Surprise Trip to Key West

Late post warning…again :-).   So I did it, I successfully surprised her!  In early December I had the opportunity to visit the Keys. I liked it so much that I immediately booked a surprise trip to fly her away a couple weeks later after Christmas.  Of course, it being Christmas time, I had to incorporate the surprise into a Christmas present, and video of it is great!

Getting There

When traveling to the Keys, it is possible to fly direct to Key West.  This, unfortunately, is a very expensive endeavor.  We chose the more economical route by flying into Miami and then renting a car.  This came with the added benefit of a car to get around, and the ability to make the long but beautiful drive down the Keys.  Our trip was a short 4 days total, so we flew in and drove to Key West on day 1, vacationed 2 days in Key west, and then took our time driving back up through the Keys prior to flying out on day 4.

Lodging – The Eden House

Many people think of Key West and imaging sparkling white beaches.  This just isn’t the case.  There are beaches, mostly man made, but that isn’t the draw to Key West.  Water sports are popular, but it seems the largest draw is Duval Street.  This is a main thoroughfare in downtown Key West that is full of restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping, and other attractions.  My goal was to stay within a reasonable walking distance of Duval Street.

The Eden House is a small atypical hotel.  The rooms are small but clean and functional, and the place is saturated with history.  The Goldie Hawn movie Criss Cross was filmed there and movie memorabilia is everywhere.  The stay was very pleasant, and the location close to the happenings on Duval street was perfect.

Food, and Lots of it…

We like to eat…a lot.  If you read our Puerto Vallarta trip report, you’ll know that we always try to find great eateries anywhere we go.  Key West was no different.  Not only did we eat great meals, we also conducted an informal competition to discover the winning Key Lime Pie.

There were a couple of notable food highlights.

The only sit down restaurant so good we had to go back again…and again, was a cute french restaurant called Croissants de France on Duval St.  The salmon and brie breakfast sandwich was literally to die for.  As in, I would have died at the hands of my wife had I not agreed to go back and eat there again.

We also found an amazing conch fritters restaurant on Duval St. called The Conch Shack.  They were the best conch fritters we’d ever had, and the homemade sauces were amazing.

Honestly, one of the best parts about The Conch Shack was chatting with the guy who owns it.  I feel terrible for forgetting his name, but he was awesome and very knowledgeable about the local activities and excursions.  If you are ever at a loss for what to do, swing by and ask for suggestions.  You’ll be glad you did.

But really, the desserts were the best…

We ate a lot of key lime pie.  In the end, we ranked the three best must-try places.

#1 was the Key Lime Republic.  Tart, firm but not overly so, and perfectly balanced.
#2 was the Blond Giraffe.  Now granted, this one is further up the Keys, but it came in a close 2nd.
#3 (#2 in Key West) was Kermits.  Theirs was a little sweeter than ideal without the really fresh key lime bite, but was still excellent overall.

Bottom line, if you’re in Key West, eat Key Lime Pie

What to do…

Duval Street – This is where everything happens in Key West, especially the night life.  There are tons of shops, restaurants, street vendors, etc.  Everything you can imagine.  We found a particularly charming street vendor selling hook bracelets, Hooked on Key West.  Not hook-shaped bracelets, bracelets made from real hooks!

Butterfly Conservatory – This place was awesome not just for the butterflies, of which there were thousands, and the resident flamingos, but also because it has one of the coolest jewelry shops on the entire island.  They actually collect the wings from adult butterflies when they die, and turn them into iridescent jewelry.  Better yet, they are reasonably priced compared to most of the jewelry on the island.  There is a reason they are ranked so highly on TripAdvisor.

Waterfront Brewery – This is along the water, the food is okay, and the beer is hit or miss.  BUT, they have free shuffleboard and even during hell week, one of the busiest times of the year, it was available for use.  My wife and I enjoyed having a few drinks and wasting away the hottest parts of the day playing shuffleboard here.  It is convenient, the staff is awesome, and the happy hour deals are unbeatable.

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