7 Reasons Florida is the Best

Like 20 million people, we are very lucky to call Florida home. And while Florida can be the punchline of many jokes (hello #Floridaman), we can’t help but be grateful to live in such wonderful place. Key West is our home city and Florida is our home state. All of our products are made not just in the USA, but in Florida, and not many people can say that. We’re proud of our home state and wanted to share with you 7 reason why Florida is the best!

  1. Every day is a beach day – We have some of the best weather in Florida. It’s always sunny and the temperature rarely drops below 70 degrees. Yes, sometimes the weathers can be a little hot but we wouldn’t trade it for anything
  2. You will never be bored – There are so many great things to do in Florida. It doesn’t matter where you are in the state, you can find something that will interest you. Do you like theme parks? Than Orlando is your city. Into beaches? We have 1,197 miles of coastline and, according to TripAdvisor seven of the top 10  beaches are located in Florida. Prefer less traveled swimming holes? There are many natural springs across the state you can dive into. No money, no problem – Florida offers tons of free events for you to enjoy outside.
  3. Publix – To a non-Floridan Publix looks like someone misspelled public. To a Floridian, Publix is the holy grail of grocery stores. The best cakes come from Publix, the best lemonade comes from Publix and don’t even get us started on Pub Subs.
  4. Delicious Food – Speaking of Pub Subs, Florida has the best food. Many fruits and vegetables are grown in Florida and the seafood is as fresh as it could be. Fun fact, Florida provides about 70% of the US’s oranges. In Florida, you can find fresh strawberries February – April, blueberries in April & May and tomatoes almost all year long.
  5. Rich History – If you’re looking for more historical substance then St. Augustine is where you’ll find it. As a child, our schools would bus us to the oldest city in the states to learn how the settlers lived and if we were lucky, we also got a glimpse of the Fountain of Youth. As an adult, there is still something magical about going back to this historical site.
  6. Sports Go Sports! – You can view almost any major sporting event in Florida. We have football, baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, NASCAR and even hockey. Nothing beats tailgating at one of your favorite sports and in Florida, you can actually do this – all year long.
  7. Key West – If none of the above reason convinced you of how awesome Florida is, then this last reason should. Key West is a unique island with a little something for everyone. Our home is rich in history stretching back to pre-colonial times. We have amazing festivals like Fantasy Fest and Brewfest,  shared our island with famous writers and presidents, have some of the best bars and food. If you could only visit one city in Florida, we would always recommend Key West.

We could write you a whole book about how Florida is the Best, but we didn’t want to take up your entire day. Did we miss your favorite reason Florida rocks? If so, leave a comment below or on Facebook or Instagram telling us why Florida in your favorite state.

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The Conch Republic

Photo Credit: The Conch Republic Facebook

Conch (kongk): any variety of large, spiral-shaped mollusks; the shell of which is used especially in cameos. When capitalized, Conch: a native or resident of the Florida Keys.

Drive past the Last Chance Saloon on US 1 in Florida City, and you’ve just entered a new country. Well, sort of. That country is the Northernmost Territories of The Conch Republic. Don’t worry. You don’t have to show your passport, but that wasn’t always the case.

For some strange reason, back in 1982, the U.S. federal government border patrol had deemed it altogether fitting and proper to establish a border-type roadblock 100 miles within U.S. territory to check for illegal immigrants, drug smuggling, and heaven knows what else. Nearly every car was stopped and searched, resulting in a 17-mile-long traffic jam on the only road connecting the Keys to mainland Florida. Getting to and from the Keys became one giant hassle, and tourism to the area plummeted. Not to mention residents of the Keys were made to feel like outcasts or criminals, having to show passports to travel within their own state.

Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow headed a three-man delegation to federal court in Miami, asking for an end to the blockade. After thoughtful deliberation to consider all the legalities, the court told Mayor Wardlow, “No.” Faced with a government not willing to give equal rights to all, Wardlow announced to the growing number of television and newspaper media gathering outside the courtroom, “Tomorrow at noon the Florida Keys will secede from the Union.”

Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/AP photo

At noon the following day, in a one-page proclamation of secession read at Mallory Square, he spoke simply for all his fellow Conchs, stating, “That’s our flag. It has a conch on it. We secede from the United States.” And, with that, the new Prime Minister of the Conch Republic declared war on the United States, demonstrated by breaking stale Cuban bread over a man dressed in a Naval uniform. After one full minute of “war, “Prime Minister Wardlow surrendered to the U.S. Forces (to the same guy in the Naval uniform, actually) and demanded millions of dollars in postwar foreign aid. While the government immediately took down the roadblock, Conchs are still waiting for the aid.

And thus, the quirky Conch Republic was born, April 23, 1982. Wardlow was quoted in a statement to a member of the Foreign Ministry as saying, “It is our function as the Conch Republic to be the Joker in the deck. You may not always want to play with us, but we must be there, otherwise, you’re not playing with a full deck.” For over 36 years, this Conch micronation has governed with humor, warmth, and respect in a world in sore need of all three.

Every year since then, we Conchs have come together for an annual celebration of our independence. This year, the 10-day celebration will take place from Friday, April 20th to Monday, April 30th and shine a light on everything that makes Key West fun and unique.

Where were you on April 23, 1982? If any of you were lucky enough to be in Key West to witness the unfolding of this historic event that would travel around the world at warp speed in a pre-internet age, we would love to hear your story! Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Instagram! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get more tips and tricks.

Happy Birthday to us!

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Key West Happenings: April 2018

April is right around the corner, how’s your social calendar looking? Fill it up with these fun events happening in Key West next month.

Conch Tour Train. Photo: Key West Aloe

Conch Tour Train: Locals Ride For Free; All Month

All Monroe County residents can experience the magic of Old Town Key West on the Old Town Trolley Tour — For Free! Get all of the important details here. 

Mote’s 8th Annual Ocean Fest: A Community Celebration; April 14th

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is hosting the 8th annual Ocean Fest at NOAA’s Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. The Ocean Fest is a place for the underwater enthusiast, eco-travelers, and families to celebrate the marine environment. This family-friendly event will include art activities, a children’s fishing clinic, live music and a silent auction. Visit Mote’s website for full details. 

23rd Annual Taste of Key West; April 16

Food tastes better in Key West. If you don’t believe us, come to the Taste of Key West on April 16th to experience the best food the island has to offer. The open-air event will have everything you can think of from Caribbean flavors to European delicacies. General admission is free and advance ticket packages can be purchased online

36th Annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration; April 20th – 29th

On April 23rd, 1982, Key West seceded from the US to protect a Border Patrol Blockade. 36 years later, we hold a 10-day long birthday party to celebrate our independent and eccentric spirit. Check out the full schedule on the Conch Republic website.

First Day of National Park Week: Free Admission to Dry Tortugas National Park’ April 21st

Don’t pass up this chance to see the Dry Tortugas National Park for Free. Make sure to plan your visit. The remote location and limited transportation options can make getting to the park a little tricky. 

Key West Paddle Classic; April 28th

Do you have the stamina and skills to complete a 12-mile race? If so, the Key West Paddle Classic hosted by Lazy Dog Key West is the event for you. If you’re not ready to compete, you can still stop by and enjoy the fun.

You can find more events on the Monroe County Tourist Development Council Event Calendar.

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Best Places for Key Lime Pie in Key West

Key Lime Pie, Photo: Ralph Daily, Flickr

No trip to Key West is complete without at least one slice of key lime pie. It doesn’t matter how you like it, whether it’s a classic slice, topped with fluffy meringue or dipped in sweet chocolate and served on a stick, you won’t find a better slice of key lime pie anywhere else.

[breif history of key limes and pie]

Lucky for us, there are many great places to satisfy your craving for this sweet & tart dessert on the island. We took an informal poll on our Facebook and rounded up what we consider the best places for key lime pie in Key West.

Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe

Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. Photo: Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe

“Kermit’s for the win!” – Nadine

A fan-favorite, Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe sells almost everything you could think of that has key lime in it. Cookies, salsa, chutney, taffy, jelly beans, tea, olive oil, spices and so much more. But the piece de resistance is their Key Lime Pie.

Key West Key Lime Pie Company

Key West Key Lime Pie Co. Photo: Key West Key Lime Pie Co., Facebook

“I like the sweetness of the Key Lime Pie Company’s pie.” – Ashley

The Key Lime Pie company has been around since 2006, hand-making a 100-year-old recipe using real key lime juice and a fresh graham cracker crust. At their location, they sell pie in a few different styles, candy from Sweet Pete’s Candy and even host classes!

