My husband and I are part of a group of four couples that go on a vacation together every year. It can be hard to find something everyone agrees on, and some people are pretty insistent that we go back to the same place year after year. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen, but it doesn’t make the decision process any less awkward. This year was especially tense when somebody brought up Key West, Florida.
The loudest votes of dissent came from those who only knew of the island through the song “Margaritaville.” They had no interest in spending seven days on a bar crawl, which was how they described it. My husband was interested in the island, however, so he did some research and put together a five minute presentation that he emailed to everyone. When they all watched it, the decision became unanimous.
There was a day spent for golfing for some and shopping for others (and it didn’t break down the way you might think). For those who didn’t want to go fishing, sleeping in and a spa was on the agenda. We had a chance to visit art galleries, even see live theater and dine at several exceptional Key West restaurants.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it the highlight of the trip, but certainly a big layer of icing on the cake – or merengue on the key lime pie – was when we actually participated in a bar crawl, visiting several of the famous bars and hearing stories about their history. What made it especially gratifying was seeing how much fun the original dissenters had meeting other people on the crawl and having a blast.
The first time I went to Key West was spring break my senior year of college. I immediately fell in love and tried to go back down every couple of years. Usually I went the same time of year, when the cold at home was too much to bear. A few years ago, I got a travel deal alert for a super cheap airfare. The trip was for late July and I thought it would be too hot, but the deal was too good to pass up on, so I booked it.
The heat ended up being a non-issue, partially because Key West in the summer isn’t as hot as you might think, and mostly because I was having way too much fun. I really got an understanding and feel for what life was like when it was much less crowded and the locals went on their own tropical vacation, or “staycations” as they like to be known. I got to do everything I always did when I went down there, including eat at my favorite Key West restaurants and spend a day fishing for tarpon, but what made it special was getting to know the people who call it home.
They’re the ones who explained how to handle the heat: simply do everything a little bit slower. Suddenly having plans wasn’t so important, hurrying to the next thing didn’t matter, and as long as I knew when it was happy hour where and what time the sunset was, I would be fine. My annual summer vacation is coming up next month, and I can’t wait to hurry up and do nothing.
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.
We live in Ithaca, New York, and this past winter, our town achieved fifteen minutes of internet fame when our board of tourism replaced its typical web pages with links to the Florida Keys tourism board. When you’re buried under six feet of snow and the temperature is hovering in single digits, it’s pretty obvious that Key West is a better vacation spot than upstate New York.
As much as we would have liked to get away during this horrendous winter, between our kids being in school (when it wasn’t closed) and the airport being buried, we could do nothing but dream. That didn’t stop my husband from looking into what a vacation in Key West would be like. He was smart enough to look at times when all four of us could go, and that was when he made some surprising discoveries.
Discovery one was that there was plenty to do for everybody. Key West has a reputation as a party town, but we found several different activities that would keep us all busy. And when we didn’t want to be busy, there was always a beach to go to. Discovery two was that the average summer temperature in Key West is lower than other more “touristy” locations in Florida. We all talked about it and decided we would try something new this year.
We’re still undecided about flying in or driving down on the Overseas Highway, but no matter how we get there, we are already looking into planning our summer vacation by letting everyone pick one day where they get to choose what it is we do. With so much to choose from, we’re going to run out of days before we run out of options.
My wife and I were looking over the holidays to plan a trip somewhere warm and tropical for March. We knew it was going to be another nasty winter and wanted to escape it for just a bit. Both of us wanted to visit someplace new, so we took the recommendation of friends and booked a trip for Key West, Florida.
We went in with pretty high expectations, and I have to say that not only were they met, most were exceeded, but none more than our experiences at the Key West restaurants. I guess we just figured that an island basically in the middle of the ocean that caters primarily to tourists would have serviceable predictable meals. Boy were we wrong! On multiple nights, we found ourselves having exceptional dining experiences. The menus were fresh and inventive, the seafood was some of the best I’d ever tasted, and the atmosphere, even in the nicest of restaurants, could be best described as “casual elegance.”
Just as surprising was the number of great meals we had at places that we’d least expect. Several times, we stopped in harbor side restaurants or little hole in the wall joints just to grab a quick bite to eat. Even in these places, it was evident that everyone took pride in what they were doing. Before the week was half over, we were already struggling, trying to decide if we should continue to visit new places or return to those that had already become our favorites. We settled for going to new places, but with promises to return to Key West as soon as we can.
There are plenty of times where having a fancy sit down fine dining experience is the perfect plan for a wedding reception. Having a destination wedding in Key West on New Year’s Eve is neither the time nor the place. This is the most fun night of the year – which is probably part of the reason you chose to throw the biggest party of your life on that night – so make sure that the menu you pick for your reception is one that allows for your guests to enjoy themselves.
Conch, Florida lobster and stone crab are three of the fresh seafood choices Key West is most well known for. All of these are certainly items you should consider, especially because there are many ways to serve them as bite sized appetizers. This is the perfect way to combine the exotic flavors you wouldn’t be able to provide at a party back home with the convenience of being able to enjoy them while moving around the dance floor. And don’t worry if you have some picky eaters in your crowd. There are plenty of traditional menu items to choose from as well.
There may be a lot of seafood options, but dessert in Key West comes down to the best key lime pie you’ll find anywhere. Best of all is that it doesn’t have to be served just as a pie. You can have them make a wedding cake with it, or create an easily sharable dessert option as well. Perhaps a little key lime on a stick as your guest’s first bite to eat in 2015 while in Key West.
I like amusement parks as much as the next guy. In fact, I probably like them more. I’m a roller coaster junkie, and I love the fact that all of my nephews are now tall enough to join me on even the biggest machines. When I’m planning a vacation, though, I don’t look to see what amusement parks are nearby. I want my vacations to be something I can’t do anywhere else…a true destination vacation. To that end, island vacations often work the best, because no amount of construction and scenery changes can replicate the true feel of an island getaway, and my favorite destination has always been Key West, Florida.
Vacations are big deals, and they should be. As much as I love amusement parks, so many of them now feature the same rides where, at the end of the day, the only thing different is the souvenir t-shirt you bought. To me, those are day trip getaways. My vacations are much more special. I want something I can’t do just anywhere. I want to sit down for some patio dining, I want to taste fresh seafood, have a slice of the best key lime pie, all while watching the stars start to twinkle. Basically I want to know that when I’m telling the stories about my island vacations, I know exactly where and when it happened. Vacations don’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat them as such. The next time you’re planning, make it a destination vacation and take my advice and visit Key West, Florida.