Top Family-Friendly Animal & Sea Life Experiences in Key West
Love critters? Have we got some cool spots (including the kind certain creatures display) for you! The living, breathing things that Key West attractions present aren’t just limited to land and water types either; we’re talking the exotic winged variety, too. So, gather up the kids and head over to the animal havens mentioned below. You’ll be in for some seriously awesome interactive experiences.
At the 6,000-sq.-ft. Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, you’ll learn all about and gain deep appreciation for South Florida’s fascinating (and fragile) land and underwater ecosystem while exploring exhibits focused on various Keys’ habitats, including pinelands, hardwood hammock, beach dune, mangroves, seagrass flats, coral reef and more.
There’s even a mock-up of Aquarius, the world’s sole underwater ocean lab where you’ll see bits of the reef’s marine life and how scientists live in the depths during their research expeditions. Be sure to take a look at the Mote Marine Laboratory Living Reef exhibit, which features a 2.500-gallon reef tank that showcases living corals and colorful tropical fish among other reef displays.
Key West Aquarium in Mallory Square also offers up amazing underwater views and insights about the area’s stunning marine life. We’re totally sure things will go swimmingly for you and your family as you dive into hands-on experiences with Moray eels, barracuda, grouper, tropical fish, conch and sea cucumbers, all narrated by the staff experts. Don’t miss the exhibits of moon jellyfish, Nurse Sharks and four rescued, non-releasable sea turtles (two of which have been outfitted with prosthetic flippers!). Trust us–you’re gonna flip-per out (sorry, just had to…) when you see them.
Outlandish Land Life
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Children’s Animal Farm takes a cool, win-win approach to raising and sustaining its charming population of 150 animals on the grounds of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Stock Island Detention Center: local jail inmates care for threatened creatures, including a miniature zebu, lemur, ostrich, kinkajou, fox, skunk, silver fox and alpacas. Visit them as well as the reptile exhibit; rabbit warren; farm animals like miniature horses, a steer, chickens, pigs and goats; and an aviary filled with peacocks and tropical birds. Say a special ‘hello’ to ‘spokesanimal’ Mo, a sloth who travels throughout Monroe County with lead overseer, Farmer Jeanne, to promote the farm.
Vivid pink flamingoes and multicolored Monarch butterflies….These are just two of the hundreds of flying creatures guaranteed to make your heart flutter with excitement when you visit the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservancy. The Learning Center here will introduce you to all sorts of butterfly facts while the glass conservatory will give you the opportunity to walk among 50-60 species of live butterflies, amazing blooming plants and brilliantly colored birds. One of the coolest experiences offered: a close-up view of live caterpillars feeding on their host plants. Be sure to stop by the gallery during your visit to view exquisitely crafted butterfly-themed art and browse the gift shop for butterfly- and nature-themed souvenirs.
Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden is a haven for orphaned parrots. Environmental activist and animal lover Nancy Forrester has been rescuing and nurturing homeless parrots, including mind-blowing South American macaws (those colors!!), a Hawkheaded parrot and a cockatoo, for 35 years. Text displays educate you about the resident parrots’ backstories as you pass through their environments. If you’re lucky, the parrots will tell you something about themselves as you go. JK—but you will have a blast laughing, talking and dancing with them.