You Can Do Key West with a Toddler and Enjoy It
You might just need to be easy on yourself when the iPad comes out more often than you’d like. At least I had to. (Granted our child knocked two teeth out within an hour of checking into our hotel and suffered from a runny nose the entire time we were there. ) Days and nights of poor sleep all around meant patience was thin at times and a little extra Frozen/Moana meant everyone could stress a little less.
While our entire trip to the Conch Republic wasn’t ideal, the majority of it was wonderful and we made some terrific family memories. If you’re familiar with Key West, you can probably guess we didn’t spend much time on Duval Street (blocks and blocks of bars) but there were a lot of attractions and restaurants that all three of us really enjoyed.
Where We Ate
Moondog Cafe - This place was adorable. We biked over one morning and enjoyed breaking our fast on the patio. Coming from a colder climate, we were braver then most locals when it came to sitting outside during our trip. It was in the 60s and 70s the whole time we were there. Perfectly pleasant for a January escape from winter. The pancakes here were beautiful. I took a picture of the air bubbles haha. Rob really enjoyed his huevos rancheros and my cravings for vegetables were well satiated with the Popeye’s garden omelet.
Keys Coffee Co. - Another perfect spot for early risers. I was very happy to be able to share a green goddess smoothie and excellent avocado toast with Atti. Rob thought the capri breakfast sandwich was great.
Blue Heaven - I could not for the life of me get the name of this eclectic restaurant right. Blue Oasis, Blue Ocean … Rob eventually started making fun of me and started calling it Green Savannah. We actually got takeout from here for lunch earlier in the week sparking our interest to return for a full meal. Again, our early waking habits paid off and we beat the rush. There was a lot of space for Atti to run around outside here and there was an old merry-go-round horse she enjoyed sitting on while we waited for our food. Order anything you want BUT DO NOT skip the banana bread.
Banana Cafe - This was the first breakfast we had on the island (yay for spots that open at 7 am)! We snagged seats by the window, perfect for rooster spotting. (Seriously if your kids are into animals, there are roosters and chickens everywhere. Spotting them and yelling “doooooo” (as in cock-a-doodle-do) never got old for Atti.
The Breakfast Club, Too - We were the first people in the door on the morning we visited, so we easily snagged a seat on the patio. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their breakfasts, but I think the piece de resistance was the Bananas Fosters Waffle we all shared. Atti had the scrambled eggs, cheese & toast from the kids menu. Rob went with the sausage cheddar biscuit and I had the apple chicken sausage & brie rosti.
Southernmost Beach Cafe - At the recommendation from some fellow tropical drink loving friends, this was our first stop for food and tropical cocktails (for mom & dad of course.) This spot is attached to the Southernmost Beach Hotel and has an actual beach in front where you can rent chairs/umbrellas if you’d like. You don’t have to be staying at the hotel. The piña coladas here were some of the best we’ve had and the coconut shrimp did not disappoint. On our last day we went back for some beach time, one more piña colada and another order of coconut shrimp for me. (It’s seriously one of my favorite foods.)
Garbo’s Grill - This taco truck also came at the recommendation of our friends. What a cool way to set up a food truck. It’s located in a fenced in area and there’s another business within the fence - a bar. So you won’t go thirsty while scarfing down some delicious tacos. Atti had a blast sitting in this antique boat ride and trying out all of the colorful Adirondack chairs.
Blue Heaven - See also in the breakfasts section :-). The shrimp and grits did not disappoint.
Island Dogs Bar - We decided to grab a table outside at this restaurant on a whim. Atti had just taken a little bike-ride power nap and we were all ready for a snack. Atti had already had a full breakfast, but that did not stop her from eating her weight in fruit and adorably snatching half of the black beans off of our delicious breakfast pizza. This restaurant was a pleasant surprise and really helped to turn a rough morning totally around.
Waterfront Brewery - We always try to visit at least one local brewery every where we travel. These days it’s nice when we can find one that’s family friendly and has food options too. This brewery is also a sit down restaurant and had lots of game/entertainment options which would make it good spot for families with older kids too. Rob and I both went with a fresh fish sandwich (as in the fish was caught like that day) and we were very pleased. The beer was good too.
