With so much to do, it's good that time moves slowly in Key West
Aerial photo of Key West, Fla., the Southernmost City in Continental United States and the largest community in the chain of islands called the Florida Keys. (Florida Keys News Bureau / November 23, 2003)
Thompson, obviously, did his share of carousing in the Keys and ground-zero for social scene is still Duval Street, the stretch of clubs and restaurants that runs through the historic district.
The island's legendary sunset celebrations unfold at Mallory Square, where musicians, magicians, jugglers and other characters make a living in tips. Maybe.
"I'm proud to say I never moved back in with my parents," juggler and Key West native Reid Fierheller-Conklin announced to a crowd on a recent evening. "That's because I never moved out." At 19, he has already been a Mallory Square fixture for six years.
When the sun goes down (or before), there is no shortage of bars. Although Sloppy Joe's (201 Duval St.) is the most famous, its rowdy vibe is way more commercial than the earthy Capt. Tony's Saloon, around the corner at 428 Greene St., in the original location of Sloppy Joe's in the 1930s when Hemingway was around.
If you can resist the temptation of last call, there's plenty of outdoor activities worth waking up early.
Most revolve around the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, a perfect backdrop for deep-sea fishing, diving, snorkeling and kayaking.
If Key West isn't far enough from civilization, find a way out to the Dry Tortugas, a remote national park 70 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico that's accessible only by daily ferry boats or seaplane charters.
Either method offers an opportunity to see dolphin, sea turtles and other colorful creatures as well as shipwrecks including the Arbutus, the famous shipwreck tied to the fortunes of treasure hunter Mel Fisher.
Divers also can check out the "Wreck Trek Passport Program," which guides them on a shipwreck trail from Key Largo to Key West, a route that includes the Thunderbolt, a 188-foot cable layer and research vessel, and the 210-foot Adolphus Busch, a freighter featured in the 1957 film "Fire Down Below."
With so much to do, even in the laid-back Keys it might seem like time flies too fast.
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If you go
What: The Florida Keys and Key West is a series of islands bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico on the southern tip of Florida, about 160 miles south of Miami. From Key Largo to Key West, the islands offer a range of activities from watersports to historic sites and night life.
Getting there: Take I-95 or the Ronald Reagan Turnpike south to Miami, then continue south on U.S. Highway 1 to the Florida Keys and Key West. There also are flights into Key West International Airport, which is served by Delta, American Eagle and U.S. Airways.
Accommodations and activities. The Florida Keys and Key West offer a variety of lodging from major chains to bed-and-breakfasts and smaller mom-and-pop hotels in residential neighborhoods. Popular activities include fishing, snorkeling, diving, boating, bicycle and scooter tours of the landmarks in Key West.
Call: 1-800-FLA-KEYS (1-800-352-5397)