Blue Heaven

Key Lime Pie at Blue Heaven, Photo: Blue Heaven, Facebook

“Blue Heaven! Love the meringue topping! ” – Faith

Blue Heaven is a sit-down restaurant where you can eat some good food, listen to great live music and even take a quick shower. What sets the Blue Heaven’s pie apart from the above locations is the sweet meringue on top of each slice.

If you still can’t take our word or the word of our fans’ at face value, come down for yourself and try the pie at The Key Lime Festival this summer. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

Did your favorite spot make the list? If not, tell us in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more skin care tips & tricks.

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Key West Happenings: January 2018

The fun never stops in Key West. From eating your weight in seafood to running it all off a day later there is an event for every type. Don’t miss these popular festivities in Key West this January.

36th Annual Key West Literary Seminar; January 11th – 14th, 2018

Key West Literary Seminar. Photos: Unsplash

Join the Key West Literary Seminar as they examine important works of literature that have emerged from the island nations of the Caribbean. Speakers include Naomi Jackson, Jamaica Kincaid and Robert Antoni.

13th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival; January 13th – 14th, 2018

Photo: 13th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival

Come experience some of the best seafood you’ll ever eat at the 13th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival. Along with a Key West inspired menu, there will be celebrity chef demonstrations, hands-on eco activities, a boat show and live entertainment.

Key West Half Marathon & 5k Run; January 14th, 2018

Key West Half Marathon & 5k Run. Photo: Unsplash

After you’ve had your fill of seafood, wake up bright and early and join thousands of people as they run a Half Marathon & 5k. The course will take you through the island’s Victorian architecture, historic landmarks and harborfront business. We think this is one of the best ways to get a tour of Key West.

Key West Food & Wine Festival; January 24th – 28th, 2018

Photo: Key West Food & Wine Festival

If wine is more of your style, stick around for the Key West Food & Wine Festival. This five-day festival is full of wine and food-themed events showcasing a diverse range of wines and inventive cuisine.

You can find more events on the Monroe County Tourist Development Council Event Calendar.

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Key West Trivia

Welcome To Key West
Photo: Flickr – Cayobo

Today is National Trivia Day. In celebration of this great day, we’ve compiled a list of fun Key West facts that will make you fall even more in love with the Conch Republic!

  1. Duval Street is 1.1 miles long.
  2. Cayo Hueso is the original Spanish name for Key West. It means Bone Island and refers to the many bones found on the island.
  3. Key West is closer to Havana Cuba then it is to Miami.
  4. Many famous people called Key West Home (at least temporarily) including Judy Blume, Jimmy Buffett, Ernest Hemingway, President Harry S. Truman, Tennessee Willams and Calvin Klein.
  5. There are 42 bridges that connect Key West to mainland Florida.
  6. The 7-Mile Bridge is actually 6.79 miles long.
  7. Key West is home to one of the best Halloween Celebrations in the World! – Fantasy Fest (we may be a little bias).
  8. Key West seceded from the US in 1982. Long live the Conch Republic!
  9. Many Key West residents refer to themselves as Conchs.
  10. Pan American World Airways, aka Pan Am, was founded in Key West in 1927.
  11. The Southernmost Buoy is the most photographed attraction in Key West.
  12. The third largest coral reef in the world is off the coast of Key West.
  13. US Highway 1 starts and ends in Key West.
  14. There are more bars per capita in Key West than anywhere else in the US.
  15. Also, there are more churches per capita in Key West than anywhere else in the US.
  16. There are three Civil War forts located on Key West.
  17. Key West was sold to a businessman John Simonton for $2,000.
  18. Most of the sand on Key West’s beaches had to be brought over from the Caribbean.
  19. Cuba is actually 94 miles away from Key West, not 90.
  20. Key West Aloe was started in Key West in 1971.

Did we miss one of your favorite facts? If so, let us know in the comments join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more skin care tips & tricks.

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New Year’s Eve in Key West

Happy New Year from Key West Aloe
Greetings from Key West Florida
Greetings from Key West Florida Mural at The Cuban Coffee Queen. Photo: Cayobo via flickr

On a regular day, Key West is a fun place to be to visit — we have easy access to the ocean, fun bars for everyone and an interesting history. But on special occasions like Halloween and New Year’s Eve, Key West goes all out.

You already know about Fantasy Fest, continue reading to see how us Conchs ring in the New Year!

