Key West is a great family destination for a weekend away or a longer vacation, like a week or more. Getting there with connecting flights or a drive down the Overseas Highway is simple and takes just a few hours. There’s enough of Key West that feels familiar–it is part of Florida, after all–while still providing an experience that feels new and exciting. From forts and beaches to seafood and signature desserts like key lime pie, here are the top things to do in Key West when you bring your family here on vacation.
Snorkeling in Dry Tortugas National Park
At Dry Tortugas National Park, located a short ferry ride away from Key West, you can try snorkeling on old shipwrecks, huge coral reefs, and even old wooden pilings for a unique underwater wildlife experience. Spend the day in the park, and in addition to snorkeling, you can go birdwatching, swimming, and kayaking. Guests of the park can also tour Fort Jefferson and discover why the U.S. government chose to build a fort so far from the mainland.
Friend Fish Basket at Eaton Street Seafood Market
At Eaton Street Seafood Market, you won’t find any fresher seafood unless you catch it yourself. The menu features classic local dishes like conch ceviche and conch fritters, seafood favorites like grilled lobster and crab cakes, plus a couple of non-seafood meals for those who’d rather have chicken tenders or a hot dog. Pick up your meals to go or dine on-site at the shady outdoor tables and chairs. And if you can’t get enough Key West seafood, Eaton Street even offers delivery of freshly caught fish and shellfish across the country.
The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square
Enjoy the natural light show put on by the setting sun every night from your view at Mallory Square. The sunset celebration welcomes all visitors, with food and drink vendors, arts and crafts vendors, street performers, and more. This is a great event to cap off the day with when traveling with small kids; otherwise, the night’s just getting started. From Mallory Square, walk to adjacent Duval Street for a meal or a drink at one of the many restaurants, bars, cafes, jazz clubs, and more that dot the street. If you visit Duval Street in the daytime, you’ll notice dozens of shops for souvenir shopping, art galleries, boutiques, and more. There are lots of places along Duval Street to get yourselves slices of key lime pie, known for its association with Key West for nearly 100 years, so don’t go home without trying a piece of local history.
Swim at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
The beach at this state park may be rocky but it’s one of the most stunning in Key West. Visitors can snorkel among coral reefs that dot the waters just off-shore. Trails are open for walking and biking, and there’s a canoe and kayak launch. Picnic areas feature grills and picnic tables for guest usage. And there’s a cafe on-site, too, if you don’t feel like packing a lunch. Park amenities include beach wheelchair rentals and a shower station for rinsing off the salt water. Tours of the fort are offered daily; you can also take a self-paced tour where you can linger over the interpretive panels that share the history of the site and the significance it held for U.S. national security when it was an active fort.
Hook the Catch of the Day While Charter Fishing
It can be a challenge to find activities that interest all age groups but fishing is reliably appealing to kids, teenagers, and adults, alike. Book your fishing charter for reef, wreck, deep water or flats fishing. There’s no need to worry about packing fishing gear: the charter fishing boat company takes care of everything. Depending on the time of year, you could go out for tarpon, grouper, cobia, mackerel, and snapper. Some local restaurants in Key West will even cook your catch, so you can truly enjoy all aspects of your fishing trip.
Explore Buried Treasure at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
The life’s work of maritime treasure hunter Mel Fisher is front and center at this 2-story museum dedicated to shipwreck science and treasure recovery. Exhibits include the results of Fisher’s expeditions plus a focus on the history and impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade on Key West. See authentic Spanish gold coins, gold chains, and pottery retrieved from the ocean floor.
By planning your itinerary for a family-friendly vacation to Key West in advance, you can be assured of having enough time to do all of the activities most important to all of you, whether that’s fishing, tours or dinner reservations. Key West has enough history, culture, and adventure for several trips, so if you can’t fit it all in one trip, don’t worry, you’ll just have to come back soon.