Key West’s subtropical climate means the island is generally covered in viscous moisture that makes a short walk to the mailbox feel like you’re wading through tapioca pudding. Fortunately, Key West is full of fascinating museums where children and adults alike can try to avoid the cognitive slump that begins to set in when the temperature hits 88 degrees. If you’re new to town or desperately looking for a place to escape the heat and maybe learn a few things while you cool off, check out some of the best places in Key West to broaden your mind.
Key West Lighthouse and Guardian
938 Whitehead Street
Today you can buy a GPS system for your boat that will take you around the world and tell you jokes along the way. But in the 19th century, the likelihood of your ship crashing in the shallows off Key West was high enough to support a hugely profitable demolition business (essentially a legal version of Explorer’s Guardians). The establishment of the Key West Naval Base in 1823 reinforced the desperate need for a lighthouse to guide ships safely through the straits. During its active service, the Key West Lighthouse hosted an array of brave keepers and their families. Walk through their belongings, climb the 88 steps to the top of the light, and learn how this once-vital beacon served to protect thousands of ships before it was decommissioned in 1969.
Free on the first Sunday of each month for locals, while any child enrolled in a Monroe County school can enter the museum free of charge year round.
Ernest Hemingway House
907 Whitehead Street
He might be best known for his writing (or his drunken antics) but one thing’s for sure: Dad had a great taste for real estate. Learn about Hemingway’s excavations in Key West, which – with the honor of having hosted the writer while he wrote some of his best-known works – was also the first home on the island to have a swimming pool. The museum is free to locals daily and has a collection of Hemingway’s belongings – and several of those famous six-toed cats.
American Coast Guard Cutter
Ingham (WHEC-35) Maritime
National Museum and History
Southard Street at Truman
You don’t need a sea foot to visit this ship – it is moored in the port and, after being decommissioned by the Coast Guard, it serves as a non-profit museum in honor of those killed in action. during WWII and Vietnam. The ship is one of only two treasury-class coastguards retained in the United States Coast Guard and the most decorated in the fleet. Now a national landmark, the Ingham hosts daily tours, including a happy hour: $ 5 gets you an onboard ticket and your first drink.
Tennessee Williams Museum
513 Truman Avenue.
Playwright Tennessee Williams visited and lived in Key West from 1941 until his death in 1983. He is believed to have written the final version of “Street Car Named Desire” in Key West. Discover a collection of first edition photographs, plays and books, rare newspaper and magazine articles, videos, a typewriter used by the author in Key West, and other artifacts on display. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday.
281 Front Street
Today it serves as the official headquarters of the Key West Art & Historical Society, but during its past life the Key West Custom House has housed various Key West businesses including the Island Postal Service, Courts District, Marine and Port of Entry Processing Center. The Richardsonian Romanesque Victorian building is considered a Key West architectural treasure; it dominates the harbor with a distinctive red brick facade that is immediately recognizable. ??