Key West with the Whole Family 2006

Taking the whole family to Key West can be a lot for fun for everyone in the group!


Key West with the Whole Family 2006

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by mtemail on August 5, 2006

As an adult, I have been to Key West a number of times. Each trip prior has been filled with adult activity centered around Buffet Music, alcohol, and sunshine sports—not an idea which screams great family vacation. I have always loved Key West and have done a lot of the ‘activities’ and decided since my grandchildren have a strong interest in snorkeling this year I would plan a trip centered around group water activities.

Without a doubt—this was the best family vacation we have ever taken. The primary reason is that when you do the child centered vacations (Disney, amusement parks, etc.) the adults enjoy the process but really, how excited can you get about seeing ‘it’s a small world’ the ‘Peter Pan’ ride with a 4-year-old for the fourth ride in a row?? This trip was filled with activities which everyone enjoyed on their own level. The children have reached the age (7 and 11) where they can enjoy the full water activities. I wouldn’t take children much younger than this age - -but of course that depends upon the child and the adult mix (if an adult wants to sit out some activities to provide child care).
${QuickSuggestions} Most of your activities are going to be weather effected (boats may or may not be running if the weather gets fowl). I scheduled every activity in the morning. This way if something was effected by weather the choice was possible for a later day run of the same trip. There are lots of competitors providing the same types of services so compare what it is you want and shop for value and services, the Internet is the best place to start. I found most places offered lower prices on the net than what is charged when you arrive. ${BestWay} Getting around Key West is a challenge at best. There are far more cars than the streets and parking spaces can accommodate. The parking is costly at a minimum of about 10.00 every time you move the car. My best advice is to choose your location for housing based upon location and their ability to provide you with a parking space.

You really have to drive into Key West (if you have not flown into the Key West Airport) - - but once there - -- try to walk wherever you can. There are motor scooters available to rent which are nice for adults but not a great choice when you are transporting children. Electric cars are available for rent (which are smaller but still have the parking issue) but my choice was not to spend that extra money. Once you are out of the highly concentrated north west corner of the island -- parking gets less competitive.

Galleon Resort

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by mtemail on August 19, 2006

The Galleon Resort

The Location of this resort is its best aspect!!! Located on the north end of the island it is waterfront, next to the Hyatt and within a block of Mallory Square. All of the Sebago waterfront activities start from the waterfront a block east of the location. A parking pass is included for one vehicle per reservation which is wonderful...but there are far more passes than spaces so parking becomes competitive so if you move your car out—there is a terrific chance you won’t get one when you come back...the parking is so very tight you need a couple of people out of the car directing into the tight spaces.

Were had reserved a One bedroom (housing 4) and a hotel room (housing 2), we booked another room for our last two in a close place called the Westwinds. Upon arrival we were told they put together the reservations which resulted in us having a two bedroom unit. That was fine for us. Space is at a premium at the resort and every inch has been efficiently utilized. The units are smaller than most time shares. The smaller bedroom would have been the hotel unit and it contained a queen-size bed a tiny table with two chairs and a compact refrigerator. If you stayed in that unit alone it would be very tight, but that wasn’t a problem for us since the unit was unlocked to the larger one bedroom unit. The bedroom for the one bedroom had a king size bed and a balcony to the water side.

The staff isn’t stellar but will assist you with any difficulties with your persistence.

There is a nice sized pool, which is set on the ocean side. There is a ocean beach which is about 30 feet in length. They have a bar at the waterfront which does allow for a great sunset view, which at Key West every day is all about the sunset!

Galleon Beach Resort
617 Front Street
Key West, Florida, 33040
(305) 296-7711

Sloppy Joe's

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006

A standard in the must-do tourist locations of Key West is the restaurant/bar Sloppy Joe’s. Their website is www.sloppyjoes.com. This place is known for its ‘partying’ on Duval Street. Traveling with children I did want to take them there but the night life wouldn’t be a good choice...but the lunch crowd is mild and usually there is loud entertainment around the noon hour so the kids can experience the place without the wall to wall drunks!!

The place of course has their ‘famous’ Sloppy Joe sandwiches which of course are a usual must do since you are there. They also have some really good Nachos if you are seeking an appetizer. During the early day...it is a great way to expose the children to the Key West way of entertainment...loud, laid back and just geared towards fun.
Sloppy Joe's Bar
201 Duval Street
Key West, Florida, 33040
(305) 294-5717

Bahia Honda

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006

Bahia Honda

About a 45 minute drive up the keys from Key west is the Bahia Honda Park. In the keys, most of the snorkeling activities require a boat transport to the coral reefs where the best viewing occurs. Bahia Honda does have some great viewing close to the beach.

