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A Florida Mom's Guide to Visiting Key West with Kids

Updated: Mar 13

Known for epic bachelor parties, raucous biker saloons, and historical homes, Key West may not seem like somewhere children would enjoy. Try this round up of more age appropriate, hands on and exciting experiences in Key West with kids instead.

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Tropical seafront backdrop for a bike leaning on a white picket fence

Boasting a beautiful beach, picnic spots and a historical Fort from the Spanish-American and Civil Wars, this destination with the family can easily fill a whole afternoon by itself.

The waterfront Cayo Hueso Cafe serves up hot dogs, pizzas, ice cream and Cuban sandwiches. Go for the breakfast sandwich featuring bacon, egg and cheese on Cuban bread. Yum.

A stack of black cannonballs against a whitewashed brick wall

More Information

The guided tour is at 11am and self-guided tours are available all day until 5pm. Parking and admission is $2.50 per person in your vehicle, but you can also pay to walk or bike in.

A white coast guard boat sits at harbor with palm trees around it

Having a father in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, my family is always partial to checking out ship museums. The history alone is always cool to learn about, but for me it’s like stepping back in time.

This Coast Guard Cutter is full of opportunities to discover both and is well worth an hour of your time when visiting Key West. The biggest bonus is that at the end of your tour the whole family can enjoy beer, wine, sangria or ice cream on the Quarter Deck overlooking the water. You won't find a better spot to catch the waterfront views in Key West, and they have some great old music pumping through the ship to get you in the mood for fun.

Bar tables line up along the railing of an old ship overlooking the water

More Information

Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10-4pm, kids under 6 are free and adults are $15. Pay-to-park parking can be found in the nearby lot.

Be aware that children will need to be mobile and able to walk up and down steep ladders and over dangerous passageways. My 3 year old was able to do it without issue, but some ladders can be very scary looking for the little ones. Strollers are not a possibility during the tour, which is self-guided.

a child looks into an old passageway of a coast guard ship

Consider going at sunset for happy hour drinks at the Quarter Deck every Friday and Saturday one hour before sunset.

The Splash Pad at Truman Waterfront Park

Kids run and play at a splash pad with red features and palm trees

After you sweat it out below decks on the Ingham, everyone is going to be enticed by the splash pad at the foot of the gangway of the Coast Guard ship. Featuring a wide water slide, dump buckets, fountains and cannons, the splash pad is a great way to cool off.

No bathingsuit? No problem. Adjacent to the splash pad there are two large playground structures suiting different age groups. Pair that with clean bathrooms/changing rooms and a great waterfront breeze, this is a very pleasant stop to make in Key West with kids.

Swimming at Higgs Beach and Playground

higgs beach key west

Although the playground was locked when we were there, Higgs Beach was an inviting waterfront area to enjoy some shallow swimming with our three year old before leaving town.

Hot from slogging around busy Duval Street, we did a quick car-change into our bathingsuits and jumped into the water upon sight (there are no changing rooms that we could see, only porta-potties).

The beach was shallow with minimal seaweed or rocks, but water shoes may be recommended to avoid discomfort. About knee high, the water was very safe for young kids to swim, splash and play.

Keep in mind that the water temperatures will vary throughout the year, but at present in August the temps are up to 100 degrees in some areas, making your cool swimming experience more like a strange bath tub experience.

Nonetheless, it's a great place to get wet for a bit. The sand is good enough to make sand castles and there are a few shade trees to hide under as well. There's even a little beach bar there, and plenty of free parking.

We noticed an officer patrolling the area as well, which made us feel comfortable about leaving our things on the beach.

Sunset at Mallory Square

Complete with street performers, sword swallowers, sunset watchers and the occasional rooster, Mallory Square is the spot for evening strolls.

Shadowed people watch an orange sunset

Get shoes made at Kino Sandals

A man stands smiling at a giant sandal display with holes to put your head in

About $15-30 a pair, choose your color and style of sandal and watch it made right in front of you. A classic Key West experience since 1966, taking home a pair of Kino’s is a perfect souvenir from your trip south.

Grab a Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie On a Stick

Find it at Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe along with dozens of offerings for jams, jellies, sauces and of course, key lime pie.

key lime pie with whipped cream and green syrup drizzle

Called “good for the soul” by some Tripadvsior reviewers, this activity is great for young and old. See the flora and fauna of the tropical landscape in the Keys and more.

A butterfly eats a raw banana

If You Go

  • Kids 3 and under are free and adults max out at $17.50 with discounts for seniors and such.

  • There is parking onsite at an adjacent lot.

  • Open 9am-5pm daily.

See the six toed cats

The little kids will especially love seeing all the six toed cats named after famous people or fictional characters on the property. Originally given as a gift to Hemingway from a ship’s captain, these cats are well taken care of generation after generation at the Hemingway Home and Museum.

See the House and Gardens

Preparing the kids to see this house in advance with film adaptations of Hemingway’s books is a great way to get them excited to walk through this historic estate.

One of my favorite films highlighting a young Ernest Hemingway’s life is the 1996 Film “In Love and War” with Sandra Bullock.

We also meet Hemingway in Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris”, with Owen Wilson, which is much more appropriate for a younger audience, and more whimsical too.

Consider signing up for a writer’s experience

Maybe not a thing to do with kids, but if you’ve got the gams for writing in a truly inspirational place, you can. For $1500 you and one guest can have run of the grounds for a few hours to get inspired and write a little bit yourself.

More Information

  • Children 5 and under are free, adults are $18pp.

  • Tours are daily from 9am-5pm, no reservation required. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Note that crowds will be heavier later in the day. Consider going early.

  • More details can be found on the website here.

Photo Ops at the Southernmost Point of the United States and Mile Marker Zero

These two icons are slapped on every beach towel and t-shirt in town, so you better take the kids there for a photo!

Note that you may find a line once you get there. We opted to do a drive by!

Iconic land marker in key west next to the ocean

Duval Street

It may be a little like New Orleans’ Bourbon Street (especially in the evening), but this iconic tourist pit is worth at least a stroll through for the shops, bites and occasional A/C stop at a bar for mom and dad.

Look for discount tshirts from $3.99 for a cheap souvenir.

Tours in Key West with Kids

Mangrove roots touch a waterway