Things to Do in Key West with Kids

The island of Key West is an outdoor adventurer's paradise. Forget the tiki bars - if your kids love to swim, snorkel, and play in the surf, Key West is for you.

Sand and Surf

Fort Jefferson
Photo courtesy of Visit Florida
When it comes to things to do in Key West with kids, some of the best include the beach and the ocean. What kids will argue with a deep sea fishing expedition, a charter for finding friendly bottlenose dolphins, or a sailing lesson? Kids craving some adventure will want to go parasailing or tubing. From kayaking to kicking back on the beach for some sunbathing, your kids will find plenty to do.

Key West is also a great place for snorkeling. Plan an adventure to Fort Jefferson, home to some of the most crystal-clear water in all of the Florida Keys. Here your kids will spend hours gazing down at the range of underwater life, from tropical fish to starfish and beyond. Another great option for boat tours is sunset cruises.

Local Attractions

If you're looking for things to do in Key West with kids beyond the beach, there are many local attractions to choose from. The one kids will love most is the Butterfly Conservatory. This attraction offers the opportunity to go inside a tropical world filled with exotic birds and literally hundreds of butterflies. An attraction this appealing will be one that might just lure your kids away from the beach.

If your kids are into spooky attractions, you might want to explore the Key West Cemetery. For a family picnic, there are many parks complete with playgrounds including Bill Butler Park and Bayview Park. For an indoor activity, learn more about the local ecosystem at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center.

Adventures with Kids

Seaplane Tours

Some visitors might be looking for things to do with kids in Key West that are a little unusual or adventurous. One of the best is seaplane tours. The Florida Keys are a beautiful chain of islands, and seeing them from a bird's eye view is guaranteed to be a memorable part of your Florida adventure. There are a few companies that arrange seaplane tours; to avoid disappointment make your reservations in advance.

The Key West Aquarium

Key West Aquarium
Photo courtesy of Joe Parks

The construction of this island landmark began in 1933 during the Great Depression as part of the Works Progress Administration program established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was the brainchild of Dr. Robert O. Van Deusen - former director of the Fairmount Park Aquarium in Philadelphia. Today the Key West Aquarium is home to a diverse collection of marine species, including sharks, turtles, stingrays, tropical and other various fish found in the beautiful waters of Key West. It provides a fantastic educational opportunity for family travelers, and can help inspire the minds of visitors young and old by allowing patrons to learn about a broad spectrum of life beneath the ocean's waves, how these creatures evolved and the programs currently in place to protect wild habitats from being destroyed by the growth of modern industry.

The aquarium is open everyday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. It is located at 1 Whitehead Street on the northwest tip of the island, right across the street from Mallory Square. Parking facilities can be found adjacent to the aquarium on the northeast side of the building, though a small fee will be assessed upon entry. Tickets can either be purchased in advance on the aquarium's website for a discounted rate or in person at the on-site box office for the full price. Single-day adult admission will be $15.04 at the box office and $13.54 online. Single-day children's (ages 4 to 12) admission is $8.59 at the door and $7.73 online, while seniors can enjoy a discounted rate of $12.60 at the door and $11.61 on the website.

Key West Shipwreck Museum

Key West Shipwreck Museum
Photo courtesy of Visit Florida

The Florida Keys are home to some of the only coral reefs found off the shores of the continental U.S., and throughout history these underwater structures have led to numerous shipwrecks. The Key West Shipwreck Museum gives patrons a chance to learn about some of these 19th century nautical disasters by transporting them back to 1856. Join tour guide Asa Tift and his wrecking crew, and gain a better understanding of of the shipwrecks - both planned and unplanned - that have helped bolster the reefs around the keys and provide a framework for future growth. Climb the 65-foot lookout tower and gaze out over the Gulf in search of distressed vessels or peruse through countless exhibits documenting what life on Key West was like for early pioneers and settlers. Sit in on film screenings that re-live some of the more epic shipwrecks of the past 200 years or gaze upon the mountains of pilfered bounty acquired by divers who've spent numerous hours exploring these wrecks.

The museum is located next door to the Key West Aquarium and shares the same address and parking facilities. Admission tickets for the museum can be acquired both online at the facility's website and at the on-site ticket booth, located in the adjoining Mallory Square. Single-day general admission for adults is $15.04 at the booth in Mallory Square or $13.54 online. Children's (ages 4 to 12) admission stands at $8.59 at the door and $7.73 online, and seniors can obtain their tickets for a reduced rate of $12.60 on-site or $11.61 on the museum's website.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
Photo courtesy of Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

The great Ernest Hemingway, is arguably one of the best American novelists in history, and is held in the same regard as other literary titans, such as Herman Melville, Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald. While this spectacular author spent time in cities all over the world during his lifetime, but the island of Key West was often considered one of his favorite residences. He would spend summers here on the island during the 1930s and developed a fascination for deep-sea fishing and sailing while on this tropical cay. Today, Hemingway's personal residence is open to the public, and it remains largely undisturbed from when the author was actually living there. One thing guests will notice almost immediately upon entering is the incredible number of 6-toed cats who've made the estate their home. These are the offspring of "Snowball," Hemingway's 6-toed feline friend, which he received from a fishing captain during his time on the island. Guests will have the opportunity to take a guided tour through the grounds and learn about the eccentric and wild behavior of this incredible author during his time here. If you're a fan of Hemingway's iconic literary style, learn about the the events and practices that inspired his countless works here at this Key West landmark. Also, don't forget to make a stop into the on-site book store, which sells the novels written by this esteemed author, as well as books written by his contemporaries and literary inspirations.

The estate is located at 907 Whitehead Street on the opposite end of the island from the two attractions listed above. Admission prices stand at $13 for adults and $6 for children (ages 6 to 17). Reduced rates for larger parties are also offered to groups of 12 or more. Group rates stand at $10.50 for adults and $4 per child. Children younger than 5 years of age are always granted free admission when accompanied by a paying adult. No reservations are required and walk-ins are welcome. Find out more about the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum on their website.

Family-friendly Vacation Rentals in Key West

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