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Trip List by CincyScorpio

Gone to Key West to visit some friends...

Aug 14, 2006  Activities recommended by local "Conchs" in Key West...
3.5 of 5 stars based on 9 votes

Where to go, what to see in Key West... learn from our week-long trip, and yours will surely be an enjoyable one to remember.

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: Key West
  • Category: Recent trip
  • 1. Blue Heaven
    Blue Heaven, Key West, Florida Keys

    Upon first observation of Blue Heaven from its quirky yet rough-around-the-edges exterior, one might easily draw the conclusion that this is one Bahama Village eatery to place on the back burner for "next time" you are in the neighborhood. But I am here to tell you, nay, implore you as a fellow traveler, not to skip this restaurant if you are visiting Key West for any length of time.

    While visiting Key West in early August 06', my family was fortunate enough to dodge "Hurricane Chris" and its impending evacuation should the storm progressed to that stage - as our luck would have it, Chris became nothing more than a Tropical Depression, a storm level that brightened the smiles on our faces. We visited this wildly charming restaurant on a Monday afternoon, hoping to kill time until our scheduled Parasailing adventure. Its surreal dirt path entrance winded lazily around the side of the restaurant through thick trees and shrubs and past the on-site gift shop, outdoor bar, restrooms and outdoor shower stalls (yes, showers - with a tongue-and-cheek sign stating, "Showers $1... $2 to watch"). The entry ended at a rickety hostess stand where a delightful lady greeted our party as if we had all gone to a church festival together the previous day. We were given the option of sitting indoors or outdoors - sitting indoors would have been a waste of a perfectly tropical day. So we were taken to our table, a modest yet colorful old-timey round kitchen table where we were greeted by occasional resident roosters, who crooed periodically to great effect. Large yet appropriate-for-the-decor industrial fans were placed strategically throughout the outdoor dining area that Blue Heaven occupies, all oscillating quietly to create the soothing yet unoffensive breeze one would expect from an outdoor bistro so near to the Gulf of Mexico.

    Our server, while not overly friendly or inspired, was professional and prompt with our orders. I had what I swear will go down as the best sandwich I have ever, or likely will ever eat - a Shrimp Baguette Sandwich. The sandwich was a delectable marriage of plump, marinated pink shrimp topped with melted white cheddar cheese, two fresh tomato slices, a leaf of rommaine lettuce and creamy mayo pressed perfectly between a sliced baguette roll. Delicious red potato salad and home made corn bread lathered with melting butter accompanied my sandwich, all which was pleasingly washed down with a glass of white zin for good measure.

    My wife, usually a finicky eater, ordered what we expected would be a simple grilled cheese sandwich. What arrived in front of her was a sandwich much more gourmet in appearance and flavor, as her sandwich bread was hearty sour dough well toasted and filled with Vermont white cheddar cheese and a plump slice of fresh tomato. She claims it is the best grilled cheese she's ever had or seen. Both my wife and daughter had virgin strawberry daquiris, which at $5 each make it a rare treat at the lunch hour, but both felt they were well worth it on a warm summer afternoon. Our daughter ordered the "fruit plate with cottage cheese," a menu item that caused my eyes to roll at first, as I was imagining a petite portion size meant for dieters. When her plate was brought to the table, my jaw dropped as I saw a full dinner-sized platter piled liberally with the freshest red grapes, sliced honeydew, melon, strawberries and bananas I've ever eaten. None of the fruit items had even a hint of spoilage or wilting, and were all as cool and sweet as the day they were picked.

    Overall, the prices were a tad more than I'd generally spend on lunch, but the impressive experience we had made it all worth it and then some.

    I will say, I am a very harsh critic who's very difficult to impress when it comes to restaurant food, service and its accompanying ambiance, but the charm, quality and quirkiness of Blue Heaven add up to one of the best dining experiences I've ever had in any city, state or dining room. Passing up an opportunity to eat here would be a shame... as noted travel journalist Charles Kuralt once wrote about Blue Heaven in his book 'America', "I was in the neighborhood often to have supper at a funky cafe called Blue Heaven and sometimes came back the next morning for breakfast... with chickens running around underfoot."

    Ahhh, that's the Heaven I remember so fondly and miss already.

