It's the time of year when many of us are dreaming of islands, tank tops, and flip flops. While we get a lot of sun here in Fort Collins, it's a different feeling kayaking under an island sun than shoveling snow from your driveway (even if the sun is on your shoulders).
Key West, even during peak season, is a cheaper and closer option than Caribbean or Hawaiian islands. But, cats jumping through flaming hoops at Mallory Square, or tequila shots at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville are not Key West. If you stay at the northern end of Duval, you will encounter pirate treasure seeking cruise ship passengers and professional drinkers that may not remember their trip. Stray a little, and you will find locals' spots for activities, good drinks, and food.
Head to Higgs Beach, where there is a bar and restaurant on the beach, free Wi-Fi, beach chair and umbrella rentals. Or, rent a kayak and take it out to sea from the beach. Watch the sunset from White Street pier, where the view is excellent, and the crowd is local.
At Finnegan's Wake (www.keywestirish.com) the only tourists have just wandered off of the Fort Myers ferry and are making a quick stop on the way to their hotel. The bar has the best beer selection on the island, the menu changes monthly, and everything, including the bread, is made in-house. Of course, the bartenders make expert margaritas and mojitos, and are likely to remember you by name after two visits.
For lunch, head to the laundromat. Sandy’s Cafe, located in the M&M Laundromat (on White Street) makes the best Cuban sandwiches. After dark, head to Bahama Village, where the Caribbean Key West rebelliously survives the daily tourist onslaught. Relax on the porch at Santiago’s Bodega (www. santiagosbodega.com) and wash down tapas with a great wine.
Stay at the former home of one of Key West’s famous characters, William Curry, a Bahamian immigrant who made his fortune as a pirate. The Curry Mansion Inn’s (www.currymansion.com) rooms are decorated in island style wicker, and breakfast is served every morning.
Southwest Airlines has direct flights from Denver to Fort Lauderdale, and from there it's a beautiful 4 hour drive down through the Keys.