Wednesday, September 30, 2020

{pink lily boutique open knit cardigan}








Pink Lily Cardigan // Black Tank Top // Old Navy Jeans (cut the hem myself) // Birdie's Leopard Flats // Prive Revaux Sunglasses // Amazon Necklaces

I was so excited to be home in Baltimore last weekend! Mainly to see my Momma and Mimi but also to get a *little* taste of some Fall weather. I'm not really purchasing fall clothes unless I'm traveling somewhere and that's not exactly happening haha. I did pick up this cardigan though because it looked warm but lightweight enough with it's open knit! I saw a couple of changing leaves and instantly had to get some photos in front of them ;) Hey, when you live in Key West it's all about the little things in the short amount of time I had in MD!


Love Always,

Monday, September 7, 2020

{travel guide: Key West during COVID-19}

"I'm going to Key West for a trip soon - what's it like there with COVID-19?"

This is the most asked question in my messages right now so I figured... let's tackle this question on the blog!! I will share more flushed out guides for happy hour and restaurants at a later date (once everything opens up completely) but for now let's help you plan your 2020 trip to this magical island!! I'm answering how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, favorite happy hours, best coffee places, what to see and do, etc!! I have commonly asked questions at the bottom of this post too. Hopefully all of your questions about traveling to KW right now are answered in this post! [side note: September is normally the quietest month here so keep that in mind - times and openings are always subject to change with life happening right now!]



CURRENT COVID RULES //

*As of September 7, 2020 - rules and regulations can change - please visit https://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/1169/COVID-19 for the most up to date info!!*

*As of September 24, 2020 - masks are no longer required when "individuals are outdoors and not on the premises of a business, provided social distancing is maintained at all times"

- Masks are mandatory when:
    - walking around town on a busy street - mask up
    - standing at a table - mask up
    - walking to the restroom at dinner - mask up
    - visiting a museum - mask up
    - waiting in line - mask up
    - using the elevator at a hotel (if not alone) - mask up
    - Full disclosure - I have seen people get tickets. Locals too!
Every bar closes at 11pm (may change soon... restaurants are now back to regular hours)
- Seating is now available at a bar (like the physical bar inside a bar). You can't walk up to order a drink to go right now [this is the one rule that's changing the most and is complicated so just be aware it varies by location]
- Masks are required at pools and beaches unless you're on a towel/picnic bench/chair or in the water (private properties may have specific guidelines too)
- Bikes/Scooters - I'm not sure if they're mandatory but I always wear mine while riding to be safe and courteous to others


HOW TO GET THERE //

If you have the option I would drive because it's a stunning trip along the water! Fair warning that traffic could be bad at times because US-1 is one lane north and one lane south. Be sure to schedule in time to make stops along the way [check out my last blog post that includes driving stops here]. 

A few spots to stop by if you're driving:

  • Caribbean Club (Key Largo)
  • Pilot House (Key Largo)
  • Craig's (Plantation Key) [under new ownership since I've been]
  • Robbie's (Islamorada)
  • Morada Bay Beach Cafe (Islamorada)
  • Sombrero Beach (Marathon)
  • Sea Turtle Hospital (Marathon)
  • National Key Deer Refuge (Big Pine)
  • Square Grouper (Cudjoe Key)
  • Baby's Coffee (Sugarloaf)

However, flying is still an option - the KW airport is tiny so if you're an anxious person with everything going on just be aware of that. You'll deplane on the runway, walk down a ladder, and then head towards the airport building where there are 2 carousels to grab your luggage. The cocktail bar that's usually open is currently closed FYI. It's easy to grab an uber/taxi from there.


WHERE TO STAY //

I always like to recommend AirBNB's in Old Town - this supports the local economy in a big way and is the best way to get a flavor of the island too! There are tons of historic houses and everything is very colorful - not just the flora but the houses. If you look at a map, staying "left" of White Street will keep you close to Duval St (the main "going out" strip) and within walking/biking distance of places to eat, visit, and drink.

