Key West & Florida Keys Islands Bucket List: 45 BEST Things to Do

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Where else can you find warm ocean water, breathtaking state parks, acres of mangroves, killer sunsets that draw crowds and arguably the best key lime pie in the world? The Florida Keys islands are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the country with an abundance of adventurous, historical and yummy things to do.

It’s possible to fly right into the most talked about city of Key West, but the best way to fully experience ‘The Keys’ is a road-trip from Key Largo all the way down to southernmost point of Key West (like I did!). This way you will have the flexibility to make pitstops along the way and check off your Florida Keys bucket list.



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KEY LARGO
What to See, Do & Eat in Key Largo


1. ✧ Paddle board the Mangroves at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Located in Key Largo, this excitingly serene park extends three miles into the ocean and has coral reefs, seagrass swamps and mangroves within its confines. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is home to a flurry of activities and attractions that are excellent for adults and children alike—From glass bottom boat rides to sunbathing at the beach, snorkeling and kayaking. I should also mention that it is home to the Nation’s first underwater park!

If you visit with the mind for adventure, then you should rent a kayak or paddle board and go exploring through the mangroves. There are many little water paths that meander through these dense forest like mangroves. Keep an eye out for underwater life and the gorgeous birds that call the Florida Keys park home!


2. ✦ Take a Ride on the African Queen

Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn made the African Queen steamboat famous when they starred in the 1951 movie by the same name that was filmed in Uganda.

From then on, the African Queen, docked at the Marina Del Mar marina has become home to relaxing canal cruises in Key Largo and romantic dinner cruises as well. You can even ask the Captain for a turn at the helm while underway the one and a half hour cruise. I did!

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3. ✧ Spend the night at Jules Undersea Lodge

The Jules Undersea Lodge is true to its name, it really is underwater—you actually have to dive 21 feet below the surface to enter! How’s that for bucket list worthy? You can choose to stay for just a few hours or be more adventurous and stay overnight. Don’t worry though, there are all the modern amenities. Plus, you can cozy up with a book or movie and watch the fish go by through the large round windows.


4. ✧ Visit the Wild Bird Sanctuary in Key Largo

The Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary which is only a few minutes’ walk from the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park really should be on the bucket list for bird lovers. In fact, even if you are not as enthusiastic about birds, you might find a tour of this sanctuary illuminating.

There is no official charge to get in but you are politely requested to donate whatever you can; these monies all go to the care of wounded wild birds within the sanctuary (so a very good cause!). Within the aviaries you will see owls, pelicans, hawks and a wide variety of other wild birds that are majestic and unique to say the least.

WHERE TO STAY IN KEY LARGO: The 14.5 beachfront acres of Playa Largo Resort and Spa is a luxury oasis in Key Largo. There you can eat dockside, take a dip in the freshwater pool or enjoy a glass of wine by the fire pit. Or stay at the Kona Kai Resort, a hidden treasure.

WHERE TO EAT IN KEY LARGO: You won’t go hungry in Key Largo, there are plenty of great restaurants. Eat the coconut cake at Buzzards Roost, hit up Skipper’s Dockside for an outdoor lunch and the Fish House for dinner, plus don’t forget to get the key lime martini at Sundowners.


ISLAMORADA
What to See, Do & Eat in Islamorada


5. ✧ Take a Jetpack, Hoverboard or Flyboard Ride 

Get the ultimate adrenaline thrill by taking to the water with Jetpack Adventures. You can choose from a jetpack that hangs on your back and propels you into the air or a hoverboard that’ll do the same on while stuck to your feet like a snowboard. But for the best fun try what I did (pictured below) and get some air on a flyboard. It’s not as easy as it looks!

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6. ✦ Shop at the Rain Barrel Artisans Village

Ah, what would the Florida Keys be without a unique shopping experience?! The first thing you will notice about the Rain Barrel Artisans Village is the 40-foot-long lobster named Betsy that will lure you in for an unforgettable photo-op off the Overseas Highway. Once you stop, you can’t leave without at least browsing through the stalls.

The artisans in this village are experts who create sculptures, paintings, collages, jewelry, home decor and almost every other type of accessories in such creative ways that you will definitely find something worth buying.

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7. ✧ Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s Marina

In Islamorada of the Florida Keys, there is a place called Robbie’s Marina where you can feed tarpon! These bony salt-water fish have a ‘strong’ smell, but as long as you are not looking to eat them then that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. They gather by the dozens at Robbie’s Marina waiting for you to feed them fish snacks which is a pretty exhilarating thing to do considering some of these fish have mouths almost as big as a five-gallon bucket.


8. ✧ Visit the History of Diving Museum

If you are a scuba diver, then definitely don’t miss a stop at the History of Diving Museum. With contributions from more than 30 countries, the museum has the world’s largest collection of armored suits, diving helmets and other diving accessories.


9. ✦ Drink the Local Beer

You will find the Florida Keys Brewing Company’s beer all over the Keys, but why not get it straight from the source at in Islamorada? The breweries new beer garden has 20 of their own brews on tap, plus Mead and house brewed Kambucha. Try their 10-beer sampler to find your favorite.

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10. ✦ Stroll the Third Thursday Art Walk

Time your beer visit (see above) correctly and you can stroll through the Morada Way Artwalks. Every third Thursday of the month the Morada Way Arts District hosts an outdoor walk where talented artisans set up booths along the street. It’s the perfect place to pick up souvenir jewelry, handmade candles or paintings. The event happens to be right next to the Florida Keys Brewing Co., so stop in and get a beer, then do some shopping.


MID-LOWER KEYS
What to See, Do and Eat in Mid-Lower Keys


11. ✧ Get a Hogfish Sandwich on Stock Island

When in Key West, do like the Key Westians do and head over to The Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island! This is a favorite among locals, so you know it’s for real. All of the seafood they serve comes straight from the fishing boats you can watch come in and out of the port while you dine.

