The Best Things To Do In Key West For FREE

Known for its pastel-hued architecture, fantastic sunset views, and lively atmosphere, Key West offers plenty to do without spending a dime. Though hotels and flights to get to this southernmost U.S. city cost money, once there, visitors can enjoy beaches, parks, window shopping, people watching, and appreciating some of Key West’s best views and historical attractions on a budget. This article outlines the best free things to see and do in Key West for an affordable island getaway.

Beaches and Parks

Key West’s beaches offer the perfect place to camp out with a book, go for a swim, or simply relax and soak up some rays for free. Some favorites include:

Smathers Beach

The longest beach in Key West spans over a mile from end to end. Coconut palm trees fringe this popular spot providing naturally shady respites. Watch planes coming and going from the nearby airport as you sunbathe or take a dip in the calm waters. Volleyball courts and picnic pavilions make it easy to pass the time here.

Higgs Beach

Within walking distance to many guesthouses and inns, Higgs Beach offers free convenient access to lounge chairs, picnic tables, and watersports rentals. Expansive palm groves provide refuge from the sun. Two restaurant bars satiate post-beach appetites.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

While entry into the fort museum costs a small fee, accessing and enjoying the prime beaches here does not. Since it sits on protected lands, the lush beach scenery and clear snorkeling waters impress. Rent equipment onsite or bring your own for frolicking in the waves.

Casa Marina Beach

Adjacent to the Casa Marina Resort, anyone can luxuriate on the silky sands and turquoise waters just steps from Duval Street’s action. Relax on provided beach chairs and umbrellas dotting the shoreline.

Dog Beach at Higgs Beach

Let your pup run free at one end of Higgs Beach designated just for dogs. Just be sure to clean up after your four-legged friend!

In addition to beaches, Key West’s public parks allow budget travelers to relax in the shade or get in some exercise at no cost. Some top picks include:

Bayview Park

This waterfront park overlooks Sunset Key’s beach. Flowering gardens decorated with artwork make for scenic strolls or seating. Spot sailboats and cruise ships navigating the harbor.

Smathers Beach Playground

Kids can burn off energy climbing, sliding and swinging on this playground along Smathers Beach. Shaded benches give parents a place to oversee fun. Volleyball courts nearby offer Games for older kids and adults.

Historic Sites

Wandering Key West feels like stepping back in time thanks to carefully preserved historic attractions open to peruse at your leisure including:

Key West Cemetery

Established in 1847, tranquil cemetery burial plots honor Key West pioneers and colorful characters. Hunt for the most unique headstones and take self-guided tour pamphlets located at the entrance kiosk.

Key West Shipwreck Museum

The expansive waterfront grounds surrounding this museum make a lovely spot for a harborfront stroll or picnic. Interpretative signs detail maritime history. Don’t miss the towering White Street Pier for panoramic views and photos.

Southernmost Point Buoy

No Key West visit is complete without the requisite photo op at this iconic red, yellow, black and white buoy marking the southernmost land point in the continental United States just 90 miles from Cuba. Enjoy free access 24 hours a day.

Harry S. Truman Little White House

Walk the paths winding through fragrant botanical gardens surrounding President Truman’s former Key West vacation home and working retreat, now a fascinating museum. The 541 species of vibrant plants and flowers make this peaceful place worth a prolonged stop.

Malls for Window Shopping

Three main shopping plazas provide hours of free entertainment peering at goods displayed in art galleries, souvenir shops and boutiques:

Art Galleries

Duval Street has a ton of art galleries with beautiful works by local and guest artists alike. Take a stroll and stop in to see why so many artists flock to Key West. It costs nothing to look, but beware – you may just find a piece of art that you have to have!

The Historic Seaport at Key West Bight

Nineteenth century warehouses converted into abundant shops and restaurants border this picturesque marina. Browse apparel, gifts, crafts and jewelry during an afternoon stroll as boats slowly drift by in the harbor.

Bahama Village

Key West’s Bahamian roots shine through at this shopping district near Smathers Beach. Sniff through candles and oils at colossal Yankee Candle or admire Haitian folk art next door at Serenity Gallery. The historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church here makes an exquisite backdrop for photos.

Sunset Celebrations on Mallory Square

Each evening as the sun disappears over the horizon, throngs flock to this waterfront area to watch street performers, listen to musicians, and glimpse Key West’s much-loved sunset ritual. Artists and food vendors populate the square daily by late afternoon. Grab a snack and simply soak up the atmosphere.


Many hotels and full-service vacation rentals in Key West offer free use of kayaks, stand up paddleboards, snorkel gear and pool noodles to guests. Take advantage and paddle peacefully through canals and harbors or float lazily taking in beautiful scenery. Consult your host to utilize free recreational gear during your stay for outings on nearby beaches. Companies located at marinas also rent equipment for affordable hourly rates.

Annual Events and Festivities

Entertainment abounds all year long at Key West’s beloved annual celebrations. Partake in these lively festivals and parades unfolding along city streets for hours of free fun:

Conch Republic Independence Celebration

Commemorating Key West’s symbolic 1983 secession from the U.S., this zany April affair ensues over 10 days and includes drag races, costumes, live music, a pet parade, and tactical skirmishes by land and sea ending in the mayor surrendering to U.S. naval forces.

PrideFest Key West

Key West proudly celebrates diversity and acceptance at one of the country’s original Pride festivals each June. A month of drag shows, pool parties, exhibits and contests culminates with a vibrant parade along Duval Street and vibrant street fair.

Fantasy Fest

For 10 days preceding Halloween, Key West lets loose showing off its wild, creative side with parades, colorful masquerade balls, costume contests, themed fetes and street fairs at this iconic annual tradition.

Parrot Heads Convention in November

Jimmy Buffet fanatics parrot head down to Key West each fall for this trop rockin’ bash celebrating the acclaimed singer and his iconic music. Free nightly entertainment ensues on various stages. Or simply walk Duval Street taking in spirited revelry from passerby.

People Watching on Duval Street

The island’s epicenter provides miles of entertainment simply grabbing a drink at an outdoor café or bench and watching vibrant visitors and locals meander by. Musicians, artists, and quirky buskers line the bustling strip. The proceedings truly heat up after sunset when Key West comes alive. Wander at your leisure taking Instagram-worthy pics of street scenes without spending a penny.


 With sublime beaches, charming parks, historic attractions, a vibrant downtown strip, and walkable streets, Key West offers free and affordable fun for budget-minded travelers looking to make the most of their visit. Use this extensive website and guide covering the best complimentary things to do in Key West when planning your Keys getaway.

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