Florida Keys: unlock the best activities for groups

Sunday, 22 Jan, 2022 0

The Florida Keys & Key West welcomes meetings for groups seeking engaging outdoor celebrations, and activities with wide-open spaces across the 125-mile-long chain of southernmost islands.

 "2022 is to be especially memorable for visitors to the Keys, marked by several historic highlights: the reopening of our iconic Old Seven Mile Bridge, Key West’s 200th anniversary of its first settlement in 1822 and Everglades National Park’s upcoming 75th anniversary in December," said Jack Meier, Group Sales Manager for the Keys’ Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

The Keys are an ideal island destination offering unique bonding experiences for meetings from 15 to 100 attendees.

 Flying into the Florida Keys is an option from major US cities. Six airlines — Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Silver and United — operate more than 20 nonstop routes to Key West International Airport, making the destination easily accessible.

 Keys Transportation

Key West International Airport (EYW) is to break ground this spring on a new $80 million terminal, targeted for completion in October 2024. A new concourse is to include enhanced security checkpoint, concessions and baggage claim areas; a spacious departure area; and glass-enclosed jet bridges that connect planes to the facility.

FlixBus, a European company with bus and rail services in 36 countries, offers a convenient new car-free option, six days per week, for travel to the Keys from Miami and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international airports. The 56-passenger, single-level motorcoaches are equipped with free Wi-Fi, an on-board entertainment portal, power outlets, reclining seats with spacious legroom, luggage space and a restroom. 

Keys Milestones

At Marathon in the Middle Keys, the 2.2-mile section of the Old Seven Mile Bridge that parallels the famed Florida Keys Overseas Highway reopened J on January 12 after an approximately $44 million renovation that began in 2017.

The landmark structure is the gateway to historic Pigeon Key, a tiny island nestled beneath it, and a ‘linear park’ offering pedestrian recreation and prime sunset viewing. A new 60-passenger tram to Pigeon Key is expected to be operational this spring.  

In Key West, residents and businesses are planning activities to highlight the 200th anniversary of the island’s first permanent settlement in 1822. Planned activities include "Commemorating 200 Years of Settlement" March 19-30. Activities include the creation of a collectible stamp; dedication of a time capsule to be placed beneath the American flag at Mallory Square and opened in 50 years; a 90-minute documentary, talks and events about Key West history. Visit keywest200th.com.

The Custom House Museum, operated by the Key West Art & Historical Society, is featuring "Key West 200," an exhibit running through December 11 that celebrates the 200th anniversary of the first permanent settlement of Key West in 1822. The exhibit highlights Key West’s people, culture and community. Artifacts include sponge-fishing equipment, cigar roller tables and tools, 19th-century homewares, clothing, artwork and photographs, Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad memorabilia, Ernest Hemingway’s boxing gloves, Native American tools, Key West Hand Print brand dresses and U.S. Navy ship models 

Keys Activities

The African Queen steamboat, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, starred in John Huston’s iconic 1951 film ‘The African Queen’ with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Today it travels Key Largo’s Port Largo Canal on scenic 90-minute cruises. Now fully restored, the vessel was built in 1912 at Lytham, England, to shuttle cargo, missionaries and hunting parties in Africa. Daily cruises depart from Marina Del Mar at mile marker 100. 

In Key Largo, Keys’ Meads, the Florida Keys’ only meadery, has an expanded 2,500-square-feet location offering tours, a tasting room and retail space selling made-in-the-Keys mead — a fermented alcoholic beverage crafted from honey. Traditional meads from the family operation are made from Keys honey, water and yeast, and come in dry, semidry or sweet versions. 

Through a partnership with I.CARE — the Keys’ newest coral reef restoration organization — and Mote Marine Laboratory on Summerland Key, there’s a new Mote Marine Laboratory land-based coral nursery at Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada. I.CARE’s mission is to transplant staghorn, elkhorn and starlet corals, raised both onshore and offshore by Mote, to reefs off Islamorada.

Adventure lovers can experience The Lagoon on Grassy Key, a 50-acre action-sports eco-park at mile marker 59 that is home to Keys Cable Park, Bongos Beer Garden and the Lagoon Saloon. At Keys Cable Park, specialising in wakeboarding, groups can opt for private half- or full-day rentals with additional activities including stand-up paddle boarding, efoil (electric hydrofoil) surfing and kayaking. 

Key West Art & Historical Society offers a Key West Lighthouse Sunset Experience for groups of up to eight, with 90 minutes of exclusive access to the lighthouse, keeper’s quarters and grounds. The lighthouse, opened in 1848, has an 88-step spiral staircase to reach the top.

