I’ve been working as a server in Key West for a few years now. One customer that stands out in my mind came in a couple of years ago for lunch. He and his wife were on a cruise and point blank asked me what the quickest item on the menu was. We offered a slow simmering Cuban style stew that could be out in just a couple of minutes. He said, “We’ll take two, two waters and the check.” He did manage to find enough time to explain that since they were on the cruise, they wanted to see as much as they could in the little time they were here.
I was talking with some of my fellow restaurant working friends that night over beers and we all agreed they were missing out on what Key West had to offer. Part of the joy of coming here is to be able to relax and enjoy the laid back atmosphere. I understand a cruise only offers a limited amount of time to see everything a tropical island vacation has to offer, but how much of it are you going to remember when you simply try to rush through it all?
A few nights ago, I was at work and this couple came in for dinner. They relaxed, took their time and we got talking about all the different Key West restaurants they had visited during their stay. That was when they told me about their first visit: it was the same couple! We laughed about it, and they admitted that the only thing they really remember from their first visit was realizing they needed to come back when they could really enjoy Key West.
I would like to say I’m vigilant about where all my food comes from and what additives might be in them, but I’m not (I’m currently snacking from a box of crackers while I type this). But when given the option to try out a “farm to table” restaurant or buy produce that I know was grown locally, I’ll certainly take advantage of it. Still, I don’t think anything beats the freshness of the meal I had when I was in Key West recently.
I took a half-day fishing charter one of the mornings I was down there and was fortunate enough to catch several fish, including a few hogfish. Hogfish is one of the best tasting fish I’ve had, but it doesn’t keep well frozen, so it’s hard to find anywhere outside of where it’s native. I gave some of the fish to the crew as a tip and wasn’t sure what to do with the rest when the mate gave me a suggestion. He said several of the Key West restaurants offer a “cook your catch” option where they will take your fish and make dinner for you.
I called up one of the places he recommended and made reservations for that night. I dropped the fish off early, and the chef asked me what I had in mind. I figured they would just fry it or grill it. She laughed and told me not to worry. That night, we had a three course meal that included hogfish in all three dishes, prepared differently each time. And as far as freshness goes, I don’t think I’ll ever beat eight hours from ocean to stomach.
My husband jokes that I could be the star of my own reality show regarding the lengths I go to when it comes to saving money. But he certainly appreciates when we take all that money I save us and spend it on a destination vacation. Of course, me being me, I can’t book us a trip without making sure we’re saving money in the process. That’s why we’ve been going to Key West for our summer vacation the last few years.
Part of the reason we manage to save so much money on the trip is because a lot of people seem to think like our friends do: “Isn’t it hot there in the summer?” Well, yes and no. I mean it’s summer, so it’s hot everywhere, but Key West is actually cooler, by as much as ten degrees or more, than most of Florida, including many of the destination vacation spots. Plus, it’s cooler in a lot of other ways.
There is no place quite like Key West. If we want to spend an action packed day doing all sorts of activities, we can, and we can just as easily spend a quiet day walking the streets looking at the old houses or sitting by the pool with a book. The good thing about people thinking it’s too hot to visit means that rates are lower and lines are shorter, so not only do we save money over what that trip would cost us in February, we also get to enjoy more of it by not having to worry about crowds.
My son is graduating from college this spring, and he is fortunate enough to have a job waiting for him almost immediately after graduating. When he started interviewing, I told him to tell his prospective employers that he would need a couple of weeks between school and the real world. He thought it was so he could move. I knew it was so he could go to Key West.
I wanted to give him a graduation present that was something special and long lasting. I know that a vacation may not sound like something that lasts more than a week, but I knew that spending time in Key West, Florida would give him memories that would last a lifetime. I knew some of it was my own projection and remembering the effect it had on me when I first went there. I’m sure some of the Key West restaurants are different but I bet the seafood is just as fresh, the water is just as blue and the sunset is just as beautiful.
Of course, I want to make sure he has the chance to make those memories on his own, so that is why his mother and I will only be there for the first half of the trip. Besides, I’m sure some things have not changed about Key West, and a young man of 22 will find it a lot easier to have fun and enjoy his tropical island vacation if he knows his parents aren’t right around the corner. I just hope he doesn’t fall too much in love with the island and forget to come home for his new job.
