Key West Florida Weekly

Museums to beat the heat



The Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters Museum is free year-round for Monroe County students. COURTESY PHOTO

The Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters Museum is free year-round for Monroe County students. COURTESY PHOTO

Key West’s tropical weather often envelops the island in a thick humidity, turning a simple trip to the mailbox into a sticky affair. But fear not, as Key West offers a plethora of captivating museums where both children and adults can escape the sweltering heat while indulging in some enriching experiences. Whether you’re new to the area or simply seeking refuge from the scorching temperatures, explore some of Key West’s finest establishments to expand your knowledge and cool off in comfort.

Custom House Museum
281 Front St.
kwahs.org
Today it serves as the official headquarters of the Key West Art & Historical Society, but over the course of its past life, the Key West Custom House has been home to a variety of Key West businesses, including the island’s postal service, district courts, Navy, and port of entry processing center. The Richardsonian Romanesque-style Victorian building is considered an architectural treasure of Key West; it towers over the harbor with a distinctive red brick façade that’s immediately recognizable.

A cat takes a time out on the table in Ernest Hemingway’s study at is home on Whitehead Street. ROB O’NEAL / FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU

A cat takes a time out on the table in Ernest Hemingway’s study at is home on Whitehead Street. ROB O’NEAL / FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU

Ernest Hemingway Home
907 Whitehead St.
hemingwayhome.com
He might be better known for his written works (or his drunken antics) but one thing’s for sure: Papa had great taste in real estate. Check out Hemingway’s Key West digs, which — along with the honor of having housed the writer while he penned some of his best-known works — was also the first house on the island to have a swimming pool. The museum is free to locals, and boasts a collection of Hemingway’s possessions — and those six-toed cats.

Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters Museum
938 Whitehead St.
kwahs.org
In the 19th century, Key West’s wrecking business thrived due to the risk of ships crashing in its shallow waters. Established in 1823 to aid navigation, Key West’s lighthouse stood as a vital beacon for sailors, with brave keepers and their families tending to its operation. Explore their legacy, climb the 88 steps to the top, and discover how this historic landmark safeguarded countless ships until its decommissioning in 1969. Locals enjoy free admission on the first Sunday of every month, while students from Monroe County schools can visit the museum for free year-round.

Oldest House & Gardens Key West
322 Duval St.
oirf.org
Discover the historic charm of Key West at the Oldest House & Gardens, dating back to 1829. Step inside to explore the preserved interior rooms, offering a glimpse into the Watlington family’s lifestyle during the city’s heyday, and wander through the expansive gardens surrounding the original English, Bahamian, and Greek revival structure. Open daily from 10 am to 4 pm, tickets are $10 for adults, with free admission for children under 12 accompanied by an adult.

USCGC Ingham (WHEC-35) Maritime Museum & National Historic Landmark
Southard Street at the Truman Waterfront
uscgcingham.org
You don’t need a set of sea legs to visit this ship — it’s docked at harbor, and, after being decommissioned by the Coast Guard, serves as a nonprofit museum honoring those killed in action during WWII and Vietnam. The ship is one of only two preserved Treasury-class U.S. Coast Guard cutter ships, and the most decorated in the fleet. Now a national landmark, the Ingham hosts daily tours, including a happy hour deal: $5 buys you a ticket onboard.

Tennessee Williams Museum
513 Truman Ave.
305-204-4527
Playwright Tennessee Williams visited and lived in Key West from 1941 until his death in 1983. It is believed he wrote the final draft of “Street Car Named Desire” in Key West. See a collection of photographs, first edition plays and books, rare newspaper and magazine articles, videos, a typewriter used by the author in Key West and other artifacts. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. ¦

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