As you might be able to guess from the name, their signature dish is the scallop-like flavored Hogfish! Specifically their One and Only, World Famous Killer Hogfish Sandwich. This specialty of the house is served fried and smothered with Swiss Cheese, Onions, and Mushrooms between two slices of fresh Cuban bread. Yum!

There’s plenty of other delicious fresh seafood on the menu, as well as Southern and Caribbean favorites!


12. ✦ Get the Lobster Reuben at Keys Fisheries

Make a delicious pitstop at Keys Fisheries for their famous Lobster Reuben. This sandwich is a take on the classic: slathered in Thousand Island dressing, filled with tangy sauerkraut, topped with melted Swiss and put in-between some crunchy buttered bread. The exception is that the cured pastrami is substituted with fresh lobster. Yes, please!

The sign at the order window counts how many rueben’s have been sold, proving how popular this sandwich is. It was at 288,926 when I was there. Wow! Side note: They don’t ask for your name when you order at the counter, they ask a question, like “what’s your favorite animal”—of course I said puppies.

Warning—The Lobster Reuben is huge, enough to feed two!

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13. ✧ Visit the Turtle Hospital

Who doesn’t love turtles? Unfortunately, some turtles can get injured or sick. But, the good news is The Turtle Hospital is here to help! It’s a nonprofit organization that’s been helping to rehabilitate sea turtles and educate the public on how to be better friends to the little guys since 1986!

The Turtle Hospital also offers guided educational experiences that last about 90 minutes. You’ll start your visit off by viewing a presentation about sea turtles before going on a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities and rehabilitation area. At the end of the tour, you’ll even be able to feed the center’s permanent residents.


14. ✦ Visit the Dolphin Research Center

Established in 1984, this is one of the most unique research centers in the Florida Keys, and possibly all of Florida. More than half the sea lions and bottlenose dolphins found in the Dolphin Research Center were born here, others are rescues who were deemed non-releasable by the government.

If you are keen on interacting with dolphins as they do in the movies (some of the stars from the movie Flipper were actually from here!), this is your chance. There are interactive classes that the public can participate in; believe me, you want to participate in these classes. The dolphins are friendly, mischievous and all-around fun to play with in the water.

Take note that for the Dolphin Research Center is is all about the dolphins. If they’re not interested in doing something they don’t have to do it. They never withhold food, it is all voluntary.

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15. ✧ Get a Beer at No Name Pub in Big Pine Key

If you’re looking for that old Florida Keys atmosphere and some great food and drinks, No Name Pub is the place for you! It started out as a general store and bait and tackle shop in 1931, but in 1936 the owners added a small room and started serving food. By the 1950s, the bait and tackle shop closed and the pub became the entirety of the business.

You can stop in to just relax and have a drink at the end of the day, or try some of their delicious food! We recommend the homemade fish dip, made from fresh yellowfin tuna that they marinate and smoke in house daily, or one of the gourmet pub pizzas!


16. ✧ Walk the White Sand Beach at Bahia Honda State Park

We know the reason you came to the Florida Keys is to soak up that sun, surf, and sand. Well, we can’t think of a more perfect location than Bahia Honda State Park! The park covers over 500 acres and features not one, but two award-winning beaches: Calusa Beach and Sandspur Beach. You can also take a drive along the historic Bahia Honda Bridge, plus the park features some of the best snorkeling and beach-combing in Florida.


17. ✦ Cruise the Seven-Mile Bridge

The 7-mile long bridge is one of the longest bridges in the world. The scenic stretch connects the Middle Keys to the lower Florida Keys and has beautiful seaside views along the way. If you are doing a road trip from Key Largo to Key West you’ll definitely be driving across it!


KEY WEST
What to See, Do and Eat in Key West


18. ✧ Listen to Live Music at the Green Parrot

As their website says: “The Green Parrot is more than a bar; it is a Key West icon!” It started out as a corner grocery store but became a bar in the 40s. Originally called the Brown Derby Bar, it was a popular hangout for the submarine sailors during World War II, but came under new ownership in the 70s when the Navy moved out the hippies moved in. It’s been the Green Parrot ever since!

Best of all, the Parrot has live music every night! From touring musicians to local artists, there’s always something going on, so if you’re a music lover this is a must-do while you’re in Key West. They even host periodic Ukelele Nights! You’ll also enjoy the bar’s signature decor pieces, like “The Smirk” that adorns the shutter door or the custom “No Snivelling” sign!


19. ✦ Walk Inside the Ernest Hemingway House

Ernest Hemingway and his wife Pauline fell in love with the Florida Keys way back in 1931 (I can see why!). When he finished his semi-autobiographical novel titled: A Farewell to Arms, they decided to make this their home. It is this charming house that is now a major tourist attraction in Key West. The grand Southern exterior of the house protects his eclectic collection of furniture, art and other accessories while the grounds act as a haven for wildlife, plants and quite a number of cats.

The Hemingway influence is also big in Cuba and some other of his points of interest at on my Havana things to do list.

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20. ✧ See a Show at the Red Barn Theater

If you’re a theatre lover, you don’t need to travel to New York to get your fix for live performance—Key West is your place. Destination Hyatt magazine even describes the work produced at the Red Barn Theater as “Broadway caliber”!

The building began its life as a carriage house before the Key West Community Players transformed it into a performance space in the 1940s. In the 80s it became incorporated under the Red Barn Actor’s Studio, Inc and has been committed to putting on the best performances in South Florida ever since!


21. ✧ Take the Old Town Literary Walking Tour

Because even bookworms like to go on adventures too! If you have a love of literature and are planning a trip to the Florida Keys, this tour run by the Key West Literary Seminar is one of the best things to do in Key West! You’ll get to visit the homes and haunts of writers who have called Key West home, including Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, and Shel Silverstein!