The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory — known for its tropical gardens, hundreds of free-flying butterflies and a wide variety of small tropical birds — is home to local celebrity flamingos Rhett and Scarlett. During "Flamingle" encounters, daily from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m., guests seated in a picturesque gazebo overlooking the conservatory’s pond can enjoy interacting with Rhett and Scarlett as the pair roams freely. 

Salute to the Sol Yoga offers new customised party and group event yoga in Key West. Known for virtual, private and Sunday yoga classes on the event lawn at The Perry Hotel & Marina Key West, Salute to the Sol’s team of certified personal instructors delivers customized vinyasa sessions for all levels. The addition of group yoga for wedding weekend, bachelor or bachelorette party, corporate or team-building events rounds out Salute to the Sol’s services.

 Keys Tours

On Big Pine Key, the two-acre fruit farm Grimal Grove — billed as the first and only breadfruit grove in the continental United States — offers new 90-minute guided tropical fruit excursions showcasing species of subtropical and tropical fruits, trees and plants. Participants can sample sweet and sour exotic fruits including breadfruit and learn the story of 1950s-era hermit Adolf Grimal, a recluse who designed Old Grimal Estate. 

Up the Keys Eco Tours‘ half-day Nature Tour, offered daily at 9 a.m., now includes the Keys’ famed Seven Mile Bridge in addition to Bahia Honda State Park, Key deer and the Blue Hole. Groups can reserve the entire van for their own group by paying an additional "Make It Private" upcharge of $150. Dolphin Research Center and Tiki Bar Crawl tours are also offered.  

Ever ridden in a presidential limo? The Harry S. Truman Little White House in Key West, Florida’s only presidential museum, has acquired one of Truman’s presidential limousines and a ride is included on the museum’s White Glove Tour. The mid-century, mint-condition Lincoln Cosmopolitan stretch limo, with about 33,000 odometer miles, was originally based in New York City for use by President Truman. The tour, just over two hours, is offered Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m 

The 90-minute Old Town Literary Walking Tour takes participants past sites and landmarks recalling world-renowned writers’ presence in Key West, illustrating the island city’s significance in the literary world. The tour features former homes and haunts of writers including Tennessee Williams, Shel Silverstein, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost and others. Group tours on Fridays and Sundays are offered for two to 12 people; private tours are offered on request. 

At Key West’s Fort East Martello Museum, Sloan’s Ghost Fort Adventures has group tours for up to 30, featuring Robert the Doll, dubbed the "world’s most haunted doll." Tours take guests through the Civil War-era fort to ‘visit’ Robert, given to Key West youngster Robert Gene Otto in 1904. The evening tours are created by local author David Sloan, chronicler of the eerie doll’s history, in partnership with museum operator Key West Art & Historical Society. 

Keys Hemingway Happenings

Key West’s 8,200-square-foot Hemingway Rum Company Papa’s Pilar Distillery has unveiled its new Hemingway’s Library, a 2,400-square-feet tasting bar and centre for hosting events and rum tastings. The new venue is available for private group cocktail classes, with cost based on group size and amenities. Formerly a tobacco warehouse, the distillery houses the Papa’s Pilar Rum production facility, an experience centre, tasting room and trading post. 

In Key West, the Lighthouse Hotel, a Kimpton Key West property at 902 Whitehead St. across from the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, offers "A Hemingway Affair" for private parties of up to 10. The Hemingway Suite, with a view of the author’s former home, can be reserved for a custom-menu culinary experience created by Great Events Catering, cocktail hour with butler-passed hors d’oeuvres, and multicourse, chef-prepared in-suite meal. 

Key West Food Tours offers its Hemingway/Southernmost Food & Cultural Tour, tracing famed author Ernest Hemingway’s libations and lifestyle during the 1930s when he lived in Key West’s Old Town district. The four-hour tour for groups of eight to 16 participants covers 1.6 miles and stops at five locations. Among its attractions are four food tastings including Key lime pie, three cocktails and a guided tour of the landmark Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum where the literary legend lived and wrote.

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TravelMole Editorial Team

Editor for TravelMole North America and Asia pacific regions. Ray is a highly experienced (15+ years) skilled journalist and editor predominantly in travel, hospitality and lifestyle working with a huge number of major market-leading brands. He has also cover in-depth news, interviews and features in general business, finance, tech and geopolitical issues for a select few major news outlets and publishers.

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