I swear, this blog isn’t entirely about Key West. But I rarely went to the Keys during my youth, and a couple recent visits have really made me fall in love with the place. I love asking locals, how did you end up in Key West? The answer is always the same… oh, I went on vacation here and never left.
For such a tiny place (Key West is 4 by 2 miles), it’s amazing how you really can’t see everything there during one visit. Here are some fun things I did on my last trip. (And a fun note – they are all really inexpensive. I spent less than $20 at each of these places.)
Every time I asked someone on the island what the can’t-miss attractions were, they unfailingly brought up the butterfly conservatory. Kind of like the Keys’ version of Coconut Creek’s Butterfly World, this museum houses between 50 and 60 species of butterflies. I had a huge thing for butterflies when I was a kid, constantly competing with my best friend to see if we could capture one in our nets (she could, I couldn’t) and catching caterpillars to keep and watch grow into butterflies. But the species at this museum are nothing like the monarchs and moths so common from my childhood. You walk into the garden and instantly there are blurs of color zipping past your face, sometimes even landing on you. There are also more than 20 species of exotic birds.
Dessert is one of my favorite things in life. No joke. Like, my roommate and I are making paintings right now, and I have four small canvases and I decided to paint four of my favorite things on each of them – on one I am painting a cupcake to symbolize dessert. (The other three things are dresses, the ocean and music.) So of course when I heard about this award-winning restaurant devoted entirely to dessert, I begged my roommate to come with me. The menu item names at the romantic restaurant are all suggestive and the restaurant gets so dark at night that guests are given flashlights to read the menu with. The wine and beer glasses are rimmed with chocolate, caramel, sugars and fruits. The menu is loaded with items like chocolate grilled cheese, red velvet cheesecake, pinot noir ice cream and chocolate stouts, and everything is so good. I almost wish I hadn’t discovered this restaurant because I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to go to Key West again without making whoever I’m with accompany me to this restaurant.
You can actually pet a shark here. A group of nurse sharks swims around a giant, open tank that sits on the ground of the building. It was kind of shocking to me because I couldn’t help but look at the tank and wonder if anyone has ever fallen in. In fact, I even slid and tripped a little on the floor near the tank… seems like something that would be just my luck, to trip and fall in. But no one else seemed nervous so I just went with it. I recommend going to the aquarium during a tour time because you’ll learn a lot more. The tour guide we had was really good. She did a feeding demonstration with the nurse sharks and then let us all take turns petting a baby nurse shark. The shark skin felt very much like sandpaper, which is apparently because shark scales are basically like tiny teeth. In fact, nurse shark skin is so sharp that it can scratch you if you rub up against it the wrong way in the water. But I was never really worried about sharks the whole time I was at the beach in Key West… the island just puts you in this mindset that life is good and that you’re safe.