With a lively party scene on Duval Street and lax open container rules, Key West isn’t always the first place people think of for a family vacation in Florida. It’s still so much fun for families though if you know where to go, and you can’t beat the beautiful weather year-round! This guide includes the best things to do in Key West with kids, plus where to stay, family-friendly restaurants and more.
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Things to Do in Key West With Kids
Many people ask, “is Key West kid-friendly?” It certainly is if you know what to do and what to look for in a family vacation to Key West. The city is located at the Southernmost point of the Florida Keys, and it has a great combination of history and beautiful weather. It also offers so many family-friendly things to do. We’ve been there twice on shorter trips and still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface! Below are some of our favorite family-friendly things to do in Key West.
Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
One of the best things to do with kids in Key West is to visit the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. The experience starts with a video of butterflies and includes the Learning Center, which walks you through the life of a butterfly. The conservatory itself is filled with beautiful plants, flamingos and other birds and of course, butterflies. Everywhere you look, there’s beautiful butterflies from floor to ceiling. It’s one of our favorite things to do in Key West with toddlers, but it’s great for kids of any age.
Tour Ernest Hemingway’s Home
Ernest Hemingway once lived in Key West, and his home is open for the public to tour. You can walk through his house, tour his writing studio and learn all about the impact he had on American literature. The best part about visiting the Hemingway Home with kids though is actually the cats! There are around 30 cats at Hemingway’s home, some of which are descendants of Hemingway’s original 6-toed cat. They roam the property for visitors to interact with, and our kiddos loved following them around the gardens of the house.
Note: Admission to the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum is cash only. Children under 6 are free.
Climb the Lighthouse in Key West
Right across from the Hemingway home is the Key West lighthouse, found right in downtown Key West. It was originally built in 1848 by the Navy to help ensure the safe passage of its ships. While it’s no longer a functioning lighthouse, the museum tells the stories of the lighthouse keepers over the years as well as the history of Key West. It also includes a variety of artifacts from both the lightkeepers and the city of Key West.
One of the highlights of visiting the lighthouse is that you can walk the 88 steps up to the top of it. It offers great views of Key West out to the water, and children under 7 are free.
Take a Sunset Cruise
The sunsets in Key West are beautiful, and with it being surrounded by water it’s a great place to take a boat cruise. There are several options for a sunset cruise in Key West (with or without cocktails!) If you’re going with kids, be sure to check for age minimums, as some Key West sunset cruises are for 21+. Search here for sunset cruises in Key West.
Another option that we love with littles is a glass bottom boat tour. It’s a great way to view the sea life and coral reefs up close in shallow waters- from the bottom of the boat!
Take a Picture at the Southernmost Point
Have you even been to Key West if you didn’t take a picture at the Southernmost Point? Key West is home to the most southern tip of the US, and there’s a large buoy to mark the spot. It’s one of the most popular photo ops in the Florida Keys and worth stopping by to commemorate the trip. Be aware that there’s usually a line throughout the day. One of the best times to take a picture at the Southernmost Point is early in the morning before the crowds set in.
Go for a Sunrise Walk Around Key West
If you or your kids are early risers, one of the best ways to see Key West is at sunrise. The streets are pretty empty and you can experience the waterfronts and historic buildings without the crowds. One of the most unique things about Key West in the morning, however, is the roosters. Key West is famous for its roosters, which were originally brought over from Cuba for cockfighting in the mid 1900s. They roam the streets in the morning, and my youngest loved searching for them everywhere we walked.
And don’t forget to snap some pictures of the sunrise while you’re at it!
Spend Time at the Beach
If you’re not staying at a resort on the beach, there are still several beaches in Key West that you can visit. Given that the northern side of Key West is essentially a harbor, most beaches are located along the southern side of Key West. Some of the most popular beaches in Key West include:
- South Beach is great if you’re looking for beaches in Key West that are walkable from your downtown hotel. The water is also calm, and it’s a great spot for littles to swim and play.