You’ll even get to learn about some lesser-known local talents and add some new titles to your “to be read” pile!


22. ✧ Eat Conch Fritters at BO’s Fish Wagon

So much fresh seafood, so little time! If you need help narrowing down where to get the best grub in the Keys, we recommend trying some of local legend Bobby Owen’s specialties! They’re so good, even Bobby Flay and the Food Network camera crew dropped by to try them out!

BO’s Fish Wagon started out as a wagon but has since ditched its wheels to become an open-air shack. Don’t worry, there’s no shirt or shoes required, so you can come right off the beach and grab some delicious food. Make sure to try the cracked conch sandwich with Key Lime mayo!


23. ✦ Catch the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square

You cannot visit the ‘Home of the Sunset’ without actually taking the time to find out why they call it that and what makes the sunsets here so special. Geographically, this is the southernmost end of the United States and at the Mallory Square sunset celebration in Key West is the perfect place to sit, sip a few cocktails and enjoy one of the most stunning sunsets you will ever see.

As you watch the sun majestically sink into the Gulf of Mexico, there will be performers, artists and an assortment of food vendors assembling to ensure that you evening is one that your will not soon forget. Don’t miss Dominique’s Cat Circus!

You can also see this spectacular sky in a more unique way take the Sunset Party Cruise by Catamaran!

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24. ✧ See a Drag Show 

Key West might seem like a quaint, old fashioned beach community on the surface but don’t be fooled: it has a thriving nightlife as well! If you want to experience some of this booming nightlife, then you must check out the Key’s drag queen scene. Here are three different top locations to choose from:

  • Aqua has a performance of their show “Reality is a Drag” Sunday through Wednesday at 8 pm, plus two shows at 7 an 9 pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They also feature a full bar and offer karaoke!
  • If you’re looking for something a little more raunchy and guaranteed to make you cry with laughter, 801 Bourbon Bar is the place for you! They have shows every day at 9 and 11 pm and have Drag Bingo every Sunday night.
  • If you’re looking for something slightly more laid back, check out La Te Da, where top-quality performers Christopher Peterson and Randy Roberts perform a cabaret show a few times a week. They’re known for their spot-on impersonations of queer icons like Liza Minelli and Cher!

25. ✧ Stay at the Southernmost House

Relax in luxury while enjoying everything Key West has to offer at The Southernmost House: a taste of history and a tropical paradise!

This boutique hotel is also a museum, and you can find little pieces of history all around the property. It was built in 1897 and has hosted over 20 presidents and dignitaries! But it also offers the modern amenities of the best beachside resorts.

Each accommodation is spacious, air-conditioned, and uniquely decorated to no two rooms look the same! There’s free wi-fi access throughout the property, plus a heated infinity pool with a bar, oceanside hammocks for relaxing, an indoor lounge, dry cleaning service, and a concierge desk. Your stay also includes a complimentary breakfast every morning!


26. ✦ Pose at Mile Marker 0

US Highway 1 is a 2,369 mile long interstate that connects almost every city in the East Coast. In Key West this famous highway ends and begins at Mile Marker 0 and hundreds of people (myself included!) per day stop by the Mile Marker 0 sign to commemorate being at the ‘end of the road’.

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27. ✧ Smoke a Key West Rolled Cigar at Rodrigues Cigars

Even if you’re not a regular tobacco user, you’ll want to see this important piece of Key West history up close and personal.

Cigar manufacturing has a long history in Key West, going back to 1831. The Rodriguez family immigrated to Key West from Cuba after the Cuban government nationalized their tobacco plantation and founded the Rodriguez Cigar Factory in 1984. It’s now the oldest cigar manufacturer in the Florida Keys, preserving this historic industry, They still make their cigars using traditional Cuban methods!

You can take a factory tour where you will learn more about the manufacturing process and even get to sample one of their cigars and a complimentary Cuban espresso!


28. ✧ Buy Some Made-in-Key-West Kino Sandals

Because you can never have too many shoes! These fashionable and comfortable sandals, made in a traditional Cuban style, are made only in Key West by the Lopez family. They still make them by hand from high-quality natural leather and natural rubber, just like they have since 1966.

According to their website, you should ask any Key West local “not if they own a pair of Kino’s Sandals, but how many they own!” The store offers 20 types of sandals and has expanded to include wallets, purses, and more. Their shop, Kino Plaza, is located in the heart of Old Town Key West and imitates the Cuban architecture of founder Roberto Lopez’s youth! 


29. ✦ Climb up the Key West Lighthouse

Not only is this a bucket list opportunity to climb up inside a lighthouse, but the 360 views from the tippy top of the Key West Lighthouse are incredible too. It is a great place to see the rooftops of local homes, including the Ernest Hemingway house.

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30. ✧ Tour Harry S. Truman’s Little White House

Before Camp David, there was the Little White House of Key West! While you’re in the Keys, definitely take some time to see Florida’s only Presidential Sight. The Little White House was built in 1890 to serve as naval officers’ housing and has hosted many important visitors from Thomas Edison to presidents Taft, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton.

Harry Truman, however, spent the most time in this historic house, calling it his “Winter White House.” Over the course of his 6-year administration, he spent 175 days in Key West.

Visiting the Little White House, you’ll learn more about Truman’s life, career, and presidency, as well as the history of Key West. You can also view the official trip logs of President Truman’s 11 trips to Key West and get a peek into what he was doing during his visits. If you want to learn even more history, book the Truman Little House guided tour.


31. ✧ Visit the Maritime Museum

This museum tops our list of must-see attractions! As you may have guessed, Key West’s history and culture have been deeply intertwined with the sea. Well, the mission of the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is to “research, interpret, and exhibit the maritime history of Florida and the Caribbean.

