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5 Cheap Key West Attractions (Totally Worth It!)

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Key West Lighthouse

 

Cheap Key West Attractions

The price of Key West attractions ranges from fairly cheap to quite expensive and some are a better value than others.

With so many options, I know it is hard to choose!

I travel to Key West every year, for over 20 years now, and I make it a point to visit several Key West attractions during my vacation. 

If you’re watching your dollars (who isn’t?) then I recommend checking out these Key West attractions which are totally worth the money.

 
 

1. Key West Lighthouse & Museum

If you’ve walked by the Lighthouse without stopping, you’ve missed out on a real Key West historical treasure.

This is the 15th oldest lighthouse still standing in the U.S. and once was integral to the shipping trade.

Even if you’re not much of a history buff, the climb to the top of the Lighthouse is worth it for the spectacular 360 degree views of the island.

 
 

Key West Lighthouse Steps

 
 

The grounds are well kept and give you a little glimpse into the old Key West.

The Inn Keeper’s museum wasn’t anything to write home about, but a few of the artifacts were interesting. I enjoyed getting a closer look at several lighthouse glass lamps and looking at pictures from the old days.

You can read about the woman who took over the duties of the lighthouse when her husband passed away. She tended the lighthouse for 3 decades until she was in her 80’s. She must have been a spectacular woman!

 
 

The Key West Lighthouse

 
 

The best reason to visit the Key West Lighthouse is for the birds-eye view of the island that extends in every direction.

Key West looks different from this perspective.

It’s spectacular to look out over the island to the ocean waters. Choose a clear day and you’ll marvel at the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and all the landmarks in between.

 
 

View from Key West Lighthouse of Cruise Ships in the distance.

 
 

Of course, if you’re arriving by cruise ship you can get quite the birds-eye view from the upper decks of your ship too.

Things to Know:

Cost: $12
Discounts: Seniors 62+ $9, Kids age 6 and up $5, Kids under age 6 Free, Students with ID $5
Time: Expect to spend about 1 hour
Hours:  9:30 am to 4:30 pm daily
Address:  938 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida 33040
Website:  KWAHS

 
 

2. Key West Butterfly House

You don’t exactly think of butterflies when planning a vacation in Key West, yet the Butterfly House should be on your “to-do” list.

I’ve enjoyed this attraction 3 different times, and I’m set on doing it again this year.

Located near the end of Duval Street on the Southernmost side of the island, there’s decent parking typically within a block or two.

You’ll enter into the gift shop, which is amazing – but save this for after your visit to the conservatory.

Once inside, the New Age music immediately transforms your mood to match this little tropical oasis. A winding path guides you through the glass enclosed conservatory where you’ll see hundreds of butterflies of all different kinds.

 
 

Butterflies feeding on fresh cut fruit

 
 

Decorative plates on pedestals are set out along the path for butterfly feeding stations. The colorful fruit slices and resting butterflies make for great pictures.

A little stream runs through the gardens and we spotted a few turtles, brightly colored Koi fish (even a blue one!) and odd little frogs.

Rest on one of the benches and watch all the action flying around. Not only are there butterflies, but several bird species and two friendly flamingos are also living in the conservatory too.

 
 

 
 

There’s also a cute gazebo area, perfect for a picture-taking spot to capture your visit.

It’s tranquil sitting here and a great place to hang out and let the flamingos and butterflies come to you.

The bright blue butterflies are the star of the butterflies and will light on the tropical flowers or on the wood railings near you.

 
 

 
 

Expect several butterflies to land on you, your backpack, purse or hat during your visit.

As you exit, you’ll enter a small room between the conservatory and the gift shop. Lined with mirrors on the wall, the sign asks for you to stop and look for “hitchhiking butterflies”.

Next, explore the gift shop for butterfly themed keepsakes. The butterfly display cases are interesting to peruse just to learn the names of the different species and see how big some of them are!

Things to Know:

Cost: $15  – Get a $1 off coupon in the free tourist magazines all over Key West – grab one!
Discounts:  Military and Seniors 65+ $12, Kids age 4-12 $11.
Time:  Expect to spend about 1 hour
Hours:
  9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily
Address:  1316 Duval Street, Key West, Florida 33040
Website:  Key West Butterfly House

 
 

3. Key West Custom House Museum

What once served as the Customs House for incoming ships is now a bit of an eclectic museum that is intriguing to browse.

Located near Mallory Square on Front Street. The first floor includes a revolving art gallery to one side and the other is a display of statues representing iconic figures from the past by artist Sewerd Johnson.

 
 

During one of my visits, we were able to pose with a statue of Marilyn Monroe in the famous skirt blowing scene and made stoic faces for pictures with a statue of the couple from American Gothic.

On the opposite side of the first floor, be surprised by the current artist exhibit. I’m sure it will be, eclectic!

The second floor is dedicated to historical figures and events of Key West. The Hemingway display is wonderful and lets you glimpse into his personal life in Key West.

A display of Key West characters by the painter, Paul Collins is very interesting. I love this painting of Eleanor Walsh, who opened the Key West Cigar Factory. Her story is fascinating.

 
 

Key West Customs House Museum

Paul Collins Painting of Key West Cigar Factory Owner, Eleanor Walsh

 
 

The works of another artist, Mario Sanchez, capture the spirit of the island. Born in Key West in 1908, he became a full-time artist in 1970 depicting life in Key West with a folk artist style. He died at the age of 96, living his entire life in Key West. If you enjoy his whimsical folk style, lithographs are for sale in the museum gift shop.

