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What to Do In Key West With Kids

Key West, the Southern most point of the continental US, is full of family friendly activities. From beaches for swimming, coral reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving, plenty of ocean water for kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, and wildlife viewing, tasty treats, and a great selection of educational experiences, visiting Key West with kids is sure to be the perfect choice for your next family vacation!

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Sharon Hahn Darlin, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Key West Aquarium

The Key West Aquarium is a great way to see Florida’s sea life above ground when visiting Key West with kids. At the aquarium you and the family will meet a variety of sea life, including moray eels, barracuda, grouper, tropical fish, conch, sharks, alligators, and sea cucumbers. There is an interactive touch tank to get up close with some of the sea animals, including hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sea stars, and conches.

The aquarium also has educational programs about the local sea life and an invasive species program to educate on the foreign species entering the Florida ecosystem and causing destruction. Admission to the aquarium is $18 for adults and $11 for children 4-12.

the key west aquarium shark centerpiece, key west with kids
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Joe Parks from Berkeley, CA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hit the Beach

While Key West is not exactly known for stunning white sand turquoise water beaches and I was underwhelmed by the quality of beaches, that does not mean that hitting the beach should not be on your list! Fort Zachary Taylor beach is known as one of the best beaches in Key West. The beach is great for swimming and snorkeling and has a small café, picnic tables, and grills.

Smathers Beach is another great option and the go to beach for water sports. It is also the largest beach in Key West. At Smathers Beach you will find companies offering rentals, volleyball nets, and concession trucks. Higgs Beach is another great family friendly beach to visit when exploring Key West with kids. Higgs Beach has a wooden pier, playground, volleyball nets, restaurant, tennis courts, and even a dog park.

palm trees, sand, and ocean water, key west with kids
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Image by Michelle Raponi from Pixabay

Don’t Skip Your Chace to Try A Key Lime Pie

The staple food of Key West, you will not want to miss trying one of their key lime pies! Key Lime Pie is said to have been originated in Key West at the Curry Mansion on Caroline Street. The Curry Mansion was the home of millionaire William Curry, whose cook known as Aunt Sally is credited with creating the recipe in the 1930’s. (Although other origin stories have emerged, this is the most popular one.)

You can find plenty of dining options offering up this Key West original. One of the best places to try Key Lime Pie is Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe on Elizabeth Street. Some other great options for finding Key Lime pie include Blue Heaven, the Key West Key Lime Pie Company, and Old Town Bakery.

If you want to take your pie tasting experience to the next level, join a Key Lime Pie making class, where you can learn to make your own Key Lime pies with the Key West Key Lime Pie Company.

Enjoy Some Water Sports

You will find no shortage of water sport opportunities when visiting Key West with kids! You can experience jet skiing, parasailing, SUP, kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling, dolphin watching, banana boats, sail boats, motor boats, and more!

Sunset Water Sports has several tour options. Their dolphin eco tour is perfect for families visiting Key West with kids. The tour takes you out to the dolphin playground where you will get to enjoy watching dolphins as they play, swim, and interact with each other. After dolphin watching, you will be able to see some exotic sea creatures on a snorkeling excursion. You can also join a parasailing or jet skiing tour and get out on the waters surrounding Key West.

Fury Watersports is another great option for dolphin watching tours, snorkeling tours, parasailing, jet skiing, and sunset cruises. Their Island Adventure and Sunset Cruise combo will take you snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, take you to a sand bar to relax, and treat you to a Key West sunset. The Fury’s Glass Bottom Boat ride is a great option when visiting Key West with kids. They will love seeing the colorful swarms of fish swim below as you cruise through the ocean.

parasailing at sunset
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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Take a Day Trip to Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is the perfect day trip for families visiting Key West with kids. The 100 square mile park is mostly underwater, making it one of the most unique national parks in the country with coral reefs throughout the park. The park also contains seven small islands, including Loggerhead Key, Garden Key, Bush Key, Long Key, Hospital Key, Middle Key and East Key. Of the islands, Garden Key is the one that is commonly visited and the one that contains Fort Jefferson.

