Experience the weird, offbeat and funky Key West!

Great Article about the Key West, it captures the unique and funky style of Key West better than most articles, it's close to 20 years old but still relevant! Vibe!  https://www.tampabay.com/archive/1994/11/13/eat-drink-and-be-merry/

dog on a barstool in a Key West dive with it's drunk owner

The sign pretty much says it all: Havana 90 miles, Miami 157 miles.

Any relationship to the United States is purely coincidental. Doesn't even pretend to be. This spoonful of coral, a mere 1 mile wide and 3{ miles long, is the self-proclaimed Conch Republic.

To be a Conch in Key West is to be of the highest social order, having been born and reared on the island.

Conchs (konks) eat conch chowder and conch fritters. Key West High School is home to the Fighting Conchs and their drill team, the Conchettes. Conch houses are preserved by the local historical society. A conch shell outside the home brings good luck.

And the Conch Tour Train, a series of open, canopied cars pulled by a jeep pretending to be a train engine, is the best way to make first acquaintance with this place that's also been known, for good reason, as Key Weird and Key Wasted.

see the keys on your hands and knees with a drunk dog and owner at a key west dive bar

For many, this is truly The Last Resort, a place of languor and tolerance, perpetual summer and everlasting suntans. A place to do nothing or everything.

Even sunset is celebrated, applauded and, especially, toasted liberally each evening at Mallory Square, at one tip of the island. The sunsets have to be raucously brilliant, otherwise there'd be no competing with the circus-like atmosphere of throngs of jostling tourists, a high-wire walker who keeps up a steady patter of Key West jokes, jugglers, fluffy cats jumping through hoops, the two-man steel drum band and vendors peddling everything from popcorn to dog leashes.

A person can feed a shark, should a person desire to, at the Key West Aquarium or take in sunken treasure at the Mel Fisher Museum; learn about Key West's earliest industry in the city's oldest house at the Wrecker's Museum; get a 360-degree view of the island at the Key West Lighthouse Museum; pass through President Harry Truman's Little White House; buy shell-shaped Godiva chocolates at Fastbuck Freddie's unique department store; cruise Duval Street in a pedicab (think Schwinn rickshaw); go by but not enter playwright Tennessee Williams' red-shuttered cottage and studio; and visit the Hurricane Hallway at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium.

That done, a person might choose to soar in a biplane at sunset; see the area reefs in a glass-bottom boat; snorkel or scuba; go deep sea fishing (the largest marlin caught was hauled in by a tourist several years ago and weighed 661 pounds); prowl the offbeat shops in the Turtle Kraals area; or quench a thirst with home brew at Kelly's Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery, owned by actor Kelly McGillis.

6 dogs driving around key west beach in a convertable vw thing

Or a person can simply stop and smell the frangipani, which pours over fences in lush bundles of pink, yellow, white or dark red blossoms.

Most folks, however, at least walk the 14-block length of Duval Street. At the end is a red, black and yellow buoy marking the southernmost point in the continental United States. Nearby is the southernmost guest house, the southernmost streetlight, even the southernmost cat who lives at the southernmost home.

Much of lower Duval qualifies as Bourbon Street South, minus the strip joints. Sloppy Joe's bar, which sells T-shirts and tank-tops each week emblazoned with Ernest Hemingway's tough mug, provides live entertainment until 4 a.m. Margaritaville stays crammed full of revelers. Temporary tattoos are for sale at Condom Sense. And Fat Tuesday advertises 26 flavors of frozen drinks.

Over the years, Key West's laissez faire attitude has drawn the likes of Tennessee Williams (who wrote A Streetcar Named Desire at the La Concha hotel) and artist John James Audubon, who is said to have visited and painted at the Audubon House. More recently, pop icon Madonna bought a luxury condo here, according to the local newspaper. Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett maintains a house, although he's taken proceeds from his Margaritaville bar and moved north to swanky Palm Beach.

key west police officer on a bicycle with a chicken on the handlebar

Hemingway produced 70 percent of his works, including For Whom the Bell Tolls, during the 1930s while living on Whitehead Street in a large house with lime green shutters. Hemingway loved his cats, and the property is now overrun with their descendants, each named for some celebrity and each featuring distinctive mit-like paws with seven to nine toes.

Blue Heaven is a favorite eating spot for locals. Caribbean barbecue shrimp, and carrot and curry soup served with mango chutney are popular dishes here, along with Blue Heaven's hearty breakfasts. Another favorite dining stop is Pepe's Cafe & Steak House, where every Thursday is Thanksgiving.

The Palm Grill, Cafe des Artistes, Louie's Backyard and the Pier House Restaurant are known for creative dishes done with local fish and produce. Pasta is made fresh daily at Mangia Mangia, where a gumbo-limbo tree that shades tables on the terrace is known as a tourist tree:

Its peeling red bark reminds locals of sunburned visitors who wasted away in Margaritaville.


How much: A 1{-hour tour on the Conch Tour Train: $14 adults, $6 children. Cuban sandwich at the Pier House Resort's Market Bistro: $7.25. Hand-thrown jar labeled "Sins," "Ashes of Ex-Wives" or "Patience" sold at sunset on Mallory Square: $7 each, two for $12. Grilled fresh fish sandwich, side of German fried potatoes, Pepe's Cafe & Steak House: $6.10. Two eggs, grits, banana bread at Ricky's Blue Heaven Restaurant: $2. Glass-bottom boat ride: $14-$19, half-price for children. 24-hour moped rental: $45. Tropical print dog collar from a vendor at sunset on Mallory Square: $14. Full day deep-sea fishing (six people maximum): $600-$650.

key west dogs hanging out at Harpoon Harry's Restaurant on caroline street

Key West extras: Key West, which sits atop a mound of coral, has no natural beaches. Sand for Samosa Beach, the city's largest, is brought in by barge from the Bahamas at a cost of $300,000 a year. Locals say the best snorkeling is at Higgs Beach.

Designer Calvin Klein bought the "Octagon House" at 712 Eaton St. for $975,000, then sold it four years ago, about the time he and his wife Kelly married.

Gays and lesbians are estimated to make up about 20 percent of Key West's population. The city was the first in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor. At some of Key West's male guest houses, condoms are placed on the bed pillows at night instead of mints.

The Green Parrot Bar, established in 1890, is either the first or last bar on U.S. 1, depending on perspective.

More information: The Greater Key West Chamber of Commerce, 402 Wall St., Key West, FL 33040, (305) 294-2587.

Florida Keys Visitors Bureau, 416 Fleming St., Key West, FL 33040, (800) 352-5397.

The Conch Tour Train operates daily 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. with boarding location at Mallory Square and Roosevelt Boulevard, (305) 294-5161.

Good, free guides to pick up: "The Guide to Old Key West," published by Solares Hill Newspaper Inc., (305) 294-3602; "Explore KW," published by Bone Island Press Inc., (305) 296-3492; and "Pelican Path: A Guide to Historic Key West," produced by Old Island Restoration Foundation Inc.

a horse walked into a bar in Key West


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