Key West Florida, originally known as Cayo Hueso, is the beginning, or the end of the amazing Overseas Highway.
If your Florida Keys travel has taken you the length of these islands over the Overseas Highway, it's been a spectacular journey.
No doubt you've snorkeled or dived Key Largo, and spent time in Marathon Florida and Islamorada fishing.
Perhaps you've played on one of America's most beautiful beaches at Bahia Honda State Park.
You've also undoubtedly seen, and successfully dodged the tiny Key Deer at Big Pine Key.
To get to Cayo Hueso, you've crossed 42 bridges and 32 islands to start your exciting Key West Florida vacation in one of the most exotic cities.
Now that you've reached your final Florida Keys destination, you're about to discover what sets this intriguing island apart. Why it's so different from any place else in the Florida Keys - or elsewhere for that matter.
Old and New Seven Mile Bridge Takes you South to the Conch Republic
Discounts and Coupons for Key West FL
Key West vacations are synonymous with tropical fun. You'll find that there's so many fun things to see and do, but trying to do them all can become expensive.
To help you get as much mileage out of your dollar bills as possible, you'll want to take advantage of Key West coupons and cheap Florida Keys discounts when you can.
This large national company specializes in providing Florida Keys discounts on popular Key West events and attractions. They have many of the activities you'll be doing while you're in the Conch Republic, but if you purchase the tickets through them you'll also save money.
Front Street Train Depot Is A Popular Old Town Rendezvous Point
Photo Courtesy of Roy Llowarch on Flickr
Florida Keys Travel And The Conch Republic
You may have arrived on a Key West cruise ship. This is one of the more popular port o' call destinations with the cruise line industry and if this is your first visit to this amazing Florida Keys city, you're about to find out why!
If you arrived by plane at the Key West airport, you've missed some very spectacular scenery, but you also got here quicker! Now it's just a question of how mobile you want to be, so you can take in as many Key West events and attractions as possible.
You'll find that many of the events and attractions are within close proximity of each other, so walking's not a problem. However, there are some interesting spots located further out from Old Town Key West. If you have some form of transportation you'll be more inclined to visit these as well.
You can get Florida car rentals at the airport. There are two Florida Keys Car Rental at the airport located at 3495 S. Roosevelt Blvd. There numbers are 305-296-8744, and 305-296-9921.
Offsite at 2516 N. Roosevelt Blvd you'll find 3 other Florida Keys car rentals companies: Enterprise Rent-a-Car at 305-292-0220, Alamo Rent a Car at 888-826-6893, and National Car Rental at 888-826-6890.
The City itself is basically divided into two, unequal portions. The larger, eastern section is referred to as New Town. If you're coming by car, this will be your first glimpse of the city. This is the grocery shopping, regular retail, traditional business, "where most people live" section of town.
The smaller, western section is Old Town. This is the historic district where the majority of everything you'll want to see and do is located.
Since everything's conveniently located in this small but congested Conch Republic area, renting something a bit different to keep you mobile would be fun.
Adventure Scooter, Electric Car, and Harley Rentals at 305-293-8883, can have you being eco-friendly or ultra cool as you cruise around town. They're located at 142 Simonton Street.
US Highway 1 Ends in Key West FL
Photo Courtesy of larocqu7, Flickr
Conch Republic History
In April, 1982, with typical Conch Republic flair and lighthearted levity, this city and the rest of the Florida Keys seceded from the United States for one minute. Their act of protest was against the Federal government's blockade outside Florida City at the far north end of the Keys.
In an attempt to stop illegal immigration, the government had instituted an enforced measure requiring anyone coming up from the Florida Keys to prove U.S. citizenship. For the residing Conchs this was an insult. US Highway 1 was their only way in and out of the Keys. Their 'staged secession' made a very effective, albeit humorous point.
Key West Conch Republic Flag Proudly Flies Over All
www.wikipedia.org, Photo credit Jmckean
Held every April, the 10 day Conch Republic Independence Celebration continues the festivities in typical Conch Republic fashion.
All sorts of fun, and wacky events are planned, from battle re-enactments to the world's longest parade. After all, the parade does travel down Duval St which is barely a mile in length from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico!
Typical of the Conch Republic Key West history is filled with anecdotes from wild and exotic pirate lore, to scary ghost stories. It also happens to be one of the 10 most haunted places in the United States. Ghoulish stories abound with tales of dread and sorrow. Be careful where you sleep at night. Your room may be one of the many places frequented by the spirits from beyond.
The haunted activities at night however, often pale in comparison to the daytime activities. For a place possessing a casual, island charm - it's the boisterous, carnival-like bravado of the city that draws the crowds.
The Conch Republic Is The Party Town
This is a party town, and pretty much anything goes. The Fantasy Fest celebration was originally designed to be an event catering to it's strong gay and lesbian culture, but has evolved to include people of all orientations.
The Key West Fantasy Fest wouldn't be as wild, zany or sexy if it weren't for all the great Fantasy Fest costumes. It's almost unheard of to plan on attending this adult festival without at least 1 or 2 provocative Fantasy Fest costumes to wear.
The Fantasy Fest Schedule of Events covers 10 days of ribald fun coinciding with Halloween. Fantasy Fest is more like Mardi Gras on bacchanalian steroids that kicks off with Goombay at Bahama Village.