There is a small admission charge per person...and they have a small store where you can purchase a diving flag. I recommend you get this without a doubt...the cost is either 20 or 25 dollars depending upon which model you choose...and not only provides a great safety marker, when you return home it makes a great room decoration for the child. Each time you go out snorkeling on a boat the boat displays a red flag with a line diagonally through it and indicates to all in the water (primarily other boaters) that there are divers or snorkelers in the water. When you purchase the flag your group simply ties the floating buoy to their arm and drag the flag with them...this gives boaters (who will come into the areas snorkelers are located) and those on the beach a constant monitoring point for your group. The beach is reasonably shallow for quite some distance so the swimmers go out a healthy distance.

There are a few parking lots and a couple of beaches, we went to the furthest beach and parked and then snorkeled down both beaches and walked back to the car. Also one of the beaches has an island out in the ocean which is accessible by walking (yes the water is that shallow).

The calmer the water the better your view for snorkeling ...the water since you are so close to the beach gets very murky when the weather related surf is up, so pick a day when the weather is very clear and calm.
Bahia Honda State Park
36850 Overseas Hwy, Mile Marker 37
Key West, Florida, 33043
(305) 872-3210

Captain Alma and Captain Tim

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006

Most of the activities we chose for our group involved oceans and boats. What we found is that the trips we enjoyed the most were the smaller private charter trips rather than the full tourist charters. The prices are a little more but the experience is really worth it. The small boats usually have a 6 person limit. If you are traveling with a group of six or less than the cost really isn’t significantly higher than the larger group boats. All of the boats offer some type of snorkeling, sightseeing or dolphin watch activities depending upon what your group is seeking. One place to find these charters is through bestofkeywest.com. Additionally, look for people who have dealt with some of these captains (such as you are doing now) and then do a word search on Google, ask or yahoo by the captain’s names. I found most of these smaller companies have web sites.

We ended up going out with Captain Alma and Captain Tim. Since their boats are rated for 6 (which is a commercial certification rating rather than a boat size issue) they did need to arrange for a second boat to accommodate our group. These smaller craft captains are experts in the areas and are highly motivated to get you to areas which will give you the greatest experiences and result is their best tip, which is very appropriate and appreciated by these small business owners.

They took us out past site of the no longer standing Hemingway’s fishing shack (the shack is gone but the posts remain and the water is truly the most beautiful in the area). We ended up in a great snorkeling location where there were stingrays and nurse sharks, the kids though this was REALLY terrific. Since you are on a small craft the personalized attention is stellar. They provided orange slices and snacks after the snorkeling to get the salt water taste out of your mouth. They provided bottled water and a nice selection of sodas. They gave you a fresh water shower when you get back on the boat which was really refreshing and precluded that dry sticky salt water feel.

Since there are a number of independent companies competing for the tourist dollars to provide these trips, the service aspect is what sets the boats apart from one another. I can highly recommend Captain Alma and Captain Tim highly they worked at providing a stellar experience for us all!!!!
Garrison Bight Marina-Charters
711 Eisenhower Drive
Key West, FL
(305) 294-3093

Captain Sheri - Wild About Dolphins

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006

This was return trip for me. I had taken a trip with Captain Sheri on a previous trip and had such a nice experience, I wanted to make sure I took the trip again this trip. She has a website at www.wildaboutdolphins.com.

This is a very nice small boat experience. Her boats are certified for six passengers. She does have two boats, so she can accommodate up to 12 people. The price per person is reasonable, and her most usual trip is the dolphin watch. She is very well versed as to where the dolphins are and usually you will get to see plenty. The small-boat captains all seem to know one another and radio one another when dolphin pods are located.

Captain Sheri was very hospitable and made us feel very welcome on her vessel. She was exceptionally considerate of my 7-year-old granddaughter, who now wants to grow up and be a captain of her own boat (which is a significant step up, since a waitress was her only previous aspiration). There are snacks, bottled water, and sodas available as you choose. She took us to a very nice snorkeling spot for the days conditions. She has a lot of very nice-quality snorkeling gear for use and is very helpful in assisting with your group needs.