The museum is located in an old Naval Storehouse that was built in 1910. It features exhibitions on shipwrecks, piracy, and the slave trade, and is home to a conservation center where archeologists conduct ongoing research on artifacts found in the waters around Key West.


32. ✦ Take a Selfie at the Southernmost Point in the Continental USA

There is a colorful concrete buoy that marks the southernmost point in the continental USA and taking a selfie in front of it is one of the most popular things to do in all the Florida Keys. There is always a long line of people waiting for their chance to snap a photo, so either go really early in the morning or cheat a little like I did and sit on the bench a few feet in front of the buoy for your picture.

For a more in depth look into this area of Key West take the History and Culture Southernmost Walking Tour or the yummy Southernmost Food and Cultural Walking Tour.

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33. ✧ Catch an Animal Feeding at the Aquarium

This is one bucket list idea that kids and adults will love! Taking in the native sea life is one of the best things to do in Key West, but if you don’t love the idea of snorkeling or scuba diving, this is the perfect place for you!

The Key West Aquarium houses dozens of sharks, fish, sea turtles, alligators, and stingrays native to the Florida Keys! You can also take a tour and meet those predators up close. At 10 am and 4 pm, there are special presentations at the Touch Tank about the history of the museum, as well as opportunities to touch and hold many of the conch and whelk species native to Key West!


34. ✧ Walk Through the Historic Key West Cemetery

A walk through a cemetery might sound like a spooky fall activity, but it’s actually a great way to see the Key’s history in a much more personal way! The Key West City Cemetery sits on 19 acres of land. It was established in 1847 following a hurricane that unearthed the city’s former beach-side burial grounds.

Between 80,000-100,000 of Key West’s citizens are buried here, a mixture of Bahamian mariners, Cuban cigar makers, Spanish-American war veterans, and civilians of all races, classes, and creeds.

Guided tours are available every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30 am, or you can pick up a self-guided tour map at the front entrance.


35. ✧ Visit Dry Tortugas National Park

Made of 7 islands and some of the most gorgeous coral reefs you will ever see, the Dry Tortugas National Park  is a must thing to see when you head down to Key West—it’s just 70 miles west. Taking a seaplane ride there will allow you to get beautiful aerial views of the 19th-century Fort Jefferson on Garden Key; the beautiful lighthouse at Loggerhead Key as well as the Windjammer Wreck (an 1875 shipwreck) and the nesting site for many seabirds down at Bush Keys.

From snorkeling to diving, ancient sites and sunbathing, Dry Tortugas National Park is definitely bucket list worthy!


36. ✦ Stroll Duval Street

No trip to Key West would be complete without waking down the hottest road in town—Duval Street. It is  filled with hopping bars (you can even do what they call the Duval Crawl—you can only guess what that means!), souvenir shops, delicious restaurants and clothing boutiques.

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37. ✧ Kayak from Key Largo to Key West

If you have some time and are looking for a fun adventure, consider taking a multiple day kayak tour from Key Largo to Key West with Burnham Guides (they’re the ones that took me on a memorable kayak tour in the Eastern Shores of Virginia!).


38. ✧ Drink Where Hemingway Drank—Sloppy Joes

Why not have a drink in the most famous and infamous saloon in all Key West? If you’re a fan of classic American literature, you’ll also love the Hemingway connection!

Sloppy Joe’s (originally called the Blind Pig) was founded by Joe Russell and opened the day Prohibition was repealed. Ernest Hemingway was one of Russell’s first and favorite patrons and was even the one to christen it Sloppy Joe’s! They even host a Hemingway look-alike contest every year.

Sip on a rum runner with local rum, “The Original Drink of the Florida Keys,” and snack on Key West favorites like peel-and-eat shrimp and conch fritters.

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39. ✧ Chocolate covered Key Lime pie on a stick from Kermit’s.

And of course, you can’t visit the Florida Key’s without getting some Key Lime Pie! We highly recommend stopping by Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe—they’ve been serving up delicious Key Lime treats for almost 25 years! Don’t miss one of their most popular items, the Key Lime Pie bar that is hand-dipped in Belgian-style chocolate.


40. ✧ Get a Naughty Named Treat at the Better Than Sex Dessert Bar

If you’re looking for a grown-up date night on your Key West vacation, we have a recommendation that’s…well, Better Than Sex! Enjoy a selection of sinfully delicious desserts and signature drinks with naughty names like Peanut Butter Perversion or the Klimax. The speakeasy decor scheme adds to the sense of forbidden pleasure and creates a romantic ambiance. This is a cozy, intimate space so make sure to reserve ahead of time!


41. ✦ Visit the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

The magical Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is home to over 50 species of live butterflies and 20 exotic birds (even a few flamingos!). You can take a stroll through the climate controlled habitat and witness a small tropical paradise.

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42. ✧ Drink at the Key West’s first Rum Distillery

You can’t get this close to the Caribbean without drinking some rum! While in Key West, you have to try the official rum of the Conch Republic at Key West First Legal Rum Distillery. Their rums are “chef distilled,” because they consider themselves chefs first and distillers second.

These chef distillers also consider themselves trained mojito masters, and you can even take a private class with them to learn their ways! You can also pop in for a free guided tour any day of the week!

Fun fact: they were also the first Americans to run rum to Cuba.


43. ✧ Eat Key Lime Pie for Breakfast at Blue Heaven

Blue Heaven used to be an old boxing ring where Hemingway refereed, now it is known for its brunch and mile high meringue. When you are in the Florida Keys, there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating key lime pie for breakfast and this is the perfect place to do it.


44. ✧ Take a Sand Sculpting Class at Casa Marina

Looking for something truly unique to do on your Key West vacation? If you’re staying at the Casa Marina Resort, you can spend an afternoon relaxing on the beach while creating a unique piece of artwork, a professional will guide you as you transform your pile of sand into a beautiful, one of a kind creation!


