On the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys is the city island of Key West, a captivating place for a family vacation. When it comes to Key West kid activities, there are many attractions for all interests. Basking in the sun and surf is essential, and Smathers Beach is a lovely place to unwind. Water adventures from snorkeling to fishing abound. The diverse destination also has a strong literary past, attracting acclaimed American writers such as Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, and Ernest Hemingway, whose legacy lives on at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. When it comes to a family vacation in Key West, there are fascinating museums to explore, slices of Key lime pie to eat, and plenty more to experience.

1. Take in the sun, sand, and surf at Smathers Beach or Higgs Beach

A family vacation in Key West is not complete without laying out your towels and spending the day in the sun on the powdery beach. While there are several beaches to explore, Smathers Beach is the largest, spanning nearly 2 miles. Set on the south side of the island along the Atlantic Ocean and State Road A1A, this public beach is known for its calm waters, perfect for snorkeling and swimming. The smaller Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach Park boasts clear turquoise waters and several points of interest, including a historic fort, café, and the site of the terminus of the Florida Overseas Heritage Trail.

2. See what’s aflutter at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

One of the most magical Key West kid activities is to explore the tropical paradise that is the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Set on historic Duval Street, the popular attraction is home to 50 to 60 colorful butterfly species from around the world, along with friendly exotic birds and an immersive Learning Center where kids can discover fascinating facts about monarchs and more. The highlight of any visit is a stroll through an inviting, plant-rich habitat where you will find hundreds of butterflies flitting about. On the way, be sure to stop by the gift shop to pick up all sorts of nature-inspired souvenirs.

3. Travel on the Gulf of Mexico to Dry Tortugas National Park

Outdoor adventure is always fabulous to enjoy on a family vacation in Key West. One splendid outing is a trip to Dry Tortugas National Park. Situated 70 miles to the west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, the inviting destination, accessible only by boat or seaplane, features 7 islands and several points of interest to explore. Spanning 100 miles, the park is home to the 19th-century Fort Jefferson on the home headquarters of Garden Key. For those who want to spend time in the water, snorkeling the third-largest reef system in the world is sure to be delightful. As for wildlife viewing, kids can spot sea turtles and magnificent birds during migration season.

4. Tell everyone you saw the Southernmost Point

Kids will want to tell their friends that they actually visited the Southernmost Point in the United States. The site, located in the old Key West neighborhood, offers the perfect photo op of a family vacation in Key West. The historical landmark boasts a painted red, black, white, and yellow anchored concrete buoy featuring the lowest latitude of the contiguous North American states and the 90-mile distance from Cuba. The site, which is 18 feet above sea level, is easy to get to—just head to the intersection of Whitehead and South Streets.

5. Head out on snorkeling and sailing adventures with Sebago Sports

Exploring the waters will always be a highlight of things to do in Key West with kids. Sebago Sports offers several different tour experiences to enjoy. The Key West Morning Snorkel starts aboard a catamaran that heads to Florida Keys Reef, where the friendly crew provides a snorkeling lesson before you head underwater to see fish and marine life and relax on deck. Another amazing experience is a 2-hour sail on the 1939 When and If wooden schooner. The Captain’s Choice Dolphin Watch and Sunset Sail is another possibility to take in the local sites, such as Sunset Key and Fort Zachary Taylor.

6. Discover the life story of a literary great at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

While kids may not have had the chance to read "The Old Man and The Sea" or "The Sun Also Rises" yet, they most likely will when they get older, and what better way to get a glimpse into the life of the author behind those books than with a visit to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. There is much to see at the former residence of the American writer, including photos of his fishing adventures, the descendants of the famous 6-toed cats, and the gorgeous pool and grounds featuring lovely flora. The store has Hemingway-inspired souvenirs for all ages, from bookmarks to magnets, cat toys, and the like.

7. Explore the bounty of exhibits at the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum

The Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum takes visitors back in time to 1856 to relive the maritime history of the South Florida city and its treacherous reef that sank many a ship, including the Isaac Allerton, a recently discovered vessel with several artifacts on display at the museum. Visitors get to climb the 65-foot lookout tour, watch riveting films, listen to dangerous tales, and enjoy other arresting activities at this museum that showcases a surrounding area that, on average, would see 1 shipwreck a week. As for the building, it is a recreation of a 19th-century warehouse built by Asa Tift, the most notable shipwreck salvager in Key West.

