join the guided tour of the house and grounds. It only lasts about 30 minutes, but it will help you come to understand and appreciate the author even more. Our guide was engaging, knowledgeable, and great with kids. If you're visiting Key West with kids, this is a good choice. We all left feeling a little smarter, and at least three of us left wanting a kitten!
A Slice of Pie with a Side of History
No trip to Key West would be complete without a slice of that famous key lime pie, and lucky for us, our trip coincided with the Key Lime Pie Festival and 2nd Annual Pie Hop. The Pie Hop involves learning some Key West history and some key lime pie history, but most importantly, it is about tasting pie!
The Pie Hop takes you to five famous key lime places, beginning with Aunt Sally's original recipe at the Curry House. We all crowded into the historic kitchen and got a little history lesson, a copy of the original recipe, and a taste of the delicious filling. If you're not in Key West for the Pie Hop, you should definitely pay a visit to the Curry House anyway. This Bed and Breakfast is a gorgeous Key West landmark with a fascinating (and haunted!) history.
Now, I was under the impression that we would just be receiving little samples of the pies, but no. Most places gave us a full slice of pie, as if they were trying to outdo each other!
Our next stop was at Key West Key Lime Pie Co., and the pie was cold and delicious, and perfectly tart. Visitors here get the pleasure of watching the pies being made as they partake in the tasty treat.
By the time we reached our third stop at Bagatelle, I thought I was going to burst. Their pie defies the odds and the Florida humidity with its mile high meringue topping. Like a champ, I ate my piece and went for more at the fourth stop. The Key West Legal Rum Distillery may seem like an odd choice for key lime pie, but their recipe is reminiscent of how the old sailors made it with the ingredients they had on hand, long before it became a dessert staple. We also got a little history lesson on both key lime pie and rum at the distillery.
Our final stop was at the Conch Republic Seafood Company who dazzled us with a raspberry swirl version of the pie.
We all ended up stuffed and happy. It's just a good thing we had to do some walking between stops! The kids had a great time filling up on dessert, as well as debating which one was the best pie. Even if you don't get to participate in the Pie Hop, you should still sample as much key lime pie as you can, including the frozen, chocolate dipped version being served up at Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe. While you're there, stock up on every lime flavored seasoning, dressing, candy, lotion, and soap you can think of. You don't even have to worry about fitting all of that deliciousness into your carry-on. They'll ship it to your home for free if you spend $75. What a deal!
Ghosts and Gravestones Tour
A fun and unique experience for families with older kids, the popular Ghosts and Gravestones tour takes visitors through Old Town Key West with a guide who tells of the tragic and spooky lives of the island's former inhabitants. Key West is considered one of the most "haunted" cities in America, so take the tour...if you dare. Visit their website for more information.
Key West Conch Train Tour
If you're looking for things to do for kids in Key West that are a little less spooky, take the 90 minute Conch Train Tour. This is the best way to see Key West, and your tour includes a full color map and coupons for many of the attractions, shops, and restaurants you'll see along the way. You can hop off to explore and catch a later train with your same ticket. Plus, kids 12 and under ride for free, making this tour a definite family favorite. Check out all the details here.
More great places to visit in Key West, Florida
Now, even though the pie was a serious draw to this amazing destination, the real reason we chose to vacation in Key West, Florida, was taking the kids to Dry Tortugas National Park. One of the most unique and most difficult parks to get to, Dry Tortugas is located about 70 miles west of Key West. It is only accessible by ferry, private charter boat, or seaplane. We had planned to take the daily ferry, but unfortunately there was no room available when we tried to book about a month ahead of time. That could be because of the holiday weekend, but keep it in mind when you plan your own trip. We ended up taking the seaplane to the island, and we were so glad we missed the boat!!
Taking a seaplane to Dry Tortugas is absolutely amazing. The flight is about 30 minutes, and it is narrated, so you'll know what to look for in the ocean below. The views are spectacular, and we got to see shipwrecks and sea turtles, as well as rays and sharks. It's the world's greatest game of I Spy! As we approached the fort, we were able to get the best view of the whole thing from the air.
Included with your trip is snorkel gear if you want it, and an ice chest with complimentary beverages for your family. There are changing rooms on the island and restrooms on the ferry boat, but there are no concessions, so having an ice chest full of water is very important. It is very hot, and there is not much shade, so use a reef safe sunscreen if you plan to snorkel and stay hydrated.
Dry Tortugas National Park actually includes several islands and underwater landscapes, but the main attraction is Fort Jefferson on Garden Key. My first thought upon seeing the 19th Century structure was that it was imposing. Built over a period 30 years beginning in 1846, the fort was one of the largest ever built. It was meant to protect the Gulf Coast, and it was a powerful deterrent, even though it was never finished or fully armed. Today, the fort is home to the park's headquarters and visitor center.