45. ✧ Explore the Vandenburg Shipwreck

Speaking of shipwrecks, I doubt it gets any better than this: The Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg shipwreck can be found on the Southernmost end of the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail. It is a 10 stories high underwater adventure with the deepest end, the keel, being at a whopping 140 feet below sea surface.

Densely populated with sponges, sea fans, sea whips and an amalgamation of coral species, exploring this shipwreck is definitely a noteworthy entry into any ‘Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail’ logbook.


GETTING AROUND KEY WEST: Key Lime Bike Tours gives you a great overview, stopping at almost every highlight that you’d want to hit if you were in Key West for a day. Afterwards, use the Duvall Loop Bus that has 16 stops near most of the best attractions and it is FREE! See the map here.

Also, don’t forget to grab a Key West Vacation Pass that will get you over $1,200 of discounts during your visit!

WHERE TO STAY:  Choose The Marker Key West for a luxury stay steps from the best dining and walking distance to shopping, including Duval Street.

TOP KEY WEST TOURS:


What to Do Everywhere in the Keys


46. ✦ Dine Alfresco

The weather in the Florida Keys is almost always perfect for outdoor dining—take advantage of it! I loved dining alfresco at The Grand Cafe right on Duval Street where from their patio you can see all the action on the liveliest road in Key West.


47. ✦ Eat Key Lime Pie—everywhere!

If there is one quintessential food in the Florida Keys it’s Key Lime Pie, so you must indulge in it—everywhere! All the locals seem to have a favorite (and so do I now!). One of the most popular is at Kermit’s or Mrs Macs, but my favorite was at Chef Michaels in Islamorada.

For an even more bucket list worthy pie eating experience take the Key West 3-hour guided bicycle tour with Key Lime Pie.


48. ✦ Nosh on Conch fritters

These fried balls are made with conch meat, savory batter and seasonings. You will be hard-pressed to find a local menu that doesn’t have them on it! I had some of the best ones at Sol by the Sea in Key Largo, but a few other favorites are at Louie’s Backyard and the Conch Republic Seafood Company in Key West.

If you want even more ideas, check out The Key West Bucket List book on Amazon.

From interacting with dolphins to taking a ride on the African Queen and eating your fair share of Key Lime pie, visiting the Florida Keys & Key West is without a doubt a must thing to do. The sunsets are unbelievable, the drive down is breathtakingly romantic and the beach life is straight out of the movies.

The fact that it has so many bucket list worthy attractions and activities just makes the Florida Keys even more captivating!


 

Essential Tips for Visiting the Florida Keys Islands

Getting There: Miami International Airport is the best airport to fly to if you plan on taking a road-trip from Key Largo to Key West. From Miami, you can drive to Key Largo (which will take you about an hour), where you can begin your road-trip. You can also fly directly to Key West International Airport. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From Key West International Airport to downtown Key West, you can use a bus service, take a shuttle, a taxi, or Lyft and Uber.

Where to Stay in the Florida Keys Islands: For hotels in Key Largo, the Atlantic Bay Resort (moderate) is a great option located in Tavernier. For something on the less expensive side, try the Drift Hotel or Coconut Palm Inn. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, try Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection by Hilton. For hotels in Key West, the Avalon Bed and Breakfast (moderate) is a great choice, conveniently located on historic Duval Street. For a less expensive option, try the Caribbean House located in Downtown Key West. For a little more luxury, book a room at Oceans Edge Key West. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range. 

Getting Around: Renting a car in the Florida Keys is the best to really experience the islands and RentalCars.com has some great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options. Taxis and Lyft are available all over the Florida Keys, while Uber is mostly available only in Key West. Key West is a small city and most of the attractions can be accessed by foot, or by a Hop-On Hop-Off trolley.

Best Tours in the Florida Keys Islands: You can find some of the top tours at Get Your Guide or Viator, and here are some of the top ones:

This post was provided in a partnership with Visit Florida. All opinions my own. This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through my links, I earn a commission that helps to keep this blog running—at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.

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Christmas Bucket List: 50 Fun Holiday Activities & Festive Things to Do

https://bucketlistjourney.net/christmas-bucket-list-things-to-do-this-holiday-season/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=christmas-bucket-list-things-to-do-this-holiday-season

The holidays always seem to arrive way too quickly, and usually by the time I even think about decorating with boughs of holly it has turned into ‘oh crap’ I forgot to buy Aunt Mary her annual set of dish towels and then also frantically calling the local bakery for my contribution to the cookie exchange. Ugh!

How about this year all of us overworked, frazzled procrastinators have a fun plan to keep us on track? A Christmas Bucket List filled with fun things to do can be that plan. Start this holiday bucket list in early December and it will not only keep you on a better schedule for the season, but the activities will also get you in the spirit of Christmas.

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1. ✧ Mail a Letter to Santa

Get some fancy paper and sparkly pens to write a letter to Santa. His mailing address is hard to forget: Santa, North Pole. If you actually want a response from Saint Nicholas, here’s some instructions from USPS on how to properly write and receive a letter from Santa.


2. ✦ Attend a Tree Lighting Ceremony

Many cities or landmarks will have a ceremony honoring the lighting of their tree. It’s a night where crowds of people load up on hot cocoa, dress in their warmest attire and gather around the tree waiting for the flip of the switch.


3. ✧ Get Your Picture with Santa

Whether you have a child or are a child at heart (like me!), go to the local mall and get a cute snap of you with good ole Saint Nic. If you don’t want the typical holiday photo, check out these funny ideas: 30 Times People Put A Funny Twist On Pics With Santa In Malls.


