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THE FLORIDA KEYS | The Travel Empire


Key West, FL: The Chart Room Bar at Pier House Resort

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1184941_626284837392666_1073227351_nUnexpectedly tucked into a small room of the otherwise luxurious Pier House Resort is The Chart Room bar. The dimly lit Chart Room features only a tiny bar, offering a few stools to those looking to settle in for the night. The floor is strewn with discarded peanut shells and spilled popcorn while the wall and ceiling are haphazardly lined with nostalgic nautical decor. The dive bar offers a casual, though occasionally rowdy, spot to tuck in for a drink before heading out into the chaotic night life scene offered by the rest of Duval Street. The bar offers a bit of history as well-the Pier House itself was built in 1968 and The Chart Room was where Treasure hunter Mel Fisher used to plot his dives as well as where Jimmy Buffett used to play his gigs during his time in Key West in the early 70’s.

Free popcorn, peanuts & hot dogs.

1 Duval Street, Key West

Key West’s Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

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IMG_1361The Hemingway home was purchased for the author and his then wife, Pauline, by her wealthy uncle Gus in 1931 shortly after the couple arrived on the island of Key West. Built in 1851 in the Spanish Colonial style, the Hemingways undertook extensive restorations to revitalize the home. One of the unique features added to the home was the in-ground pool, built during the 1930’s, becoming the first in-ground pool on the entire island of Key West. The $20,000 cost of the pool IMG_1366drove Hemingway to exclaim that the project had taken his last penny and he famously took a penny out of his pocket and pressed it into the wet cement, where it still exists today.

Though the architectural details and the elaborate European furnishings have remained in place, it is clear that the decor has transitioned from how Hemingway lived into a homage to its former owner. In addition to personal artifacts that include letters, war medals and other mementos, the walls are lined with magazine covers, portraits of the author and even a wall dedicated to portraits of Hemingway’s wives.

Nearly as strong as the desire to see the property that the Nobel Prize winning author calledIMG_1370home, is the desire of tourists from around the globe to see the home’s famous six-toed cats. Hemingway House is inhabited IMG_1377by upwards of 50 of the polydactyl cats, some claimed to be descendants of Snowball, the six-toed cat given to Hemingway by a ship’s captain during his time in Key West. Hemingway began the tradition of naming all of his cats after famous people, a past-time that is carried on by the museum today. In addition to the cats that roam the inside of the house and outside museum grounds, there is an area off of the chapel that serves as the dedicated Pet Cemetery.

907 Whitehead Street, Key West

A Key West Tradition: Sloppy Joe’s

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IMG_1421A Key West staple, Sloppy Joe’s bar has occupied the corner of Duval and Greene since 1937 and has continued the tradition of offering entertainment, food and drinks to locals and tourists alike from morning to night. The bar’s roots began in 1933, when it was known as the Blind Pig, a rough and tumble saloon opened by a former speakeasy operator following the repeal of Prohibition. The name was soon thereafter changed to the Silver Slipper, an acknowledgement of the addition of a dance floor,IMG_1422 but the weathered look of the bar and crowd remained unchanged. It is said that it was Hemingway who suggested the name Sloppy Joe’s, as the owner Joe Russell kept such a sloppy establishment. Today, the bar remains as popular as it was in Key West’s heydey and continues to honor the area and the bar’s Hemingway tradition through its annual Papa Look-Alike contest.

201 Duval Street, Key West, FL

Visit Key West: Southernmost Point in the Continental United States

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IMG_1358Easily one of the most popular sites in Key West and a given backdrop to million’s vacation photos, the massive, concrete “buoy” marking the southernmost point in the continental United States is stationed a mere 90 miles from Cuba. The city erected the monument in 1983 and its popularity has yet to wane. The lines for an up-close photo are shortest in the morning but even so, visitors can expect to queue down the block for their turn. The buoy can also be seen from the passing tourist trolley tours that cover the city and its most popular sites.

Corner of South Street and Whitehead Street, Key West, FL

A Key Largo Must: Conch Fritters at Alabama Jack’s

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DSC03139A short detour off Route 1 on the drive through the Keys, Alabama Jack’s is a laid back favorite of both tourists and locals. Situated on a pair of barges in the mangroveDSC03143 swamps, the open air bar is little more than a center bar and scattered patio tables and chairs. License plates from around the U.S. and the world line the walls and serve as the bar’s only attempt at decor, knowing full well that their largest draw is the conch fritters, arguably the best to be had in the Keys. Whether you agree that the conch fritters deserve their reputation or not, the bar in itself is certainly worth the experience for anyone making their way through the Keys.

58000 Card Sound Rd, Key Largo