Key West has a personality that almost makes you feel like you are outside of the United States. Maybe that is because you almost are. The southernmost point on the mainland United States (if an island can be called the mainland) , Key West is closer to Cuba than Miami. Although it lacks the Cuban cultural influence, it certainly has a “lost in the Islands” vibe, or maybe that is just because half of the tourists are nocturnal.
Besides it’s infamous nightlife along Duval Street, Key West is a pretty cool place to visit during the day. Our last trip to Key West we spent a day walking the island, punctuating our tour with regular stops for drinks and ice cream.
The island has a lot of attractions, from the Hemingway house to tourist curiosities like the Shipwreck museum, a 22 foot anaconda (stuffed!) from Brazil, a butterfly house, and things even more curious, like a sponge shop. Like it’s residents, Key West is a an eclectic mix of bohemian culture, island culture, anything goes culture all brought together under the motto that living well
Each hour the island seems to change. When the throngs of cruise ship passengers disembark early in the morning, the bars along Duval have generally just closed up their doors and for a moment the streets are quiet. In the middle of the day, the cruise passengers mix with the just awakened night life crowd and the streets are a mix of families, eccentrics, college students and groups of friends enjoying the sunshine and the people watching. As the sun goes down the cruises leave the port and the streets are once again left to those lucky ones who get to spend the night. Mallory square bursts with entertainers and performers, from fire eaters to magicians, all putting on a show before nightfall. After dark the bars and restaurants come alive, with music, people and laughter spilling out into the streets. It’s quirky, it’s fun and seemingly there is something for everyone.
Don’t plan to spend a lot of time on the beach, the Florida Keys are not known for the same white sand as the rest of the State, but they do have some pretty nice snorkeling and diving. The southernmost beach in the United States looks out to Cuba, although I’ve yet to see anything on the horizon besides a few cruise ships.
Oh and the feeling of being outside the United States? Well, the Florida Keys did indeed secede from the United States of America. In 1982, the United States Boarder Patrol set up a blockade on U.S. 1 just north of the Florida Keys, effectively blocking the only land route between the islands and the mainland. On April 23rd, the Mayor of Key West announced in Mallory Square a proclamation to secede from the United States, surrendered to the U.S. Naval forces on the island and requesting foreign aid. The only response from the federal government was to remove the road block. Every year, the Florida Keys celebrate their independence and you can even get a passport stamp!
With all the quirky things do to in Key West, don’t buy pre-made post cards, instead go online for custom postcard printing to make some unique postcards worthy of your fridge.