4. ✧ Go to a Local Christmas Festival

Whether is be a festival of trees, parade of lights or a welcoming of Santa coming to town, attend a local festival in your city. My town has a wonderful silent auction event where local business owners decorate and donate a tree for a good cause. Then the city people can come and drink hot cider while perusing the dozens of trees (and hopefully outbidding each other!).


5. ✦ Leave Cookies for Santa Claus

Last, but not least for your Christmas bucket list, on December 24th leave cookies for Santa Claus…even if you don’t believe in him anymore. You can eat them in the morning!

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6. ✦ Chop Down Your Own Christmas Tree

Although in the recent years it has become more common to replace a traditional Christmas tree with the plastic kind, nothing beats the Christmassy feeling and scent of having a real, lush tree in your living room for the season. Sure, you can always go shopping for one, but an actual festive holiday dream come true would be to chop your own perfect tree! As the US alone has over 15,000 tree farms to choose from, you’re bound to find a great one. Plus, at most places there are other Christmas activities for kids and families to enjoy. 


7. ✦ Make a Homemade Gift

There is always something special about giving and receiving a homemade gift (it’s a fun thing to do in any season!). It could be a glass frame with pressed wild flowers or pretty smelling soap or infused vodka—the possibilities are endless! I’m really loving these flavored salts with these cute glass jars.

Stuck for ideas? Here are dozens of cool DIY Christmassy things to do for gifts:


8. ✧ Connect With an Out of Town Friend

The holiday season is the perfect time catch up with an old friend that you haven’t connected with in a while. So, give them a quick call or text and set up a time to get together.


9. ✧ Make a Garland for the Tree

Once you’ve chopped your chosen tree, how about trying your hand at making a festive garland to wrap around it? The Internet is full of directions for how to make a garland as well as ideas for what kind of garland to make. Everything from candy cane garlands to delightfully smelling ones made with dried citrus.  I’m loving the cute Anthropoligie inspired Pom-pom Garland.


10. ✦ Make an Ornament

Put on your creative activity hat for this Christmas bucket list idea and make your own holiday ornaments for your tree or someone elses. Most craft stores carry clear bulbs (or you can buy them here) that can be filled with an array of festive things or get even more crafty with these 30 DIY Christmas ornaments. If you are not so crafty, StayGlam has got you covered with their easy DIY ornaments.

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11. ✦ Create Handmade Christmas Cards

With a collection of papers, ribbons, glue and some decorative pieces you can create some pretty festive Christmas cards that will WOW your family and friends. Country Living has some super cute DIY card ideas (the mini wreath cards are my favorite!).


12. ✧ Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire

One of my favorite things to do while in Zurich in the winter was hitting up the roasted chestnut stands scattered along the streets. It made me want to start the tradition of making them at home for the holidays. So why not buy yourself a chestnut roaster and follow this How To Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire article.


13. ✧ Make a Christmas Tune Playlist

Christmas music has come a long way over the years—it seems like every major artist has a song or album. Use spotify to create your perfect playlist!

Having a hard time thinking of songs? Esquire has made it easy with the 30 Best Christmas Songs of All Time.


14. ✦ Make Paper Snowflakes

Making paper snowflakes is one of those activities for the whole family. You can make some to hang on the tree, decorate presents with others and even stick a few on the windows of your home for the neighbors to see. If you’ve never made one before, here’s an easy Snowflake How-to.


15. ✦ Sip on Hot Chocolate by the Fire

There’s nothing quite like sipping some hot cocoa while watching a fire blazing. It’s the perfect way to write your Christmas list! You can make yourself a simple Old-Fashioned Hot Chocolate or spruce it up by whipping up a Red Velvet Hot Chocolate. You can keep your cocoa warm all day in Yeti’s insulated mug or use one of buck & co’s signature bucket list mugs (they make great gifts too!).

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16. ✦ Donate a Toy

Christmas is all about giving, and giving a gift to a child in need is one of the most rewarding things to do this holiday—a heartwarming addition to your Christmas bucket list! Each year I typically collect toys at my Italian restaurant to donate to Toys for Tots, but there are many other places in need too. Try your local homeless shelter, children’s hospital or fire department. Plus, many shops and businesses will have Christmas Angel trees, where the ornaments hung are wishes from kids in need.

Don’t know what the hottest toys are this season? Here’s Amazon’s list of the Top 100 Toys.


17. ✧ Volunteer

During the holiday season there are always people in need of some extra Christmas cheer. Spread some joy by helping in some way. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen or bring joy to a children’s hospital. Pick a cause close to your heart and spend the day giving. Find opportunities near you on the United Way or Volunteer Match website.


 

18. ✦ Go Ice Skating

During the Christmas season, outdoor ice skating rinks start popping up—even in places that have no snow! Put on a pair of blades and glide around the rink. Follow it up with a cup of hot cocoa or apple cider.


19. ✦ Watch a Holiday Movie Favorite

Slip into your comfiest pjs (you know, that fuzzy onesie with the feet), make some popcorn and watch a holiday movie that will get you into the spirit. You can even go one step further and make it a movie marathon. Some of my favorites are:

  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Elf
  • A Christmas Story
  • Miracle on 34th Street

20. ✦ Make a Wreath for Your Front Door

Give your guests a warm welcome by placing a beautiful crafted wreath on your front door. You can choose one of the 65 DIY Christmas Wreaths from Country Living (I adore this Birch-Bark Leaf one!).

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21. ✧ Hide or Find the Elf on a Shelf

At the beginning of the holiday season, this cute elf is placed all around the home acting as Santa’s eyes and ears, making sure all the children are behaving. Each night after the children have gone to bed he goes back to the North Pole to report to Santa. He returns to the home in the morning, but always to a different location. If you have kids (or even want to play along with your housemate), it’s fun to hide and find him. It’s one of those activities for all ages!