Dry Tortugas is not accessible by car, so visitors wishing to visit the island must take either a boat or seaplane to the area. There is a ferry service to the island on the Yankee Freedom III, a 2.5 hour boat ride, or by a 45 minute seaplane ride. At Dry Tortugas National Park you can explore the remains of Fort Jefferson either self guided or on a ranger led tour, enjoy swimming and snorkeling on a secluded beach, birdwatching, camping, and diving (on a special tour).

sand, seashell, and ocean water with fort jefferson in the background, key west with kids
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Photo by Christopher Osten on Unsplash

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Step inside the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory and marvel as over 50 species of butterflies soar around you in an enclosed glass dome! A visit to the conservatory will treat you not only to an interactive experience with the butterflies, but also a variety of bird species, plant life, and waterfalls throughout the conservatory.

To learn more about butterflies visit the learning center, where you can find information on the anatomy and life cycles of butterflies and watch live caterpillars through their life cycle and journey to becoming a butterfly. You can also enjoy a short, 15 minute film on butterflies. Admission to the conservatory is $15 for adults and $11 for children 4-12. Head over to their website to view their live webcam before your visit!

Spend the Day at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Aside from the Fort Zachary Taylor beach mentioned above, the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park features a large historic fort to explore! The fort was built in 1866 and played a role in protecting Florida from those coming in from the South and played a role in both the Civil War and Spanish-American war.

There is plenty to do with kids at Fort Zachary, with live reenactments on the third weekend of the month, guided historical tours of the fort, historic cannons and weapons, and plenty of halls to roam as you explore the fort. You can also enjoy swimming at the beach, fishing, snorkeling, and wildlife viewing in the park.

a hallway in Fort Zachary Taylor
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RuggyBearLA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum

The Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum is a fun way to dive into the history of Key West. The museum takes you back to the year 1856 when ship wrecks were common in Key West. People known as wreckers would watch the coast for any wrecks and race to the wreckage sites salvaging anything they could from the wreck. The goods would be sold in Key West and the first wrecker to the ship would get a good portion of the profit.

The museum is a combination of exhibits, live actors, films, and actual artifacts from the shipwrecked Issac Allerton. The museum also features a 65′ lookout tower for spotting any ship wrecks off the coast! The exhibits take you through the history of the shipwrecks in Key West and those who salvaged what they could from the wrecks, making Key West one of the richest cities. Admission is $17 for adults and $9 for kids, with discounts if purchase online ahead of time.

Visit the Southern Most Point in the US

The Southern most point in the US is marked by a monument and makes for a great photo op. The monument is a buoy that indicates both the Southernmost spot in the continental US and the 90 mile mark from Cuba. The monument is 18 ft. above sea level. You can’t visit Key West and miss the chance to stop and shot that instagram worthy family photo.

southern most point in the USA marker buoy
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Image by Michael Draeger from Pixabay

Take the Conch Train Tour

The Key West Conch Train tour is not only a great way to explore Key West and learn about its history, it is also a great way to get around. The Conch Train tour is a 90 minute tour that takes you around Key West, stopping at some of the most notable stops, including the Ernest Hemingway Home and Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.

The tour begins on at the Front Street Depot and ends behind it near Mallory Square. The train stops three times-the first at Station Depot for a quick 10 minute break with refreshment options. The train will again stop at Truval Village, which is within walking distance of many top attractions, including the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the Key West Lighthouse, the Southernmost Point, and the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. You can also enjoy shopping at the many boutiques on Duval Street and enjoy visiting local shops and art galleries.

The third stop will take you to the Sails to Rails Museum, with admission to the museum included with your train ticket. You are free to get off at any of the stops and rejoin at a later time. The tour will end just outside of Mallory Square. The train ride is $50 for adults and $23 for children 4-12. You can find discounts if you purchase them online ahead of time and combo tickets for some of Key West’s other great attractions.

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Key West, the southern most point in the continental US, has plenty of fun family-friendly activities to enjoy on your next family vacation!
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4 Comments »

  1. I think a trip to Dry Tortugas National Park will be my number 1 to do when I go to Key West. The fort is also interesting, as well as the key lime pie.

  2. Such amazing things to do in Key West. I will surely want to visit the Shipwreck treasure museum, that will be awesome. Also, I think I will hit the beach too as beach is always a good idea no matter where. I have not been to Key West but would definitely want to go there.

  3. Aaah – sweet memories of Key West – which is definitely a special place with a very particular vibe to it. It’s also a great mix of culture and history and easy beach life. We also did some of the most amazing snorkeling there.

  4. I absolutely love Key West!! I have visited so many times and always have had a blast. I did not realize they had so much to offer for kids as whenever I have gone in the past it was always with adults. Clearly the Southern Most Point is a Key West staple everyone has to visit!

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