8 Hours in Key West

key-west-conch-train-tourThe Conch Republic. Cayo Hueso. Thompson’s Island. Margaritaville. Whatever you choose to call it, Key West is a paradise for artists, snorkelers, history buffs and anyone just looking to relax with an ice-cold beverage in hand. Located at the southern most tip of the Florida Keys and just 90 miles from Cuba, Key West is best known as a fishing town and artist’s retreat.

For centuries, residents and tourists alike have been drawn to Key West’s secluded beauty, unique quirks, and easygoing pace. Even after a railroad connected the Florida Keys to the mainland in 1912 (followed by the highway in 1938), the town remains a bastion of easy-going independence. Today, Key West is renowned for its liberated spirit and community of freethinking individuals.

The island-city is just four miles long and one mile wide, so it is easily navigable by foot. Here’s how we suggest you spend your day the next time you’re onboard Celebrity Constellation and stop by Key West,

8 a.m.—Start your day in Mallory Square, where street vendors, performance artists, and local artisans entertain the crowds that gather by the waterfront. The main thoroughfare, Duval Street, is lined with shops, art galleries, bars, and restaurants. Souvenir shops with zany window displays compete for attention with a collection of high-end jewelry and specialty boutiques proffering an array of shiny objects.

9:30 a.m.—From Mallory Square, the Key West Museum of Art & History is only a short walk away. Housed in the red brick, terracotta Custom House, the museum lets visitors see exactly where U.S. officials made the decision to go to war with Spain after the sinking of the USS Maine battleship in 1898.

11 a.m.—One of Key West’s most famed tourist attractions is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and rightly so. The Nobel Prize-winning author of A Farewell to Arms lived at the Spanish Colonial-style house from 1931 to 1940, and his desk, chair and typewriter are still on display—as are the dozens of feline descendants of his beloved cat Snowball.

1 p.m.—After grabbing a quick lunch (we recommend getting some pink shrimp and conch fritters at the Sunset Tiki Bar and follow with a slice of key lime pie at Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe), make your way over to the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens. The estate took Captain John Huling Geiger—a harbor pilot and master wrecker—three years to build (between 1846 and 1849). The home went on to house four generations of Geigers throughout the years, but today is a tourist destination that hosts numerous original works by John James Audubon, the world-renowned ornithologist who visited the Florida Keys in 1832.

3 p.m.—Finish off your day (and give your feet a break) by hopping aboard a 90-minute Old Town Trolley tour or a 75-minute Conch Tour Train. Both have depots in Mallory Square and take you to what is likely the most photographed site in Key West: a concrete monument marking the southernmost point of the United States. (Both options are available through.)

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