Key West Dachshund Walk: Enter the “Wiener Wonderland” this New Year’s Eve when 200+ dachshunds take to the streets and march through Key West’s Downtown. The 3 block parade is kept short to for the puppy’s short legs.

Final Sunset Celebration of The Year: Two hours before the sun sets, the party begins at Mallory Square. Performers and artist will wow you with their fun-filled acts, all set to one of the best sunsets in the world.

Sunset Cruise: If you want to get a little more personal with the Key West Sunset, consider booking a sunset cruise. Fury Key West has a few packages available from a romantic cruise with live music and food to a glass bottom boat cruise where the views are amazing wherever you look.

Sunset Celebration - Key West. Photo: Key West Aloe
Sunset Celebration – Key West. Photo: Key West Aloe

3 Ball Drops

Instead of just one glittery ball dropping as the clock strikes midnight, Key West take it up a few notches with THREE large items dropping.

Schooner Wharf Lowering of the Pirate Wench: Evalena Worthington, co-owner of the bar and Key West’s favorite’s pirate wench will descend from a large mast of America 2.0 accompanied by cannon fire and noisemakers. The party starts at 11:30 a.m. and doesn’t end until 4 a.m. in 2018!

Conch Shell Drop at Sloppy Joe’s: Stand outside this historic bar and see the symbol ou Key West drop at the stroke of midnight. This is the original New Year’s Eve attraction in Key West so you won’t want to miss this! Everyone starts heading to Sloppy Joe’s around 10 p.m. and wait for the Conch to lower and confetti, streamers and lights to fill the sky.

Bourbon St. Pub New Year’s Eve Shoe Drop: Have you ever seen a drag queen named Sushi lowered from the rooftop in a bright red shoe? If not, you have no idea what you’re missing out on. Head down to the Bourbon St. Pub to witness one of the most unique ball droppings of the season.

Those are some of the fun things we think you shouldn’t miss this New Year’s Eve. What are your holiday plans?

Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about Key West Aloe  and our favorite island. Also, follow Key West Aloe and join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.

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Happy Birthday To Us – 46th Anniversary Giveaway

Designed by Freepik

On November 13th, 1971, Frank Romano and Joe Liszka opened the Key West Fragrance & Cosmetic Factory. The first day receipts totaled $36. The Key West Fragrance & Cosmetic Factory, now called Key West Aloe, was the first company in the nation to manufacture its own skin care products using pure aloe vera gel. Today, we offer more than 160 different Aloe Vera based skin care products to address any skin concern you may experience.

It’s been a long 46 years and we couldn’t be happier. We want to take this time to reflect on where we came from and show our appreciation to our biggest supporters — You, Our Customers.

Photo: Key West Aloe

It All Started With A Sunburn

Every successful business owner had an “ah-ha” moment that motivated them to start a new company. For Frank and Joe, our founders, that “ah-ha” moment was a sunburn.

The native New Yorkers were vacationing in sunny Key West and made the timeless mistake of not using protection. Luckily, a local friend was growing Aloe Vera in their yard. The friend broke off a piece of this tropical plant and smeared the gel on Frank’s burn. The pain stopped immediately. The next day, Frank was so impressed that the sunburn practically disappeared he decided to dig a little deeper into this wonderful plant.

Frank, a chemist and a cosmetic researcher, saw the magical properties of Aloe and started to wonder, “If Aloe was that effective on damaged skin, what could it do for healthy skin?” Two years of research, $21,000, and a move to Key West, the nation’s first cosmetic company to make Aloe Vera based skin care products opened their doors in 1971.

Photo: Key West Aloe

Look to The Future

46 years later, our mission remains the same. We want to create a wide range of luxurious skin care products with nature’s best ingredient as our primary ingredient. To celebrate 45 years of business, we released our Anniversary Travel Bags in January 2017! These colorful travel bags will take you back to the 70’s when Key West Aloe used to be named Key West Fragrance & Cosmetic Factory. Back then, you could watch Frank or Joe make the products in the window of our Front Street location and shipping was only $1.50.

A Picture Is Worth A 1,000 Words. 

Thanks to the Monroe County Library, we are able to trace historic moments in our history through newspapers clippings. For instance, did you know that in April of 1980, the Key West Fragrance & Cosmetic Factory caught on fire or that in June of 1982 one of our male models became a CBS movie star!

