5 Ways to Spend Thanksgiving in the Florida Keys

Swap pumpkin pie for key lime pie and spend Thanksgiving in Key West. Check out our favorite holiday events, where to catch Turkey Day football, and the best foods to add to your Thanksgiving spread. Here’s how we do Thanksgiving in the Keys.

 

Watch Thanksgiving football.

Football has long been a Thanksgiving Day tradition, and Thanksgiving in Florida is no exception. Whether you’re a Gators or Dolphins fan, you’ll be in good company this season. Here are the spots around town where you can catch some Thanksgiving football action:

 

Try local Key West specialties.

Move over creamed corn, here are some vibrant and tasty dishes from Key West that are sure to shine on Turkey Day.

 

Key Lime Pie

Sweet and tangy key lime pie is an obvious choice. It’s basically a staple food group in Key West. While Thanksgiving is traditionally lauded as the holiday of pumpkin or apple pie, in Florida, November is key lime pie’s time to shine.

 

 

 

 

Seafood

Looking for a local alternative to traditional turkey and stuffing? Try Key West pink shrimp or spiny lobster a new take on the popular Thanksgiving dishes. While some might raise an eyebrow at the thought of ordering seafood instead of turkey, a fresh taste of the Florida Keys is sure to make for a Thanksgiving dinner that won’t soon be forgotten.

 

And of course, we can’t not mention the gorgeous weather we’re surrounded with. Where else can you spend Thanksgiving Day on the water? Here are some of our favorite day trips to work up to the big meal on Thanksgiving:

 

Hit the waves for stand up paddleboarding.

Explore the open seas by renting a paddleboard from our resort at no charge.

 

See inside Ernest Hemingway’s house.

Explore the historic Hemingway House, where the famous novelist, writer, and journalist lived in the 1930s. The designed U.S. National Historic Landmark is located just across from the Key West lighthouse at the southern end of the island.

Go kayaking at Indian Key.

One of the many islands off the coast of the Florida Keys, Indian Key is only accessible by kayak, which makes for a great workout on Thanksgiving Day!

 

It’s never too early: Plan ahead and lock in the best rate for your stay this Thanksgiving.

4 Instagram Worthy Spots in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are some of the most gorgeous islands in the continental United States. With stunning reefs, historic revolutionary outposts, and luscious beaches and landscapes, there’s no shortage of Insta-worthy places to snap your vacation pictures. Check out our favorite spots to kick your Instagram game up a notch.

Hemingway House

Nestled in the heart of Old town Key West is the home of lauded American author Ernest Hemingway. Refurbished as a museum (open daily), the Southern Gothic home is most famous as a dwelling space for more than 40 local cats.

Dry Tortuga

Right off Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park sits in the open water. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, Dry Tortuga is home to Fort Jefferson, the coastal military center built in 1825, from which you can take breathtaking pictures of the surrounding turquoise water.

The Southernmost Point in the Continental United States

Not many can say they’ve been to the very end of a country. Hundreds of tourists flock to the Southernmost Point to take a picture with the iconic buoy, indicating that you’re at the end of the line – just 90 miles from Cuba.

Anne’s Beach

And of course, our own backyard has some pretty beautiful vistas, too. Anne’s Beach, just a short walk from Cheeca Lodge, boasts pristine white sands and crystal-clear water.

 

3 Hidden Gems on Islamorada

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The quaint town of Islamorada is full of hidden gems worth checking out. Here are our top picks for fun activities, where to find trinkets, and the best places to explore.


Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s Marina

The hottest restaurant in town…for fish! The Tarpon, a medium-sized fish native to the Atlantic, usually stops at Robbie’s Marina for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Hordes of these fish linger near the marina for hours, knowing that tourists and locals alike are sure to feed them. A spectacle to behold, and well worth the $4 for a bucket of feeding fish, head here throughout the day for instant entertainment and fun.

