One Day in Key West (with Kids)

We spent a beautiful week in the Florida Keys over spring break. The weather was tropical and the perfect spot for a spring break. Most of our time was spent in the Marathon area, but one of the days we drove about an hour south to Key West. This was a great day trip with kids or could be a spot to stay to explore the Keys. As you drive south, watch for the Florida Key deer or take a stop at the Florida Keys Deer Refuge if you have time. We bypassed this in order to arrive in Key West as early as possible to start our day.

Parking in Key West

Key West seemed to have small parking lots scattered throughout town. We opted to park at this lot near the Butterfly Museum and toward the south of the city. If you can find a free spot for parking, go for it! I recommend getting there early to grab yourself a parking spot if you plan to be in the city most of the day.

Key West Walking Route (with kids in mind)

Key West is a fairly walkable city, even with kids! We walked from the Southernmost Parking lot to the Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S. and then took Whitehead Street all the way north, past the Key West Lighthouse, Ernest Hemingway House, US 1 Mile Marker 0 (where the highway ends) and straight up to Mallory Square. After hanging around the square for a bit, we headed back down Duval Street, grabbing some tasty ice cream and cookies from Mattheessen’s (I’m still dreaming about their peanut butter fudge cookie) and finished up our walk down the quaint streets of Key West until we reached the Butterfly Museum again. The whole walk took a couple of hours and was about 2.5 miles round trip. It was quite the walk for little feet, but stopping at different points of interest along the way definitely helped. If you don’t want to walk it, you could consider taking the Key West Conch Train

Butterfly Garden

The Butterfly Garden was a favorite stop in Key West and the kids put it at the top of their list. It is not very big but the greenhouse area was filled with butterflies. Everywhere you looked, different colors of butterflies were flying around and would land on you if you stood still. The kids especially liked this. It was clean, educational and a beautiful spot to spend part of your day.

Hemingway House and Lighthouse

We opted not to go into the Hemingway House or Lighthouse, though we enjoyed some educational chats with the kids about them. Traveling with a family of six we have to pick and choose which experiences are most important to us to pay for. Of course if our kids were a bit older, we have chosen a a few things differently. 

Mallory Square

Mallory Square seemed fairly quiet, though we heard it is often bustling with street performers, especially in the evening for the sunset. Due to COVID there were no cruise ships in port which made the square feel extra empty. Fingers crossed that cruise ships will be back there soon. It was a good spot to play around for a few minutes and take a breather after our long walk. I recommend checking it out in the evening if you have time.

Stopping to explore along our walk up to Mallory Square helped the kids keep going…that and the promise of ice cream!

Roosters Roaming

One of the unique things about Key West is all the roosters that roam the streets. This was especially fun for the kids to search for throughout our walk. We loved finding families with baby chicks and watching the roosters strut around as if they owned the streets. 

Ice Cream and Lobster

Mattheessen’s was a great halfway point in our walk to get a little refreshment! Not only did they have delicious ice cream that helped us cool down, they had amazing giant cookies that we are still thinking about. At the end of our walk, we picked up lobster rolls from The Lobster Shack Key West. We took them to a little park complete with wandering roosters and enjoyed a late lunch by the ocean. The lobster rolls rivaled those we’d eaten in Maine and were absolutely delicious. I highly recommend trying them out if you love a good lobster roll. If we’d had extra time in Key West we would have loved to try Garbo’s Grill for their fish tacos or check out the Key West Key Lime Pie Company (though we did try their chocolate covered Key Lime Pie Bars at other places in the Keys).

Next Time

By the end of our walk around Key West, the kids were all pretty tired and just wanted to go back to our vacation rental and swim in the pool, so we bypassed the beach we had been planning to go to. We heard great things about Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and wished we had time to meander through the fort, swim at the beach area and snorkel in the crystal waters. Definitely add this to your list if you want to check out a beach in Key West. 

Key West is also the jumping off point to visit Dry Tortugas National Park. This excursion will take an entire day and make your reservation ahead of time if you want to see this beautiful, one of a kind National Park. We’ve added it to our to-do list for our next visit. Key West makes for a fun day trip from a week in the Florida Keys and is rich with history that could keep you busy for many days! 

Check out this post if you’re looking for our favorites from our week in the Florida Keys.

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