Friday, December 3, 2010

Key West historical areas - Key West, FL

Duane and I decided to spend this years Thanksgiving in Key West with the kids.  Neither the kids or I had ever been and it is some place I have always dreamed about visiting.  We booked our hotel on Key West, rented a car and were off.  We left around 10am on Thursday morning and arrived at our destination around 7pm.  We unloaded the car and decided we wanted to check out the island, so we jumped in the rental and were on our way.  The first thing that struck me was the amount of money to park.  Basically if you want to park cheap you will walk 12 blocks, if you want to be close you will pay anywhere from $12 - $20.  We sucked it up and parked the car and decided to walk Duval Street.  The atmosphere was electric and there were people everywhere having a good time.  There were two things that really struck me and that was the t-shirts being displayed in the windows (some extremely obscene) and the prices for the small things.  A milk shake cost us $7.00 and a bottle of Coke was like $3.00.  We hung out for awhile and decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel.

The next day we woke up early because we were going to ride the trolley around town.  I love the scenic trolley tours because they allow you to learn about the history of the place you are visiting as well as get off and on at any of the stops, so you can pick and choose what you want to do.  We picked up the Cityview Trolley ( at Higgs Beach.  Higgs Beach is one of the areas that you can park for free and they will let you on the trolley and then take you to a ticket window for you to get a sticker for the rest of the day.  The drivers on the trolley were extremely knowledgable about the area and we learned a lot of really interesting facts.

One of the interesting facts we learned was that all of the sand that now lies on Key West was shipped in from the Bahamas.  Due to the reef that is 7 miles off shore there are no waves that hit the island, so therefore there is no sand deposited here.  They said they bring it shipments 3 or 4 times a year.

Higgs Beach is now the home to the Aids Memorial honoring those who have died at the hands of this vicious disease.  This spot also has an area that is a memorial to the african slaves that had died in Key West.  The cemetary was unearthed in 2002 and the bodies moved.  Each year Key West adds a little more to the memorial.

After this stop we rode around listening to the tour and determining what we would like to check out and what we could miss.

Another place that we made a stop was at the Truman Annex.  This area was residential but after you pass through it's gates there is another area that offers free parking.  The USCGC Mohawk Coast Guard Museum is stationed here as well.  We didn't go into the museum, but below is a picture of the ship itself.

A new attraction they have in this same area is the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center.  This center is free to the public and explains about the native plants and animals of the Keys.  We didn't go in, but the website is pretty cool.

A famous area that everyone goes and wants to get their picture taken at is the Southernmost Point on the Island.  The bouy states that from that spot you are only 90 miles away from Cuba.  One of the drivers said that we were closer to Cuba then Walmart which was 141 miles away in Homestead.  This of course was funny to image in today's times. 

One of the intersections in Key West shows mile marker 0 as this is the end of US 1.  There were people lined up everywhere just to get a pic with this sign.

Another famous stop on the tour was that of the Key West Lighthouse and Hemingway House.  I took photos from outside because I was afraid to go in being allergic to cats.  Here are their websites if you would like to check them out for yourself.  Key West Lighthouse - and Hemingway House -

My grandfather was a huge Harry S. Truman fan so I had to check out the Little White House that he built on Key West for his stay here.  It is an exact smaller replica of the house that was in Washington DC at the time.  We didn't do the guided tour, but the grounds and house were beautiful.

On Front Street near the Marina there is the Custom House, which is Key West's art and history museum.  Currently they have sculptures that surround the outside created by a Key West native.  A few of the pictures are shown below.

This was a 25 ft sculpture that was inspired by Grant Woods "American Gothic"

This was inspired by Henri Matisse’s “The Dance 

he is a sculpture painting the sculpture
Down on Mallory Square they have a few sculptures and busts that memorialize a specific event or people that have been a major influence to Key West.  The first sculpture is the Shipwreck memorial statue.  This shows that in the past the citizens of Key West would flee to help stranded ships that were out on the reef.  There was a law that whatever you salvaged became yours and you could auction the items inland.  This was the main source of income for the island for many years, until the ships navigation systems became so advanced that ships quit wrecking on the reefs. 

The bust shown below is that of Sister Gabrielle.  She was a sister at the catholic church on the island many years ago.  Two vicious storms came in and ripped Key West a part, basically crippling the small island.  Sister Gabrielle and her fellow nuns decided to try to do something about it.  They built a 50 ft high grotto and placed the Mother Mary atop of it and Sister Gabrielle prayed that as long as this grotto stood that no other storm would devistate the island.  That was in 1919 and the grotto still stands to this day and the island has never been hit hard since then either.

One of the coolest things that happens on the island happens every single night at Sundown.  It is called the Sunset Celebration and all of the local artisans and performers flock to the marina area an hour before sunset.  They set up booths to sell their wares and perform different feets to earn money and inspire those there for the amazing sunsets that occur over the ocean each evening.  This was one of the highlights to our time here.

This guy stood perfectly still until someone would come up and put money in his bucket.  He would spring to life sounding only like a robot.

He said he was 68 years old and was juggling on a tightrope above concrete

We had an amazing time in Key West and check out the other blog posts to follow regarding the Key West Butterfly Conservatory, the Key West Aquarium and our parasailing and snorekling adventures.

There are some things you should be aware of if you decide to take your family with you to Key West.  Bring more money than you think you will need, with parking and incidentals so high you will quickly run out of cash.  Make sure you are aware that out of the 200 t-shirt shops that line the downtown area, most of them are definitely not kid friendly and they bring them right out to the street for all to read.  Make sure you wear comfortable shoes as there is a ton of walking to do and some of the streets are cobblestone.  Remember the bars here open at 8am, but we never really saw anyone getting out of control, because the cops are everywhere.  There is even a bar that is clothing optional.  It is on the rooftop of two other buildings and if you want to drink a beer naked, this is the place to go.

One of the funniest things we learned on our trolley ride was that the chickens are the biggest topic of conflict on the island.  He said "we don't care if you are democratic or republican here, we just care how you stand on the chicken issue!!"

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