Visitors can camp, explore the fort, and play in the water. Swimming and snorkeling around the fort is fun for families because the water is warm and calm, and there are easy beginner snorkeling areas around the moat. This was definitely one of our favorite national parks that we have visited so far!
Be sure to stop and have your picture made at the iconic Southernmost Point buoy. This famous landmark is located at the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street, and visitors should be prepared for a line as this is probably the most photographed attraction in Key West. But, as they say, "pics or it didn't happen." Can you really say you've been to Key West if you don't share a picture of yourself in front of this marker?
We fit quite a lot into our three days in Key West, Florida, but there is so much more to see and do in Key West with kids. Check out some of these fun things that are on our list for next time!
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
We were so sad that our delayed flight made us miss the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, but on our next visit, this will be at the top of our list. They have a conservatory, an art gallery, and a learning center where visitors will learn about the anatomy and life cycle of butterflies, as well as the migratory habits of the monarch butterfly. You will also see 50-60 species of butterflies and 20 species of exotic birds at the conservatory. If you have nature lovers in your family, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a must-see attraction.
Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum
This museum uses actors, films, and actual treasures to tell the story of Key West's maritime history and of the unusual, yet profitable, business of the "wreckers." Visitors to the museum can climb the 65-foot tower to look for wrecks on the reef. Visit their website for ticket information and hours.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is a historic Key West landmark that played a key role in the Civil War. Visitors can explore the fort themselves or take a guided tour to learn about the history of the fort and see the Civil War era cannons. Tours are at 11:00 AM daily.
There is more to this beautiful state park than just the fort, however. It is also home to a gorgeous beach where families can swim and snorkel. Fishing, biking, and walking along shady nature trails are also a great ways to spend the day there. Lounge chairs and umbrellas, as well as snorkel gear are available for rent, and there is also a cafe on site serving up snacks, sandwiches, salads, and more.
If you're looking for a fun day of outdoor activities for kids in Key West, look no further than Fort Zachary Taylor. For more information on all there is to do there, visit their website.
Key West Florida Beaches
There are several options for a family day at the beach in Key West, but there are things like parking and restrooms that you will want to factor into your visit. As mentioned above, Fort Zachary Taylor is arguably the best Key West Florida beach, but you might also want to check out these beaches as well:
Smathers Beach: This is the most popular public beach with more than 2 miles of imported white sand. There is a lot for families to do here, such as watersports, biking, beach volleyball, and picnic areas. Rentals and restrooms are available, and there are plenty of dining options nearby as well.
Higgs Beach: Located on the Atlantic side of the island, Higgs Beach has free parking, restrooms, rentals, and a restaurant. The white sand here is imported from the Caribbean, so it is nice and soft. There is also a nearby park for when you get tired of building sand castles.
Best places to stay in Key West, Florida for families
Key West has a diverse and eclectic mix of accommodations, so knowing where to stay in Key West, Florida can be a bit overwhelming. From luxury resorts to RV parks and campgrounds, this island has it all. You'll certainly want to do a bit of research and decide what's best for your family, but here is what we recommend from our experience. For larger families or those looking for a more comfortable stay, consider a condo or one of the many vacation rentals in Key West, Florida. HomeAway or Airbnb are good ways to search for these.
Doubletree Grand Key Resort
This is the hotel that we stayed in for our visit. We chose it because it was less expensive than the hotels in Old Town, and also because of the free shuttle that takes guests into town.We did not rent a car in Key West, and this worked out perfectly fine for us. It was also close to the airport which was convenient for catching our seaplane to Dry Tortugas. The hotel was clean, and the staff was helpful. The kids loved the large swimming pool and, of course, the complimentary warm Doubletree cookies. HHonors Gold members receive free breakfast at this resort which is a great perk!
Hyatt Centric Resort and Spa
The Hyatt Centric sits right on the ocean and is within a short walk of everything in Old Town. It's also very close to the ferry dock if you are planning a trip to Dry Tortugas National Park. There are plenty of things to see and eat on the main drag of Duvall Street, and be sure to take in the evening show at Mallory Square. If you're looking for Key West, Florida hotels on the beach, the you're in luck! Kids will love the small private beach just steps from the hotel.
Getting to Key West
Key West has several flights daily from American and United Hubs, as well as regional flights from various cities in Florida. We flew American from their hub in Miami. It's also possible to drive from the mainland along the causeway and State Highway 1. The drive will take a little over three hours from Miami. Flights can be pricey due to the high traffic on these routes, so if you are looking to save some extra money on your vacation to Key West, Florida, you may want to consider driving.
Map of the Best Places to Visit in Key West
We'd like to thank Key West Attractions and the Key West and Florida Keys tourism board for providing us with VIP passes during our visit. While the passes covered adult admission to some of the attractions, we paid for the kids' tickets, and the opinions and reviews are our own.
What's your favorite thing to do in Key West? Let us know in the comments!