- Smathers Beach is one of the largest beaches in Key West and the most popular. It spans about 2 miles long and is filled with amenities like food stalls, watersports, restrooms and more. There is no fee to visit Smathers Beach in Key West. It’s located near the airport, so you need to drive, Uber or walk from downtown Key West.
- Higgs Beach is smaller and typically less crowded. It’s located west of Smathers and is closer to downtown Key West. Snorkeling is popular here, and there are also several vendors for whatever you need.
More Things to do in Key West With Kids
- Visit Dry Tortugas National Park by boat or seaplane
- Learn about turtles at the Key West Turtle Museum
- Tour the Key West Aquarium
- Watersports including jet skis, parasailing and more
- Snorkeling (Key West is one of the largest barrier reefs in the world!)
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Key West
If you go early, almost any restaurant in Key West is family friendly. We’ve included some great restaurants for families in Key West below.
- La Grignote is one of the best breakfast restaurants in Key West and perfect for those early mornings with kids.
- Seaside Cafe at Southermost Mansion is a great family-friendly restaurant in Key West along the beach. They have a large menu and are known for their woodfired pizza.
- Blue Heaven has a diverse menu, outdoor setting and breakfast, lunch and dinner in Key West.
- Four Marlins for an upscale casual restaurant by the beach. The seafood is super fresh, and it has a great kids menu.
- Hogfish Grill is located just outside of Key West and is known for its Hogfish sandwiches. It’s a great option if you’re heading out to explore the Florida Keys.
- Flamingo Crossing has some of the best ice cream in Key West. It’s a cute ice cream shop with several homemade flavors.
- Matthison Cookies for super fresh and HUGE cookies. The cookie sundae is great for sharing.
Pro-Tip: If you’re going with kids to Key West, be sure to check menus, reviews, and any minimum age requirements. Some restaurants are more bar-like or geared to the 21+ crowd, but you can’t go wrong with this list of kid-friendly restaurants in Key West.
Getting to Key West
Key West has an international airport that’s small and very easy to navigate with kids. If you’re specifically planning a Key West family vacation, be sure to check flight options first. We were lucky enough to have a nonstop flight from Pittsburgh to Key West, but many flights include at least one layover. Alternatively, you can fly into Fort Lauderdale or Miami to Key West. The drive is about 3.5 hours, but it’s manageable if you make stops along the way.
We love visiting Islamorada while in the Florida Keys with kids, and it’s a great halfway point if you’re looking to break up a drive to Key West from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
As a small airport, rental cars in Key West can be somewhat limited. (Especially given the number of people traveling to the Keys right now!) We used Turo for a car rental last time, and it was super easy and affordable, especially if you need a larger SUV or van for a family vacation in Key West.
Where to Stay in Key West With Family
There are only a handful of beachfront resorts in Key West, and we highly recommend staying on the beach if you’re visiting Key West with kids. The Reach Resort in Key West is a great option for family-friendly resorts in Key West. It has a large pool, fun outdoor area and a great beach. (Something that can be hard to find in Key West!) You also can’t beat the location, as it’s near the Southernmost Point and walking distance to everything. (Yet it’s still quiet and set back from some of the craziness of Duval Street.) The rooms at the Reach are on the small side, but they all have balconies which are perfect for the extra space.
The Reach is right next door to Casa Marina, its sister Hilton hotel in Key West. You can easily access the restaurants and amenities there as well.
We’ve also stayed at La Concha on Duval Street, and it’s a great option if you want to be in the center of the action. It offers larger rooms for families and an outdoor pool.
Search more Key West hotels, resorts and rental properties here.
Note: Many families have been visiting the Florida Keys as an alternative to visiting the Caribbean and leaving the country. That means prices in the Florida Keys have been higher than usual. We used Hilton Honors points and a travel-focused credit card as a way to pay for hotels with points. Head here for my referral link for a special offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Interested in finding more ideas for family vacations in Florida? Check out these posts: