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Key West for Kids, Too!
Top 10 spots for traveling in Key West with children
I will be honest. Key West is not the best place for kids. But it still is a great place for them! It still has lots to offer even at the wildest of times. I took my child during Spring Break in 2016. Don’t get me wrong- we had plenty to do and lots of fun. But we were in by 8pm every night and avoided the restaurants and bars that lined Duval Street. With that said, here is what we enjoyed the most. If you like relaxing by the pool in the evenings and plan to make dinners in, than this is still a great family destination.
Find the cats at Hemingway House
Hemingway cats, also called Polydactyl cats, are known for their extra toes. Sailors believed polydactyl cats were good luck and Captain Stanley Dexter gifted one to Ernest Hemingway. I believe there are around 40-50 cats at any given time at the house. His first cat was called Snow White. Many of her descendants are at the house today.
Before you go, tell your child or children about this legendary writer. Here is a link to some facts about his life. https://kids.kiddle.co/Ernest_Hemingway Use discretion about what you would like your child to know or read. I think a starting point to share Hemingway with your child is to tell them about, “The Old Man and the Sea”.
We actually had our own black Hemingway cat, which we adopted from the Lakeland SPCA. He recently passed away. He was the coolest cat and also named after a Disney character, Bagheera.
Climb the Key West Lighthouse steps
Nearby is the Key West Lighthouse. It is a tight squeeze to say the least but a good view.
So this was after we hiked up the lighthouse. There are low branch trees on the Lighthouse property and my son enjoyed climbing around in them.
It was HOT though. You can note the swollen lip from my jellyfish sting. Ugh- feeling a bit stink here. But wait….
Aww much better. Located on the north end of Duval street (opposite end of Hemingway House- near Mallory Square, so take an Uber, bike or the trolley) was Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. My son discovered he loves Key Lime pie while traveling down to Key West. He approved of the chocolate covered key lime pie popsicle. Now I on the other hand needed something cooler. This big fruity drink came from a stand on the side of the road and it was worth the 10 dollars I spent on it. Sorry I didn’t catch the stand’s name!
Chickens, chickens, everywhere!
Chickens, chickens, everywhere! We thought it was a hoot. This guy was located at the Southernmost Point near some parking lot.
Catch a Key West Sunset
Take an early evening stroll along Mallory Square for dinner and/or shopping if its suits your fancy. This is where we caught this photo.
A must-do. Catch a Key West sunset. And don’t forget the Crazy Cat Man’s Crew. He AND his cats were very entertaining. My son got picked out of the audience and loved it!
We took a short snorkel tour with Key West Snorkel Adventure. I was a little worried about taking my child out there at his age so I opted for a short snorkel tour. I will say the water was deep for coral reef exploring. At least 20 ft. As you can see from my water camera it was not as clear as we wanted. However, we did see lots of tropical fish and a pretty large shark. I was terrified when I spotted it, grabbed my child and swam back to the boat, but the guide told me I should go back and get pics as it was harmless. So I did, but I am not sure I would do it again to be honest. Also, the water is choppy as you try to get on and off the boat. It is a bit rough if you aren’t athletically inclined. They do make you wear life jackets and provide noodles. I would say its a good idea even if you are a good swimmer. All snorkeling gear was provided. Wet suits were not. It was cold water. There are free drinks if you are so inclined. https://www.keywestsnorkelingtours.com/catamaran-reef-snorkel/
West Martello Tower and the Key West Garden Club (free).
The West Marello Tower was a fort created during the American Civil War. It is considered a National Historic Site. It holds some impressive trees and beautiful gardens, including a waterfall and butterfly garden. Did I mention its free?? Lots of trees for your kids to learn about here.
African Slave Burial Grounds at Higgs Beach
A quaint little stop on the south end of Key West (also a more quiet area). We found here some beautiful trees and garden. An unexpected but interesting find was the African cemetery right beside it. Located on Higgs beach, I didn’t see any tourist info on it until I read the sign outside the Martello Tower. In 1860, 3 illegal slave ships were intercepted by the US Navy. The conditions for the slaves among the ship were horrific. The slaves who did not survive are buried here and the remaining ones were cared for by the community. It is considered a historical and archaeological site. For more info check out www.africanburialgroundathiggsbeach.org I highly encourage a stop here with children to share this example of slavery and pay respect for the slaves who lost their lives.
As the picture says, here we are at the Southernmost Point of the Continental US. It is crowded and I would suggest going near dusk when the party goers are heading to the bars and restaurants for dinner and drinks. It is also free, just gotta find a good parking spot.
The Key West Aquarium.
This little aquarium has a lot of hands on fun for both kids and adults. We fed sting rays shrimps which was different. They have a great variety of local marine wildlife and a resident tortoise below. He hangs out at the entrance.
Fort Zachary Beach
We saw a Portuguese Man-of-war in the water. And quickly got out. For you that don’t know, they are venomous and their stings are excruciatingly painful, possibly deadly. If you are looking for the famous sign with all the cities pointing in different directions, than look no further. It is here.
Others things that we saw included the Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum. It was good and it took a while to get thru it. Good female pirate section and if you like coins and jewelry, you’ll be impressed with the back. There are a lot of museums in Key West and if you only have a few days, I would only choose 1 or 2. Don’t feel the need to hit every one. Also, we did use the Old Town Trolley, but only on the second day. It was worth it, especially if you are planning on site seeing to a lot of places. We had bikes and I decided not to use them with all of the car traffic. Also, someone tried to steal them off the back of my vehicle 😦 Quickly, I will state what we should have skipped the Key West cemetery. Unless you are on a ghost tour it is deadly silent (pun intended), bit depressing, and hot as…
Okay heading back home but not before one more stop on our way out …Bob’s Bunz! Located in Islamorada, they have all kinds of yummy baked goods. They are known for their cinnamon and sticky bunz. They had me at bunz.
Have a safe and wonderful trip in one the best spot’s Florida has to offer!
Baby steps to help our environment
“You can’t change the world; you can’t fix the whole environment. But you can recycle. You can turn the water off when you’re brushing your teeth. You can do small things.” – Patti Smith (“Because the night…”)
Even if you don’t believe in climate change you must believe that with more and more people today on this planet, we have more waste, and that waste is going somewhere. Yes our trash is picked up for us at least once a week and taken to a land field where we hope it is being properly disposed of, ie buried in the ground. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. What services we have in America are also not universal. And finally, our trash is not the only waste that can affect our environment and subsequently our health.
Throughout my website and blog posts, I hope you find truthful information and small ways that can contribute to your environment. One small step by one person can make a difference. And if you miss a week of recycling or forget to bring your own reusable bag to the grocery store, no one here is judging you! If you fall off the environmental bandwagon, you can always jump back on. For everyone who attempts to make our planet better, whether for yourself, your children or for everyone or thing, thank you so much!
Stop Using Straws
This video is not for the faint heart. But even if one person views it and commits to reducing their use of plastic straws and/or recycling their plastics, then it is worth sharing. This is heart breaking. Thankfully for this turtle, he is better…for now.
Carry your own reusable cutlery with you
Even though I began declining straws in restaurants, it wasn’t until my partner from the UK commented on the amount of plastic ware being distributed in restaurants that I became aware of how restaurants automatically add plastic utensils to your take out bag unless you specifically ask them not to. Hence, my new thing…
My Mom bought me a set of reusable cutlery from a trip in Hawaii but since I am usually feeding more than just me, I bought another set from BewBew. This set comes with reusable chopsticks and a toothbrush. I will say the straw is very skinny but thankfully I have my own set of boba or smoothy straws too.
Make Your Own Yoghurt
This may seem like a big ask. But let me start by telling you how I started this journey. Every day I was packing yoghurts for my child and myself in lunches. I would be on the look out for those 10 for $10 specials. Then I started to look at the sugar content of these yoghurts. I started using half the fruit on the other side of those plastic cups. I wanted less sugar in our daily yogurt intake. So I decided to start buying the large containers of vanilla yogurt. Remember baby steps here. Especially if you are making changes with a child, gradual steps make for an easier transition. Then I started to buy large containers of plain yoghurt. In order to make this leap and control our sugar, I needed to create my own fruit compote and provide my own cups. Now I reuse a lot of my previous plastic purchases so I had plenty on hand. A good “investment” for reusable, small plastic cups are these-
Noosa’s 4 packs yoghurts. Eat the yoghurt (which is yum) and then reuse the cups with plastic lids for your own batches. Or you can also purchase some of these small sistema storage containers
These are perfect portion size for school lunches.
