Bar Town, Accomodation and Tourism Travel See the Best of Key West for Less

See the Best of Key West for Less

Walking across the steamy tarmac, I look up at the big red letters emblazoned across the front of the tiny airport terminal. “Welcome to the Conch Republic,” they announce, and I have a moment of panic thinking that I forgot my passport. That’s when I remember that I’m still in the United States.

Key West, the southernmost point of the continental U.S., feels like a different country — or at least like a unique place in our own.

In an era of homogenized travel experiences, the island remains refreshingly idiosyncratic, full of independent thinkers like those who inspired Key West’s short-lived attempt to secede from the union in 1982. Though its debauchery has been the stuff of legend since rumrunners established Prohibition-era speakeasies (and the island’s most famous resident, Ernest Hemingway, wrote in a letter to a friend, “Got tight last night on absinthe. Did knife tricks”), lately it sports a fresh, dapper persona that places culture, environmental stewardship and a hyper-local culinary scene in the spotlight.

Key West celebrates its 200th anniversary as a permanent settlement in 2022. Although the bulk of the festivities revolved around the official March 25 bicentennial, events commemorating the island’s history and culture will happen throughout the year and include film screenings, architecture tours, lectures and special exhibitions.

Note that while Key West can get packed with visitors in winter, the peak month for tourism is March, when the drive down U.S. 1 can be a bear — so if you want some breathing room, choose another time of year to visit. You can find lower hotel rates during the rather steamy summer months. Late spring and early fall are often ideal, considering crowd levels and temperature, but keep in mind that hurricane season peaks August through October.

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