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Affectionately nicknamed the Conch Republic, this southernmost city in the continental United States conjures up images of key lime pie, idyllic sunsets, feral chickens and Hemingway. While Key West also has a reputation as a bar-hopping paradise, there are so many free and inexpensive family-oriented attractions on this pedestrian-friendly four by two-mile island that I barely know where to begin!
1. Southernmost Point
Located at the intersection of Whitehead and South Streets, this uber-popular photo spot — the southernmost point in the continental U.S. — is a mere 90 miles from Cuba. The only thing you have to spend here is a little bit of your time, waiting your turn to get a photo of yourself in front of this iconic monument.
2. Mallory Square Sunset Celebration
No visit to Key West is complete without witnessing the retreat of the sun from this perfect waterfront vantage point. And while you’re there, prepare to be dazzled by the awe-inspiring performances of numerous sidewalk entertainers.
3. Key West Cemetery
Yes, you read that right! Strolling through the whitewashed above-ground tombs in this graveyard that dates back to 1847 is a truly fascinating and even funny experience, owing to some very quirky epitaphs like, “I told you I was sick” and “I’m just resting my eyes.” Click here for a self-guided tour map.
4. US 1 Mile Marker Zero
Another famous Key West photo opportunity. This major north-south highway starts 2,593 miles north of Key West in Fort Kent, Maine on the Canadian border!
5. Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
Learn about the plants and animals native to the land and waters of the Florida Keys through over 6,000 square feet of interactive and innovative exhibits, including a mock-up of the world’s only underwater ocean laboratory, Aquarius.
6. Key West Wildlife Center
Enjoy a quiet walk on paved trails surrounded by native flora and fauna, a freshwater pond and two aviaries. The center, which rehabilitates over 1,000 native animals annually, is situated inside the eight-acre Sonny McCoy Indigenous Park. Admission is free, but donations are greatly appreciated.
7. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
This 54-acre park boasts a beautiful beach, wooded nature trails, and a Civil War-era fort, through which tours are offered daily at noon. Admission is a very reasonable $2.50 per person if biking or walking.
Cost: If arriving by car, admission is $4.50 for one passenger, $7.00 for two, and $.50 for each additional passenger.
8. Custom House Museum
Experience two floors of exhibitions at this imposing red brick structure that first opened in 1891 as Key West’s customs office, postal office and district courts.
Cost: Adults $7, seniors and AAA members $6, children 6 and up and students with ID $5, and children under 6 are free.
9. Fort East Martello
Explore Civil War relics, wrecking and cigar manufacturing exhibits, folk art, and metal sculptures at this Union Army constructed Civil War fort.
Cost: Adult ticket price is $7, seniors and AAA members are $6, children 6 and up and students with ID are $5, and children under 6 are free.
10. USS Mohawk and USCGC Ingham Museums
A visit to these floating museums pays homage to all those who have served or are currently serving in our nation’s armed forces or Coast Guard.
Cost: Adult admission to the Ingham is $10, children 12 and older are $6, and kids under 12 are free. Active duty Coast Guard and veterans are also $6. Mohawk admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children 10–18, and children under 10 are free. Click here for a $2 off adult admission coupon for the Ingham.
11. Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters
Located across the street from the Hemingway Home, you can climb the 88 steps to the top of the lighthouse and experience what life was like for the keepers and their families.
Cost: Adult admission is $10, seniors and AAA members are $9, children over 6 and students with ID are $5, and children under 6 are free.
12. Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Experience 20 exotic bird species and over 50 species of butterflies amid lush tropical gardens in a climate-controlled greenhouse on the fabled Duval Street.
Cost: General admission is $12, seniors and military admission is $9.00, ages 4 -12 are $8.50, and children under 4 are free. Click here for a $2 off general admission coupon.
13. The Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
After a guided introduction to the 19th century property and its history, you will be free to tour the house and one-acre tropical gardens at your leisure. Delight in the 28 first-edition works of world renowned naturalist John James Audubon and elegant antique furnishings characteristic of the period.
Cost: Admission is $12 for adults, students of any age are $7.50, children 6–12 are $5, and children under 6 are free. Click here for a $1 off adult admission coupon.
14. Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
Feast your eyes on over 85,000 artifacts brought up from the shipwrecks of Spanish galleons Nuestra Senora de Atoche and Santa Margarita by the late legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher.
Cost: Adult admission is $12.50, students are $10.50, and children are $6.25.
15. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Wander among the furniture, artwork and gardens at the house of this American literary icon and his wife Pauline. Built in 1851 amidst the lush foliage at 907 Whitehead Street, the grounds of this famous residence are also home to over 40 pampered six-toed cats, many of whom are descendants of Hemingway’s six-toed cat, Snowball.
Cost: Adult admission fee is $13, children 5 and older are $6, and younger than 5 are free.
16. Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum
Actors, films and actual artifacts tell the story of the era when Key West was the richest city in the United States, thanks to the harvesting of cargo from the many shipwrecks off the coast. Climb the 65-foot observation tower in homage to the wreckers that stood vigil in towers as high as 90 feet, on the lookout for the average one ship per week that would succumb to the treacherous reef.
Cost: Adult tickets are $15.04, seniors are $12.90, children are $8.59, and ages 3 and under are free. Visit the website to buy tickets online and save.
17. Key West Aquarium
Take a walk on the wild side in the heart of Key West where you’ll see alligators, sharks, game fish, tropical fish, sea turtles, jellyfish, and even get to hold creatures such as sea stars and horseshoe crabs!
Cost: Regular admission is $15.04 for adults, $12.90 for seniors, $8.59 for ages 4–12, and free for ages 3 and under. Visit the website to purchase tickets at a small discount. You can enter and exit freely with your ticket for two consecutive days!
18. Harry S. Truman Little White House
Enjoy a 45-minute guided tour of the vacation home where the 33rd President spent 175 days of his presidency from 1946 through 1952 and a self-guided tour of the surrounding botanical gardens.
Cost: Admission is $16.13 for adults, $13.98 for seniors, $5.38 for ages 5–12, and children under 5 are free. Visit the website to purchase tickets in advance at a small discount.