One of the ports on a recent Disney Wonder cruise was Key West, Florida. We had 5 hours in the afternoon to fit in in a little bit of everything – shopping, eating, tourist attractions and history & culture.
Key West is charming, laid back and has an island like vibe to it. It definitely feels different than other other US destinations we’ve visited.
The island measures approximately 4 miles long by 1 mile wide and can easily be explored by foot, bike, scooter, pedicab, car or trolley.
If Key West, Florida is one of the stops on your cruise, here are a few kid friendly recommendations on what to see and do and how much time to allocate to each activity:
1. Key West Aquarium (1 to 1.5 hours)
The Key West Aquarium is about a 5 minute walk from the cruise ship dock and while it may not be as big and showy as aquariums you’re accustomed to (it’s very small compared to Ripley’s in Toronto), it is still worth the visit. The experiences you get here at the Key West Aquarium is one of a kind.
Visitors have the opportunity to learn about alligators, stingrays, jellyfish, endangered sea turtles and other marine animals at the Key West Aquarium.
There’s daily shark and stingray feedings as well as a touch tank filled with sea cucumbers, horseshoe crabs, sea stars and conchs. Holding is allowed!
Princess and Little Man loved the touch tanks and we had to practically tear them away from them to explore other parts of the aquarium.
Admission is $15.04 for adults, $8.59 for children (4 to 12 years old) and $12.90 for seniors.
2. Ride the Conch Train (2 hours)
Trolley tours around Key West are a very popular activity for cruisers.
The Conch Tour Train is just one of the companies that offer an open-air train tour of the city. Trains leave about every half hour and you can purchase tickets at the main station near the Key West Aquarium.
The 90 minute tour gives you an overview of Key West including The Little White House (former U.S President, Harry Truman’s winter vacation home which is now a museum), Ernest Hemingway’s former home which is now a museum where six toed cats roam the grounds, learn about Key West architecture, and pass some famous landmarks including the Key West Cemetery and the Southernmost Point.
The Conch Tour Train stops of several times during the tour to give guests the opportunity to purchase a snack, drink, or take a bathroom break.
While this tour is kid friendly, Princess and Little Man didn’t find it as interesting as the Key West Aquarium. I’d recommend this tour for families with older children who can appreciate the historical information being shared and not so much toddlers or kindergarteners.
Tickets start at $25 per person and kids 12 and under are free.
3. Take a Picture at the Highway 1 Mile Marker Zero Sign (30 minutes)
One of the most photographed landmarks in Key West is the Highway 1 mile marker zero sign at Fleming Street and Whitehead Street – approximately a 15 minute walk from the port.
US 1 (Highway 1) stretches from Maine to Key West and connects most major cities in the eastern United States. You’ll find a bunch of souvenir shops selling Highway 1 merchandise around this area.
4. Photo Opp at the Southernmost Point (1 to 2 hours)
Another popular landmark is this colorful buoy that marks the Southernmost Point of the United States. Located at the intersection of Whitehead and South Street, the Southernmost Point is closer to Cuba (only 90 miles north) than it is to mainland U.S.A.
Lines are quite long here and you can expect to wait anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours to take a picture with it in the afternoon. If you want to minimize wait time, head to the Southernmost Point as soon as you disembark your cruise ship. It’s about 30 minutes walking from the port.
5. Grab a Bite to Eat (1 to 2 hours)
A visit to the Conch Republic should include a sampling (or an entire meal or two) of popular local delicacies.
Do not miss a chance to try conch fritters – they are available almost everywhere in Key West. We’d highly recommend the ones from Key West Conch Fritters – located right beside the aquarium.
Of course, try to leave room for Key Lime Pie too – Key West’s official dessert.
Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe is where we indulged in the traditional slice of pie, key lime slushie, Key West beer and frozen key lime pie – all worth walking in the blazing hot sun for!
Key West Travel Tips for Cruisers
1. Pack Water – Wear sunscreen and bring bottled water as the weather can get very hot and humid. The day we visited it was 33C / 91F. We forgot to bring water with us and spent a fortune to stay hydrated.
2. Wear Proper Walking Shoes – Key West is a relatively small island and very walkable – comfortable walking shoes are a must.
3. Map Out Your Plan – Depending on your interests, map out your tour plan beforehand so you’re not wandering the streets the day of your visit. Attractions are spread out from one another so it’s good to have an idea of what you’ll be doing when.
4. Bring Your Smartphone – There’s free WiFi in some parts of Key West – the Key West Aquarium and the area around the cruise ship dock is where I caught up on a bit of email.
5. No Need to Purchase Tickets in Advance – Tickets for the aquarium and trolley tours don’t have to be purchased in advance as line ups are minimal. However you will save a bit purchasing tickets in advance online so if you are determined to do/see either of these two attractions, book them before you get to the port.