Top 5 Things to do in Key West

There is so much to do and see in Key West, and often with very little time, you don’t want to waste time and money while you’re there. Here are my top five touristy things that everyone who visits Key West should do…

1. Take a snorkel tour on the reef.

You can snorkel anywhere in the Keys, but you won’t beat the scenery on the reef. You’ll see so many types of plant and aquatic life. I have been a few times, but this last time was the best. I saw a nurse shark (not as scary as you’d think!), Barracuda (much scarier than the shark), Yellow Fin Tuna, Tarpon, Yellow Tail Snapper, Grouper, Blue Parrot Fish, Sheep’s head and so many more…

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It’s harder to find water that is more beautiful than what’s in the Key’s. When you’re passing along the south side of Key West, there’s a really well defined line dividing the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf. It’s pretty cool to see…

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Even cooler through one of the deck-hands expensive Costa sunglasses.. The tour costs around $45 per person, plus a tip for the staff. It’s the only thing on the list that is slightly costly, but it’s well worth the money.

2. Mallory Square

From costly to free! Mallory Square has a sunset celebration that happens every evening. The Square is right at the end of Duval Street and very easy to find. Just look for the crowd of people with random jugglers, tightrope walkers and acrobats popping up throughout them…

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“Look, Mom, I’m a lamppost.”

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The cat show is great, but also bizarre. You should also see Dr. Juice’s tumbling show. He’s been performing on Mallory since I’ve been going, which is well over a decade now. The tightrope walker is also a permanent fixture on Mallory. The rest of the performers rotate pretty regularly but they are all very good. It’s also a good place to buy souvenirs, with several artists selling locally made goods. The best conch fritters in Key West are sold there too, so order half a dozen and don’t forget a side of spicy mustard!

3. Paddle Boarding

Despite being an island, Key West only has one tiny beach. The beach itself isn’t particularly exciting, but Sunset Water Sports has a booth where you can rent all kinds of things like paddle boards, kayaks, mini sailboat things and beach chairs. The paddle boards are only $22 an hour and they’re so much fun! It’s hard at first, but once you get the hang out it, it’s pretty easy.

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Until your mother “accidentally” pushes you off…

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3. The Cuban Chugs Exhibit

I already wrote a post about it, but I think it’s worth mentioning twice. It’s really eye-opening to the hardships that other people are dealt and made me really thankful to live in the country that I do.

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5. Get some good Cuban food!

There are so many delicious places to eat in the Keys, especially Cuban places! Being only 90 miles from Cuban, I’d say it’s pretty close to the real thing. Sandy’s Cafe is one of my favorite places, but there are plenty of options and trying them all out is the best part…

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So there you have it. Those are my top five! Beyond that, the jet ski tours are a lot of fun and the ghost walks have a lot of interesting history. Really, you can do anything while you’re there and it will be great. You’re in Key West which is better than where you’d be if you weren’t on vacation!

“Cuban Chugs”

In the Key West Botanical Gardens, there’s an “exhibit” with a bunch of “Cuban Chugs.” I say “exhibit” because it doesn’t really look like an actually display of anything, more like a bunch of old boat parts sitting in a yard. It turned out to be one of the most interesting things that I’ve seen in Key West. A “Chug” is a term for the vessels used by refugees leaving Cuba.

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It’s hard to believe that some people are so desperate to leave their country that they’d risk their lives crossing 90 miles of open water in one of these things, just to get to America.

The motor below is actually¬† built from regular boat motor parts and the engine from a lawnmower, cleverly welded together…

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Many of the boats were just tarps and wood scraps that had been filled with some type of foam insulation…

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This boat actually used a tree branch as support for one of the seats. Not lumber, but a tree branch…

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Imagine sitting on this thing for an extended period of time…

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You don’t even have to pay the entrance fee for the gardens to see this exhibit (although I do recommend going into the gardens themselves), so there’s no reason you should miss out on this fascinating display…

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‘Merica’s Birthday Celebrations

The U.S. of A. is about to have another birthday which means family time, fireworks and BBQ. Here are a few events happening in the Bradenton/Sarasota/Beaches area that look like they would be pretty fun.

First there’s the Independence Day Celebration at McKechnie Field. Take in a baseball game complete with fan giveaways, fireworks and a post game concert by David Nail.

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If baseball isn’t your thing, there are extravagant (and FREE) fireworks shows at Sarasota Bay, Siesta Key, Bradenton and Palmetto. There is plenty of seating in the nearby parks, but get there early because spaces fill up fast! Unless of course you want to take your boat, or a friend’s, and have a little viewing party from the water!

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Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key really know how to throw a birthday party. First the city comes together to celebrate with a fantastic parade, followed by music, food and fireworks!

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Take your pick and enjoy the holiday! Happy birthday ‘Merica!

Bradenton Flea Market

As much as I wish Bradenton had something like the Nashville Farmers Market, we definitely do not. What we do have is good enough for me, though. The Bradenton Flea Market is the absolute best place to buy produce in town. Great prices and excellent food..

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LOOK at those tomatoes! Only $.25 each. If you tried to buy a tomato at Walmart, you’d easily pay double, AND you’d have to actually go to Walmart. I’m not sure which is worse. Also, when you buy something at a produce stand, it’s actually ripe enough to eat that day. You don’t have to leave it sitting in the kitchen for a week, waiting for it to become edible!

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Tell me what’s tastier than a ripe avocado? That’s right. Nothing.

