Things to Do in Key West With Kids: Family-Friendly Attractions and Activities

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Key West, part of the Florida Keys archipelago, offers a blend of cultural, historical, and natural attractions that make it a captivating destination for a family vacation. This southernmost point in the continental United States boasts an array of activities suitable for kids, ensuring that every family member finds something to enjoy. From snorkeling in the clear waters to exploring eco-friendly attractions, Key West promises a balance of education and excitement.

Families visiting Key West with kids can look forward to an engaging itinerary that beautifully complements the laid-back atmosphere of the Florida Keys. Whether it’s interacting with marine life at the Key West Aquarium or stepping back in time at the historic forts of the Dry Tortugas National Park, there’s a wealth of experiences that cater to both children’s curiosity and adults’ interests.

Key West embraces its lush, tropical setting with attractions like the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, where vivid butterfly species flit among the visitors, offering an immersive wildlife experience. Moreover, the island’s compact size makes it manageable for families to navigate, ensuring that the many things to do in Key West with kids are never far out of reach. With a diverse range of activities tailored for the younger guests, this Florida paradise is poised to create lasting memories for every family that steps on its shores.

Getting to Key West

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Reaching Key West, the southernmost point in the continental United States, can be an adventure in itself—whether driving along the scenic Overseas Highway, flying directly into the heart of the Florida Keys, or choosing a waterfront approach by ferry or seaplane.

The Drive on the Overseas Highway

The journey to Key West by car is a breathtaking experience with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. The Overseas Highway (U.S. Route 1), stretching approximately 113 miles with 42 bridges, connects Key West to the mainland. Departing from Miami, the drive through the Florida Keys is an attraction in its own right, offering panoramic sea views and the chance to spot unique wildlife.

Flying into Key West

For those looking to arrive more quickly, flying is an efficient option. Key West International Airport (EYW) welcomes flights from numerous major cities. The airport is conveniently situated on the island, making it a straightforward choice for visitors seeking to minimize travel time and begin their Key West adventure promptly.

Taking the Ferry or Seaplane

Visitors might also consider traveling to Key West by water. The ferry service offers a relaxing route from locations such as Marco Island and Fort Myers Beach. The trip provides splendid views of the Gulf waters and is an excellent choice for those who prefer not to drive. Alternatively, one can experience the thrill of landing on water with a seaplane adventure, offering stunning aerial views of the turquoise waters and the island chain of the Florida Keys.

Kid-Friendly Attractions

Key West is a treasure trove of family-friendly activities, with attractions abounding that allow children to engage with marine life, historical artifacts, and beautiful nature. Whether it’s getting up close to marine creatures or stepping back in time at a historic fort, there’s something to captivate the curiosity of every young explorer.

Key West Aquarium

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The Key West Aquarium is an aquatic wonderland that offers a touch tank experience, allowing children to physically interact with sea life such as starfish and conchs. With educational talks and feedings, this attraction brings children face-to-face with the vibrant underwater world of the Florida Keys.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

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Aflutter with the wings of hundreds of butterflies, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory surrounds visitors with a spectrum of color and the serene ambiance of a tropical paradise. This enclosed ecosystem is home not only to butterflies but also to exotic birds, making it a haven for wildlife observation.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

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At Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, history comes alive beneath the sunshine. Offering a glimpse into the past combined with picturesque beaches, it’s a place where families can explore historic ramparts and cannons, or simply relax on the shores.

Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum

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Dive into history at the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum, where children can learn about Key West’s rich shipwrecking heritage. The museum features artifacts from sunken vessels and interactive exhibits that recount the tales of salvagers in the Florida Keys.

Dry Tortugas National Park

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Accessible by ferry or seaplane, Dry Tortugas National Park boasts the impressive Fort Jefferson among its seven islands. This remote park is a sanctuary for numerous bird species and offers some of the best snorkeling experiences to observe coral and marine life in the region.

Outdoor Adventures

Key West offers an abundance of outdoor activities perfect for families seeking adventure under the sun. From the clear blue waters ideal for various water sports to discovering the rich biodiversity of the local ecosystem, there’s something for every young explorer.