I would highly recommend Captain Sheri for your group!!

Wild About Dolphins
6000 Peninsula Avenue
Stock Island, Florida, 33040
(305) 294-5026

Dry Tortugas

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006

Dry Tortugas

Seventy miles off the west coast of Key West is the national park of the Dry Tortugas. You can get to the island one of two ways; by a large tourist boat or by seaplane. I recommend the Seaplanes of Key West trip without a doubt . . .this is our second time of taking the trip and with great advice we took the 2 pm flight, this is a TERRIFIC time to fly because you arrive just as the large tourist boat is packing up to return to Key West. This gets you on the island when no one else (with the exception of those who are camping there--but that number is very small) is there. It gives you a private tropical island with the most spectacular water views... The setting is just beautiful from every angle.

First of all the Seaplane trip is a fun ride--you take off from Key West Airport , fly reasonably low over beautiful water views, pass a couple of ship wrecks, and arrive at the Dry Torgugas landing on the water which is such a thrill for all.

You end up on the island about 2 hours. On the island you have a pristine beach for some very nice snorkeling--there are very close coral areas and very calm and clear waters, and then you can walk Fort Jefferson (the largest brick building in the western hemisphere. After the war of 1812 the United Sates of America began construction of a chain of coastal defense forts stretching from Maine to Texas. Construction of Fort Jefferson began in 1846. Construction continued for over 30 years but the Fort, which covers 11 of the key’s 16 acres, was never finished, the hugeness of the fort and the repeating patterns of brick make for excellent photos with the topical blue water background. Dr. Mudd’s cell is the primary point of attraction. Dr. Mudd is the physician who treated John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln’s assassin), who was imprisoned for his act of humanity, thus the saying " your name is Mud".

Without a doubt this is a really wonderful way to spend a day from Key West, the trip is a little costly--it was over 1400.00 for the eight of us, but I can say without a doubt it was worth every cent and I would gladly and willingly do it again’.
Dry Tortugas National Park
70 Miles West Of Key West
Key West, Florida, 33041

Mallory Square

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006


Mallory Square

Key West is ALL about the daily sunset festival. The focal spot of this is Mallory Square. The area on the northwest corner of the island is the location of Mallory Square. Starting about 2 hours prior to sunset the local street venders and performers start their set up. The food venders are primarily aimed at those food items which can be held in one hand while a drink is in the other. There are jewelry and art stands which have lots of choices of interesting items. One particularly interesting item for us was the individual who was selling art bottles which were essentially flattened bottles with the labels in tact—they were very interesting.

The highlight is the street performers. There are magicians and jugglers and the locally famous ‘cat man’. All of the street performers are again competing for your tourist dollars in tips so the acts are very carnival like in attempting to get the tourists to their tip buckets. The acts are very good and the whole feel of the area is very celebratory. Primarily alcohol is the common factor for the adults...but there are children around and prior to the sunset the crowd usually isn’t tanked—so it is family up until sunset. Shortly after sunset the kids should probably be taken back to the hotel for a good nights sleep in preparation for the next day of great activities (and to avoid the expose to a potentially rowdy drinking crowd).
Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square
1 Whitehead Street, Mallory Square
Key West, Florida, 33040
(305) 296-4557

Sebago Sports 6-Hour Adventure

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006

Sebago Sports (www.keywestsebago.com) offers a 6-hour power sports trip. Essentially this is a day geared at doing all of the Key West water sports in one day. Since the kids had not done all of these activities, I thought it would be a very good way to do it all. On that level, it is a good way to be exposed to a full gambit of water activities: catamaran ride, snorkeling, kayaking, jet skiing, water trampoline, parasailing...along with an on-board lunch. You board the catamaran for a ride out to the snorkeling spot, which is filled with other boats from other companies at the same location. The boat we were on had about 80 people on board, so there are a LOT of people sharing your day with you. They then take you to a spot to dock (in the ocean), where they have jet skis, the water trampoline, and an inflatable torpedo ride (the catamaran carries kayaks). At this point you are assigned a time for your parasailing trip. Essentially they do a pretty good job getting everybody rotated through all activities of choosing.

