Key West Things to Do Tips by starship
Key West Things to Do: 549 reviews and 1,032 photos
Mel Fisher Museum
Mel Fisher was a man with a dream -- to locate sunken galleons and retrieve the treasurers which they had carried. He was widely successful and subsequently opened several locations in Florida where the treasurer from Spanish Galleons and the like could be seen and appreciated by the common man. His finds were quite incredible. But one must remember that just finding these sunken ships is an art in itself.
Key West is lucky to have the Mel Fisher Heritage Society, Museum and Exhibit. It is the type of place which should appeal to people of all ages. One current exhibit is the Henrietta Marie* a slave ship which floundered on a reef off of Key West and sunk in July, 1700. The Museum explores the transatlantic slave trade through the history and findings of this ship. The museum actually highlights 4 ships in total and artifacts found.
The museum if open 365 days a year from 9:30 a.m to 5 p.m. Current admission is $12.50 adults; $10.00 for students; and $6 for children (2008 prices). Tickets can also be purchased online. Check for reduced prices or savings coupons, but seeing these exhibits is definitely worth the time and effort. Don't forget to visit the giftshop! I still have a pair of cloisonne earrings I purchased at one of Mel's smaller exhibit/museums in Sebastian, Florida. The Key West Museum store, no doubt, also has great gifts.
If you like diving, read "Shadow Divers" by Robert Kurson!! It is a non-fiction book about wreck divers discovering an uncharted WWII sub off the coast of New Jersey!! It's fantastic!!!
Address: 200 Green Street, Key West
The one place I absolutely knew I wanted to visit in Key West was author Ernest Hemingway's home. It wasn't so much about his books that made me feel this way, but the stories that surrounded this man's life and what influenced his writing. There are some great old stories about his home as well and you'll hear it all on a guided tour (which is included in the admission price), or you can choose to walk the grounds on your own. We had a fantastic guide who brought the whole place to life for us; she knew so much about Hemingway, his home, and his wife that you'd think she knew them personally!!
On the tour you will see Hemingway's large two-story home which I found very attractive and perfectly constructed for the tropical climate in Key West. To take advantage of any stray breeze, each level had a wrap around porch. The house, constructed of limestone, was built in 1851 for Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker. It became Ernest Hemingway's home in 1931.
The home now functions as a museum only. Each room is filled with furniture, art and antiques which belonged to the Hemingway family. Our guide told us interesting stories about certain pieces of furniture or art and where they came from. There is also Hemingway's separate studio where he wrote located on the second floor of a smaller building in back of the main house. You'll see fountains & pool. Hemingway was apparently quite put out when his wife, Pauline, had the in-ground pool put in! After Hemingway's death in 1961, the home was sold and the owner and her family have kept the property since that time.
I loved seeing all the descendants of Hemingway's 6-toed cats, which number around 50 - 60 cats (some with only 5 toes on each foot!) and the memorable "graveyard" built for them. Each cat has a name! The cats have their own stories, beginning with Hemingway's first cat who apparently came as a gift from a sea captain.
Admission generally is $10 adult; $6 child when we visited.
Current 2015 general admission prices are: $13.00 adults; $6.00 child; free for those under 5
Group Rates: $10.50; $6.00; free under 5
Open 9am to 5pm 365 days a year. Nice gift/book shop on grounds.
Address: 907 Whitehead Street, Key West
Birthplace of Pan American World Airways
As we were walking to or from (I really can't remember) Ernest Hemingway's home, we saw the sign, "Birthplace of Pan American World Airways." I had no idea that Pan Am was "born" in Key West. So a little research revealed that indeed, Pan American World Airways began operation with a rented, single-engine Fairchild aircraft in October, 1927, when it flew a single route from Key West to Havana, Cuba!!
Pan Am's founder, Juan T. Trippe, had won a contract from the U.S. Postal Service to carry mail to Havana and Key West was chosen for its proximity to Havana. As business grew, Pan Am's operations were relocated to Miami. Pan Am had a distinguished history pioneering flight routes around the world and operating daily flights which circled the globe. Unfortunately, Pan American World Airways ceased operations in 1991and with that, one of the world's "classic" airlines took with it a little piece of this country's history.
