Many would say if you're going to do Key West right, you're going to have to spend a good bit of money. Hotels aren't cheap, food and drink can be surprisingly expensive and popular attractions like author Ernest Hemingway's house don't offer free admission.
That said, you can spare your bank account by mixing in a few free attractions. Here are five ideas to get you started.
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Mallory Square is the essence of Key West. You could visit this seaside boardwalk every evening and never get bored. Arrive about an hour before sunset and encounter everything from fire-eaters and knife jugglers to hoop-jumping cats and tightrope walkers -- plus a slew of food vendors offering calorie-free (yeah right) treats such as conch fritters. When the sun hits the horizon, be prepared to drop everything and put your camera in the ready position. The colors are mesmerizing and will make your landlocked relatives squirm with delight. 400 Wall St., Key West, FL 33040. www.mallorysquare.com
Southernmost point in continental U.S.
It's exactly what it sounds like. There isn't much to do here besides wait in line, smile for pictures and then incite your friends' jealousy via Snapchat. Visiting this monument, however, is something to cross off your bucket list. At the intersection of South Street and Whitehead Street. southernmostpointusa.com
Key West Cemetery
Few places boast more history than cemeteries, and Key West's version is no exception. People buried here include Ernest Hemingway's fishing guide and the first black Monroe County deputy killed in the line of duty. Watching over the cemetery is an impressive statue built among graves of those killed in 1898 when an explosion ripped through the USS Maine in Havana. 701 Passover Lane, Key West, FL 33040. 305-292-6718. www.historicfloridakeys.org
Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
Maybe reading about coral reefs, hammock forests and angelfish isn't what people have in mind when they visit Key West. Still, the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center offers visitors a chance to learn what the island is made of -- literally. The exhibit features an aquarium teeming with local reef fish, a mock forest landscape with facts about local plants and a big-screen theater playing an admittedly sappy narrative about Key West's flora and fauna. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 33 E. Quay Road, Key West, FL 33040. 305-809-4750. floridakeys.noaa.gov
Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower
Gardening enthusiasts are sure to enjoy this. Follow the paved paths through this leafy haven and find the winding strangler fig, patches of brain cactus and plenty of other native plants. What's more, the garden sits on the edge of the open water and offers impressive beachside views. On your way out, rehydrate with free chilled water near the entrance. It's a sweaty traveler's delight. Open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 1100 Atlantic Blvd., Key West, FL 33040. 305-294-3210. www.keywestgardenclub.com