GETTING THERE: There are several daily flights from Miami International Airport to Key West. If you have the time, though, the five-hour drive down U.S. Rte. 1 is unforgettable. The view of sea and sky from the seven-mile bridge is breathtaking.
WHERE TO STAY: A number of real estate offices handle short-term house and apartment rentals, among them:
Island Properties of Key West, 400 Simonton St., Key West, Fla. 33041, (305) 296-7766.
Property Management of Key West, 517 Eaton St., Key West, Fla. 33041, (305) 296-7744.
WHERE TO EAT: While many of the establishments in Key West will not smile fondly as little Sally spills her second ginger ale, there are plenty of others that are fine for families, including:
Turtle Kraals, 101 Margaret St. One of my favorite memories of Key West is sitting in the Turtle Kraals about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, nibbling a snack of spicy spareribs and smoked fish, sipping a beer and watching our children explore the touch tank. The Turtle Kraals is a breeding sanctuary for sea turtles as well as an excellent restaurant and bar favored by locals (it features beer from 28 countries). In addition to the touch tank, with starfish, anemones and hermit crabs, there are tanks with tarpon, nurse sharks, a moray eel, sea turtles and lobster, to name a few.
Half-Shell Raw Bar, Land's End Village, across the parking lot from the Turtle Kraals. Not only does the Half-Shell Raw Bar serve the World's Best Fish Sandwich, it also has delicious conch chowder, broiled shark, squid rings and, for nonseafood lovers, barbecued ribs and jumbo hamburgers. Try for one of the picnic tables by the water and your kids will be entertained by the boats and pelicans.
La Lechonera, Flagler Street. No visitor to Key West should miss trying Cuban cuisine, and La Lechonera is one of the best places to try it. The owner has plastered the place from floor to ceiling with porcine photographs, cartoons, figurines, hog and sow restroom signs -- you get the picture. The food is wonderful and moderately priced, and the menu includes enough "regular" food to please the most discriminating child.
Amy's, Duval Street. Amy serves up Philippine food in a simple and friendly patio restaurant on Duval Street. Her barbequed chicken or beef on a stick were a hit with the kids, and eating outside on the patio made it one of our most relaxing restaurant meals.
Deli Restaurant, Truman Street. The Deli bears no resemblance to a delicatessen. With its seahorse motif and capable waitresses it's more like a diner or old-fashioned family restaurant. While adults can't order drinks, the kids will love the menu -- everything from peanut butter and jelly to fried chicken and mashed potatoes. The fresh catch of the day, broiled wahoo, was delicious. The desserts are homemade and include the best key lime pie you'll get anywhere.
INFORMATION: For more information on accommodations and attractions, contact:
Key West Chamber of Commerce, 402 Wall St., Key West, Fla. 33041, (305) 294-2587.
Key West Visitor's Bureau, P.O. Box 1147, Key West, Fla. 33041, (305) 294-2587 or (800) FLA-KEYS (800-352-5397).