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The actual Flea Market is only open Thursday-Sunday, but the produce stand in the front is open everyday, except for Monday. Stop in and look around. Your wallet and your tummy will appreciate it.

Latte Luna

What town, large or small, shouldn’t have a locally run coffee house with friendly staff, tasty treats and cozy atmosphere? Bradenton finally got their own a few weeks ago when Latte Luna opened up.

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It’s right on Manatee Ave in an old frame house from the 1920’s. There are plenty of comfy places to sit inside. That makes it easy to spend hours socializing and sipping coffee, tea or maybe even a milkshake.

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It is always good to support small business. Not only does the company provide jobs in your area, but all the money goes back into the local economy, and not to some big corporate office somewhere else. Latte Luna is also committed to giving back in other ways. All of the tips that they receive go to various charities, and the charity changes each month.. How great is that? So next time you are out and about, skip the Starbucks and stop in Latte Luna for your cup of joe.

Pulse: The Beat of Song and Dance

I got a text message at 7AM yesterday asking if I wanted to go see some performance at the Asolo Theatre called “Pulse: The Beat of Song and Dance.” I had definitely never heard of it before, but I thought, “Sure! Why not?!” I’m so glad that I chose to go! First, the tickets were free. Second, they ended up being box seats with a great view. Thirdly, it was opening night and the world premier!

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Beyond that though, the performances were some of the best I had ever seen! The whole show was packed with talent, humor and energy from start to finish. Here are a few of the number that I was able to record…

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The show will be at the Asolo until June 16 and I HIGHLY recommend that you go see it! I have never seen another show like it, and my video samples do not do it justice!

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DeSoto Heritage Festival

I have a love/hate relationship with the DeSoto 5k. The thing that makes this race unique/fun/intimidating is that the whole course is lined with people..

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That’s me in the orange shirt. We can pretend I am in first place if you ignore the older lady that you see way ahead of me.. Anyway, unless you’re this guy…

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… then you are probably not really, really ridiculously good-looking when you run. I look gross, sweaty and like I might die at any moment..

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… so the crowds can be pretty intimidating. That’s the hate part. The love part is that the people are also a great motivator. They are clapping and cheering the whole time. Plus there are lots of little kids that want high-fives along the way, like you’re some kind of pro-athlete. It’s very cute. I was also blessed enough to have some of my own family there…

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Plus a new friend! Overall, it was a great race, and I would recommend it to anyone…. and now for one more ridiculously good-looking guy meme…

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Take your dog to the Keys they said..

It will be fun they said…

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My parents have taken our dog, Keen, to the Keys several times and it really is a lot of fun having him there. So much fun in fact that I decided to go with them on their next trip. Instead of us all cramming in one room or spending a ton of money on an extra hotel room, we decided to look for a rental house or condo. It started off so well! We found plenty of houses that accepted pets and had really good prices. I e-mailed my favorites so that I could verify availability and book. Easy, right? Not. At. All. There are so many restrictions on dogs! I had no idea it would be so complicated!

Our first choice wouldn’t allow huskies because of the insurance. I work in insurance and I know how the insurance companies can be, so it was hard to argue that one. No problem because I had several back-ups! Then the next place wouldn’t accept dogs that were over 25 lbs, then another place had a 30lb limit. After that it was no fluffy dogs. UGH! I finally found one place that was all the way out on Cudjoe Key, which is about 23mi from Key West, that was available and didn’t hold grudges against 50lb, fluffy puppies.

That was just too far, so after spending a few days feeling like a hamster running in a wheel, we finally ended back at the original plan. They’re going to stay at the same hotel that they always use and I’m going to book a place for myself. All that effort for nothing! So for anyone out there that’s wondering, if you’re traveling with a dog that’s larger or hairier than a chihuahua, it might be hard to find a place to stay, apart from the large hotel chains. You should also be prepared to pay extra pet fees, regardless of your dog breed.

If anyone has any recommendations or alternative options, I would love to hear them!

Living History at Desoto National Park

I was taking the pup for a walk in the park this morning..

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When I saw this…

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It’s not everyday you see a horse in armor walking around Desoto. Turns out it’s the 4th annual American Military Festival.

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There’s a bunch of booths with different types of displays..

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People are all in costume..

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If you’re in the area, go check it out. There’s lovely weather today!

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32 Minutes or So…

I hope everyone had a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day. The Shamrock Run and Pub Crawl was even better than I thought it would be! They haven’t posted the official results yet, but my time was around 32 minutes.

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My mom was about one tenth of a mile before the finish line taking pictures, but she didn’t see me until I passed her.. Then I ran past my dad at the finish line and he didn’t see me either! Ayiyi. Thanks, Family!

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There’s everyone, complete with the dogs, and boy were there a lot of dogs there!

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Of all shapes and sizes..

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This was¬†one of the most fun races I have done. The costumes, the food, the music… All of it was wonderful

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There was dancing..

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I got some use out of two t-shirts I made 2 YEARS ago..

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One says, “I’m Irish.. but don’t kiss me.” The other says, “I’m not Irish… but you can kiss me.”

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The food was delicious. Fresh fruits, every kind of sandwich wrap imaginable, cookies, drinks, granola bars and sweet potato chips..

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I was also really impressed with the band! I have no idea what their name was and I can’t fin it online, but they were great!

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If anybody knows, please tell me!

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That’s about all for now!