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.
My husband and I are perfect examples of opposites that attract. Luckily, we’ve always been able to compromise. He teaches art and sculpture at the local college while I commute to the city for my finance job. I own at least two dozen professional outfits and I think he has one suit and maybe two ties. When it came to our wedding, I wanted a traditional church service and he wanted a tropical island celebration. Key West offered us the perfect solution.
We told the local Key West wedding planner we hired what all of our concerns were and she helped us arrange the perfect destination wedding. We found a beautiful church to hold the ceremony at, and she took us to several different Key West restaurants to look at for the reception venue. We got to sample some of the fresh seafood and key lime pie that would be part of the menu, and found a beautiful location with outdoor patios and plenty of room for dancing.
Most of the guests on my side were a bit surprised when they saw the invite for a tropical wedding, knowing as they did my traditional wedding dreams. I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first, too. Much of that was due to how little people know about Key West beyond its reputation as a partying resort town. Everyone thanked us afterwards not only for having such a beautiful wedding, but also for introducing them to a great new vacation destination. Every time someone said that, my husband just gave me a wink. He was too polite to take credit himself, but if not for him, I never would have learned how beautiful Key West is.
My husband and I plan a big trip every five years for our anniversary. We both like to eat and drink, so some of our previous trips have been to California wine country and Paris and the French countryside. This year was the second brutal winter in a row, so I decided that it would be nice if we went somewhere where not only would we love the food, we’d appreciate the weather as well. My husband thought I meant Miami, but I was thinking a little farther south.
Thanks to websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor, I learned about how popular and exciting the Key West restaurants were. Even places that were described as run down and weather beaten still had amazing reviews when it came to the food and the service. I read as many reviews as I could and made a few reservations ahead of time to be sure we could get in to some of the more exciting sounding places.
We were both blown away by how good the food was. The chef at one of our now favorite restaurants came out to tell us about what they call New Island Cuisine: local food, such as seafood, fruits and spices, prepared with traditional cooking methods. The results were astounding, and surprisingly, many of the restaurants we went to not only had such great food, they also had extensive well thought out wine lists. During each meal, we managed to find several excellent choices to pair with our food.
We have five years to think of our next destination, but if winters keep being the way they have, I’m sure we’re going to end up back in Key West. We might not even wait five years.
My fiancé and I were looking into having a tropical island wedding, but we were disappointed by the lack of options. It seems like it didn’t matter which island we looked at. All of their wedding packages were basically the same. The bigger drawback to not being able to customize the plan was the expense of having guests. It seems like most of these resorts expect the wedding to basically be elopements.
One of my fiancé’s co-workers had just returned from a vacation in Key West, Florida, and when she told my fiancé about it, it got her to thinking. We did a little research, got in touch with a wedding planner and told her what we were thinking. She presented several different options that were all within our budget. Soon we made plans to fly down, meet with her in person and see what we could do.
She took us around to several different Key West restaurants so we could choose our reception menu. We visited a dozen unique locations where we could have the ceremony. She pointed out all of the different hotel options for our guests, as well as different travel options, and helped us design a wedding that worked for us.
We both fell in love with Key West so quickly that we decided to not only have a destination wedding, we were also going to make it our honeymoon as well. I don’t think we’ll be able to do everything we want to in a week, but we’re going to try. And if not, it gives us a reason to come back.
A cousin of mine was getting married this winter in Key West and I was invited. Naturally, I wanted to go, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get the time off from work, much less be able to afford it. I didn’t know much about the island and so I thought it was like the rest of the Caribbean islands: far away, hard to get to and overpriced. Luckily, my wife is a little smarter than I am and she made the trip work.
First, she found us a direct flight into Fort Lauderdale and a rental car. Before I could ask her what good that was, she showed me pictures of the Overseas Highway and the iconic 7 mile bridge. She found us a flight that left at 6am (ugh) but that meant I would only have to miss two days of work. Then she lined up several different hotel options, all of them well within our budget. We settled on an inn in a restored mansion that seemed close enough to where everything was happening.
Everything was perfect. The wedding was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous, and I even got the chance to go snorkeling for the first time. We had such a great time in Key West that my only regret was having to leave around noon on Sunday to drive back to the mainland, but even that was tempered by the chance to take that beautiful ride. My wife even drove so I could take in all of the scenery. Now that we know how convenient and affordable it is, we will definitely be back again and again.
My friends think my wife and I are crazy to go to a tropical island in the summertime. When I point out to them that they go north to the mountains in winter, of course, they say that’s because of all they can do. They can spend the day skiing and snowboarding, or they can lounge by the fireplace with a book. Well, that’s exactly why we go to Key West every summer.
Every morning, we decide on a scale of 1 to 10 how active we are feeling. A 1 means we are probably going to spend the day lounging by the pool, napping in the hammock, and finding one our favorite Key West restaurants for a long leisurely dinner. A 5 means we are going to head out and take a walk around the historic neighborhoods, enjoying the architecture, head down some streets we’ve never been on before, maybe spend the afternoon on a snorkel trip, and of course, enjoy a margarita or two.
Any day that’s a 9 usually starts with a swim in the ocean, followed by renting a paddle board for a few hours and then taking a kayak tour of the mangroves, where we can see some of the nature while getting in a great work out. That’s what we love about Key West. No matter what we wake up in the mood to do, it is there for us to do. I will say this. We’ve never had a day that we thought was a 10, and I’m not sure what we would do fulfill it, but I know for sure the next day would be a massage filled sundrenched lazy 1.
This winter has been horrible. I know that living in Connecticut means I shouldn’t complain when it snows during the winter, but this was particularly a rough one. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and decided to surprise my husband with an early anniversary present: a quick trip to Key West.
I found us a great deal on a flight right into the island, and seven hours after we left the ground, we were having lunch at one of our favorite Key West restaurants. We spent most of that first day joking about what that big yellow thing in the sky was and hoping we wouldn’t get sunburnt, the whole time eating our share (and then some) of fresh seafood, shrimp and crab cakes and of course, the best key lime pie on the planet.
We only had a few days to spend exploring the island, but it seems like we weren’t the only people who had the same frame of mind. Everywhere we went, we met other people from somewhere up north. All of them had a similar story about running from the snow and cold, and everyone agreed the best cure for a lousy winter was time spent in the Key West sun.
When we got back home, it was to find out another late season storm was on the way. I thought the prospect of another two days of shoveling and snow blowing would kill him, but my husband said he was so refreshed from the trip, he wouldn’t mind if it snowed ten more times this season. I really hope I don’t have to find out if that’s true.