A family vacation to The Florida Keys and Key West should be on everyone’s bucket list. It was one of the most amazing trips we’ve taken, and there are tons of fun things to do with kids in Key West.
This post is in partnership with The Florida Keys and Key West who hosted our visit. All opinions are my own. You can read my full Disclosure Policy here.
When we were planning our family vacation to the Florida Keys and Key West, someone said to me, “Key West is fun if you like to drink and go fishing.” Um, we were taking the kids so that wasn’t exactly the plan. I was hoping there was a lot more to do with them than that!
Is Key West Child Friendly?
And rest assured, there absolutely is a TON of family fun to be had in Key West. This was one of the best family vacations we’ve ever taken (and we travel a good bit).
Yes, there are bars in Key West and a little hooping and hollering if you’re on Duval Street at night, but it’s nothing over the top, and to be honest, we were so wiped out from our daytime activities that we didn’t walk downtown much at night anyway.
What Is There to Do in Key West for Families?
Key West is family-friendly, and if your kids are like most kids and love the beach, yummy food, animals, and boat and train rides, this vacation is epic.
We spent a week in the Florida Keys, about half of that time in the Upper Keys and half in Key West. We easily could have made an entire week-long trip out of Key West.
15 Things to Do With Kids in Key West
Below I’m sharing 15 fun things to check out with the kiddos on your trip. The ultimate resource for vacation planning is on The Florida Keys and Key West website, so browse there before you visit, too.
Sailing in Key West
There are many options to choose from when it comes to water sports (visit ‘boating in Key West‘). One of the biggest providers in Key West is Fury Water Adventures, and they offer snorkeling, sailing, dolphin watching cruises, parasailing and more. Whatever operator you go with, I think getting out on the water is a must-do with your kids!
We opted for a sunset sail and snorkel cruise with Sunset Watersports and we loved it. Sunset is a beautiful time to be on the water and the views are just incredible. It sprinkled just enough while we were out to make a rainbow and seeing that from the water was WOW!
Snorkeling in Key West
You can definitely snorkel right off the beach in Key West, but you might not know that about 7 miles offshore, there is the 3rd largest living coral reef in the world. This is North America’s only barrier reef and it’s beautiful!
With the sunset sail and snorkel boat ride we did, we were able to wrap two activities, boating and snorkeling, into one evening. The reef is in pretty shallow water. You can’t stand, but it’s doesn’t feel like being out in the middle of the deep sea. We saw gorgeous coral, tons of tropical fish, and even a shark!
I think this is best for older kids. The boat had to anchor a little distance from the reef to avoid hitting it, so we had a bit of a swim out and back. It might be pretty tiring for young kids. This boat had a slide into the water that the younger kids played on while we were anchored for snorkeling.
This is something that was on our wish list but we didn’t find time to do it. This is great for kids because they can ride with an adult, and it’s an awesome way to see much more of the island. The water in Key West is so beautiful and clear, you are sure to see a lot of sea life, too. Most of the boat ride operators offer jet ski tours as well.
Sunset at Mallory Square
Did I get your attention with the sword swallowing man pic?! Sunset in Mallory Square is a must-do. This celebration takes place every night, beginning two hours before sunset.
Best part? It’s FREE! You can just walk through and enjoy the sights, shop with of the artisans vendors if you want to, and definitely take in the sunset.
There is entertainment everywhere and the kids will love it – jugglers, magicians, face painters and more. This sword-swallower had us totally captivated. Look at the faces of the little girls in the background. Love it!
And this is one of the MANY pics I took of the sunset in Mallory Square. Absolutely gorgeous. Thank you, Mother Nature.
Get Your Picture at the Southernmost Point
The Southernmost Point in the continental US is in Key West at Whitehead and South Streets, and it’s a very popular place for photos. So much so that when we were in the area, the line was a mile long.
We didn’t care enough about capturing that iconic pic to wait, but if you catch it at a time when the wait is reasonable, this is one of those “I was there!” moments that it’s fun to have in your collection.
Get Your Picture at US 1 Mile Marker 0
Another “I was there” photo that you won’t need to wait in line for is the US 1 Mile Marker 0 sign. You’ve probably seen the Key West Mile Market 0 bumper stickers. This is what they refer to!
US highway 1 stretches from Maine to Key West, connecting many, many US destinations on the East Coast. And here’s where it ends. This sign is located on Whitehead Street at Fleming Street. And we just happened to walk past it almost accidentally after breakfast one day. I’m glad we did!
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
Mel Fisher was a famous diver, credited with finding sunken ships including the Atocha, a Spanish ship that carried over $450 million in treasure! Visiting this museum is another activity that we didn’t have time to squeeze in during our trip, but we walked past it and it looks awesome.
The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is dedicated to the maritime history of Florida and the Caribbean, so you can expect to exhibits related to shipwrecks and their treasures, ocean conservation, and more. One of the shipwrecks Fisher discovered was a slave ship, and there are a variety of exhibits related to slave trade as well. This is a great educational stop to add to your itinerary.
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
I wrote an entire post, including tons of pics and video, about the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. This place is incredible and the kids will absolutely love it.
