What To Do On A Rainy Day In Key West

Key West is best known for its beautiful beaches, lively nightlife, and outdoor adventures. But when an inevitable rainy day hits and ruins your plans for snorkeling, sailing, or sunbathing, don’t despair! The island still overflows with indoor activities perfect for wet weather entertainment. This comprehensive guide covers the best rainy day things to do in Key West, ranging from museums and historical sites to aquariums, theaters, and beyond.

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Legendary writer Ernest Hemingway called Key West home for over 10 years, writing beloved classics like For Whom the Bell Tolls within the lush tropical grounds of his Key West estate. Wandering through his preserved studio, rooms, and library, you glimpse the spaces where Hemingway penned some of American literature’s most important works in the 1930s. Even in wet weather, the museum’s 47 resident polydactyl (six-toed) cats lounge lazily amid flower gardens, fountains, and archways waiting to greet visitors. Time your tour to catch docents hand-feeding the felines at set times.

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

When rains hit, escape into Key West’s only air-conditioned butterfly garden located on the south end of  Duval Street. The glass-enclosed conservatory immerses you in a tropics oasis amongst hundreds of butterflies floating through the trees, flowers and tranquil fountains. It also houses over 20 species of birds like colourful parrots and honeycreepers, along with  turtles, and tropical plants and trees. Relax as flitting wings flutter around you in this calm indoor sanctuary.

Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

For a fascinating glimpse into Key West’s shipwreck heritage, spend a few hours at this museum run by famous treasure hunter Mel Fisher’s family. Exhibits spotlight Fisher’s amazing discovery of the 1622 wrecked Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha, including cannons, gold coins, emeralds, and the boat’s elaborate steering wheel. Other galleries trace Key West’s history of sponging, cigarmaking, sailing, navy operations and more. You’ll uncover new insights into how salvaging and seafaring built and sustained Key West over centuries.

Key West Aquarium

While smaller than massive marine habitats in Tampa or Miami, Key West Aquarium provides an intimate, air-conditioned refuge to view local marine life up close. See nurse sharks, tarpon, sea turtles, eels, reef fish, and colorful coral all collected from waters within a few miles of Key West. Feedings occur daily at 11am and 4pm. And you can pet young sharks and stingrays in their touch tanks. It’s an affordable, family-friendly spot for escaping the rains that’s located right on Mallory Square.

Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum

Similar to Mel Fisher’s museum, this newer shipwreck museum houses an enormous collection of actual artifacts recovered from the sea. Highlights include treasures from the 1554 fleet sunk by a hurricane, 1733 Spanish Galleons, a 19th century slave ship, and a British merchant vessel containing thousands of gold and silver coins. You’ll see gold bars, swords, pottery, glassware and more spanning over 500 years of maritime history. It’s equal parts museum and glimpse into a real working shipwreck salvage warehouse.

Tropic Cinema

Catch an afternoon matinee movie at this historic, non-profit cinema located on Eaton Street near Duval Street. Opened in the 1940s, the Tropic Cinema still has a vintage Art Deco marquee and atmosphere. It screens award-winning domestic and foreign indie films, documentaries, and some blockbuster hits. Their concession stand sells beer, wine and standard movie snacks. For a cozy indoor option, you can’t beat watching cinema in one of Key West’s oldest movie houses.

Studios of Key West

Explore your creative side with a visit to Key West’s hub for arts showcases, exhibits and working studios. Pop into open studios to see resident painters, sculptors, jewelers and mixed media artists diligently working. The main gallery hosts rotating exhibits from invited artists across every genre and medium. Make some art yourself through weekday clay workshops or figure drawing sessions (nominal fee required). It’s a must see for art lovers that easily fills a few hours.

Audubon House and Tropical Gardens

This preserved home once belonged to Captain John Geiger, Key West’s first licensed harbor pilot in the mid 1800s. Today it contains a large collection of John James Audubon’s famous illustrations and paintings of North American birds, wildlife, and flora. The house and gardens feature Key West’s finest assortment of botanical specimens like queen palms, orchids, fragrant frangipani trees, and several types of bamboo. Rest on a bench framed by vibrant flowers and towering trees as native birds flit overhead.

Oldest House Museum

Built in 1829, this tiny historic home gives you a window into domestic life in the early 19th century days of Key West. Costumed docents provide commentary as you explore tight quarters between the kitchen, dining room, bedroom, and Victorian-era furnishings. The house itself showcases unique grooved Dade County pine lumber and construction methods suited for hot climates. Examine exhibits about the home’s various owners, Key West society and architectural influences during your visit.

Fort East Martello Museum and Gardens

Key West’s old Civil War-era fort protects some rather unexpected treasures within its 16 wooded acres and imposing brick walls. In addition to military relics, its museum contains exhibits of local history. See displays outlining Key West’s involvement in salvaging shipwrecks, Cuban migrant stories, the citrus and cigar industries and early 20th century life. The quirkiest attraction remains Robert the Haunted Doll who inhabits his own glass case. Legend claims the doll tormented past owners with bad luck. Peer if you dare into its tiny beady eyes.

Tennessee Williams Exhibit

Famed playwright Tennessee Williams drew inspiration from his home on Key West to pen literary classics like The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. Photos, posters, personal artifacts and stage props at the small Tennessee Williams museum transport you into his world of writing and theatre in the 1940s and 50s. Walk through a life-sized replica of the claustrophobic room where Williams worked. And listen to docents share juicy tales of his eccentric life on the island amongst a lively arts scene.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let bad weather dampen exploring America’s Caribbean island playground. Key West still shines indoors through interactive museums and exhibits illuminating the destination’s unique history, arts, wreck salvaging and literary legacies. From shipwreck treasures to haunting dolls, Hemingway’s Key West refuge to Tennessee Williams’ tropical inspiration, indoor adventures await. So next time a passing squall blows through town, refer to this list and uncover a fascinating new side to Key West until sunny skies return.

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