The many events of the festival, including the much anticipated Fantasy Fest parade, exemplify the city's flamboyant free spirit, and its tolerance for all.
It's the Fantasy Fest Masquerade Balls however, that allow the party goers to really show off their talent and wares. The Masquerade Balls cover themes from the Pet Masquerade Ball to the Headdress Ball.
This City is a blend of old world charm meshing perfectly with new world wacky. It's wild. It's fun. It's breathtakingly beautiful.
A precursor in some ways to the festivities of Fantasy Fest is the popular Phil Peterson's Poker Run. This anticipated event is held the third weekend of September and draws bikers from all over the world. They converge on this tiny town for 3 days of partying, and a variety of biker themed events.
The Poker Run culminates with the top 10 hands playing one hand of Texas Hold 'Em. The winner riding off with either a new Harley-Davidson or a tidy prize cash.
Touring Old Town Key West Florida
We've found our Key West vacations to be some of our most favorite. We're also continually amazed at how busy, even downright hectic Old Town can be. Unless you visit in the summer months, which are quieter - you can expect lots of people, lots of noise, lots of activity, and absolutely no parking.
Walking anywhere, especially the older Historic District of Old Town, makes the most sense. Parking can be a nightmare. In fact you can spend more time trying to find a parking spot then if you'd just walked there in the first place. You'll also save yourself a brain embolism, as it can be terribly frustrating trying to find a place, just any place - to park.
The architecture of the many old and gracious homes is magnificent. Whether the home is large, or small, their stature appears more stately, set against the backdrop of the city's tropical vegetation.
Bougainvillea branches, laden with vibrant splashes of red, bronze and pink, splash and spill over brick walls. Palm and banana trees, giant birds of paradise, and tall philodendrons grace courtyards, allowing the occasional inside glimpse to a passerby. The ocean air is heavy with the abundant perfume of the many exotic plants.
Strolling the often narrow streets of Old Town can transport you back in time. On Front Street, at the northwest end of the island, not far from Mallory Square, you'll pass the beautiful grounds of the Little White House, the occasional winter home of President Truman.
Intersecting with Whitehead Street, and walking a few blocks south, you'll pass the home Ernest Hemingway lived in during the 1930's. If you're watchful, you may even spot one of the many 6-toed cats living on the premises. Some are direct descendants of Hemingway's beloved Snowball.
Whitehead, like Duval Street and Simonton run on a somewhat NW / SE line. These three old, beautiful streets are filled with fascinating homes, charming beds and breakfasts, museums, and quaint shops.
These streets channel you southeast, 15 blocks or so, from the hustle and bustle of Mallory Square Key West, to the Southernmost Point and the Southernmost House in the continental United States. At this point you're closer to Cuba at 90 miles, then you are to Miami at about 160 miles.
Southernmost Point Buoy Marker is 90 Miles From Cuba
www.wikipedia.org, Photo credit Stefan Kokemuller
The Different Key West Tours
Depending on where you start out, and where you want to go, the walking distances are not particularly trying. Key West FL weather can often be hot and humid, so if you're not up to a stroll, there are several trolleys to transport you around the area.
Trolley rides let you get on and off as you please, for sightseeing along the way. You're also treated to a narrated tour while you ride. Nothing makes sightseeing more interesting, then an historic anecdote to bring it all into perspective.
Sailboat Cruises are Popular During the Nightly Sunset Celebration
Photo Courtesy of facebook.com/jlackphotography
Conch Tour Trains Provide Handy Hop-On-Hop-Off Service
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Key West Florida is full of things to see and do, on land and on sea. Whether you're on a boat ride out to Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas National Park, taking in the beauty of the nightly Sunset Celebration, or simply visiting one of the many museums, each day will be pleasure packed.
There are so many different events and attractions that you'll have a hard time fitting them all in.
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is One of the City's Best
Averette at en.wikipedia.org
Eat, Drink and Sleep in the Conch Republic
You'll also find that the Old Town has more then its' share of quality Florida Keys restaurants, and even more then its' fair share of bars. Doing the Duval Crawl is easy and is why they say you can drink like Hemingway when you're here.
Key West bars are also geared up to meet your every whim and fancy. They open early, and close in the weest, longest hours of the morning. They also offer a variety of secondary activities for the imbiber.
One popular, if not unusual drinking spot, is the Bull and Whistle Stop. The open air main level gives you the perfect opportunity to imbibe while listening to live music. The second floor has balconies where you can sit, or you go inside and play a round of pool.
The top floor is what adds the 'unusual' to the Bull and Whistle Stop. The Garden of Eden Key West is true to its' name and clothing is optional. A not surprising feature considering you're in the city of 'pretty much anything goes' and the heart of Conch Republic attitude.
A visit to the warm, anything goes, rather rambunctious Conch Republic is certain to supply you with an abundance of Florida Keys vacation memories.
You'll quickly discover that the Conch Republic is a destination like no other. It's vibrant. It's flamboyant. It's a community of people drawn together from all over the world. In fact, the city's motto espouses their strong belief of unity and acceptance...
All People Are Created Equal Members of One Human Family
For Key Westers this is not just a slogan, it's a way of life. You'll feel the embrace of the city, and the warmth of her people. This is part of the area's allure, and the reason you'll want to return again and again to this special corner of paradise. When it comes to Key West vacations, soon is not enough.