8. Indulge in Key lime pie

Anything to do with dessert usually is at the top of the list as far as Key West kid activities go, and no family vacation to this city is complete without enjoying its famous Key lime pie. There is nowhere better to sink your fork into this specialty than the city where it all began. Legend has it that a woman named Aunt Sally took the recipe from a fisherman and made her version in the kitchen of the historic Amsterdam’s Curry Mansion Inn, and the rest is Key lime pie history. Today, there are several notable places to try this refreshing and sweet staple, including Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Pie Shoppe, Old Town Bakery, and the Green Turtle Inn, to name a few.

9. Get a bird’s-eye view from atop the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters

Relive maritime history with a visit to the Key West Lighthouse. The historic tower, completed in 1825, makes a lovely addition to any Key West family vacation itinerary. The unassuming 65-foot structure played a pivotal role in ensuring the safe arrival of military and commercial vessels to Key West coming in from the Florida Keys. For a fabulous view of the surrounding area, visitors can climb up the 88 steps to the top of the lighthouse. The permanent exhibit, Life of the Keepers, provides an interesting look into the generations of keepers with interesting artifacts, historic furniture, and photos.

10. Travel around the area on 2 wheels with Island Bicycles

Exploring Key West with kids on leisurely bike rides is fun for everyone. Island Bicycles is the spot for rentals, from beach single-speed beach cruisers to kids' bikes, 3-wheelers, road bikes, and baby-seat bikes. No matter which mode of transportation you decide on, daily and weekly rentals include helmets, locks, baskets, and lights. Now, you just need to figure out where to pedal first.

11. Join in the sunset celebration at Mallory Square

When the sun sets in Key West, there is no place families want to be other than Mallory Square. The central plaza is quite a lively site during the nightly Sunset Celebration. Not only are there stunning water views, but there is much to see with jugglers, acrobats, magicians, musicians, and other street performers entertaining the crowds. It’s a spectacle that attracts people from all over the world for this fun Key West tradition. Afterward, head to one of the restaurants nearby for a memorable meal. The local greeting “See you at the sunset” will have a new meaning once you experience this family-friendly celebration.

12. Marvel at marine life at the Key West Aquarium

Set in Mallory Square, the Key West Aquarium is a great place to take kids during the day. The popular point of interest showcases aquatic animals with interesting exhibits and immersive activities. At the Touch Tank, young guests get to view an array of underwater creatures, such as sea stars, conchs, sea cucumbers, and more, while the shark exhibit offers an up-close look at the Florida Keys nurse shark. The Sea Turtles Conservation tour is also interesting, and you’ll get to meet 4 of the sea turtle residents. There is also an informative jellyfish exhibit that provides insight into the different varieties of the species.

13. Appreciate the scenery on the Conch Tour Train ride

One of the must-dos on Key West family vacations is taking a ride on the famous Conch Tour Train. Ideal for all ages, this star attraction has been delighting travelers since 1958. Follow in the footsteps of over 15 million people, including Ernest Hemingway, who have experienced this leisurely tour over the years. Departing from the Front Street Depot in Mallory Square, the train takes passengers past notable Key West sites, stopping at Truval Village, which is close to landmarks such as the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and the Key West Lighthouse, among others, before making a final stop at the Sails to Rails Museum.

14. Pay a visit to the beautiful creatures at the Turtle Hospital

While the waters surrounding Key West are full of marine life, sometimes the majestic animals encounter illness or injuries. One place that is doing its part to protect and preserve such marine life is the Turtle Hospital. Kids and their parents who want to show support can visit the sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center and take a guided educational tour, a touching 90-minute experience that includes a presentation about sea turtles, a look at the facilities, and a chance to feed the permanent residents.

15. Find out more about local flora and fauna at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

Parents who want to incorporate learning into their family vacation in Key West will want to make sure to visit the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. If kids are into nature, they’ll enjoy exploring this place, which spans 6,000 square feet and features enriching exhibits, colorful marine artwork, and more. Curious minds will learn more about local habitats, such as beach dunes and hardwood hammocks, as well as see living corals and tropical fish at a massive reef tank in the Mote Marine Laboratory.

16. Pop in for crepes and other flavorful fare at Banana Cafe

When searching for family-friendly restaurants in Key West, look no further than the welcoming Banana Cafe on Duval Street. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the eatery specializes in French dishes with a Caribbean twist. It’s a cute and colorful dining spot to enjoy sweet and savory dishes. In the morning, try one of the breakfast crepes, such as the Inside Out Benedict, and later one of the lunch crepes, such as Le Chicken Cordon Bleu or La Mahi Piccata, among others. Kids will enjoy sweet crepes selections like Homemade Key Lime Pie and French Banana Split.