Beaches and Water Activities

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Key West’s beaches are a playground for both relaxation and adventure. Families can indulge in water activities at Higgs Beach, where options for swimming and snorkeling are abundant, revealing the colorful world of coral reefs teeming with marine life. For those seeking a rush, the Sunset Watersports provides a full day of excitement, including jet skiing, kayaking, and paddle boarding.

Popular Beach Water Activities:

  • Snorkeling and swimming
  • Kayaking and paddle boarding
  • Jet skiing and parasailing

Eco Tours and Wildlife Observation

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Embark on eco tours to observe a diverse array of wildlife in their natural habitats. Visitors can spot dolphins dancing through the waves on a dolphin watch or gaze at the majestic sea turtles and sharks on a glass bottom boat tour. Bird enthusiasts will revel in the sight of rare species, while butterfly gardens offer a serene escape amidst colorful flying beauties.

Wildlife Encounters:

  • Dolphin watches and glass bottom boat tours
  • Shark and wildlife viewing adventures
  • Butterfly gardens

Parks and Nature Explorations

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As a hidden gem, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park invites families to explore its limestone fortifications or delve into history on the Conch Tour Train. Nature lovers can stroll through lush gardens or enjoy the infamous Key West sunsets that paint the sky during a sunset celebration. For those drawn to the water, family resorts often offer sailing and fishing excursions that make for lifelong memories.

Natural Points of Interest:

  • Historic state parks and gardens
  • Guided tours on history and nature
  • Sunset celebrations and sailing trips

Historical and Cultural Experiences

Key West offers an abundance of historical landmarks and cultural venues that are perfect for family exploration. The island’s storied past and vibrant art scene provide an educational and engaging experience for visitors of all ages.

Key West’s Rich History

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Key West is a treasure trove of historical sites that bring the past to life for both children and adults. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park stands as a sentinel to Florida’s Civil War history, offering guided tours that recount its significant role in the nation’s past. The Southernmost Point landmark is not only a great photo opportunity but also a reminder of Key West’s geographical significance. Families can venture out to the Dry Tortugas National Park to explore the 19th-century Fort Jefferson and learn about its fascinating military history. Additionally, the Harry S. Truman Little White House provides a glimpse into the presidential history that took place on the island. One can’t miss the famous Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, where the history of Key West as a bustling port is celebrated every evening with arts, crafts, and entertainment.

  • Fort Zachary Taylor: A Civil War-era fort with guided tours and a beautiful beach.
  • Southernmost Point Buoy: Iconic photo spot and historical marker.
  • Dry Tortugas National Park: Remote national park known for its marine life, snorkeling, and Fort Jefferson.

Art and Museums

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Key West is also a sanctuary for the arts, housing numerous galleries and museums that showcase local and international artwork. At the center of this artistic hub is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where the literary giant penned some of his most famous works. Aspiring young writers and history aficionados alike will appreciate the chance to wander through the rooms where Hemingway lived and worked. For a dive into the island’s maritime history, the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum presents an array of recovered artifacts and interactive exhibits on the lure of shipwreck salvage. The East Martello Museum is another cultural landmark where visitors can engage with the local art scene and historic artifacts within the robust walls of a Civil War fort.

  • Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum: Historic home of the famous writer, complete with lush gardens.
  • Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum: Exhibits on the island’s shipwrecking heritage.
  • East Martello Museum: Gallery and historical exhibits within a preserved fort.

Family Dining and Shopping

Key West offers a diverse selection of family-friendly dining options and vibrant shopping experiences, particularly along the famous Duval Street. Visitors can enjoy the tastes of Cuba alongside American favorites and indulge in the local specialty, Key lime pie, in a variety of settings. Shopping embraces everything from casual vendors to specialized gift shops.

Kid-Friendly Restaurants

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Key West is replete with restaurants that welcome families and children, making dining out a pleasurable experience for everyone. Some of the notable establishments include:

  • Two Friends Patio Restaurant: This venue is famous for its live music and seafood, offering a true taste of Key West hospitality.
  • Blue Heaven: Though it’s as much an icon for its free-roaming chickens as for its food, this spot provides a memorable dining experience with dishes like shrimp and grits.