Today the building at 301 Whitehead Street now houses "Kelly's Caribbean Restaurant, Grill & Brewery" owned by none other than actress Kelly McGillis!! The white clapboard house with the red tin roof, and white picket fence along with the Pan Am sign shown in the accompanying photo are all that seem to remain from this piece of aviation history.
Address: 301 Whitehead Street, Key West
Directions: At the corner of Whitehead Street and Caroline St. Within walking distance of "Old Key West", Mallory Square, the cruise piers, and many other attractions.
Pier at Schooner Wharf
One of the simple things that I though was really fun was feeding the very hungry fish at Schooner Wharf. In fact, I think children would really enjoy this too. Our waitress at the Schooner Wharf Bar told us to save the shrimp shells, or other left overs from our meal to feed the fish from the pier!! We were a little bit skeptical, but the minute you stand on the edge of the pier, dozens of huge fish come close to the surface waiting to catch whatever food you give them!! We ran out of food quickly but there were a few other people with children doing the same thing. Sometimes simple pleasures are the best. I sure wish I had gotten a picture of this because, at the time, I'd never seen anything like it----well, maybe feeding time at "Sting Ray City" at "Grand Cayman Island."
Directions: Pier at Schooner Wharf Bar
The Custom House
One of the most prominent and architecturally beautiful buildings in Key West is called the "Custom House" and it is the home of the Key West Museum of Art & History. Built of solid red brick, The Custom House was constructed in 1891, and once served as a post office and court house, and then was abandoned; but after a major renovation lasting 9 years and costing several millions, it plays a major role in Key West once again to this marvelous museum.
The museum houses folk art paintings by Mario Sanchez, portraits of famous Key West citizens, exhibits on Ernest Hemingway including personal items, and many Key West history exhibits including some on local pirate life.
One gallery is devoted to an exhibit called, "Coping with Depression, the WPA in the 1930s." I think this title is a little deceiving because it is related to the 1930's Depression Era's Works Progress Administration which was a government program to give jobs to people during the Great Depression. Art work in the Dogwood Gallery is meant to depict "Key West in the '30s through drawings, sketches, intaglio prints, paintings and promotional brochures produced by the artists of the Works Art Project."
We had planned to see the Museum as our last stop of the day, but the fierce heat and humidity was overwhelming and I had to return to the ship. However, I would have been greatly interested in seeing Mario Sanchez's wood paintings of Old Key West and especially the work in the Dogwood Gallery.
The Museum is opened everyday but Christmas from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for children and students with ID.
$9 for seniors (62+), AAA Members and locals with ID.
Address: 281 Front Street, Key West
Directions: Within walking distance Mallory Square, Duval Street, the cruise ship piers, etc.
Sign at Entrance to Mallory Square
Mallory Square is a somewhat touristy area of Key West, but a nice touristy area not to be missed. Mallory Square is THE place to come to see some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world. There is a seating area right on a point of land dedicated to just this purpose right on the waterfront and you'll see many people arrive here to wait for the sunset, or come just in time to catch the sunset and then stay to enjoy the cool breeze coming off the ocean. You can almost picture it in some romantic, 1940's movie.
Mallory Square is also a happy jumble of small shops, restaurants and outdoor seating areas, and even a museum (the Shipwreck Historeum). Other museums and attractions also squeeze into this quaint little piece of Key West. It certainly felt like a warm, friendly place where everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. We had a nice lunch at a Cuban Restaurant here and thoroughly enjoyed it, then shopped and strolled around a little until it was time for sunset. It's a delightful place!
Can you imagine that in the time a few years before the Civil War, Key West was the home of, "salvagers" whose livelihoods depended on shipwrecks! This "salvagers" reaped from the sea but it wasn't fish they were after. They reaped the rich cargo of floundered ships wrecked on the reefs off Key West! This fascinating story is told by actors, films, laser technology and artifacts from the Isaac Allerton* which sank in 1856 off the Florida Keys. Climb the 60 ft. tower and "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, It's a Pirates Life for Me!" Great place for the young & older.
The Key West Shipwreck Historeum Museum is open Wednesday - Monday 9:45am to 4:45pm; Tuesdays 9:45am to 6:45pm.
Tickets $10 Adult; $5 child. E-tickets can be purchased online for a small savings
Address: 1 Whitehead
Directions: Near the heart of Mallory Square.
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