So even though I was still reducing my waste, I could only store so many large plastic yoghurt containers (great for storing soups and stews btw). So I decided to make my own. Why I like making my own despite reducing my waste? I can control the products used to make it, like organic milk or sugar content. In order to due this, I needed to buy an instant pot. Now the main reason I bought the instant pot was to make yoghurt but I will say its a good investment. How many times have you come home from work and forgot to pull something out from the freezer? As a working Mama, I have very little time in the evenings to cook. So many times I have forgotten to take something out of the freezer, or it didn’t thaw completely in the fridge. I also tend to make big batches of food and freeze meals for busy school nights so to me, the instant pot was a good investment. This is the one I got. **Make sure your instant pot has the “yoghurt” button on the front. Not all pressure cookers and instant pot cookers can make the yoghurt.**
I waited until I could grab an online Black Friday deal from Target and paid less than $70 for this Instant Pot. So far it hasn’t let me down and is able to cook every recipe I wanted. Here is a recipe which is almost identical to my instant pot cookbook recipe. https://ifoodreal.com/instant-pot-yogurt/
Here are a couple of tips:
- This is a 2 day process at minimum, more if you strain your yoghurt;
- Greek yoghurt is just strained yoghurt. If you like thick yoghurt than you will want to strain it. I invested in a strainer (see below);
- I almost always have to hit the “saute” function to get the temperature raised after it goes through the 1 hour yoghurt/boil process;
- I use a gallon of 1% milk and add Chobani plain yoghurt as my “yoghurt starter”;
- I have tried a variety of fruit compote recipes and a variety of fruit. Basically end up doing some type of frozen fruit, a little lemon juice and maybe a little almond extract. If its too watery just add a little bit of corn starch to thicken it up. I rarely add sugar to any of them anymore. If you want a “tropical” fruit compote, try pineapple with frozen mango. For me, the pineapple is all the sugar I need.
Let them in. My opinion on other’s opinions on social media. A disappointed Christian’s perspective on the online American immigration debate.
After seeing a lot of social media posts from Christian friends and family members, which support the current administration’s stance on immigration control, I feel compelled to voice my opinion and concern as a Christian. I also feel its important to share with non-Christians that this Christian does not agree with what is happening along our borders, and finds its unethical and immoral.
Christians are called to seek and find the weary, sick, poor in spirit, under served, etc. Not allow or tolerate, but seek and find (notice I didn’t say stop, ban or persecute either).Why? So we can help, support, care, heal and provide refuge. But why are Christians called to do this? As a demonstration of our faith? Sure. But more importantly as a demonstration of love and grace. The same that is bestowed on us unconditionally by God.
So let me ask my fellow believers this… is your political meme, quote or image a good demonstration of your faith? Are you speaking your truth from a place of love? Are you loving your neighbor (even if they are across a border)?
Remember that borders and states are artificial, political constructs. Physical walls are made my Man. There are many Christians that have been practicing love and demonstrating Christ’s love and grace for decades along the American/ Mexican border https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-texas-border-wall-church-20190130-htmlstory.html. Why? Because they see human suffering and want to help alleviate it.
Remember our shared American history and the foundation of our country.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
November 2, 1883
Think critically about driving factors that have created systematic murder of millions of people worldwide. At one time they were small ideas and acts that grew into unprecedented evil.
Lessons from Hitler’s Rise to Power – An Interview with Dr. Robert Ericksen
Do you want a young person to ask you one day, “did you support this?”, “did you see it happening”, “did you do anything about it when it was happening?”?
What stories about our country do you want to share or read on social media now? In this present moment. This one?
Daughters of Farm Workers Becomes Class Valedictorian At Polk County School.
Or this one?
A quarter of a Mississippi school district’s Hispanic students were absent the day after an immigration raid
We can choose to perpetuate this climate or help defuse it. Is your social media post a light upon a hill?
We are so blessed to be born in this county and unfortunately, others are not. I can tell you right now that if I was living in Syria and had a child, I would do everything in my power to get them out. We are all human beings. We all want the same things- love, safety, homes, food security, good health. Why should we as Christian’s care? Because not only is it the right thing to do, but because God call us to care. He calls us to actively seek and find and care for ALL people. Respective of their religion, nationality and color.
If we can’t provide a home or a meal, or even our vote, to help the most needy in this world, we can at least refuse to participate in perpetuating the ugly and un-Christian social media posts. If you are a Christian and finding it hard to feel compassion for others, than I challenge you to focus on this scripture,
Thank you for reading my opinion.
THE EVERGLADES AND HEADING DOWN TO KEY WEST
THE EVERGLADES AND HEADING DOWN TO KEY WEST
Coming from Tampa we decided to break the drive into two days. I wanted to experience both “sides” of the Everglades since this might be the only time we were down there. I started off first on the west side of the Everglades, which took us to the Gulf Coast. We visited the Everglades National Park from Everglades City, FL. Inside the park is the Everglades Florida Adventures company which runs daily tours out onto the Gulf.
