Scott Messenger 2015-02-28 04:18:34
Key West Discoveries So, here you are in paradise, but you only have a day. Keep cool—put on your shades and some sunscreen, grab a couple bottles of water and you’re on your way. SPEND AN HOUR WITH A LEGEND: Hemingway Home and Museum (907 Whitehead St.; (305) 294-1136). Museum guides take full advantage of the legend of the author as philanderer and tough guy, making much of the writer’s four wives, lacerated spleen, three concussions, damaged kidney and an overextended, if not cirrhotic, liver. Like cats? There are about 50 of them meandering around the house and gardens, all purportedly descended from Snowball, Hemingway’s original polydactyl (the term for a cat with more than the usual number of toes). You can climb the stairs for a glimpse of the writer’s studio, upstairs in the old carriage house. In his day, Hemingway crossed a homemade hanging bridge to get there. AN HOUR WITH THE PRESIDENT: Harry S Truman Little White House (111 Front St.; (305) 294- 9911). The President said “I’ve a notion to move the Capital to Key West and just stay,” after first vacationing at these former Naval officers’ quarters built in 1890. In the mornings, the President held open-air staff meetings on the front lawn. In the evenings, they reconvened for poker games in the salon. “Truman wasn’t the best poker player,” says Little White House guide Rick Carey. “He needed all the help he could get. He was too optimistic, too excited.” SPEND A DAY IN THE TROPICS: No matter what the season, The Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden (5210 College Road; (305) 296-1504) is abloom with an endless variety of plants, flowers and wildlife that live in a controlled tropical environment. The facility provides ample rain to allow most trees to retain their leaves year-round. The care and feeding of this environment has made it home to many endangered and threatened flora and fauna. Navigate a canopy of tropical palms and trees in which there’s a chance you’ll see a rare white crowned pigeon or bald eagle. The nature trails are well marked with lots of interesting flora and fauna along the way. Enjoy the quiet. Restrooms and refreshments available. A 45-MINUTE TRIP TO OLD CUBA: The San Carlos Institute (516 Duval St.; (305) 294-3887). Built in 1924, this was the grandest of the cultural centers previously erected by Key West’s Cuban population. You can almost trace the history of Key West architecture in the Greek revival building—a touch of Art Deco here and a dollop of Caribbean Colonial there. Today the institute offers an experience akin to stepping in off the cobbled streets of old Havana itself—except this place is in much better shape. The real treasure here is the story it tells about José Martí’s visit to the city in 1892 to rally support for the Cuban War of Independence from Spain. Donations accepted and appreciated. SEE A THOUSAND IN AN HOUR: At the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory (1316 Duval St.; (305) 296-2988) you can almost be guaranteed that beautiful butterflies will pause for a moment on your shoulder (or head). The conservatory is home to about 60 butterfly species, which means a stunning range of size, shapes, colors and photo ops, each one more perfect than the last. This island of tranquility makes the long walk here to upper Duval Street’s Atlantic terminus entirely worthwhile (especially, say, if you treat yourself to a frozen Key-lime-pie pop along the way). COUNT DOWN TO SUNDOWN: In 90 minutes you’ll see trained cats, lots of fire, airborne knives, a dog in hotpants and throngs of sun-baked tourists in Mallory Square. They’re all there for the same reason . . . To enjoy the nightly sunset celebration. Sword swallowers, high-wire walkers and jugglers of sharp or flaming objects all attest to one performer’s assertion that Mallory Square is the place for “stunts so dangerous they can only be learned in Canada— where health care is free.” There are also photographs, jewelry and paintings for sale, performing musicians and even a preaching preacher. Don’t let all the distractions get in the way of watching a spectacular sunset from the southernmost point in the United States. Donations appreciated.
Published by Key West Magazine. View All Articles.
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