Make sure to get yours well in advance! You can order Elf on a Shelf here.


22. ✦ Hang Stockings

Stockings are such an excellent, and essential, Christmas decoration! Usually they create a cozy atmosphere with their cute appearance, and in addition they’re a wonderful spot to hide those tiny Christmas presents in. Esty has some of the cutest ones on the internet, but if you have never tried making your own stocking, this could be the year to get crafty with it. Here you can find some ideas for DIY Christmas stockings – there’s several in there I’d love to make myself, like the chunky knit or sweater stocking ones!


23. ✦ Attend Midnight Christmas Eve Service at Church

Officially referred to as ‘Midnight Mass’, the service held on Christmas Eve, starting approximately an hour before midnight, is seen as a tradition among Christians. It is held and celebrated as a form of dedicating the holiday season to God. Even if you aren’t religious, it can be a beautiful way to add some holiday spirit into your celebrations, and some of your family members might find it to be surprisingly meaningful to attend, including yourself. After all, it is a season of peace and love.


24. ✧ Go Christmas Caroling

Get a group of friends together, practice some Christmas carols (Rudolph the red now reindeer is one of my favorites!) and then walk around the neighborhood spreading the spirit through song.

Don’t know what to sing? Here at some top Christmas carols with the lyrics.


25. ✦ See the Nutcracker Ballet

Whether it’s just on a small local stage or a big city production, a quintessential thing to do during the holidays is to escape into a dreamland with the exquisite ballet performance of the Nutcracker. This classic Christmas story is centered around a young girl’s Christmas Eve celebration and is a must thing to do at least once in your lifetime!

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26. ✧ Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is the classic poem that should have a place in every Christmas lovers home. You can get your own copy here.


27. ✦ Build a Snowman or Make a Snowman Angel

Escape to a winter wonderland to make a snow angel or build a good old fashioned Frosty. Have fun plopping yourself right into the snow, waving your arms and legs to create the perfect angel or stacking big balls on top of each other for a jolly snowman (don’t forget the carrot nose, hat and stick arms!). Bucket list bonus if you do both!

For help read The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Snowman and just for fun here’s 31 Epic Snowman Designs. For a super easy option just buy a kit.


28. ✦ Get Dressed Up and Attend a Holiday Party

Christmas isn’t only the time of the year to get jolly, it’s the time of year when there are holiday parties everywhere! Your company will most likely arrange one, but you can also find excellent ones at some restaurants, bars and clubs, as well as ones hosted by a variety of Meetup groups. The best part is that some parties will involve dressing up to your finest digs, while other parties will follow the “ugly Christmas sweater” route.


29. ✧ Donate Your Unused Mittens and Jackets

Baby it’s cold outside! And there are some unfortunate people who need a warm jacket or a pair of cozy gloves to get them through the frigid winter season. Take up a collection from friends, family and neighbors and then bring them to the local homeless shelter.


30. ✦ Spend an Evening Wrapping Presents

Wrapping presents is one of my favorite holiday activities! I save all the gifts until just a few days before Xmas then spend the night listening to holiday music and covering them all in pretty paper. Here are 39 Gift Wrapping Ideas to get your creative juices flowing—my favorite is the Reindeer Thumbprint Paper!

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31. ✧ Build a Gingerbread House

There nothing that says Christmas quite like the house filled with the smell of gingerbread and a table ready for home construction. Try this recipe or for something way easier, just buy a gingerbread house kit.

Read more: 60 or the Best Gingerbread House Ideas


 

32. ✧ Make an Advent Calendar

An advent calendar is used to count the days until Christmas. The typical ones are filled with chocolate and hanging out at the grocery store checkout line (like this one). But, with a little creativity you can create your own using matchboxes, clothespins or just about anything else you can possibly think of!

Need Ideas? See Buzzfeed’s 33 Clever And Adorable DIY Advent Calendars and Apartment Therapy’s 35 DIY Advent Calendars to Make Now So You’re Ready for December


33. ✦ Drink Eggnog

Drinking eggnog is quite a tradition during the holiday season, so why not partake for your Christmas bucket list? Typically the drink is made with sugar, milk, cream, whipped eggs, spices and a touch of alcohol (though the ones you buy at the grocery store might be sans the liquor—insert sad face).

If you want to make your own, try this recipe by Alton Brown. Not a huge eggnog fan? How about just adding a little eggnog flavor to your coffee with this eggnog Torani syrup.


34. ✦ Do a Random Act of Kindness

Random acts of kindness are some of the most fulfilling and sweetest things you could ever do, especially when it is done for a complete stranger. Donate food, pay the bridge tool for the person behind you or feed someone’s parking meter—the possibilities are endless. If you have trouble thinking of ideas, read my post for plenty of options: 75 Random Acts of Kindness Ideas: Examples of Kind Things to Do.


35. ✦ Spend the Day Baking Christmas Cookies

Who doesn’t like a home filled with the smells of fresh-baked cookies? It doesn’t matter whether it’s snickerdoodles, crinkles or simple sugar cookies, spend an entire day just baking. Afterwards, you can even organize a cookie exchange with friends and family.

For some delicious cookie ideas see the 36 of the Best Christmas Cookie Recipes. Don’t forget the cookie sheets! The Rachael Ray Yum-o! Nonstick Pans are amazing, or at least get yourself some silicone baking mats that make the process so much easier!

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36. ✦ Take a Family Christmas Photo

One of the more standard Christmas activities, but totally a fun one, is to take a Chirstmassy photo together with the whole family. It will make for such sweet memories in the future. You might even be inclined to make it a yearly tradition to have multiple photo memories to reminisce and compare over. To make it really memorable, get everyone dressed up, maybe according to a theme or in ugly Christmas sweaters, and take a fun portrait! You can then use a company like Shutterfly to turn your photo into a cute holiday card.


