It’s family “Vacation” time in Florida this week. We may not be the Griswolds from one of Wilson’s favorite 80’s movies, but we’re darn close. We packed up the kids and headed to Key West for a few packed days of sun and consumption. My in-laws have lived in Key West for almost 10 years so they’re practically natives, or “conchs,” as they’re called locally. We’ve visited many times and always wish we could stay longer.
Key West is a great place for kids and has a unique vibe you won’t experience anywhere else. Its rich history goes back hundreds of years and its architecture is a combination of anti-Bellum South with Caribbean flair. On the main drag, Duval Street, there’s a bar every 12 feet, and t-shirt shops galore. A fisherman’s town on the water, it would be tough to find a restaurant without fresh fish leaping off the menu.
With kids or without, Key West is one of my favorite vacation destinations. Here are a few reasons why:
Yoga on the Beach
Whether you’re a beginner or a regular on the mat, practicing yoga in a natural setting takes the experience to a new level. Listening to the crash of waves and feeling a soft breeze under the trees as you stare at the blue horizon makes anyone feel like they can do a headstand. An energizing and peaceful start to your day. http://yogaonbeach.com/classes/key-west-yoga/
Tuna Nachos at Schooner’s Wharf
It would be wrong to have a favorite list that doesn’t include food. Fried wontons covered with sushi-grade raw tuna, drizzled with soy dressing, and sprinkled with scallions and seaweed. I can’t explain why this makes my mouth sing. You must try it yourself!
Henna Tattoos on Duval Street
This was my second year getting inked. I’m not a risk taker and probably will never have the guts to commit to a real tattoo so the temporary henna is as close to skydiving as I’m gonna get. This year I took 12 year old Jacob, who chose a flaming basketball for his forearm. We are both absurdly proud of our tats and wish they would last longer than two weeks.
Sunsets at Mallory Square
Mallory Square is probably the largest public space closest to the Southern Most Point in theU.S. so it’s where people gather to watch nature show off. As the sun sinks slowly into theGulf of Mexico, the sky turns colors of red, orange, and pink that almost look fake, they’re so stunning. The square also draws street performers of all ages and talents who take advantage of the large crowds to try to amaze and cajole the tourists into forking over money to watch them eat fire, ride unicycles, balance sideways on ladders, and break out of chains while inside a box. My boys watch each act with mouths agape.
Key Lime Pie and Conch Fritters
If you get to Mallory Square, find the food truck that sells conch fritters, as some say they’re the best in town. Conch is a chewy fish that gets ground up and fried into balls of crunchiness, similar to a crab cake but with its own flavor. This local delicacy is served best with tangy tarter sauce. And for dessert……Key Lime pie is one of Wilson’s favorite treats and also hard to avoid in Key West. This one from the restaurant at the Pier House Resort was special because of the flamed meringue top and graham cracker crust. Yum.
Land and Sea Creatures
My kids love all the animals they see roaming around Key West. Geckos run rampant and luckily move too fast to catch or I’d be coming home with a bucket full. We also saw giant iguanas scurrying in the bushes and climbing on palm trees, and chickens are as common as pigeons down there. No one looks twice at a crowing rooster prancing down Duval Street, avoiding the drunken college kids and bicycles. This year we also took a boat tour and saw sharks and dolphins, which my kids will be talking about for months.
Conchs are cool. You can usually tell the locals from the tourists pretty easily in Key West. While the sunburned cruise ship day trippers and college spring breakers are wearing “Sorry I’m Drunk” t-shirts and downing rumrunners with parasols, the conchs sport that deep wrinkly tan that never fades and carry fishing rods and beer bottles. Conchs are friendly and real and I’ve never met one who didn’t have a story to tell that cracked me up or broke my heart.
We can’t wait for our next adventure in Key West. Let me know in the comments if you have any favorites for 2013!