Here are three attractions for the whole family that capture Key West’s artistic inclinations, diverse history and whimsical beauty.
The nightly Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square is the best free show in town, a center of Key West commerce and performance art (mallorysquare.com). The square’s history dates back to the town’s early years when it was incorporated in 1828. Everything blurs together here: past and present, tourists and locals, day and night, music and magic, artists and hustlers, photographers, friends and lovers. The aroma of food vendors fills the air along with the acrobatics of fire-juggling performers , the future told in tarot cards, and magnanimous good cheer. On any given night you might find the Rev. Bill Welzein preaching to the crowd, hear the melancholy stylings of Dennis Riley, the “southernmost bagpiper,” or for the feline-inclined, Dominique the Cat Man. The festivities begin about two hours before sunset.
Key West Wildlife Center
The Key West Wildlife Center is located inside the 8-acre Sonny McCoy Indigenous Park at 1801 White St. and it is open seven days a week. Paved trails weave throughout the park, where you can visit and enjoy native flora and fauna. The main focus of the center is wild bird and wildlife services. It provides rehabilitative care to over 1,000 native wild animals and birds, while also providing rescue services for sea and land turtles, and marine and land mammals. It provides 24-hour emergency rescue services within Key West. In addition it provides chicken rescue services for sick, injured or orphaned feral chickens.
The mission of the Wildlife Center is to “ensure the future of our diverse native wildlife by providing timely rescues and quality rehabilitation with the hope of release back to the wild.”
It is located at 1801 White St. and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. (305) 292-1008, keywestwildlifecenter.org.
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
This peaceful enclave filled with dozens of butterfly species from around the world, flowering plants, birds and cascading waterfalls is its own world, a calming respite from Duval Street’s bustling commerce. Take your time strolling through the conservatory with a computerized weather control system keeping it a tropical 85 degrees. Be still and the butterflies might land on you. Raised on farms in the tropics, they live on average about 10 days. The female Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, considered the world’s largest butterfly, has a wingspan up to 11 inches while the pygmy blue, the smallest, has a half-inch wingspan. Check out a 15-minute film about these “flowers of the sky” in the learning center or view Sam Trophia’s artwork in Wings of Imagination — the Butterfly Gallery. Butterflies that have lived out their life cycles are preserved in clear acrylic cases. More information: 1316 Duval St.; (305) 296-2988; keywestbutterfly.com. ¦