We knew we didn’t want to be held to kiddie travel destinations after having Little J. In truth, Key West is great for booze-soaked singles and aging Parrotheads. But, with the right planning and enthusiasm, you can find find kid-friendly places anywhere, and that includes adult-oriented Key West.
That said, a day or two in Key West with kids will suit them fine. Unless your vacation will be bar-hopping with a baby on your hip, a longer Florida Keys trip should be centered elsewhere, such as at the family resort Hawks Cay on Duck Key.
Key West Beaches for Kids
South Beach – The southernmost beach in the U.S., South Beach is well-located at the south end of the famous Duvall Street, a grungy strip of bars, cafes, and the original Margaritaville. The beach is pretty warm year-round with small waves and plenty of coral and shells to spot. The bar on the sand serves food and drinks, and there are umbrellas and lounge chairs for rent. A nearby hotel has an outdoor shower and bathroom. If you have older kids, keep an eye out for the occasional topless woman!
Higgs Beach – A less touristy spot, Higgs Beach has a pier and a playground across the street. While the kids probably won’t appreciate the world famous Aids Memorial there, families might like the free tennis courts and botanical garden nearby. There are bathrooms, a restaurant, and concession stand on the beach, and of course, the waves are small enough for babies and toddlers.
Key West Attractions for Kids
Key West Butterfly and Nature Observatory – This is an awesome place to walk among giant, colorful butterflies as they live and eat in an environment created just for their needs. Watch butterflies eat nectar from flowers and fruits, and check out the rows and rows of chrysalises in the butterfly nursery. Put the kids in bright colors so a butterfly might land on them. The gift shop has beautiful glass butterflies (watch little hands!) and gifts for kids.
Mallory Square – A sunset festival takes place every night at Mallory Square Dock; the event offers arts and crafts vendors, entertainers and food carts. Kids will love the street performers and other quirky exhibitors. Catch this celebration and enjoy some conch fritters as the sun goes down over all the boats in the harbor.
Key West Aquarium – At this small aquarium, you can feed sting rays, touch all kinds of sea life, and watch sharks devour their lunch. It’s centrally located in Mallory Square, close to other attractions like the Shipwreck Treasures Museum.
Awesome Ways to Get Around Key West
Conch Tour Train – Take a 90-minute tour on this quaint train past the most popular Key West attractions and plantation-style homes typical of Key West. Don’t worry if your kids can’t sit for that long: they allow you to hop off at certain stops and wait for a later train. Be sure to take advantage of the stops at ice cream shops!
Old Town Trolley Tours – Little J couldn’t stop pointing out all the trolleys moseying along Duvall Street with their bright colors and ringing bells. If you choose to take the trolley, you can disembark and re-board an unlimited number of times at their 12 stops.
Key West with Older Kids and Teens
Considering Key West with older kids and teens? You may have to explain inappropriate t-shirt sayings, scantily clad beachgoers and endless opportunities to consume alcohol and cigars. They’ll also be old enough to appreciate the Key West Lighthouse and keeper’s quarters, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum (home to 40 6-toed cats!)
Perks for Parents in Key West
It should be quite obvious that if you want a drink in Key West, you need not walk more than 10 feet. However, fans of Jimmy Buffet will want to see the original Margaritaville, a dive-y shack unlike the built-up Margaritavilles of elsewhere. Foodies (and their hungry children) should try the key lime pie, conch fritters and authentic Cuban food.