11 Fun Things for Kids to Do in Key West
It’s no secret that Key West is a top destination for travelers. In the summer of 2021, Key West saw record-breaking numbers of tourists after the lifting of travel restrictions!
Why is Key West so popular? Maybe it’s because of the beautiful beaches and incredible wildlife. Maybe it’s because of the great food and endless opportunities for entertainment.
No matter what, Key West is a great vacation spot for travelers of all ages. If you’re looking for kids to do in Key West while you map out your family trip, we’ve got you covered.
Read on for 11 great family attractions that you and your kiddos will love!
1. Set Sail on a Dolphin Safari
Key West is home to some critters that you can’t find anywhere else, like the Lower Keys marsh rabbit and the Florida Keys mole skink. In addition to these rare species, you’ll also encounter manatees, hundreds of species of seabirds, sea turtles, stingrays, and more. One of Key West’s biggest natural attractions is the large population of dolphins that live in nearby open waters.
The best way to encounter these animals is to head out to sea and find them in their natural habitat. The Dolphin Safari is a great family-friendly option, offering six-passenger boats led by boating and snorkeling experts. You’re almost guaranteed to see at least one pod of dolphins on this trip, and these curious critters may even come closer to the boat to say hi!
This trip will take up all morning or afternoon, as you will get the opportunity to snorkel. Mom and Dad have a chance to dive in first while the kids stay entertained on deck before jumping in with life jackets and flotation noodles. All of the equipment is provided, so you won’t have to overpack.
2. All Aboard the Conch Tour Train
If you’re looking for an efficient and affordable way to tour the island, consider the Conch Tour Train, one of Key West’s most beloved family-friendly offerings. This bright yellow train chugs along through the streets of Old Town, where it has been in operation since 1958.
Your knowledgeable engineer will regale you with history, making note of important landmarks like Harry S. Truman Little White House, the Southernmost Point, and more. Oftentimes, Conch Tour Train engineers will also let you in on some of Key West’s oldest legends, like the story of Robert the haunted doll, a resident of Fort East Martello.
This is a great attraction for parents and kids, alike, as parents get to learn more about the history while kids get to enjoy the fun of riding on a train. The best part for families on a budget is that children under 12 ride for free! If you’re thinking about boarding the train, find a rain-free day to do it, or you might get a little drenched.
3. Hunt Treasure at the Shipwreck Museum
When you’re on an island like Key West, it’s hard not to get curious about the long history of ships, their passengers, and their booty. Shipwrecks, in particular, hold a mysterious allure, and you can find out all about them at Key West’s Shipwreck Treasure Museum.
This museum is stocked with artifacts recovered from Key West shipwrecks throughout the ages, some of which kids can hold and examine up close. The museum also offers a must-climb lookout tower, costumed staff who reenact history, and a below-sea-level theater where you can watch a short, entertaining film.
If your kids are older or have a long attention span, consider the guided tour to get the most out of the museum. Because the guided tour takes longer than a casual walk-through and goes into more detail, younger kids may prefer the museum more if they can explore it on their own terms.
4. Travel in Style With Key West Bike Rentals
If you love the free-spirited feeling of riding a bike along the open road, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to rent bikes in Key West. The island is a great place for families to ride bikes, as the terrain is relatively flat, the speed limits are low, and there are tons of places where you can lock up your bike to explore on foot.
Renting bikes is a great way to enjoy Key West at your own pace. You can cover a lot of ground on a bicycle and easily transition from roadways to car-free zones and boardwalks. If you want to, say, get a closer look at some of the landmarks you passed on your Conch Tour Train, bikes are the perfect vessel!
Island Safari Rentals offers affordable bikes for all ages and speeds. If you’ve got kids who are a little too young for biking, you can rent a tug-along to attach to your own bike rental.
5. Fly High at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Key West’s noisier attractions, consider spending a few hours at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. This beautiful indoor garden space is home to anywhere between 1000 and 2000 butterflies at any given time, spanning 100 different species. In addition to butterflies, you’ll encounter flamingoes, koi, turtles, and, of course, caterpillars.
The conservatory offers a peaceful environment and a surreal experience. It’s not uncommon for at least one butterfly to land on a visitor, so have the camera ready! It’s said that when a butterfly lands on you, you’ve been blessed with good luck.
If you want an even more immersive experience, book tickets to the Flamingle tour between 4:45 and 5:45 to interact with two of the conservatory’s favorite flamingoes. Keep in mind that tours can fill up quickly, so book early if you’re interested!
6. Take a Stroll Through Mallory Square
Mallory Square has been bustling since the early 1800s when it served as a docking point for Asa Tift’s ships and a place for townspeople to gather and socialize. Now, it’s one of the hubs of Key West commerce, offering tons of shops and eateries for all ages.