37. ✦ Look at the Holiday Lights in your Neighborhood

Fill your thermos with hot chocolate, load up the car with your family and give your eyes a special holiday treat by driving through the neighborhoods in search of the best light display. Check with your city, many of them make holiday light maps for you to follow.


38. ✦ Wear a Santa Hat in Public

The shops are full of Santa hats for purchase, so why not buy one for yourself, too? Then wear it in public to show the world just how high in Christmas spirits you are. Don’t worry about people gazing at you, they’ll just be jealous they didn’t think of it first!


39. ✧ Organize a Secret Santa Gift Exchange

Looking for an easy and fun way to exchange gifts with family, friends and coworkers? The a Secret Santa Gift Exchange is the answer. One of my favorite secret Santa gifts are these “If you can read this, bring me some wine” socks (they also have ones for chocolate and coffee!). You can you can buy them here.

Christmas Bucket List: 45 Fun Holiday Activities & Spirited Things to Do


 

40. ✦ Make Your Christmas List

Since we were little kids, there’s always been something we have wanted to receive as a Christmas present. And that doesn’t need to change just because we’re adults! Maybe we don’t have to take it as seriously now as we did when we were 7, but sitting down to write down a wish list for Christmas is a fun and a simple way to get into the holiday mood. Your wish list doesn’t have to be given to someone else, it can be a list of things you want to gift yourself. 


41. ✧ Make and Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater

You may not be considered a diehard Xmas fan until you have sported an ugly Christmas sweater! There are plenty of places online to buy one, but it’d be so much more fun to make your own personalized sweater. Need help? These 51 Ugly Sweater Ideas will definitely be inspiration.


42. ✦ Have a Snowball Fight

With so much fresh snow outside can you restrict yourself to the indoors. Get outside for a good old fashioned snowball fight! Invite some friends, make teams and let’s see who wins the war of snow.

Don’t get out there unarmed, learn How to Make the Perfect Snowball first!


 

43. ✦ Start a New Tradition

With so much joy, Christmas is the perfect time to start a new tradition that will live on in years to come. It can be anything from a special dish you cook every holiday season to volunteering at the local shelter to Christmas caroling. Anything goes! Every year I decorate and donate a tiny tree—it immediately gets me in the holiday spirit.

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44. ✧ Send Soldiers Holiday Cards

Perhaps you personally know someone in the military or maybe you simply want to show your gratitude to those in active service. In either case, sending soldiers some holiday cards is such a beautiful and heartwarming act to do. Especially if you have children you could make and send the holiday cards with, it can be an excellent lesson for them on being grateful. After all, those soldiers will sadly not be able to make it home in time for the holidays, and so deserve to have some extra holiday love sent their way.


45. ✧ Make Salt Dough Ornaments

Making salt dough ornaments is a fun way to get crafty over the holidays, especially if you’ve got kids. The dough itself is easy to make – here’s a recipe for it – and you can let your creative juices freely flow when you use it to create the ornaments. And beyond just making for great decorations around the house and the Christmas tree, it can make for some excellent holiday gifts for your kids to give out to the relatives. You need some cookie cutters for this activity, and Wilton makes a great set of 18 Christmas cookie cutters that’ll have everything you need.


46. ✧ Have a Christmas Craft Day with Your Kids

There are plenty of ideas on this list for crafts that you could do with your kids, and one great idea would be take take all of them and have the ultimate Christmas craft day with your kids! Here are a ton more crafting ideas that you could also enjoy making on that day. Whichever crafts you or your kids choose would be best for you to make, having a family day like this will be fun and memorable.


47. ✦ Hold a Cookie Swap

A cookie swap is just like a potluck, but with people bringing home baked cookies instead of a variety of other dishes. This year, consider hosting your own cookie swap! You can assign your guests with specific type of cookies or cookie categories… or you can just let them choose whatever they feel the most comfortable baking.


48. ✦ Eat a Candy Cane

With a long lasting Christmas tradition, a candy cane is THE sweet treat to have over the holidays. And since during Christmas is absolutely okay to feast up and eat yourself silly, go on and have all the candy canes you can stomach to have until you hit that sugar high. Here you can check out the top candy cane brands at the moment, but also there’s a bunch of different product’s that have the candy cane flavor, like Hershey’s Kisses and Mentos mints.

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49. ✦ Visit One of the Best Christmassy Towns

Christmas is one of those great holidays that you can also see take over some towns and cities, turning them into beautiful lighting spectacles full of holiday atmosphere. Not only that, but they typically have some awesome Christmas markets to shop in! In USA, some of the best Christmassy towns are Frankenmuth in Michigan (with Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store), Santa Claus in Indiana (the name says it all), Williamsburg in Virginia (home to the amusement park called Christmas Town), Bernsville in Pennsylvania (thanks to Koziar’s Christmas Village), Durango in Colorado, Red Wing in Minnesota (if you want to attend their Holiday Stroll), and of course New York City.


50. ✦ Take a Christmas Market Cruise Through Europe

This should be at the top of every Christmas lover’s top bucket list as far as travel activities go. It may be something you only get to do once, but it will be absolutely epic and full of memories you’ll never forget about. There are several different options for river cruises that have shopping stops in various towns in Germany and Austria, plus Switzerland and Hungary’s Budapest. I did an amazing Viking River Christmas Market Cruise along the Rhine with stops in France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. 


51. ✦ Kiss Someone Under the Mistletoe

The holiday season can also be the time for romance. Set up mistletoe in your home and lead your heart’s beloved under it to gain the great excuse of kissing them. An especially neat trick for those of us who maybe have someone in our sights but haven’t gotten to the part of confessing to them yet. Mistletoes can also be a DIY project for you or maybe you’ll find the perfect one at one of the holiday parties you attend.

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