From new and renovated accommodations to new airlift and apps, The Florida Keys & Key West has it going on this winter season.
On Big Pine Key the 2-acre fruit farm Grimal Grove, billed as the first breadfruit grove in the continental U.S., is scheduled to open Jan. 11 as an agritourism venue, breadfruit research site and educational park. Grimal Grove, to be open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment, is located at 258 Cunningham Lane at mile marker 30.5. grimalgrove.com
Also on Big Pine Key, the new Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center is holding its official grand opening Feb. 15 to showcase more than 1,800 sq. ft. of exhibition space highlighting the Keys’ four national wildlife refuges: the National Key Deer, Great White Heron, Key West and Crocodile Lake refuges. Located at 30587 Overseas Highway near mile marker 30.5, the center is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and also includes an on-site Florida Keys Nature Store. fws.gov/refuge/national_key_deer_refuge
On Feb. 15 American Airlines is to launch new seasonal nonstop weekly service on Saturdays between Key West International Airport and Massachusetts’ Boston Logan International Airport. The service, American’s first into the Florida Keys from Boston, is to run through May 2, 2020. Meanwhile, from Dec. 18 through April 1 American Airlines is adding a second daily nonstop flight into Key West from Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport. American also flies to Key West from Philadelphia International Airport, and has scheduled an increase in daily service beginning Dec. 18. American also set to offer Saturday service from New York’s LaGuardia Airport beginning Dec. 21. Visit Key West International Airport at eyw.com.
The luxury, adults-only, 12-acre Bungalows Key Largo—the first and only all-inclusive resort in the Florida Keys—reopens Dec. 19. Located at mile marker 99 bayside, the boutique waterfront resort features 135 private bungalows, each with its own bougainvillea-draped verandah, oversized soaking tub, outdoor garden shower and two Huffy beach cruisers. The hotel offers three dining experiences: Fish Tales, Bogie & Bacall’s and Sea Senor; a gourmet grab-and-go option, Beach Bites; two onsite bars and two six-seat floating Tiki boats. Amenities include two pools, two jacuzzi tubs, 1,000 ft. of shoreline with beach cabanas, the full-service Zen Garden Spa with a Himalayan salt room and a eucalyptus steam room, a fitness Tiki hut with Peloton equipment and Duffy electric, watersports, and sailing and catamaran boats. All-inclusive rates include lodging, 24-hour golf cart pickup and drop-off, meals, premium beverages, water toys and activities such as morning yoga, cooking and mixology classes, sunset happy hours, fish fries and pig roasts. Packages are offered through April. bungalowskeylargo.com
Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection by Hilton, has unveiled a Dock to Dish tour to showcase its local seafood initiative. The program allows a guest “to become the fisher, which is something that the vast majority of American travelers have never experienced,” said Sean Barrett, Montauk, New York–based co-founder of Dock to Dish, in press material. Guests can take a charter with Sea Monkey Charters to explore deep water, the backcountry or nighttime lobster netting to pursue the most abundant, sustainable catch of the day. Resort executive chef Andy Papson then guides guests through cooking methods used and includes fresh herbs handpicked from the resort’s rooftop garden. The experience is priced from $750 for two people. bakerscay.com/activities
In the Lower Keys, the 5.5-acre Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, A Noble House Resort, is scheduled to reopen April 1, 2020, with 15 redesigned thatched-roof bungalow suites, some with outdoor copper soaking tubs and private outdoor showers. The Dining Room, with indoor and outdoor dining and sweeping ocean views, is to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, Sunday brunch, full moon dinners and wine maker events. A fully restored Monkey Hut lounge and Palapa Bar also are to be unveiled. The resort’s spa will feature a 2-story atrium with carved architectural details and handcrafted tile fountain. Private cabanas are to enhance the oceanfront pool area. A private island resort located three miles off Little Torch Key, the property is open to adults 18 and older. Access to the ultra-luxury resort is at 28500 Overseas Highway. littlepalmisland.com
In Key West, the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens has unveiled an interactive, educational and “Instagrammable” Audubon Experience in a room of brightly colored artwork stretching from floor to ceiling and paying homage to artist John James Audubon, who visited Key West in 1832. Walls are covered in hand-painted wallpaper displaying colorful flowers and tropical birds. Miami preservationists Mitchell Wolfson and wife Frances purchased and restored the Audubon House, built between 1846 and 1849, saving it from demolition, and opened it in 1960. The newly designed room was created to encourage a young generation of visitors to explore and learn about Key West’s vibrant history. audubonhouse.com
A new digital tool created and launched by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council encourages safe driving and sightseeing along the famed Florida Keys Overseas Highway (U.S. Highway 1). The Florida Keys & Key West Travel App now offers two driving tours, southbound from Key Largo to Key West and northbound from Key West to Key Largo. The app is triggered by geographic location, giving drivers advance notice of upcoming scenic, iconic or historical points throughout the Keys such as the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, Robbie’s Marina, National Key Deer Refuge and Bahia Honda and John Pennekamp Coral Reef state parks. To raise awareness of the destination’s “Connect & Protect” initiative, the app features a section on Keys sustainability to encourage low-impact exploration and foster awareness of voluntourism, ecotourism and green travel experiences available in the island chain. Visitors can download the free app at the Apple Store and Google Play. fla-keys.com/app
Key West Food Tours now offers The Hemingway Experience tour for groups of eight to 30 people. The 3.5-hour tour covers a mile of walking and retraces author Ernest Hemingway’s steps around Old Town with two food tastings, two cocktails (including a Papa Doble daiquiri) and a Papa’s Pilar rum sampling. The tour includes guided entrance into the legendary author’s former home, now the Hemingway Home & Museum, Hemingway Rum Co. distillery to sample Papa’s Pilar Rum, El Meson de Pepe to sample Cuban food, Old Town Bakery to sample Key lime pie, and Sloppy Joe’s Bar. keywestfoodtours.com
The Key West Art & Historical Society’s Key West Historic Marker Tours program offers new maps highlighting 125 self-guided historic sites and a roster of themed walking tours that include Black Heritage, Cuban/Bahamian Heritage, Maritime Heritage, Historic Church, Military Heritage, Architectural Heritage, Museum and Cigar Factory Heritage trails, the seven Curry Mansions, Civil War Forts and the Key West Cemetery Tour. The old Monroe County Jail, at the corner of Fleming and Whitehead streets in Key West, has been added to the Historic Marker Tours program showcasing the island city’s cultural history and heritage sites. The jail, built in the 1890s, is to undergo a restoration beginning in early 2020, with summer 2021 targeted as its opening date as a museum. The tours’ smartphone app can be accessed at keywest.oncell.com. Maps are available at City Hall or at a society-operated museum. kwhmt.org
Key West boutique owners in “The Fabulous 500 Block of Fleming Street” have kicked off a monthly First Fridays on Fleming 6-9 p.m. block party to encourage local buying. First Fridays on Fleming showcase boutiques, galleries and eateries in the 500 block of Fleming Street with events such as jewelry trunk shows, art openings, book signings, tastings and libations. Participants include The Roost Bar and Liquor Store, La Rubia Authentic Panama Hats, Key West Island Books, Key West Local Luxe Jewelry, Amanda Johnson Fine Art, Sea Store Antiques, Assortments Menswear, Island Antiques, Duck & Dolphin Antiques, Clemente’s Trolley Pizzaria, La Petite Grignote French Bakery, Thirsty Mermaid Seafood and Jean Pierre Klifa Resort Wear. First Fridays are scheduled Jan. 3, Feb. 7, March 6 and April 3. shoplocalkeywest.com
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