17. Admire colorful paintings and works on the Key West Art Walk

It’s never too early to instill art appreciation in children, and the Key West Art Walk offers a colorful and creative look of the city. This guided walking tour includes stops at various galleries and studios of local artists, highlighting original works from paintings to photographs to other mixed media. The 2-hour experience led by a knowledgeable guide begins in the old town part of Key West, popping into the southernmost galleries in the United States.

18. Visit the home of a past president at the Truman Little White House

History buffs should set their sights on the Truman Little White House. The historic landmark served as the winter White House for President Harry Truman. The only presidential museum in Florida features a fascinating tour of the charming property originally constructed in 1890 as naval housing. Over the years, the home has welcomed famous guests such as Thomas Edison. While it is primarily known as a retreat for President Truman, other US leaders have stayed here, including Presidents William Howard Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.

19. Step inside an exquisite Key West home at the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens

While it's nice to admire the architecture during a family vacation in Key West, it’s even better to get a look inside of local landmarks. Open for public tours, the historic Audubon House and Tropical Gardens offer a glimpse into the 19th-century grand home built by Captain John Huling Geiger, a maritime pilot and master wrecker. Walking through the rooms reveals lovely antique pieces and reminders of yesteryear. Outside, the lush tropical gardens feature a stunning display of greenery and orchids, bromeliads, and other flora.

20. Get a glimpse of shipwrecks and artifacts at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Set in the historic Key West Naval Storehouse, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum offers an intriguing thing to do with kids in Key West. Exhibits like "Spanish Coins: New World Coins and Old World Treasure," "The Treasure Gallery," and "The Search for the Atocha" shine the spotlight on pivotal events that took place in the local waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The museum offers a rare opportunity to view artifacts from 17th-century shipwrecks, such as the Henrietta Marie and the Santa Margarita.

21. Have a spooky time on a Ghosts and Gravestones Tour

Given that Key West is known for its countless shipwrecks and other spooky tales, it’s not surprising that there are supposedly haunted sites that the brave of heart can learn about on the Ghosts and Gravestones Tour. This unique experience is probably best for older kids and their parents and includes a guided tour aboard the Trolley of the Doomed, which departs from historic Old Town. From tales of a strange voodoo doll to other mysteries, you’ll hear plenty of haunting stories from the past and experience surprises along the way. Tours are 90 minutes and involve minimal walking.

22. Interact with playful parrots and other birds at Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden

Animal lovers get to experience up-close interactions with tropical birds at Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden. One of the unique Key West kid activities, this serene haven is home to colorful macaws and friendly parrots. This educational parrot sanctuary, which was founded by Nancy Forrester, a local artist and environmentalist who has rescued and rehomed orphaned parrots for 35 years, makes a heartwarming addition to any Key West trip.

23. Learn about local culture at the Key West Museum of Art and History

A great intro into the captivating destination on the southernmost point of the United States is the Key West Museum of Art and History. Set in the Custom House, a historic civic building from the late 19th-century overlooking Mallory’s historic seaport, the museum features exhibits showcasing 2 centuries of local culture, art, prominent figures, and more. The site is also the home of the Key West Art & Historical Society, an organization that oversees the Key West Museum of Art and History, along with the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters, the Fort East Martello Museum, and the Tennessee Williams Museum.

24. Walk the grounds of the Key West Tropical Garden and Botanical Center

As the country's only subtropical and frost-free natural conservation habitat and native plant botanical garden, the Key West Tropical Garden and Botanical Center offers a unique place of discovery on a Key West family vacation. Nature lovers will enjoy spending time in the serene surroundings with plenty to see and do whether it is bird-watching or strolling in the shade of the Champion Trees Garden. Visitors will get to see plants native to the Florida Keys at the Botanical Garden Nursery, as well as an interesting outdoor display of boats, rafts, and other vessels that the center has collected over the years.

25. Immerse yourselves in nature and history at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

While the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is rich in history, this significant site is also worth adding to your Key West family vacation plans for its sheer natural beauty and recreational offerings. The redbrick building is an important part of Key West history and is known for housing the largest cache of Civil War armament in the world. Kids will get to see cannons and historical reenactments at the fort that played a role in both the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Other things to do at this picturesque park include snorkeling, picnicking, fishing, and just admiring the scenery. Visitors will also appreciate convenient amenities, including a beach, picnic pavilion, playground, concessions, and a restaurant.