Alonzo’s Oyster Bar - This one was more of a spur-of-the-moment choice. It was happy hour, we wanted to sit outside and there were tables available. We happily tucked into several of the dishes on the happy hour menu like steamed shrimp and fish tacos.
Half Shell Oyster Co. - You must dine here when/if you go to Key West. It’s the only seafood restaurant in Key West that owns its Fish Market! Fresh Key West seafood is on your plate within hours of being caught and the happy hour specials are unbeatable. Of course we had some oysters, Rob loved the beer steamed shrimp and I devoured my fish sandwich. We also enjoyed some of their Key Lime pie there and took an extra slice home for later.
Salute! On the Beach - This restaurant was the closest one to our hotel and ended up being the location for one of our favorite dinners of the trip. The host was beyond adorable, very attentive and was super friendly with Atti. The food was amazing and the view couldn’t be beat. We got there right at 4 pm when they opened for dinner because #toddlerlife but the patio filled up fast as it got closer to normal dinner time. DO NOT MISS the Key Lime Pie
Red Fish Blue Fish - This one was OK … it was close to Mallory Square and we were all hungry. Rob really liked his po boy sandwich though.
Date & Thyme - This is the neighborhood market and clean food cafe of my dreams. We were able to stock up on things like organic blueberries, yogurt and other easy meal/snack items for the hotel room and get some excellent green superfood smoothies at the same time. We made multiple visits.
Ice Cream - Sometimes it’s just what the universe orders. We all shared some ice cream twice during our trip. After Atti’s ordeal, we treated her to a little cup with sprinkles after dinner that night from the Key West Ice Cream Factory attached to the Waterfront Brewery. And then on our last night we popped into Mattheessen’s on Duval Street. Rob and I each got a cone and we sat outside and did some people watching while Atti alternated between us taking adorable licks. (We also got a huge chocolate chip cookie that we intended to take with us for a snack during our travels home the next day, but we sadly left it in the fridge at the hotel. Here’s hoping the housekeeping folks got to enjoy that one.)
What We Did
Butterfly and Nature Conservancy - We visited on our second day in town. The weather was a bit on the chilly side. It’s an indoor garden basically meant to cultivate butterflies. It’s beautiful and very peaceful inside. There are a few birds too, including a pair of flamingos that Atti was absolutely fascinated with. I love that your admission lasts all day so you can come and go a few times if you’d like. They have some windows where you can see into one of the research rooms and in the window there were rows of cocoons, and we just happened to walk by as a butterfly was making its way out of one. It was so cool!
Key West Aquarium - Another excellent indoor option should you need it. Atti ooo’d and aahh’d over just about every tank of sea creatures. It’s not a very big aquarium by any means, but there were lots of programs scheduled throughout the day and your admission is good for two days meaning you can come and go as you’d like.
Smathers Beach - It was located directly across the street from our hotel making it perfect for toddler-length visits.
Southernmost Beach - We rented some chairs here for the morning on our last day on the Key. The Southernmost Beach Cafe is right there too, and you can walk right up to order well mixed drinks and take them right back to your lounge chair.
Playgrounds - Traveling with a toddler means your plans include mostly things that your child will enjoy. For us that usually means trying to find all the best local playgrounds. We found 3 unique and fun playgrounds during our trip. This one and this one were near our hotel and this one was close to the entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park.
West Martello Tower - We were trying to use up a bit more time before dinner time at Salute! and we strolled by the Key West Garden Club and the West Martello Tower. The tower is a historic landmark and the garden club has cultivated it and turned it into a peaceful and beautiful park that visitors can stroll through and enjoy. It’s free to enter, but donations are gladly accepted.
The beach at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park - This was a lovely spot to wander for awhile and listen to the ocean. Atti found lots to explore and we even passed by a beach-front yoga class.
Where We Stayed
Sheraton Suites. It was close to the airport and the room was comfortable. The extra space with a suite was nice, but in hindsight I wish we had checked if a bath tub was a possibility. Taking showers with an 18 month old is interesting. There were some resort-like amenities included. Things like daily smoothies and popsicles by the pool. We were also able to rent bikes through the concierge including a seat for Atti.
(While the Sheraton was nice, Rob and I totally know exactly where we want to stay on our next parents-only visit. )