Despite its small size, Key West is one of Florida's most culturally and historically rich cities. In the beginning of the 20th century, Key West was Florida's richest city thanks to its convenient location along several important trade routes. The culture and history of Key West is extremely evident, just by walking through the charming streets of Old Town / Downtown Key West. The history showcases itself in the historic properties that line the streets of Old Town, many of which have been converted into comfortable Key West hotels, inns and guesthouses. The culture of Key West is everywhere you look, showing itself in the locals, the art, the architecture, and the all-around ambiance of the island. There is no where quite like Key West. An excellent way to acquaint yourself with the character of Key West Florida is to explore its many museums that focus on important historical events in Key West's past, the art and culture of Key West, and even a quirky "Believe It or Not" museum.
Shipwreck and Pirate Museums
The pirate and shipwreck museums in Downtown Key West are some of the most popular with people of all ages. Kids will definitely get a kick of the fascinating replicas of pirate ships and the oftentimes interactive displays located in these museums. The first of these is the Shipwreck Historeum, that takes you back to the world of shipwrecking with live actors and displays of actual artifacts. The museum also features a 65-foot lookout point similar to the ones shipwrecking captains would use to spot new shipwrecks on the shallow reefs. The next excellent museum that presents the era of swashbuckling pirates is the Pirate Soul Museum. As you enter the Pirate Soul Museum, you walk through dark winding alleys that are designed to give you the sense of walking through pirate caves as well as the narrow streets of the 17th century cities that pirates would invade. The Pirate Soul Museum provides its guests with a pirate journey where you learn about the history, stories, myths and culture of the Caribbean pirates through artifacts, maps, books, and a knowledgeable and engaging tour guide.
Historical Museums and Sites
Key West Florida is filled with excellent museums, houses and monuments that keep history alive in modern day Key West. Two of the most popular historic sites in Key West include the Hemingway House and Truman's Little White House. The Hemingway House was author Ernest Hemingway's Key West home, where he wrote much of his classic novel A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway, as you will learn on the guided tour of the house, was extremely enthusiastic about the lifestyle of Key West, including everything from the excellent fishing to the laid-back drinking culture found in the many bars along Duval Street and throughout downtown. The Hemingway House is also famous for its six-toed cats, which are all descendants of Hemingway's own cat. They are named after famous literary and cultural figures such as Gertrude Stein, Simone de Beauvoir and Pablo Picasso. Truman's Little White House showcases the political history of Key West. President Truman made ten visits to the island of Key West. At first, he used it as a vacation home, but eventually he began to do presidential work from the island and had his team fly in for meetings and discussions. And while the property is most known for being the vacation residence of President Truman, its history goes back to its construction in 1890 when it was used as a naval station for three different American wars. Stepping into the Little White House and going on the guided tour informs you on the unique role the property and Key West in general have had in the American political realm. The Heritage House Museum is the best museum for getting a sense of the history of Key West as a whole, including everything from its cultural heritage to its pirate history to its art history. The museum also features an ongoing exhibit of artwork, currently focused on the art and culture during the Depression era (the time when the property was built).
Other Great Key West Museums
Downtown Key West has all kinds of great museums and attractions for people of all ages and interests. One of the most unique of these that never disappoints is Key West's own Ripley's Believe it or Not! The museum focuses on the weird, unique, shocking and bizarre in over 500 exhibits. Split into 13 different themed galleries, the museum has been a quirky staple in the downtown Key West Florida scene for many years. For nature lovers, we suggest visiting the Audobon House & Tropical Gardens or the stunning Butterfly Conservatory. The Audobon House is a great way to see the natural beauty of Key West with historical overtones. The Butterfly Conservatory features over 50 unique species of butterflies, designed in a gorgeous tropical setting.