Florida Getaway: Key West

5 tips for making the most of a relaxing weekend in Key West

If there’s an unforgettable getaway to be had in South Florida, it’s Key West. Located about three to four hours from Miami, depending on traffic, it’s the perfect escape to be had for a weekend of exploration, sunshine and lots of breathtaking views on the drive there. Known as a writer’s lair and the former home to Ernest Hemingway, there’s plenty of history to find in this tropical paradise.

Here’s my top five tips for visiting Key West for a weekend of relaxation, good dining and adventure.

Getting there
If you’re coming from outside of South Florida, Miami International Airport is the best bet to fly into, for it’s close to major highways and roads that lead to Key West. For Miami residents, it’s just a gas tank away. The easiest route is to take LeJeune Road South to the 836 west and finally the Florida Turnpike south to Key West, which ends at US1 in Florida City. Follow US1 South to Key Largo and from there it’s a straight shot to Key West. Please be ready for slow traffic, since a lot of the time the drive there is one lane going south and one lane going north. Bring a camera and get ready to stop to take pictures, for the views of the water and the bridges leading to Key West are breathtaking. Once you get there, you’ll see it’s worth the drive. If you are seeking transportation there through water or through a bus, check out the Florida Keys website, which gives options under their “Green Travel” section.

Where to stay
The Parrot Key Hotel & Resort offers savings during the summer starting at $129 a night and year-round deals for Florida residents and visitors. The spot is perfect if you come with families, offering two and three bedroom suites. The rooms are spacious and even offer a balcony where you can enjoy the Key West breeze. There’s also happy hour from 5 to 7 pm and a pool and restaurant. The resort is a short cab drive or drive to Duval Street, where a lot of the action lies, and won’t hurt your pocket. If you’re looking for a bed and breakfast, there are plenty of options in this quaint area, one stand out being the Key West Bed and Breakfast, a simple comfy place to stay with local art filling the walls. You’ll feel like you’ve arrived into a friendly enclave, or like you’re staying with friends.

Things to do
It wouldn’t be a trip to Key West without exploring the azure waters of the area with a snorkeling or boat trip. One great company to check out is Fury Key West a company that offers sunset tours, snorkeling tours and land and sea tour adventure packages. For those who love history, The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum explores the life of the famed writer and his life in Key West. Make sure to keep and eye out for all the cats that live in the home’s grounds. There’s a story behind them that you’ll find out once you take the guided tour, which explains the writer’s past, showcases his writing studio and his home’s secrets. Key West is a spiritual place and that is something that you’ll find out once you take a guided ghost tour through Ghost Tours of Key West, most which happen and night and take you on a walking expedition through Key West’s most spooky jaunts. Looking for fun for the family? The Key West Aquarium features creatures from “under the sea” on display. The aquarium’s biggest attraction is its scheduled shark feeding, where kids get a chance (monitored, of course) to drop fish at some hungry sharks, seeing the fascinating creatures up close in a safe and guided environment.

Where to eat and nightlife
Here in Key West, dining and nightlife intermix, especially on famed Duval Street and the adjoining streets. Start the night off by enjoying a sloppy joe sandwich at Sloppy Joe’s, a Key West tradition since 1933. Make sure to stay for the spot’s live music and upbeat bar scene, featuring drink specials and cold drafts. Or stop by Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Café, which has some of the best mussels I have ever tasted and some of the coldest and best-prepared margaritas. The scene there is also family-friendly, so if you have kids in tow, make sure to pay it a visit on the early side. Seeking seafood? Blackfin Bistro offers fresh seafood dishes in a casual environment. Make sure to ask for their fresh catch and pair your dish with a glass of wine from their list.

Once night falls, all of Duval Street and the adjoining streets are a party, with revelers bar-crawling from spot to spot, such as the lively Captain Tony’s Saloon, where you can leave your business card and indulge on a cold rum punch. The bar has been visited by many writers, celebrities and notable personalities, including Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Jimmy Buffet, John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman, amongst others. You will definitely want to leave your mark there.  Once you wake up the next morning, you may not want to miss one of Key West’s best-kept breakfast secrets, “Kegs and Eggs” at Kelly’s Caribbean Bar & Grill. The breakfast offers half-price craft beers from 9 to 11 am, including their signature home brews, plus a menu of $3.50 breakfast items such as 2 eggs with 2 strips of bacon and a breakfast burrito. So indulge and make sure to take a nice long nap in a nearby hammock after. It’s Key West, after all.