Filled with tons of colorful butterflies, birds, turtles, and even two very entertaining flamingos, it’s both a nice little break from the outdoor heat, as well as equal parts entertaining and educational.
Bonus tip: Their gift shop is a fantastic place to grab a keepsake to take home with you!
Conch Train Tour
I highly recommend The Conch Train Tour for a few reasons. First, it’s relaxing for the kids (and everyone!). We did a ton of walking on this trip and it was nice to be able to just sit down and chill in the shade of the canopy.
It’s an amazing way to see the most iconic spots in Key West, and to actually learn about the rich history of the city. Be sure to have your cell phones and cameras prepped to take shots along the way. Our driver was awesome and shared so much interesting information in an entertaining way.
There are a few stops, so we were able to hop on in one location, and then get off close to the Hemingway Home, saving us a bit of a trek. The entire ride is about 75 minutes, and there is a stop at Station Depot, a cute shop where you can grab a cold drink and use the bathroom.
Hemingway Home and Museum
If you love cats, add a stop at the Hemingway Home and Museum to your schedule in Key West. American author Ernest Hemingway lived in this home for 10 years with his second wife and two sons. Probably most famous for its cats, the Hemingway Home is currently home to over 50 of them!
I wrote an entire post on the Hemingway Home with tons of pics (especially of the cats!) and tips for visiting.
Key West Lighthouse
We didn’t climb the Key West Lighthouse (we visited in August and it was hot enough without climbing 88 stairs!), but I do wish we could have taken in those views.
Admission tickets include the lighthouse climb with beautiful views of the island and the water, plus access to the grounds and the keeper’s quarters.
Key West Beaches
We are beach people, and we were excited to check out the beaches along the beautiful blue waters of The Florida Keys. I was surprised to learn that there just aren’t many of them. The Keys are protected by a barrier reef (noted above when I talked about snorkeling) and because of that, the shore isn’t really pounded with waves that make sand. Many of the beaches in the Keys are man-made for this reason.
On our travels from the Upper Keys to Key West, we stopped at Bahia Honda State Park and absolutely LOVED this beach. If you want to make the trip there, it’s definitely worth it.
If you’re looking to hit a beach in Key West, there are two primary locations: Smathers Beach and Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park. Smathers Beach is Key West’s longest beach that is about 2 miles long on the southern side of the island. The water is calm here, great for the kids, and this beach is free!
Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park is a beautiful beach with some rock pile barriers offshore that provide a great place to do a little snorkeling and see some tropical fish. There is a fee to enter this park.
Eat All The Food
Bring your appetite when you visit Key West. Menus are packed with fresh seafood and produce. One of our favorite places to eat in Key West was First Flight, the southernmost brewery in the US. That meal was one of the best I’ve ever had in my life!
And let’s not forget the key lime pie! We ate it just about everywhere we went on this trip. It’s sooooo good! This mile-high piece was eaten for breakfast (we have no shame) at Blue Heaven, which is a super cool place for al fresco dining (and some seriously delicious mimosas). Check out my favorite places for Key Lime Pie in the Keys!
Key West Aquarium
The Key West Aquarium is the perfect place to get out of the heat and give the kids a hands-on experience to remember. Touch tanks, sharks, alligators, oh my!
Good for all ages, the Aquarium is both entertaining and education, which is exactly what I like to find when we travel with the kids.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Before our trip, I was scoping out pics of Dry Tortugas on Instagram like crazy. It is STUNNING. If you’re not familiar, the Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands located about 65 miles off the end of Key West, so you have to take a boat or seaplane to get there.
It’s the home of historic Fort Jefferson, which was used as a prison during the Civil War. You can swim, snorkel, tour Fort Jefferson, stay busy all day really, which is why we (boohoo) didn’t take the time to go here. It would have eaten an entire day of our trip and we only had about 3 days in Key West.
On our next trip, I’m definitely going to plan a day dedicated to the Dry Tortugas. If you have time to devote to it, I would absolutely get there!
The Florida Keys and Key West are the perfect place for a family vacation. Visit their website, and check out their social profiles for tons of ideas to help plan your adventure: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
HOW TO PLAN A FLORIDA KEYS FAMILY VACATION:
WHERE TO STAY IN THE FLORIDA KEYS
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN THE FLORIDA KEYS
- Marker 88 Restaurant in Islamorada
- Angler & Ale Restaurant, Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key
- Morada Bay Beach Cafe, Islamorada
- Robbie’s of Islamorada: The Hungry Tarpon + Feed the Tarpon
- Turtle Kraals Restaurant in Key West
- First Flight Restaurant & Brewery: USA’s Southernmost Microbrewery
- 11 Best Places for Key Lime Pie in The Florida Keys
THINGS TO WITH KIDS IN THE FLORIDA KEYS
- The Turtle Hospital, Marathon Key
- Dolphin Research Center, Marathon Key
- Robbie’s of Islamorada: The Hungry Tarpon + Feed the Tarpon
- Aquarium Encounters in Marathon FL: Coral Reef Encounter
- Bahia Honda State Park – Best Florida Keys Beaches
- Key West Butterfly Conservatory
- The Cats of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida
- 15 Things to Do With Kids in Key West