  • 2. East Martello Museum & Gallery
    Fort East Martello Museum, Key West, Florida Keys

    My family went to this site on the recommendation of a tour sales rep who works at the local naval base we stayed at during our early August 2006 trip to Key West - she said this museum is her favorite Key West "Diamond in the rough" in terms of what you see compared to how little the tour costs ($2-4 each). According to the East Martello web site, the Fort was built according to specifications of the nearly impregnable coastal Martello watchtowers in Italy. While the East Martello Fort was never completed and never saw hostile action, it represents the last Fort ever built in the world using this style of architecture. Its outer bulwark and inner citadel with eight-foot thick granite walls built during the Civil War era were a monument to military engineering and could have withstood any amount of bombardment at the time. But the development of explosive shells made these defenses less effective.

    Today its casemates, citadel and courtyard are home to a vast collection of Key West and Key's artifacts and historical records as well a military memorabilia. The view from atop the central tower affords visitors a spectacular panorama of the Atlantic coast of Key West. In the garden an 80-year-old playhouse provides children with insight into how kids lived and played in old Key West. Inside the galleries are the state's largest collections of painted wood carvings and drawings by Cuban artists Mario Sanchez and the scrap metal "junk" sculpture of Stanley Papio, both of whom are internationally renowned folk artists who once resided in the Keys.

    While it is very important to note that the East Martello is the best-preserved example of the Martello style of military architecture in the world today, I would be remiss if I failed to mention one of the quirky exhibits that resides at the Fort. Robert the Doll, a mysterious 20th century doll for which much has been written about for the past 100 years, "lives" in a glass exhibit at the East Martello. According to legend, in an old house in Key West, Florida, a child of 10 awakens in the middle of the night and finds one of his brightest daytime companions, a stuffed doll, staring at him from the foot of his bed. There is something unnatural about the glassy eyes, the expressionless face. It sits, silently piercing the child with its gaze, somehow threatening. The child, for no reason he can understand, is paralyzed with fear. Across the house, the child's mother is awakened by her son's screams and the sounds of furniture being overturned. She rushes to his room, panic-stricken, to find the door locked. On the other side of the door, she can hear the sounds of chaos and giggling, broken only by the screams of her son calling out to her, pleading for a rescue. When at last she wrenches the door open, she finds her son still huddled in his bed, his room destroyed, and a rag-doll sitting placidly at the foot of his bed. "Robert did it," says the boy in a frightened whisper.

    It is not uncommon for children to have imaginary friends. Often times, a mischievous child will blame some wrongdoing on a spectral presence or a favorite doll, and parents will dismiss it as a bright imagination. But what happens when the doll begins to torment the child and terrorize anyone who lives within the household? Such is the strange case of Robert, the haunted doll of Key West, Florida.

    This doll display was a total trip! Your skin really will crawl in the presense of this creepy doll. Even though he is harmlessly sitting within his glass house, you get the feeling that he's watching you wherever you go. Many visitiors, as well as workers at the museum, have claimed the doll moves throughout the day in his air-tight home. His legs may shift... he may shift his stuffed toy from one side to the other... he may even blink his eyes at times. This is no joke, folks. This is "grade A" creepy. Just check the letters on the wall next to his display, from travelers all over the world who have written apologies for taking a picture of him without his "permission." Apparently, Robert hates having his picture taken - so much so, that countless tourists have had their rolls of film mysteriosly destroyed or lost without any logic as to why. Me being the adventurous type, I took many photos of him and threw caution to the wind. If TripAdvisor ever publishing my bloody review of the Fort, which I submitted long ago, you will see the pictures I am referring to. Have fun! We sure did.

  • 3. Key West Aquarium
    Key West Aquarium, Key West, Florida Keys

    Daily Nurse shark, sting ray and turtle feedings and the Touch Tank offer guests hands on experience with the sea life of the surrounding waters. The Aquarium features a wide variety of fish including grouper, moray eels, barracuda, tropical fish, tarpon, parrotfish and much, much more.

    Be sure to check out the large "tank" out in the back area of the Aquarium... Out back, you'll find that there's a few sharks kept on display in the most natural habitat I've seen anywhere... in there, you'll find a sandbar shark and a nice-sized Bull shark (yes, the "maneater" type), who will literally jump out of the water if it sees a fish dangling overhead. Cool stuff!