We took the Ten Thousand Island Cruise which runs about $40/per person, includes all ages and lasts 90 minutes. It’s an easy boat tour where we spotted dolphins and a variety of birds.https://evergladesfloridaadventures.com/
Side note. The boat did have a top or cover to help protect passengers from the sun.
Next stop down Highway 41 South was the Miccosukee Tour. The Everglades are famous for their air boat rides. I chose this company to support a local, Native American tribe. https://tribe.miccosukee.com/ We did not go into the Village Shop or Cafe on Tamiami Trail but we were able to book an air boat ride on the spot. No reservation required (which oddly enough I can’t find a link to the air boat ride on the website), but you may have to wait 20 minutes or so. Make sure not to arrive right before they close (5pm).
The boat ride itself was fun and windy. My son was a little, ummm, not blown away. But hot, so I guess it worked out that it was short. This may sound silly but I imagined the Everglades to be a Cyprus tree-filled swamp but it is not. It is very, very flat and wide open, with nothing but swamp grass and reeds. No trees whatsoever and in the boat you are kinda going too fast to spot any alligators or other wildlife. The highlight for me was not the ride itself but the little traditional village stop where you can walk on a board walk around a ton of gators (big and small) and see a village fire and some native crafts. All and all I would do it again if I was down there. But I will say that the Everglades aren’t really my thing. I need trees people.
Anhinga Trail- Everglades National Park
This is a great bike ride. I do not recommend it as a walk. Although it is flat, there is little to no shade and the sun beating down on you is hot no matter what time of year you go. If you want to see alligators than look no further. They line the paths (startling close actually) and we even saw an alligator nest. There are a lot of bird sightings as well. I think this is a great place to stretch your legs (on a bike) and get a good feel for the Everglade ecosystem. Their visitor center is very informative as well.
I am going to be open about a parenting fail on this bike trip. There are some pretty large gators right beside the paved path. These gators are familiar with people and the park is familiar with them. But when I look back at some of these photos of my child stopping for a photograph near one of the alligators, I feel highly irresponsible. Even though these gators are “tame” they are still wild animals and very large. Gators do leap and climb and in a minute they can grab a child. So even though it seems cool to get an epic pic next to a wild, large gator, don’t take the risk.
So we had to stop somewhere to get some rest. Homestead, the town where the hostel is located, was desolated in the Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the town, in my humble opinion, isn’t worth writing about. However it was a great stop for our night’s rest. Now back in my college days and late 90s, staying at hostels around Europe was the norm. Whenever I traveled all I could afford were hostels and I met a lot of backpackers and acquaintances along the way. But now traveling with a child and staying in a hostel in America (in Florida none the less) made me a bit weary of this place.
The Everglades International Hostel is now called the Hoosville Hostel https://www.hoosvillehostel.com/accommodations. When I discovered this place online what convinced me to stay was the ability to get a private room. We stayed in “The Library” for a slightly higher price. When we got there my son took one look at the place from the outside and said, “No, it doesn’t look clean and safe”. I told him let’s go inside and take a look and give it a chance. Well boy was he glad we did. HE LOVED THIS PLACE.
There was a very cool tree ropes course/canopy. He was all over this. Even though there were no kids around when we were there, this is a kid’s idea of heaven. Not so sure how stable and secure the ropes course was but he was fine 🙂
A little lounge house with cushions and instruments to have a….jam session? haha. Or whatever floats your boat. There was a latter outside where you can sit on the top and star gaze if you fancy.
They also have free, unlimited pancakes. You do have to make them on your own but its a great way to meet people and swap traveling suggestions with fellow travelers around the picnic table in the morning.
The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. http://pennekamppark.com/activities/
Next stop was the John Pennekamp State Park. I was really looking forward to stopping on the way down and having a refreshing swim. My son really enjoyed himself while I swatted away jellyfish. WARNING: Cassiopeia jellyfish were everywhere. Also known as the upside down jellyfish. Tiny little stings everywhere including my lip 😦 What they don’t tell you until you get there is that jellyfish are more abundant around mangrove shores. They wash in and hang out. If you go, stay on the beach or kayak or paddle board out. But a relaxing swim it was not. I also walked through some mangroves on a little back trail to head to a spot further out. Almost knocked myself out on a low hanging branch. Opened my eyes to see a giant iguana staring at me. I kid you not. Could not make this stuff up. Meanwhile the kid is walking on rocks with a bunch of college kids having a great time (wear water shoes it is slick on the rocks). See rocks below and the beach in the background.
The little stingers that ruined the day for me.
I won’t be returning for a swim here ever again. Sorry but no.