This blog post was written by M. Scott Irwin, my husband and partner in the Vacation Homes of Key West business. Scott and I have a blended family that includes 3 grown children, a son-in-law, and now grand kids age 11 and 15, and we are very proud of each of them. Scott’s two boys and my two grandchildren were born in Key West, so we have a nice group of saltwater conchs in the family. Scott decided to write this after some friends ‘up north’ called him about planning a family vacation in Key West. They were concerned that there would not be enough things to interest the kids. Scott’s remarks make it clear that Key West is also for kids in some very unique ways. – Cindy
IS KEY WEST FOR KIDS? – blog post from M. Scott Irwin
Is it possible that Key West is really a great place to bring the children on vacation? Key West’s reputation as the ‘Adult Disney World’ of Florida has put somewhat of a stigma on the southernmost island as a family destination. So when I received a call recently asking this very question I was quick to answer “yes.” Having lived on the island for 35 years and raised my own boys now 19 and 27, I have many fond memories of their childhood in Key West.
The call was from a close friend’s son who wanted to bring his wife and two children, 6 year old daughter and 8 year old son. They wanted to know how they would entertain them. Well as the memories flooded back I quickly rattled off a list of exhibits and activities to do with kids and assured them there would be plenty of fun for everyone. For exhibits I recommended:
• Key West Aquarium
• NOAA Eco-Discovery Center
• Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
• Mel Fisher’s Ship Wreck Museum
• Key West Light House and Museum
For other activities I suggested:
• Ghost Tours of Key West
• Key West Skate Park
• Wild Dolphin watch tours
• Guided snorkeling on the reef
• Guided fishing trips, reef, back country, deep sea fishing
• Jet-ski rentals
• Charter sailing excursions, sunset, or day trips including kayaks
• Rental boats for exploring on your own
• Hobie Cats to learn to sail
Next I emailed a link to the our website and suggested they choose a vacation rental villa with a swimming pool. When they called back they told me that another couple and their two children had decided to join them, and they had gotten together and all rented Amelia’s Hideaway, a four bedroom vacation rental villa with private swimming pool for a week. They sounded very excited, and as I began to ponder my role as tour guide I wondered whether my memories were going to be as fun for today’s children as they had been for mine.
As I reflected back the first and favorite memory, and still somewhat of a secret, was the Key West Aquarium. I puzzled over how this original 1950’s style aquarium might compare to the modern giants that were created in places like Miami or Orlando’s Sea World. I was soon reminded that there is really no comparison. Our own Key Wet Aquarium is the small town version which has its very own unique up-close and personal encounters and educational features. This attraction really gives children an opportunity to see and touch many of the local species in a presentation that is not possible at the larger venues. You will learn about the beauty and diversity of inshore and barrier reef ecosystems while seeing them in “the mangrove exhibit,” a very natural setting. I have made several visits with my own sons in the past and they developed a curiosity that led to their love of the sea, which includes surfing, sailing, diving, and boating. This love carried them through the difficult adolescent years, and still motivates them as young men who now have a unique appreciation of nature’s beautiful sea.
After they returned home from their vacation, my friends told me that during the week in Key West of great adventures that included visiting the aquarium, snorkeling, jet skiing, visiting the Butterfly Garden, beach combing, and sailing, the children always seemed most excited to return to their own swimming pool at the vacation rental house where the laughter never seemed to stop.