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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Beach Bag Essentials

Photo by Salvador Martin Yeste on Unsplash

What’s the best part of living in Florida? Random Beach Days! Whenever we feel the need for some extra vitamin D, we grab our bag full of beach essentials and head down to our local spot. While our bag is always packed are ready to go by the door, we know it can be easy to forget the essentials, especially when you’re here on vacation.

We’ve put together our beach bag essentials list to make your vacation stress and sunburn free! 

The perfect beach bag.

Beach Bag – It all starts with the perfect beach bag. Your bag needs to be big enough to fit all of your essentials, but not too big that it becomes too heavy to carry. Your bag should also be water, sand, and sun resistant too. Look for a durable material like nylon or canvas because those will withstand any situation. If you can, we also suggesting getting a bag with an attached coin purse. That little zipper pocket is a great place to store your id, cell phone and keys. 

Sunscreen  – While sunscreen is something you should be applying every day, when you go to the beach you have to take extra care to protect your skin. Make sure your sunscreen is broad spectrum, has an SPF of 15 or above (we suggest SPF 30), and is water-resistant. Don’t forget an SPF in your lip balm either? You won’t like sunburned lips. Pro tip: We set a timer on our phone to remind us to reapply, every 80 minutes if we’re swimming and every two hours if we’re not.

Hat, Sunglasses, Umbrella – Sunscreen isn’t enough to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. We always keep a floppy hat and sunglasses in our bag. These two items will give your face the extra protection it needs. A beach umbrella is also a must. While we love basking in the sun like the next person, every now and then we crave a break from the powerful sun. An umbrella will give you a cool place to rest.

Reading Material – There are so many things to do at the beach. You can swim, play beach volleyball, and build sand castles. But just in case you get bored, we suggest bringing some reading material. Whether it’s your favorite book or your favorite glossy, having something to read is a beach bag must! 

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Water & Snacks – We don’t know why, but a day at the beach takes a lot of energy. Even if you’re just sunbathing, a few hours in the sun can suck the energy right out of you. To fix this, we always keep a few water bottles and snacks in our bag. Our snacks of choice are Publix Subs, trail mix, and protein bars. If you have extra space if your car, we suggest putting your water and snacks in a cooler.

Towel & Baby Powder – We keep two towels in our bag. One for laying out on, the other to dry off with. We also keep baby power in our bag because it makes being sand free easy. When you’re almost ready to leave, sprinkle some baby powder on your skin. The powder will soak up any extra moisture left on your skin. After a few moments, wipe it away and viola! You’re not power and sand free!

After Sun Products – Saltwater and the sun can really dry out your skin so it’s important to use an after sun product to refresh your skin. Our Save A Tan is the perfect solution. Not only will it restore moisture to your skin, it will also prevent peeling and preserve your tan.

Did we miss one of your beach bag essentials? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get more tips and tricks.

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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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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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Aloe Vera – Not Just For Sunburns

Designed by Freepik

While most people use Aloe Vera to treat sunburns, many are unaware of the powerful moisturizing benefits this plant can have on dry skin or the amazing benefits it can have on healthy skin. The substance found within the spiny leaves of Aloe has long been referred to as “Nature’s Gift” for burns and wound care and is ready to make its debut into the world of fall and winter skincare.

Much more than a simple “burn plant,” Aloe Vera can play a significant role in the protection and maintenance of healthy skin. That’s why Aloe Vera is the foundation of all of  Key West Aloe products.

Photo: Key West Aloe

Where Does Aloe Vera Come From

Originally from Africa, the Aloe species now grows in Australia, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Nigeria, Paraguay and the United States. As Aloe is a succulent plant that is very effective in retaining water, it is able to thrive in very dry areas.

The Aloe species contains over 400 different varieties, with Aloe Vera being the most commonly used for topical skin applications. Aloe Vera is about 95% water and contains more than 200 phytonutrients including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and most importantly polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are long chains of sugar molecules that contribute to many biological processes and are both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. This is why Aloe Vera is very effective in wound healing. It has also been shown to stimulate collagen production, reduce oxidative stress and stimulate the immune system. What more could you ask for in a skin care ingredient! 

Photo: Key West Aloe

Aloe Vera Provides Optimal Fall & Winter  Relief

During the harsh winter months, the cold weather can take a toll on the skin leaving it dry, chapped and irritated. Most people will slatter on oil and creams to help retain the moisture, completely forgetting about their favorite sunburn relief ingredient – Aloe! That’s a huge mistake.

Oils and butters do a great job at sealing in the moisture content of the skin and should be used during the colder months. What people mistakenly do is add the oil or butter onto their skin before adding any additional moisture first. These ingredients do not soak into the skin, instead, it sits on top resulting in a sticky, yet still dry skin. Aloe Vera does the exact opposite. Instead of sitting on top of the skin, Aloe works its magic by deeply penetrating the skin and helping it absorb four times the moisture of water alone. It helps pores open and receives hydration without clogging them.

Photo: Key West Aloe

To relieve dry skin we suggest first replenishing the skin’s moisture level with Aloe Vera and then sealing that moisture in with an oil or a butter. Our Aloethera Intensive Body Moisturizer is the perfect product for this. Not only will this lotion hydrate your skin, it will also seal in all of the moisturizing benefits you get from the Aloe. Aloethera Intensive Body Moisturizer is made with 30% Lab Certified Aloe Vera plus sunflower oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, mango butter, shea butter and cocoa butter. Together, these ingredients work together to protect and restore dry winter skin.

Check out the entire Aloethera line for your fall and winter skincare needs.

Do you use Aloe Vera for something else besides sunburns? If so, let us know 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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Shop This Story

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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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!

Want more Key West Tips? Sign up for our newsletter to get more and follow Key West Aloe and join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.

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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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