I would never take this trip again. What it is good for is if you have never done any of these activities before. It does provide a nice overview of the activities. Since we had been parasailing many times before the 5-minute 200-foot parasail, it was a disappointment (most parasail rides are about 20 minutes at about 700 feet). Having taken jet skis around Key West, the 10 minutes on a jet ski on the ocean was not as impressive, but the kids enjoyed the open throttle time (they, of course, could not drive, as you must be an adult to do so, but the children could be taken out with a driver).

For the money, I would rather have chosen two of those activities and scheduled them to do it right. For the same money, I could have scheduled a full parasailing session for the group and a nice jet-ski rental around Key West. The kids did enjoy the trampoline and torpedo ride, but I think the money could have been better spent with less people sharing the experience with you.
Sebago Watersports
200 William Street
Key West, Florida
(800) 507-9955

Sebago Sunset Cruise

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006

Sebago Sunset Cruise

Lots of companies do this type of tour. Sebago is as good as the larger competitors. You are taken out on a very large catamaran. The view is stellar, the sunset is great. They market it as the champagne cruise—and there was champagne (as identified on the bottle) but tasted like no champagne I have ever tasted (and I have had very cheap champagne)...the bottom line—since there are other competitors. I would shop around and pay less next time —rather than paying the premium price for the ‘champagne’...the ride alone was very nice but the environment created that not the Sebago company.

The trip last just over an hour...you start out heading out to the oceanside and then swing back to make a full length pass of Mallory Square—a great marketing opportunity (for Sebago) of getting their boat with it’s Sebago logo in front of the thousands of people who are staring out to the water...passing past Mallory square is fun for the riders because the party goers are waving and yelling to you —and at sunset the crowd hasn’t escalated to really drunk yet, so it just is a fun time from the kids perspective.
Sebago Watersports
200 William Street
Key West, Florida
(800) 507-9955

Seven Mile Bridge

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006

I found that when flying down from Ohio the most cost effective location was into the Fort Lauderdale Airport (an hour north of the Miami Airport). We took a full vacation in that area and drove to Key West in a rental car. The drive is about 4-5 hours (from Fort Lauderdale) and remember there is only one road in and out of the Keys so is there is an accident, excessive traffic, etc. this may be a far longer trip. Plan you time at less ‘peak’ times and you will be much happier!!!

The drive down the Keys is really a beautiful drive. There are various areas along the way you can stop to further enjoy the outstanding views.

One of the most interesting aspects is seven-mile bridge. The Seven Mile Bridge is located just south of Marathon about 50 miles north of Key West. While it falls a bit short of seven miles (I had looked that fact up prior to going - -knowing it would be the first question asked by the grandchildren) this amazing span bridges the Middle and Lower Keys and has nearly 40 expansion joints.

As you cross the bridge, the Gulf of Mexico on the north side (Bay side) and the Atlantic Ocean on the south (Ocean side). My pre-trip research reflected that seven mile bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The Drive is really spectacular!!! Even the children have to notice how long you have been on a bridge. It is a truly unique experience because odds are the children haven’t been on a bridge this long!!!
Old Seven Mile Bridge
Mile Marker 47
Pigeon Key, Florida, 33050
No phone available

Snuba

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by mtemail on August 18, 2006

Our group was very excited to try this experience. There is only one company in Key West which provides this activity. Their web site is www.snubakeywest.com.

Essentially this is a blend between snorkeling and scuba. An oxygen tank is floated on top of the water and the swimmer has an individual tube which allows them to remain in the water for the entire experience. Swimmers are taken in a group of 6 (three floats with two tanks each) and this group is essentially a pod which has to stick together. Our group loved it—the boat can accommodate two groups of 6. Each group of six had a diver who provides the instruction and stays with the group while in the water. Everyone in our group had a good time and really enjoyed this new experience...if there was any complaint it was that the groups of 6 tended to get caught up with one anothers tubing and the close quarter swimming made for lots of fins in you face. This aspect did not make it worth missing the experience. The first group of six swimmers went into the water and essentially stayed under water for the full hour of dive time. The second group had increased difficulty in coordinating their team and were at the top of the water at frequent intervals.

Children must be 8 years old to participate—and they will ask the children’s ages and make no exceptions (I’m sure that is a liability Issue). This is a really unique experience that it is worth the cost (it is just about $100 per adult and $75 per child).

The crew really does an excellent job providing the education necesssary and assistance and direction the group requires. There is ample bottle water and sodas for all.
Garrison Bight Marina-Charters
711 Eisenhower Drive
Key West, FL
(305) 294-3093

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