Key West is both a place and a state of mind. It lies about as far away as you can go in this USA, almost part of the tropics, some four hours and 150 miles south and west of Miami. You cross a lot of bridges and spectacular blue and green water to get there, and when you get there you’re only 90 miles from Cuba. Cruise ships consider a stop at Key West part of their Caribbean itineraries!
It’s not a big place, and it is a place where real people live. It has a year-round population of just over 26,000 and a median resident age of 39 years. Key West also includes the neighboring communities of Stock Island, where a lot of the remaining commercial fishing is based, and which used to be where Key West’s supplies were “stocked” in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and Key Haven, with wide canals and lots of pleasure boats.
Key West has been described in about a zillion travel guides and Web sites and the name used in countless movies as the place people want to finally get away to. Having lived in Cudjoe Key (23 miles away) and selling real Estate in Key West, I have a good feel for the place.
The best way to describe Key West, is a vacation place. Meaning whenever you’re there, the ambience and atmosphere catches you up in it and you could well be somewhere in the Bahamas or the Caribbean.
Key West is also a state of mind. You can watch sunsets from Mallory Square on the harbor, or from the bars and restaurants on the boat basins. You can shop or whatever on famous Duval Street. Since nobody knows how to throw a party like Key West does, you can join in at Fantasy Fest (think Mardi Gras) at the end of October, and see for yourself. This is, after all, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Whatever you imagine about Key West is probably true.
Or you can enjoy the reality of Key West’s other state of mind too – its wonderful diversity, history, and creativity. Lots of writers, artists, artisans, and musicians have always called this state of mind/special place home, from Hemingway to the present day.
There are also plenty of areas in Key West where the locals go besides Duval Street and the sunset bars. In fact when you get off of Duval, you will find restaurants, art galleries, grocery stores and antique shops in the neighborhoods, and tree-lined little streets with lots of tropical foliage where people live.
So although you’re in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, the neighborhoods here are quiet, lined with historical architecture and have a very comfy feel. And the historic district is very compact. You can walk everywhere.