Check out more historic moments from our history in our Key West Aloe Timeline.

Photo: Key West Aloe

Enter Our Giveaway

This anniversary is a big moment for the entire KWA Family (that includes you too). To say “Thank You” for being such a loyal member of our family, we are giving away one of our best selling gift baskets — All About Key Lime. Enter our giveaway for a chance to win this free gift from us.

Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about Key West Aloe and our history. Also, follow Key West Aloe and join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.

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Say Cheese! Best Spots to Take Photos in Key West

Photos in Key West on white background with sunglasses, an iphone and a camera.
Aerial View of Key West
Aerial View of Key West. Photo: commons.wikimedia

For such a small island, there are so many great photo opportunities. Check out all the snap-worthy spots below!

Mile Marker 0

Mile Marker 0 in Key West located on the corner of Fleming Street and Whitehead Street. Photo: Key West

Key West Lighthouse

Key West Lighthouse located at 938 Whitehead St.
Key West Lighthouse located at 938 Whitehead St. Photo: Key West Aloe

Southernmost Point Buoy

Southernmost Point Buoy located at Whitehead St & South St.
Southernmost Point Buoy located at Whitehead St & South St. Photo: Key West Aloe

Cuban Coffee Queen

Cuban Coffee Queen located at 284 Margaret St.
Cuban Coffee Queen located at 284 Margaret St. Photo: Key West Aloe

Sunset Pier

Sunset Pier located at 0 Duval St.
Sunset Pier located at 0 Duval St. Photo: Key West Aloe

Smathers Beach

Smathers Beach located at 2601 S Roosevelt Blvd. Photo: Ulla Moilanen

Hemmingway Museum 

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum located at 907 Whitehead St. Photo: Ulla Moilanen

Mallory Square

Welcome to Mallory Square
Photo: Flickr – Sam Howzit

Blue Haven

Blue Haven located at 729 Thomas St.
Blue Haven located at 729 Thomas St. Photo: Key West Aloe

Key West Aloe (we couldn’t resist)

Georgene and Kendra love our Sunsorb SPF 30
Georgene and Kendra love our Sunsorb SPF 30. Photo: Key West Aloe

Did your favorite spot make the list? If not, tell us in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more skin care tips & tricks.

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What is Fantasy Fest?

Source: Fantasy Fest

Our founders, Frank Romano and Joe Liszka, were real pillars of the Key West community. Not only did they come up with the idea of Key West Aloe, they also donated their time and money to multiple organizations, were both voted Humanitarian of The Year and are part founders of Key West’s own Fantasy Fest.

So what is Fantasy Fest?

It’s kind of hard to describe but Fantasy Fest is a 10-day street festival that invites grown-ups to come out and play while still celebrating the Florida Keys culture. It’s essentially one big party where everyone can come and have a good time. On top of that, many of the events raise money for local non-profits. Who doesn’t love a party that gives back?

Source: Fantasy Fest

So how did it get started?

Back in the day, October in Key West was a pretty slow time. The tourists that flocked to the island during their summer vacation were now back at work or school and were not due back until later in the year closer to Christmas. It was so slow that many businesses closed their doors for a few months deciding it was better to relocate than attempt to stay open during the “slow season.”

One October day in the late 70s Joe Liszka brought Frank Romano down to Duval Street and pitched him a grand idea – To host a huge celebration in October that will drive tourist to Key West and help boost the economy during the slow period. We imagine Joe painted a very exciting event because not only did he get his partner to agree to help plan this party, he also looped in two other local businessmen to help execute the first Fantasy Fest.

It took the foursome an entire year to plan the first parade. Over 5,000 people showed up to enjoy the festival and thanks to a few outspoken people, the event gained more and more attention having up to 75,000 people from all over the country flock to take part in the fun events.

Source: Fantasy Fest – Facebook

Fun & Fundraising 

The 10-day extravaganza is jam-packed full of adult-themed fun. There are costume parties, family fun bike rides and Halloween themed 5Ks, cultural and art events and of course parades!

While Fantasy Fest is all about enjoying yourself, the festival also has some altruistic moments. The 2017 Royal Coronation Ball is a fundraising event that raises money for AIDS Help. The King and Queen of Fantasy Fest are the candidates who raise the most money for AIDS Help. Last year, the candidates raised over $173,00 for the health organization.

