Key West's Historic Seaport — Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/cayoboThere’s something about the harbor in Key West that will have you canceling work (or skipping the cruise) and staying an extra day or two on the island. Happy hour easily blends into the evening, and before you know it you’ve missed the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration, made some new friends, and landed yourself a seat at Schooner Wharf watching some impressive card tricks as the band takes the stage.
Start happy hour off with a bang at the Boathouse Bar and Grill (a new expansion of the Commodore) with 50 percent off appetizers (including the most addicting cheese bread you’ll ever have). Try the lobster tempura or baby lamb chops (or ask the bartenders what they like – they are quick to point you in the right direction). Take some time to walk the docks; the lights glowing beneath the water can calm the soul in a way that few places in the world can do.
Another money-saving happy hour spot is Alonzo’s Oyster Bar, just next to the Galleon Resort, with half off spinach parmesan and Key Lime garlic oysters, Andouille sausage clams casino, and spicy barbecue shrimp – among other drinks and seafood snacks.
On Mondays and Fridays, head down to Turtle Kraals at 6pm, when the turtle race commences. Take a ticket (numbered 1-4) and whoever has the lucky turtle receives a key. If the key opens the treasure chest, one winner will receive $50 pot, and if no one wins, the kitty continues to increase each week. The unusual restaurant’s history dates back to the first turtle soup cannery on the island, when turtles were kept on the dock before being shipped to the factory. These days, turtle soup doesn’t appear on the menu but items like conch ceviche, dolphin picatta (it's not real dolphin), and mango crab cakes do.
Once you’ve had your fill of the turtle action, spend the rest of the night at Schooner Wharf Bar. The bar began on an actual schooner, and in 1988 it moved ashore to its current waterfront location, decked out in salvage décor with the cool breeze flowing through. The semi-outdoor restrooms seem like an afterthought, but no one seems to care – they’ve all been here enough times that they are used to it. Visiting the Schooner Wharf will remind you that among all the tourist-flooded streets, lucky conchs live and work here. As entertaining as Duval Street can be, the magic of Key West pulsates from this authentic slice of paradise, where locals chat about the next day’s plans – which may or may not happen, depending on the night. Join them.