When I was a kid, my dad would take my brother and I fishing a few times a year. Neither of us were that good (or that interested) but my dad tried anyway. I’ll give him credit for being smart enough to save his real fishing trips for when he would go out with his buddies,. Looking back, I realized that it was less about the fishing and more about just being sure that he had time alone with his sons. I was thinking about that when I made plans for his Father’s Day present this year and a trip to Key West.
Even though he’s talked about wanting to go deep sea fishing or try something else, he’s never done anything other than the lakes and rivers back home. The first thing I did after booking our flight and hotel was to start looking into some fishing charters. I read as many online reviews as I could find and ended up arranging a few different trips. We’ll be going deep sea fishing, another trip takes us to the reef and we’ll also spend some time fishing the flats.
Another good thing I discovered was that Key West is more than just a bar and party town at night. There are several great Key West restaurants we can choose from, a walking ghost tour that I think he will like and both a jazz club and a blues club where we can enjoy a good cigar with some live music. I just hope the trip to Key West won’t disappoint him too much: for all I know he could be looking forward to the annual bottle of aftershave I give him.
The joke at our house is that our front door should be a revolving one. Both my husband and I have busy careers, plus we volunteer in our community. Our children are active as well, playing sports and joining clubs, and it is not uncommon that even in the summertime, we will go from early in the morning until late at night when all four of us will see each other at the same time.
Planning a family vacation around such chaos can be hectic, but that is why I try and stay on top of it with email alerts for travel deals. Additionally, I sneak in some research when I can on where good, unique destinations are. I figure if we only get a few days to travel as a family, I want to make sure it is something that can’t be replicated just anywhere. That was how we ended up on our first trip to Key West.
The stars aligned and there was a four day period my kids didn’t have anything planned and my husband I could take off a couple of days. It was a very early morning drive to the airport, but that meant we were choosing from several Key West restaurants for lunch that day. When we weren’t enjoying the fresh seafood, we were out on the water watching it swim around, and we got to spend a few stress-free days as a family.
I’m not sure when we’ll be lucky enough to have time to travel together again, but I was glad to discover that we could make a quick getaway to Key West, and I know for a fact that we’ll make it happen again.
My wife and I have a lot in common (they say that helps when you get married), but one thing that freaks her out as much as I love it is flying. It doesn’t matter how big the plane is, she is holding on for dear life while I have my face plastered to the window. Naturally, this makes certain vacations off limits, including most tropical islands. Thankfully, that list doesn’t include Key West.
Whenever I went in the past, I would fly directly into the airport, not only because I enjoyed seeing Key West from the sky but also because a car is unnecessary on an island so small. Naturally, I knew my wife would want none of that, but what we could do is fly into one of the mainland airports and enjoy the drive down the Keys highway. From the first time I took her, she enjoyed the Key West restaurants and island vibe as much as I did, and soon we were going twice a year.
It was when she brought up wanting to go away for a long weekend that I finally made the move. I showed her that a couple of airlines flew in on a 737, the same planes we fly on almost everywhere else. By not having to worry about the drive, we could make it back and forth to Key West and still enjoy all three days.
Her desire for a tropical getaway outweighed her fear and we made the trip. I don’t think it will ever be her favorite airport in the world, but it is certainly her favorite island.
I wanted to do something special for the family vacation this year. Kids being kids, it can be hard to find something for everyone. One unbreakable rule is that no matter where we go, there has to be at least a pool and preferably a beach as well, so if someone is just too sullen to have fun with the rest of us, they can hang out there with one parent while the other plays tour guide. Kids also being kids, they thought there was nothing we could do to surprise them, so we decided to go somewhere they had never heard of before: Key West, Florida.
They tried hard to play it cool, but that vanished when we were checking into the hotel and a chicken ran right in front of us. They were excited and told the manager, who shocked them even more when he told them the chicken’s name and warned them that he – the rooster, not the manager – would probably be waking us up every morning around five. Sure enough, the next morning he was up before the sun. More surprisingly, the kids were up with him, watching him strut around the courtyard.
Everything we did after that in Key West was one surprise after another. They had never been to a tropical island before and were overwhelmed by all of the plants and flowers. Their picky eating habits disappeared and they tried key lime pie, fresh seafood and even conch fritters. And the only time anyone went to the beach was when we all did, so they could go snorkeling and see if they could find any of the buried treasure that helped make Key West famous.