One exhibit I truly studied is this map of old Key West and the famous fire that began on April 1st, 1886.

First, it’s just intriguing to see how built up Key West was over 100 years ago! The drawing of a bustling harbor is a reminder of the shipping trade that once thrived here.

 
 

Map of Key West Fire at Customs House Museum

 
 

Then in my mind, I began comparing the map to current day Key West. It’s amazing how this very small spit of land has rejuvenated over and over again to become what it is today. An incredible evolution to say the least.

The permanent display recounting the history of Henry Flagler and his vision to connect Key West to the mainland with a train is intriguing. The exhibit takes you from inception to the building of the railroad, the arrival of the first train and the hurricane of 1935.

A portion of the exhibits are always changing, so expect a different experience every time you visit. Certainly, the permanent displays about the history of Key West and the quirky characters of the past are interesting.

Things to Know:

Cost: $12
Discounts: Seniors 62+ $12,  Kids age 6+ $, Kids age 5 and under Free
Time: Expect to spend about 1.5 hours
Hours:  9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily
Address:  281 Front Street, Key West, Florida 33040
Website: Customs House Museum

 
 

4. Hemingway House

I’ve toured the Hemingway house previously, but I visited again last year and found more facets of this historic home fascinating.

It’s a beautiful sanctuary of shady grounds behind a tall brick fence, which is quite different from the vibe walking down the streets of Key West.

Upon entering, the grounds give off a calming vibe. A few chairs and benches are dotted around to relax before your tour begins. Here you can sit and just imagine Ernest Hemingway and the cast of characters that must have walked through the door.

 
 

Hemingway-home-key-west

The first in ground pool in Key West.

 
 

You can take a guided tour of the home, which I highly recommend, or tour the home on your own. You will likely encounter visitors from across the globe and they do offer tours in several languages.

The tour guides share all kinds of unique stories and history about the house, the life of Ernest Hemingway in Key West, as well as his three wives.

Off the guided tour is a self-peek into Hemingway’s separate writing studio, atop the garage area.

Hemingway wrote for more than ten years in Key West and wove the characters he met on the island into his novels.

 
 

 
 

Check out the gift shop on your way out, where you can buy all kinds of items a la Hemingway, and all things six-toed cats.

Have you heard about the unusual cats with six toes? A ship’s captain gave Hemingway a cat with six toes on its front paws as a gift and the feline reproduced. Now, the majority of cats on the property are related to the original six-toed kitty.

 
 

Hemingway-home-key-west-six-toed-cat

A tour guide holds up one of the famous 6 toed cats.

 
 

Don’t skip the cat cemetery behind the home. Each grave marker is actually flagstone with the late kitties’ names inscribed. All the names are celebrities: look for Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, etc.

If you love felines, the kitties are worth the price of admission.

The tour of this legendary American writer’s home is unique and well worth the price just to imagine Ernest Hemingway’s life in paradise.

Things to Know:

Cost: $15 Cash ONLY
Discounts: Kids age 6-12 $6, Free for Kids Under 5 years old.
Time: Expect to spend about 1-2 hours
Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily, 365 days a year. Mid-day tours can be crowded. Best to go early.
Address: 907 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida 33040
Website:
Hemingway House

 
 

5. Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center is great for kids and adults. Here you’ll learn all about the ecosystem unique to the Florida Keys.

For ocean and animal lovers, this is one of the more fascinating and informative Key West attractions and it’s FREE!

The kids will love looking in at the fish and living corals in the 2500 gallon tank that represents the Florida Keys ecosystem. Along with a variety of interactive displays with info about shipwrecks, climate changes, mangroves and the flora/fauna represented in the Keys.

 
 

Parent with Child looking at fish in aquarium at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

 
 

Kids will also enjoy the mock-up of the Aquarius underwater ocean laboratory. This submarine-like structure shows how research scientists live beneath the ocean.

There’s a large topographical map showing the location of various shipwrecks and coral reefs located throughout the island chain.

I highly recommend watching the engaging 20-minute movie about the local ecosystem. It’s offered every half hour and well worth viewing.

Don’t miss the lionfish aquarium display. These fish are gorgeous but unfortunately, they are an invasive species to the local ecosystem.

 
 

Lion Fish in Aquarium at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in Key West

 
 

And, remember this is a free educational resource and isn’t an overly elaborate attraction. The exhibits are well done, the information is excellent and the interactive activities are interesting enough for kids to spend an hour checking it all out.

Touring the Eco-Discover Center is also a nice break from the Key West heat, especially if you’re there during the summer months.

Things to Know:

Cost: FREE and plenty of FREE Parking
Time: Expect to spend about 1-1.5 hours
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (Closed Monday) 9am – 4pm
Address: 35 East Quay Road, Key West, FL 33040 (Located inside the Truman Annex complex)
Website: Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

I hope you’ll have the chance to explore one or all of these totally worth it affordable Key West attractions!

 

More Information About Vacationing In Key West:

Top 5 Places for Shopping in Key West
Best Beaches in Key West (Truly Worth Visiting)
Best Shopping in Key West
Key West Cemetery Self Guided Tour
Best Key West Happy Hours
Best Lunch in Key West and it’s On The Beach!
Top 5 Places to See a Key West Sunset (Better Than Mallory Square)
Best Place for Breakfast in Key West

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Ariel View of Key West and Cruise Ship

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