There are also lots of amazing hotels that I've been lucky to visit and experience [this entire list has a pool on property as well]. Please note, that these are personal preferences and places I've had the chance to see/explore in person. If I haven't listed your hotel or favorite spot it could simply be I haven't had the chance to visit it in person. If you stayed at a hotel that's not below please leave a comment so people can check it out!! These hotels range wiiiidely in price so there's something for every budget. For example, I stayed at the Blue Marlin in college on spring break and loved it (it has also recently been redone haha). In no particular order:

  • Parrot Key (right picture)
  • Hyatt Centric
  • Havana Cabana
  • The Reach
  • Marquesa Hotel
  • Marriott Beachside
  • The Marker
  • The Perry (on Stock Island - left picture)
  • Blue Marlin Motel



HOW TO GET AROUND //

Renting bikes is my preference because they're easy to lock up and find spots to park! Plus, you end up saving so much money not using ubers! Key West is very friendly to bikers in regards to sharing the road but still be careful and look both ways. Most bike places will recommend another if they're sold out which makes me super happy - they all look out for each other.

We always rent beach cruiser bikes for our guests from Island Bicycles because they have the cleanest bikes and best prices (around $10 a day or $60 for a weekly rate). Call ahead to reserve (seriously, reserve your bikes haha) and get 10% off too [305-292-9707]

Eaton Bikes is another local bikeshop around the corner from our house that we love. Kyle has taken his personal bike here a couple of times for adjustments. Prices vary but are on average $18 a day, $10 a day after that and $55 for a week. They also have tandem bikes and trailers for kids to sit in! Call ahead to reserve, they will also drop off your bikes for you if they're able. They have discounts for reserving online too [305-294-8188]

Scooters are another fun option!! I'm obviously a fan since that's how I get around :) We bought our 2-seater from Sunshine Scooters so that's the place I'd recommend. There are tons of other places but double check to see if your hotel has them to rent! Sunshine Scooters is $30-45 for the day and $99-179 for the week. I believe they will deliver and pick up from where you're staying too. Make sure to reserve them online at least 24 hours in advance. [305-414-2976]


WHERE TO EAT //

This list is currently smaller because some spots aren't open yet and I personally prefer to eat outside with COVID right now. Yes, I know it's hot :) but there's lots of shade and fans available - bring a hat too!! I would recommend making reservations for dinner right now because all places are at limited capacity with social distancing. I'll make a larger blog post flushing out restaurants in the future and break them down into meal type! But for now, these are faves that are up and running with full-service food:

  • Santiago's Bodega*
  • Louie's Backyard*
  • Salute
  • Moondog Cafe
  • Sushi Song
  • Amigo's
  • Blue Macaw
  • Thirsty Mermaid
  • Bagatelle
  • La Trattoria
  • Firefly
  • Little Pearl*
  • Lola's*
  • Mangia Mangia
  • LL's Test Kitchen (Stock Island)
  • Blue Heaven
  • B.O.'s Fish Wagon (cash only)
  • Onlywood Pizzeria
  • Nine One Five
  • Martin's*
  • Flaming Buoy*
  • First Flight Island
  • Conch Republic
  • The Breakfast Club, Too
  • Roostica (Stock Island)
  • Azure*

*great for date night


WHERE TO DRINK //

Okay so this list isn't going to be bars on bars on bars... because that's sadly not an option right now. Honestly, the best thing to do is walk down Duval Street and see what's open and what looks like fun! Most places have Happy Hour drink and food specials (again, future blog post coming with full list when everything opens) that Kyle and I love to do for an early dinner during the week. These are my favorite spots to safely grab a drink right now:
  • Hank's [4-7pm; beer $4 domestic and $5 draft, $6 sangria, $5 well drinks, $6 Stoli Bloody; Garbo's Grill food truck in the back - $8 Umami Burger and $10 taco trio] * +
  • First Flight [4-6pm; 1/2 off selected cocktails and $5 house made beer and glasses of wine; $5 happy hour food menu] *
  • Seaside Cafe at Southernmost House [no HH but right on the water with a great food truck]
  • Off the Hook [4-6pm; drink specials and special HH menu] * +
  • Bagatelle [4-6pm; 1/2 price drinks and $5 apps]
  • Mary Ellen's (no outside seating FYI) [M-Fr 12-6pm & Sat-Sun 3-6pm; 2-for-1 all wine, wells, and draft beers/cocktails; all week 3-6pm $5 food specials]
  • Santiago's [3-6pm; 1/2 price drinks (amazing sangria); $5 tapas] *
  • Smokin' Tuna [3-6pm; daily drink specials; 2-for-1 premium well drinks] +
  • The Grand Cafe [5-7pm; 1/2 price wine, cocktails, and beer; 1/2 price apps]
  • Old Town Tavern [4-7pm; 1/2 off wines and well drinks; 25% off beer; 1/2 off flatbreads and shared plates]
  • Boathouse [currently relocating to a new spot on the waterfront and not open yet - will update once it's up and running]

