KEY WEST


There's a split second that inevitably occurs in every hot sauce connoisseur's life when he realizes that he has immoderately overestimated his tolerance. The realization often quickly manifests itself through audible expressions of anguish, excessive crying, wild thrashing, frenzied intake of various fluids...or...well, whatever is going on here. Hot sauce tasting at Peppers of Key West.

You'll definitely see butterflies at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. Thousands of them, across 50 - 60 different species. You might even serve as transport around the atrium for some of the more enterprising ones, hitching a free ride on your shirt or hat. Can't blame 'em, it's hot in here! When you start dripping sweat after a couple laps of the place, the Southernmost Beach Cafe is right around the corner, serving up icy cold libation and such.


The butterflies are the main draw, no doubt. But walk slow, keep your eyes open. There's certainly no shortage of other critters, large and small, bold and shy, most seemingly just as interested in you as you are in them.

I'm not sure why the walls are missing on the mini great white...I mean...nurse shark tank at the Key West aquarium. My guess is that when they built the facility in 1934 they didn't anticipate the place being run amok with unsupervised 6 year-olds. But times change, and under normal circumstances, nowadays, you can stand in this very spot for five minutes and watch no fewer than ten kids leap from their stroller, coat their arms in chum, and slam 'em straight into the tank while mom or dad babbles away on their cell phone. At the end of the day, I doubt the Key West aquarium cares much. Because, after all, if you can squeeze a free meal for your sharks out of a small child, more power to you. I waited around for a while and they unexpectedly canceled the 4:30pm scheduled feeding.

Hanging out with the Key Deer, Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys. This small stretch of islands is the species’ entire universe, home to a population of about 1,000. They’re curious, playful, gentle, and, turns out, love the grains leftover from the mash after brewing a tasty batch of Celebration Ale. We attracted a small herd. The survival of these animals is tenuous. Their friendly disposition doesn’t do them any favors. Their habitat is dwindling. Most immediately, they’re currently subject to an outbreak of a fatal parasitic infestation known as screw worm, which is about as bad as it sounds. I washed my hands. Efforts are underway to minimize the spread - the first of its kind since the early 1980s, and one that could potentially have larger implications on US agriculture - but time and numbers suggest an ominous outcome. Currently classified as endangered, the Key Deer species faces the real and immediate threat of total eradication.

Isolated 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, in the Gulf the Mexico, Dry Tortugas National Park preserves Fort Jefferson and the seven-island Dry Tortugas archipelago.The Yankee Freedom II will serve as your fair vessel for the two and a half hour boat ride from Key West and is the only passage to the islands (other than seaplane). Once outside the shelter of the Florida Reef it's an interesting time in 10-foot swells. Bring your Dramamine.

Mallory Square.



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