One of the biggest attractions at Mallory Square is the Sunset Celebration, occurring every night (though the ability to see the sunset depends on the weather). Thousands of people gather at Mallory Square beginning two hours before sunset to enjoy entertainers like musicians and jugglers, counting down the minutes until the most glorious sunset you’ll ever see!
Mallory Square also offers a rotation of events, so be sure to keep an eye on their event calendar. Even if there aren’t any events calling your name while you’re in town, you’ll still want to check out the shops, grab a bite of ice cream, and see that sunset.
7. Get Active at Fort Taylor
Key West is home to tons of gorgeous white sand beaches and parks. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, known locally as “Fort Taylor,” is a great place to spend a day and enjoy protected lands without having to venture off of Key West.
Fort Taylor is home to some pre-civil war history, and you can see preserved cannons and gun ports while taking a self-guided tour to learn more about how soldiers defended the coastline. This is also a great location to enjoy tons of outdoor activities like picnicking, snorkeling, paddling, fishing, and biking.
While you’re there, you’ll want to make a pit stop at the Eco-Discovery Center, a completely free destination that provides tons of learning opportunities. This is a great place to discover more about Key West’s natural reefs and wildlife, and you can enjoy a contained reef system populated with living corral and tropical fish.
8. Camp at Dry Tortugas National Park
If you’re willing to venture away from Key West, we recommend a visit to Dry Tortugas National Park, consisting of seven islands and teeming with sea life. You can explore historic Fort Jefferson, observe protected reefs, and search for intact conch shells on some of the most beautiful beaches in the nation.
Keep in mind that to get to Dry Tortugas National Park, you will most likely have to take a boat, and the ride can get a little bit bumpy. If you or anyone in your family gets seasick, we recommend bringing motion sickness medication to get through the ride. You can also get there by plane, but that’s going to cost a little more than the daily ferries!
Entrance to the park is up to $15 per person, but that admission fee grants you access for several days. Because it’s a bit of a hike and there’s a lot to see, we recommend staying for at least an entire day, if not overnight. There are plenty of campgrounds on the islands, where you can sleep under the stars and hear the calming waves in the distance.
9. Cast a Line with Gulfstream Fishing
If fishing is your true calling, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to fish in Key West. Yes, you can cast a line from many of the beaches and docks, but the real action is out in the open water.
Taking a guided fishing tour in Key West isn’t the cheapest excursion. However, Gulfstream Fishing offers affordable rates for the whole family, and children under five are 100% free. Gulfstream Fishing charges all-inclusive rates, covering your fishing license, parking, and bait with an additional $5 for rod rental.
The best part is that these boats are designed for comfort, so even your non-fishing lovers will enjoy themselves. The indoor cabin is air-conditioned, there are restrooms onboard, and you can snack away at the snack bar. Meanwhile, you can also hope to catch grouper, snapper, mackerel, and more!
10. Get Up Close at the Key West Aquarium
The Key West Aquarium isn’t huge, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in hands-on experiences. Where else can you hold living starfish and horseshoe crabs, touch a shark, and watch an intense and exciting live shark feeding?
In addition to these exciting experiences, you’ll also enjoy tanks with eels, seahorses, jellyfish, and more. The aquarium is often home to rescued sea turtles, which are always a delight to see and give kids an opportunity to learn about the long and interesting life of a sea turtle.
The Key West Aquarium isn’t far from Mallory Square, so you can check off both of these spots on the same day. Keep in mind that some of the activities, such as the live shark feeding, are scheduled, so make sure to time your visit right.
11. Explore the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
If you loved getting a glimpse of recovered treasure and you’re looking for another opportunity to do so, you’ll want to visit the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Mel Fisher was one of the most dedicated treasure hunters in the 20th century, and his team recovered all sorts of artifacts dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Now, these artifacts are on display at the museum devoted to his life and efforts.
The museum does routinely add new exhibits, meaning that even if you’ve visited it before, there may be new things in store for you. No matter what, you can always visit the museum lab to see how shipwrecks are excavated and how the artifacts inside are preserved.
There Are Tons of Things for Kids to Do in Key West
If you’re planning a family trip, there is no shortage of things for kids to do in Key West. It is the perfect destination for anyone who loves the outdoors, the ocean, and a never-ending stream of activities.
Are you looking for bike rentals for your Key West trip? Island Safari Rentals has your back. We have bikes for the whole family, including motorized bikes, tandem bikes, and more.
To find out more about our rental options or schedule rentals for your upcoming trip, contact us today!