*favorite happy hours :)

+ live music


WHERE TO GET COFFEE //

There are Starbucks on the island but take my word for it and do NOT go to one... enjoy the local spots!!

  • Cuban Coffee Queen - two locations (best chai lattes)*
  • Keys Coffee (great matcha lattes)*
  • La Grignote
  • Old Town Bakery (Kyle's favorite - pictured on left above)*
  • Red Buoy Coffee (inside Glazed Donuts)
  • Sandy's Cafe
  • Banana Cafe
  • Frenchie's Cafe
*favorite spots


WHAT TO DO ON THE WATER //

If you ask me what ONE thing you have to do while you're in Key West... it would be to get out on the water. Get your cute self on a boat and feel the wind whip through your hair and then you can see what it's really like to be down here :)

  • Danger Charters Wind & Wine Sunset Sail - I've said it a million times but this is my absolute favorite way to watch the sunset! On a sailboat, with a wine tasting, and little apps being passed around. It's mesmerizing to watch the sail and tasting 7+ wines ain't so bad either haha. (Boat pictured above)
  • Fury Ultimate Adventure - this is an all day adventure on a catamaran that includes snorkeling, jet skiing, water park, kayaking, parasailing, and a banana boat! Breakfast and lunch are provided along with drinks after you're tired of all the activities!
  • Fishing Charter - Deep Sea or Flats Guides are available depending on the type of fish you want to catch. If you're interested in fishing please send me an email and I can put you in touch with one of my friends that are guides down here! southernanchors@gmail.com
  • Hang out at a sandbar - Snipe's (where the rope swing is), Marvin, Boca Grande, and Jewfish Basin are favorite local ones [see below for charter recommendations]
  • Paddle boarding, kayaking, jet skiing, etc! There are tons of rental companies around the island (and lots are located at hotels). Barefoot Billy's is popular with my friends!
  • Go snorkeling or diving at the reefs - we love Sand Key! [see below for charter recommendations]
  • Charter a boat - Recommendations from friends and people that have visited before and chartered a boat for a day on the water: Key West Charters, Boundless Charters, Fun in the Sun, Fish N Chicks, Sol Chaser Charters




WHAT TO SEE & DO //

Something to keep in mind: a majority of these places are not at full capacity due to COVID so there may be lines, requirements to wear masks, or advanced ticket reservations necessary.

  • Hemingway's House - so much history and SO many cats! I've been 5+ times and never get tired of learning more about Ernest Hemingway. He had such a fascinating life and the photos, posters, and articles all over the house detail it very well. Plus, the cats still roam free and are taken care of by veterinarians that volunteer. They're famous for their 6 toes!
  • Key West Lighthouse - Across the street from Hemingway's house and a great piece of history plus spectacular views.
  • Southernmost Point - there is almost always a line at this famous picture spot!
  • Truman Waterfront - checkout out the USCGC Ingham, a splash water park perfect for kids, large grassy lawn, sunset views, and a Farmer's Market every Thursday 3pm - sunset
  • Key West Garden Club - located near Higg's Beach this incredible garden is kept alive by a group of volunteers with serious green thumbs
  • Rum Distillery - this was the first legal rum distillery in Key West! They have daily free private tours and tastings. I can't wait for everything to open back up because they used to have a mojito making class and I'm dying to go!
  • Nature and Butterfly Conservatory - is there anything more magical than thousands of butterflies and hoping one will land on you? Plus, the flamingos are pretty cool!
  • Conch Train - I've personally never gone on the Conch Train but it's very well known around the island! This is the best way to take in all of the sights and learn a lot about the history of the island. I've actually biked behind it so many times that I know some history facts from over hearing things haha.
  • Ghost Tour - Another tour train I've never gone on but knowing how Key West does theatrics and costumes (RIP Fantasy Fest 2020) I can only imaaaagine how much fun this ghost tour is haha. Plus, there are so many stories and fables from this island... the cigar houses... mafia... bank robberies... if this is your thing I bet it's a hoot.
  • Art Shack and Soul House - if you tire of the water and sun these two spots on Stock Island are hidden gems of incredible local artists. Easiest to get to by car or scooter. (If you go I recommend stopping by Hogfish, Roostica, or Matt's at The Perry Hotel to round out your Stock Island trip).
  • Bahama Village - home to the famous Blue Heaven but also some cute little shops and great artists. It's worth a quick walk down Petronia St. Plus, the new arch on the corner of Duval was just reinstalled - look for the rainbow sidewalks :)



