With its warm-water ocean beaches, family-friendly accommodations, scrumptious food and a cool Caribbean vibe right here in the United States, Key West should be on your family vacation radar. It’s colorful, walkable and eclectic - and tailor made for families who want a beach paradise with a splash of museum and aquarium visits, national parks and history.
This is a magical place where your days might include parasailing, zipping around on jet skis, playing tennis or simply lounging on a white-sand beach. Here’s what we think your family will love doing in laid-back, lovable Key West:
1. Hanging out in Mallory Square
Life in Key West revolves around Mallory Square, where you can shop, dine, people watch, catch a show, visit a museum and more. The historic square, around since the city’s origins in the 1820s, is also home to the Sunset Celebration, a nightly festival that starts two hours before sunset, drawing visitors to enjoy not only the glowing pink and red sunset, but the magicians, jugglers, local musicians, artists and food vendors who gather here each evening.
2. Relaxing at Dry Tortugas National Park
The journey alone is exciting for the kids - Dry Tortugas National Park can only be reached via seaplane or ferry. Once you’re here, in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, you can snorkel at shallow beaches in crystal-clear waters, explore historic Fort Jefferson’s ruins and revel in the peace and quiet of this exquisite paradise.
3. Meeting butterflies
The bright and beautiful butterflies, freely fluttering in their dedicated space, may even land on your shirt or your hat at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Be sure to check it all out so you don’t miss the flamingos, gorgeous floral displays and the “Wings of Imagination” art gallery by Sam Trophia.
4. Smiling at sea turtles
Any great ocean destination is going to inspire a curiosity about the marine life that lives in the surrounding waters. Visit the Key West Aquarium to meet native sea life, including rescued sea turtles, juvenile nurse sharks, moon jellyfish and more. Can’t get enough? Take a two-hour trip aboard the Pride of Key West glass-bottom boat to see the coral reef and its rainbow-hued wonders.
5. Going south - way south
This is a fun one for the kids to tell their friends back home. Be sure to photograph the kids at the Southernmost Point, a Navy-owned colorful buoy barely 90 miles north of Cuba. While it’s not the true southernmost point on Key west, it’s a must-see - and we think it’s close enough!
6. Hitting the beach …
Of course, many of your precious hours in Key West will be spent on South Beach. While you may be surprised to find that it’s the smallest public stretch of sand in Key West, at just 200 feet long, it’s also one of the least crowded and safest beaches for families. Find it at the end of Duval Street.
7. … and another beach
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park & Beach is a Key West gem and the perfect place to let the kids get their wiggles out. They can run on the sand, beachcomb on the rocky beach, hike on nature trails and explore the historic fort (climb to the top to look out over the ocean).
8. Riding the conch train
Not sure where to start your day of sightseeing? Hop on the Conch Tour Train, a fun way to check out part of Key West you might not otherwise know about. Or, take a trolley tour of Old Town Key West, which accesses more than 100 points of interest, including places to eat, shop and play.
A Key West vacation is a superb way to indulge in well-deserved sunshine fun with family and friends. We have plenty more ideas where these came from, including the best places to stay when traveling with kids and restaurant recommendations.