Indulging in Key lime pie is a must-do for families; many restaurants serve their take on this classic dessert, each with a twist that pays homage to Key West’s culinary heritage.

Shopping on Duval Street

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Shopping on Duval Street is an adventure for families, with a range of boutiques and gift shops offering unique and memorable souvenirs. Some highlights include:

  • Gift Shops: Find the perfect memento at one of the many gift shops, featuring local crafts, art, and clothing.
  • Vendors: As families stroll down Duval Street, they’ll encounter numerous vendors selling a variety of goods, from bespoke jewelry to handmade soaps.

Whether one is seeking a tangible piece of Key West to take home or simply wants to enjoy window shopping, Duval Street provides an eclectic mix that caters to all.

Evening Entertainment

Key West offers family-friendly evening entertainment options that focus on the natural beauty of the locale and its vibrant cultural scene. Parents and children can enjoy memorable sunset spectacles or engage with the community’s artistic offerings after dusk.

Mallory Square Sunset Celebration

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Mallory Square hosts the iconic Sunset Celebration. This nightly event is a centerpiece of Key West’s evening activities, drawing crowds with its stunning views of the setting sun. As the sky mellows into radiant hues, street performers, vendors, and musicians contribute to a festive atmosphere. It’s an ideal setting for families to gather and experience the splendor of Key West sunsets, while enjoying the local entertainment.

Local Performances and Cinema

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After the sun has set, Key West continues to entertain with a variety of local performances. Theatrical shows, live music, and outdoor movies cater to the tastes of both adults and children. The Key West Theater provides a lineup of live acts and performances in a venue known for its intimate setting. For families preferring a more relaxed evening, the Tropic Cinema offers a selection of family-friendly films, an integral part of Key West’s entertainment scene for those who enjoy the big screen.

Tips for Traveling with Kids

When planning a family trip to Key West, it’s crucial to consider children’s needs for a smooth and enjoyable vacation. From where to stay to what to pack, these tips will help ensure comfort and fun for all.

Accommodations and Comfort

For a family-oriented stay, one should look for accommodations that offer both convenience and amenities catering to children. Close proximity to attractions can minimize the need for frequent transit, and facilities with a kids’ club or children’s pool can enhance their experience. When booking, explicitly inquire about family suites or connecting rooms to ensure space for the whole family. Some places in Key West are well-known for being family-friendly, offering both adult and family zones.

Kid-Safe Itineraries

Creating an itinerary that is child-friendly is important for a family trip. Prioritize activities that are age-appropriate and interesting to your children. Consider visiting the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, where children can learn and interact with nature in a secure environment. It’s also advisable to incorporate downtime between outings to prevent fatigue and allow for spontaneous exploration.

Packing Essentials

Before leaving for your family trip to Key West, make sure you have all the essentials packed to avoid discomfort or last-minute shopping trips. Always pack:

  • Sun Protection: Sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses are a must for Key West’s sunny climate.
  • Hydration: Reusable water bottles to stay hydrated on the go.
  • Comfort Items: A favorite toy or blanket can help children feel at home in a new place.

Remember to check whether your accommodations provide essentials like beach towels or a parking lot, which can influence what you need to bring along. Packing efficiently can turn a good family vacation into a great one.

Concluding Remarks

Key West offers a myriad of experiences that cater to the curiosity and adventure-seeking nature of children. Those planning a family vacation to this island city will find no shortage of memorable activities.

The city’s relaxed atmosphere also makes it an appealing destination for those who prefer leisurely activities like:

  • Enjoying the street performances at Mallory Square during the sunset celebration.
  • Taking a photo at the iconic Southernmost Point.

Visiting Key West with kids is an opportunity for family bonding through shared experiences that range from educational to pure fun. The island’s diverse offerings ensure that the best things to do in Key West with kids are both accessible and engaging, making it a locale that suits varied interests and age groups.

In planning the trip, it is advisable to consider the season and local events, as these can enhance the travel experience. Key West is confident in its ability to provide an enriching vacation that families will treasure for years to come.

I am a mother, wife, daughter, granddaughter, writer, living in Virginia Beach. I love creativity, ideas, crafts, arts, photography, movies, food, coffee, naps, outdoors. I love to make stuff!