Kayak to Indian Key

The Florida Keys are dotted with little green islands, separated from the mainland by translucent turquoise water. Most of the islands are reachable by boat, but the real adventurers hop in a kayak and paddle out to Indian Key, a historical site that’s part of the Florida State Park system. The shallow water between Islamorada and Indian Key is perfect for kayaking in an area where the island’s many hidden historical secrets and treasures allow you to explore the day away.

Morada Way Arts and Cultural District

Nestled on the small island of Islamorada is a vibrant and growing arts and culture scene. The Morada district is known for its galleries, studio spaces, boutiques, and creative restaurants, making it one of the most exciting neighborhoods in the Florida Keys. The art galleries combine lush island themes and the presence of the surrounding and engulfing Atlantic Ocean, giving way to some truly unique pieces that are adept at communicating stories of the American islands diaspora.

The Cheeca Guide to Florida Keys Cuisine

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While the Florida Keys have gifted us with the delicious summertime favorite of the Key Lime Pie, that’s not all they’re known for. Here are a few special dishes to watch out for when you stay at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.

Key Lime Pie

Of course, we had to mention the Florida Keys staple. This tart and sweet crème pie uses key limes, which are smaller than conventional limes. The pie is said to have originated in Key West during the early 20th century. It was a staple of fishermen and Key West dwellers because the key ingredient, condensed milk, did not need to be refrigerated. To find the best slice on Islamorada, head to slightly north to Blond Giraffe, known locally as the Key Lime pie factory. This famed spot is one of the most well-known spots to grab a freshly-chilled pie in the Keys.

Key West Pink Shrimp

Harvested from the crystal clear waters of Dry Tortugas, this Florida Keys specialty is notable for their seasonality and their mildly sweet flavor. Deriving their pink color from their living environment in the coral sand off the west coast of Florida, you’ll find this type of shrimp in most restaurants on Islamorada. Usually served in cocktail sauce, or grilled and seared, hit up Twisted Shrimp, Chef Michael’s, or Lazy Days Restaurant to try this Keys specialty.

Spiny lobster

One of the many lobster varieties, this warm water lobster differs from its Northern cousin by forgoing the claws for a subtler taste. Because of its milder flavor, you’ll find this lobster meat mainly in stews or flavorful rice dishes. The Hungry Tarpon in Islamorada pairs its fresh catches of the day with Caribbean-inspired cuisines. Try the broiled Spiny Lobster tail with tropical rice and charred asparagus for its vibrant island flavors.

Our Favorite Florida Keys Beaches

Offering some of the best opportunities for fishing, diving, and other aquatic activities, the Florida Keys are a top destination for outdoor adventurers. But sometimes you just want to relax—and that’s when our beaches come in. Whether you’re looking for a stretch of soft sand or a place to bring your pup, there are a variety of unique spots to choose from.

Here are some of our favorite beaches in the Upper Keys:

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – 27 miles

This 25-mile state park offers three designated swimming areas along the Largo Sound. These relatively small beaches feature calm waters that are perfect for children and practicing your snorkeling skills. Picnic tables and barbecue grills throughout the park make it easy to enjoy lunch during your visit.

Note: There may be limited park activities due to Hurricane Irma-related repairs. Call the park for daily updates.

Coco Plum Beach – 28 miles

Located in Marathon, this dog-friendly beach is a great option for long walks with your four-legged friends. It offers plenty of soft sand (note: many local beaches tend to be more rocky) which makes it ideal for sunbathers. Depending on when you visit, you can also observe the nesting sea turtles—just remember to give them plenty of space.

Sombrero Beach – 34 miles

This Florida Keys favorite is also located in Marathon and offers a picnic area, a children’s playground, a volleyball court, and more. Popular among locals and visitors alike, this beach is great for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. Animal lovers will want to check out the nearby Turtle Hospital, a local non-profit organization.

Note: The west end of the beach is currently open; the rest of the beach is expected to open by December 1, 2018. The park area will remain closed to repair hurricane damage.