BEACHES //

Key West isn't exactly known for it's beaches so keep that in mind. Lots of hotels on the water have docks and sun chairs that overlook the water which is fun and you can still take a dip in the ocean. However, if you still need to lay in the sand these are our best beaches:

  • Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park - costs $ to get in but this is a big beach with great water to swim in. There’s a little beach shack, picnic tables, grills, and plenty of trees to hang a hammock on
  • Higgs Beach - (top right picture) a personal favorite spot to watch the sunrise. Complete with pier to walk out on and volleyball courts. There’s a park nearby too. Salutè is the restaurant overlooking everything!
  • Smathers Beach - aka the party beach during spring break. If you arrive via the airport you’ll drive by this! Farthest away from Duval St but kayak rentals available here.
  • South Beach - (middle picture) small and next to the Southernmost Hotel. There’s a Starbucks and cafe (plus bar) right on the sand with chairs you can rent. Warning - this spot can be crowded since it’s at the end of Duval St!
  • Simonton Beach - personal favorite since it's tiiiiny and right next to Lagerheads Bar where you can grab a drink and some fish tacos! Worth renting a $10 chair for the day - make sure to try the fish tacos. Located at north end of Simonton St.
  • Dog Beach - exactly what you think it is haha small and at the south end of Vernon Ave right next to Louie's Backyard

COMMON QUESTIONS //

Q: Do I have to wear a mask while exercising or riding a bike?

A: I'm not sure of this exact answer but my answer is yes. I always wear something to cover my nose and mouth while I'm running or on my bike. If nobody is around me I'll pop it down but I keep it close by so it's a quick pull up when I see someone approaching :)

Q: What's the safest place to run while I'm there?

A: The easiest place to run and social distance nearby is along the water by Smathers Beach

Q: Where can I get a buff?

A: All of mine are from my gym or I stole from Kyle but check out Mang - a couple of my friends purchased from them. FYI - I'm aware that buffs aren't the most protective mask to wear because it's thin and one layer. This is simply my preference for exercise when I'm able to social distance.

Q: Do you think KW is a good honeymoon destination?

A: I think it's still a great location to honeymoon!!! Pick a wonderful place with a pool, book a sunset cruise, grab happy hour, and make nice dinner reservations and you're set!

Q: How warm will it be in December/January?

A: On average it's been 75-67 during the "colder months". I think that's the best time to visit the island because everywhere else is actually cold haha. I carry a light jacket, jean jacket or sweater when I go out and can get away with jeans (and sandals). You'll see lots of people still wearing sundresses, skirts, and shorts too - especially if the sun is out. The water will be colder as well so keep that in mind.

Q: Do KW residents like tourists at this time?

A: This question makes me laugh :) The easiest answer is YES!! The entire island was shut down with the road block for almost 3 months. Since the economy here is pretty much all hospitality it took a hard hit...  and it's still hard with some of the regulations in place (ex: bars). People are thrilled to welcome visitors and are working extra hard for tips!! I believe that if you treat any place you visit like it's your home that you'll be welcomed. I mean if you're not respecting mask laws, acting belligerent, and littering then you may be hated by a local ;) There are some bad eggs but if they don't want to be around a "tourist" then they should stay home lol.

Q: Does it still "feel" like KW?

A: Mainly yes but also no. Yes because it's still beautiful, vibrant, and full of so much life and laughter! But no because of seeing people in masks, businesses closed, and all of the events and festivals that have been cancelled. But, YES because the main attraction here is the water!!!! IT'S STILL PERFECT!


Love Always,

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