Are you going to Fantasy Fest? Check out the full schedule on the Official Fantasy Fest Website. Also, sign up for our newsletter to get more tips and tricks. Follow Key West Aloe and join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.

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How Can You Help The Florida Keys

Photo: Key West Aloe

On September 10th, 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall in The Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane. Irma left The Florida Keys with flooded streets, damaged buildings and roadways, neighborhoods without power and general debris.

The news always tells you how to prepare for an incoming hurricane but cannot always offer insights on how to recover from the storm. Right now, Key West is in recovery mode. There is a lot of clean up and repair that needs to be done to return our beloved islands to their original condition but our passion and love for the area will fuel us to work hard to restore our home.

As you hear more and more about the Florida Keys condition after Irma you may wonder how can you help. We’ve outlined a few ways that you can make a positive impact on the Keys Community.

Photo: Key West Aloe

Donate Supplies

When a natural disaster strikes, our first instinct is to donate food and goods to those in need. If you have any extra water or hurricane supplies at your home, considering donating to the relief effort. Also, think about little items that are easy to forget like toiletries, diapers, pet food, bug spray, fans and sunscreen.

Once you’ve collected your items, next you must locate your nearest relief organization. We recommend reaching out and confirming there is a need for those good. After confirming, pack and labels your goods and drop them off at your organization of choice. If you have some time, also consider staying and lending a hand.

Photo: Key West Aloe

Donate Money

While donating supplies is a great way to help the recovery efforts, Monroe County stated they preferred cash donations. Their Facebook post on September 18th, excerpt below, explains why.

“While residents of the Florida Keys are grateful for the outpouring of donations of clothing, food and other items from across the U.S., the hurricane relief response team is having to dedicate scarce resources to processing and storing these goods. At this time, they are requesting that those wanting to assist with the relief effort make cash donations to established relief organizations. These donations will help agencies purchase precisely what the community needs. Cash donations also reduce the logistical requirements that come with donated goods.”

With that in mind, Key West Aloe is collecting donations for Hurricane Irma Relief. All proceeds will be donated to United Way of The Florida Keys’ Irma Relief Fund. 100% of the donations raised will be distributed to smaller nonprofits throughout Monroe County who may not have the capacity to generate their own funds. Visit our website to learn more and to donate. 

Photo: Key West Aloe

Donate Time

Sometimes, all that’s needed is a helping hand. We’ve listed multiple ways you can donate your time by volunteering. We will do our best to keep this list current.

Volunteer Florida is a statewide volunteer agency helping organize local volunteers in Monroe County. You can register online or call the county’s Citizen Information Hotline at 800-995-5505.

OneBlood is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) community asset responsible for providing safe, available and affordable blood. Find a Big Red Bus® or a donation center and schedule your appointment today.

The Salvation Army will have various opportunities for you to volunteer your time.

Share

If none of the above options are possible, consider sharing this post or other recover efforts with your friends and family. The more people aware, the more opportunities for help become available.

Carol Shaughnessy from Keys Voices said it best in her recent post, “Irma might have battered the Keys’ landscape, but the storm couldn’t touch the island chain’s greatest asset and greatest strength: the tough, independent, creative, warmhearted spirit of its people.”

Together, we can rebuild The Florida Keys. Thank you in advance for your support!

For more information about the Keys Recovery efforts, please visit keysrecovery.org. 

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Best Places to Shop in Old Town Key West

Welcome To Key West
Photo: Flickr – Cayobo

One of the best things about Key West is its diversity and its support of small businesses. While there are big brands located on the island like Ron Jon Surf Shop and Banana Republic, those big names are outnumbered by locally owned businesses. And like the people of the island, the local shops are unique and cater to the true, Key West lifestyle.

You can find whatever your heart desires in Key West. With so many great stores, it can be hard to decide which ones you must stop at during your visit. We’ve narrowed down the list for you to the top 5 shops in Old Town Key West you can’t miss.

Welcome to Mallory Square
Photo: Flickr – Sam Howzit

Mallory Square

Mallory Square has always been an important part of Key West with its history stretching back to the early 1820’s. Back then, the area was home to the Tift family warehouse where the famous Asa Tift could store his goods found from shipwrecks off the coast of Florida. Now the area is home to over 30 shops and hosts the nightly art festival “Sunset Celebration.” One of our favorite shops located in Mallory Square is the Shell Warehouse. Inside, you can find great souvenirs that like empty conch shells and sand dollars. These shells make great gifts for both friends and family and are a great way to remember your Key West Vacation.