Bahia Honda State Park – 45 miles

Those willing travel a bit further will appreciate the many activities at this 500+ acre state park. In addition to kayaking, cycling, and fishing, visitors at Bahia Honda can also enjoy swimming in both the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay. Meanwhile, the on-site concession stand serves sandwiches, ice cream, and more.

Note: As the park continues to recover from the hurricane, some amenities may not be available.

Right here in Islamorada, Anne’s Beach remains closed for repairs. However, there are plenty of local parks to enjoy, including Plantation Tropical Preserve, Key Tree Cactus Preserve, and Green Turtle Hammock Nature Preserve.

Stay in the luxury Islamorada accommodations at Cheeca Lodge & Spa and enjoy access to some of the best Florida Keys beaches.

The Beginner’s Guide to SCUBA Diving

For SCUBA diving beginners, there’s perhaps no better place to take the first plunge than the Florida Keys, home to the only living coral barrier reef in North America. Our 120-mile island chain offers access to some of the most renowned diving sites in the world with diverse marine life, awe-inspiring shipwrecks, and other ocean oddities.

Practice makes perfect: Before embarking on your first dive, sign up for an introductory pool course with a certified instructor. It takes time and patience to get used to breathing through a regulator and wearing the necessary gear. Cheeca offers hour-long SCUBA classes on Friday and Saturday mornings; check our Calendar of Events for more information. Once you’ve completed the course, it’s time to take to the open water!

Many popular dive sites can be found right off the coast of Islamorada. Located close to shore, Cheeca Rocks is great for novice divers and an ideal option for family outings in particular. Davis Reef is another easy-to-navigate site, complete with a photogenic underwater buddha. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can head to Alligator Reef Lighthouse and say hello to the locals (e.g., spiny lobsters, barracuda, et al.). Meanwhile, shipwrecks like the Eagle or El Capitan tend to attract more experienced divers.

If you want to ease your way into the world of underwater exploration, we recommend snorkeling. You’ll still be able to admire our beautiful reefs—but a bit closer to the water’s surface. Cheeca offers daily two-hour excursions with snorkel gear, wetsuits, and nonalcoholic beverages included.

Learn more about the watersports and aquatic activities offered at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.

The Best Time to Visit the Florida Keys

Wondering when to pack your bags for the Florida Keys? That all depends: There are plenty of reasons to visit our beautiful island community throughout the year. Whether you plan on a low-key fall getaway or a fun-filled spring break, you’re sure to have a memorable stay whenever you visit.

Fall

Starting in September, island life becomes even more relaxed—yes, it’s possible—making the fall a perfect time for a relaxing couples retreat or a weekend trip with friends. The most serene season in the Keys brings with it beautiful weather, quieter crowds, and some of the best rates at Cheeca. Plus, if you’re looking for a bit of excitement, you can plan your stay during Key West’s annual Fantasy Fest.

Winter

It’s the high season for a reason. Once January rolls around, residents of colder climates are craving sun and sand, and the Florida Keys offers both in abundance. As the ideal spot for a post-holiday vacation, the Keys feature pleasant winter weather with little rain and comfortable temperatures. Stay at Cheeca and discover a picture-perfect oasis from which to soak up the scenery.

Spring

Spring break brings warmer temperatures, special island events, and an added buzz of excitement. If you’re worried about college crowds, fear not: Here in the Upper Keys, we offer a more family-friendly atmosphere. As a premier resort in Islamorada, Cheeca invites guests of all ages to partake in our many on-site offerings, including golfing, beach volleyball, watersports, and much more.

Summer

The summer months mark the start of the off-peak season in the Florida Keys. However, while the crowds start to thin out, there are still plenty of local activities and attractions to be enjoyed. If you’re a Florida resident, you can escape to the islands and delight in slightly cooler temperatures. And, if you stay at Cheeca, you can add luxury accommodations, delicious dining, and on-site entertainment to the mix.

No matter when you choose to visit, you can enjoy the best of the Florida Keys throughout the year at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.