The residents of the southernmost city in the United States have a colorful and unique heritage. Many consider themselves “Conchs,” a term originally used to describe Loyalist pioneers who immigrated to the island from the Bahamas in the early 1800s. Others descended from the large Cuban population that arrived in the late nineteenth century. Today, Key West is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, and the tropical destination has been home to the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett and Calvin Klein.
With its cruise seaport and famous Duval Street, Key West attracts more than a million tourists a year. And while many have had the pleasure of experiencing the city as a tourist, strolling the streets as an honorary native is twice as fun. Below are some must-see local hot spots.
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Located at the end of Front Street, the White Tarpon’s claim to fame is its “World Famous Key Lime Martini.” The bar is quite small, but the place also serves as a wine shop and deli. The atmosphere is relaxed and intimate—it is definitely a hangout for the locals. The Key Lime Martini tastes exactly like a key lime pie, right down to the graham cracker crumb rim. Tip: Don’t try picking up the glass until you take a few good sips. (700 Front Street, 305-295-5222, whitetarpon.com)
The Green Parrot
Named one of the Top Ten Bars in America, the Green Parrot calls itself a "locals’ favorite.” This dive bar is always teeming with people under its large parachute canopy, and the walls are plastered with interesting art. Try the popular Bloody Mary, help yourself to the free fresh popcorn and enjoy the sensational live music. If you’re not much of a night owl, come for the band’s sound check around 5 p.m., or watch all the action on its live webcam. (601 Whitehead Street, 305-294-6133, greenparrot.com)
Key West Key Lime Pie Co.
The perfect escape on a hot day, this small shop sells slices of key lime pie dipped in chocolate and served frozen on a stick. The Key West Key Lime Pie Co. has snagged 5 blue ribbons from the American Pie Council’s National Pie Championships, so you know it’s good. (511 Greene Street, 305-517-6720, keywestkeylimepieco.com)
Hogfish Bar & Grill
Tucked away on Stock Island, the Hogfish Bar & Grill is about a five-minute drive from Key West. A casual dining experience, its fresh seafood and waterfront seating is unparalleled. Cozy up to a jaw-dropping view of the sunset and try some delectable fish tacos or its namesake menu item, the Hogfish sandwich. (6810 Front Street, 305-293-4041, hogfishbar.com)