Photo: Books & Books

Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West

So many great writers have called Key West home – Ernest Hemingway, Tennesse Williams and Robert Frost. With all of these iconic writers living on the island, it stands to reason that we would have a great bookstore to share their stories. Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West is that bookstore. Books & Books is a “locally-owned, nonprofit, independently-minded neighborhood bookstore” that is dedicated to curating a selection of books turned to the interest and reading habits of the island. Pop into the former Masonic Temple to browse over 5 thousand titles and see what Conch’s are currently reading!

Kino Sandals 

Floridians live in sandals all year long. Conchs live in Kino Sandals handmade in the Greene Street factory. If you or your loved ones are looking for a comfortable and durable shoe then look no further than Kino Sandal. These sandals are made only in Key West using leather straps and natural rubber seals. Selecting your perfect Kino is like selecting a shoe made just for your feet. Pop by and check it out yourself. We bet you’ll leave it a pair… or two.

Key Lime Pie Factory

A trip to Key West is not complete until you’ve had key lime pie. While there are many places on the island where you can get key lime pie, our favorite spot is the Key Lime Pie Factory. They sell key lime pie by the slice and other goodies that will last longer than the pie. Located on Greene Street, you can grab a slice of pie before heading to Mallory Square for Sunset Celebration.

Photo: Key West Aloe

Key West Aloe

We know we’re a little biased here but Key West Aloe is a must for anyone visiting the Keys. Not only do we sell Aloe Vera based skin care products that will soothe and nourish your sunkissed skin, we also sell anti-aging products that will never tell your age and let you make your own Tropical Salt Scrub! Our Greene Street Store is located in the historic Telegraph Office and just a few steps away from the other shops on this list. Stop in to experience the Key West Aloe Difference.

Did we miss your favorite spot to shop in Old Town Key West? Let us know in the comments below!

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Top 5 Hotels in Key West

Even though Key West is a small island, there is a wide selection of place to stay. Whether you’re looking for an exclusive resort or a historic bed and breakfast, Key West will have a hotel that meets all of your vacation needs.

Before you plan your next trip to Key West, check out our top 5 hotels to stay when you visit:

Outside view of The Marker Resort
Photo: The Marker Resort

The Marker Waterfront Resort

If you’re the type of traveler that likes to be in the middle of everything, we suggest The Marker Waterfront Resort. This hotel is one of the newest built on the island and is just a stone’s throw away from the best attractions in Key West. Nearby activities include waverunner tours, paddle boards, bike rentals, dolphin watching and snorkeling.

Photo: The Artist House

The Artist House

If you’re looking for a more historic stay, check out The Artist House on Eaton Street. You may recognize the building because it’s one of the most photographed houses in Key West. The hotel is actually a restored, Victorian mansion that has stayed true to it’s roots. Smack dab in the middle of Old Key West, guest can experience the local bars, restaurants and attractions. If you decide to stay somewhere else but still want to check out the mansion, you can get a glimpse of the colorful house on one of the many tours that features it.

Photo: The Gates Hotel

The Gates Hotel

Right off of the Overseas Highway is The Gates Hotel. Opened in 2015, this hotel combines contemporary design with a retro Floridian flair. Amenities include the Rum Row Poolside Bar, a cigar lounge, an on-site food truck and free bike rentals. The hotel even offers complimentary shuttle services to Old Key West!

Photo: Ibis Bay Beach Resort

Ibis Bay Beach Resort

If you’re looking for a family-friendly place to stay look no further than Ibis Bay Beach Resort. The hotel has everything you need to have a fun vacation including a colorful hammocks, a private beach and local wildlife to keep things interesting.

Photo: Sunset Key Cottages

Sunset Key Cottages

Lastly, if you don’t mind splurging and want a private island vibe we suggest Sunset Key Cottages. A ferry boat ride away, this exclusive 27-acre island is home to 40 cottages as well as private beaches, a fitness center, and a spa.

What’s the best part about these hotels? They all have Key West Aloe products stocked in every room so you won’t have to miss out on our amazing Aloe Vera based skin care products.

Where do you usually stay when you come to Key West? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook or Instagram!

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KWA Team