Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum#6 in Best Things To Do in Key West
Literary icon and journalist Ernest Hemingway is one of Key West's best-known and well-loved "freshwater Conchs" (a resident who was not born on the island). His former home – which he lived in for less than 10 years but owned until his death in 1961 – is located in Old Town and is now a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Literature buffs take note: Hemingway penned parts of some of his most famous works, including "A Farewell to Arms" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls," in this very residence. The grand house itself is interesting, as it was one of the first in Key West to have indoor plumbing and a pool. Inside, the rooms contain memorabilia about Hemingway's life and work.
Recent travelers recommend a visit here (despite the perennial crowds), and offer praise for the knowledgeable tour guides, who bring Hemingway's time in Key West to life. Visitors also recommend sticking around after your tour (which takes about 30 minutes) to peruse the gardens and take in the distinct design touches of Hemingway's wife, Pauline.
Another important facet to the Hemingway legend: his cat. Hemingway was given a white, six-toed cat by a ship's captain. Many of the cats that currently live on the museum grounds (about 40 to 50) are believed to be descendants of that cat, named Snow White. So, if you have cat allergies, you may want to skip a visit here altogether. (Though previous travelers said the felines generally stick to the shady areas of the garden and don't seem to mind the visitors.)
The house is open every day of the year (even holidays) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets include the guided tour and cost $14 for adults and $6 for kids ages 6 to 12. Children 5 and younger get in for free. Keep in mind: The house only accepts cash. You'll also find a book store and gift shop on-site. Additional information is available on the property's website.
More Best Things To Do in Key West
#1 Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
For the cleanest beach and best waters in Key West, you should head for the westernmost point of the island to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. There, you can sunbathe, hike, bike, fish and get a dose of history all in one place. Recent visitors favor this shoreline over Smathers Beach (the water is clearer, making it an ideal snorkeling spot), but travelers also warn that the sand is not soft and that beach shoes are needed to traverse the rocky terrain safely. While the beach might not be as powdery soft as some other Florida beaches, it does offer some great snorkeling opportunities, according to recent visitors. Along with your snorkel gear, pack some grilling food and charcoal: This beach has plenty of barbecue grills and rental equipment.
If you get tired of hanging out beachside, stop by the historic fort located within the park. The fort was built in mid-1800s and was used during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Guided tours are offered twice a day.
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