Key West: Gates to the Soul of the Paradise

They say if you don’t like the weather in Chicago, wait 10 minutes. And it’s especially true in the days like these. Who would ever expect there would be snowstorms… in March? Indeed, there are! With winter disappearing and then suddenly returning, we’re again reminded of the quickly changing and never ‘boring’ Midwestern climate, where the only warming thought that truly excites you is the thought of the Sun. 

Go about 1,500 miles south and get into an absolutely different state of mind. Sunshine State, as they call Florida, is something one would never be tired to explore. Up to this date, we ourselves have experienced almost every single part of it, from Jacksonville on the North to Key West on the South. I’m sure you would agree there are only a few places on this planet where a tourist would happily return to. For me, Key West is one of them.

If you follow our Travel column, you would know that we’ve already covered the southernmost island back in March 2015 (if you missed it, here is the link: This time we were looking to explore something different.

The first thing that comes to mind when someone brings up Key West is Old Town. It’s understandable, since most of that lovely Key West charm is right here. However, it’s still not everything about Key West. And we were delighted to experience it.

As soon as you get off US 1 and turn right onto Roosevelt Road, you will see a line of chic hotels, boasting both modern luxury and classic Key West charm. One of them is Gates Hotel Key West.

Built in 2015, it incorporates design, art, history, music, food and drink with sophisticated design and local cultural touches throughout. It’s truly The Gates to Key West, allowing guests to experience and feel the very soul of the island.

“What we really wanted to do is to bring the true Key West,” says Allison Diange, sales manager for Gates Hotel Key West. “As soon as you walk into the lobby, you feel like you walk into your friend’s home, not a traditional hotel. We did this by bringing in the interior designer, her name is Andrea Henzlik. This was actually her first commercial project, as she specializes in residential design.”

When staying here, don’t forget to check out the Rum Row, the Prohibition-inspired rum bar adjacent to the hotel pool deck, and the Blind Big, the signature food truck serving a tapas-style selection of regional Cuban, Bahamian, Caribbean and Floridian flavors—also known as “conch fusion.”

“We also partnered with Rodriguez Cigar Factory, the oldest cigar-making company in Key West, and First Key West Legal Rum Distillery, which creates a custom rum,” Diange says. “With all our key partnerships we wanted every guest to feel as part of the community before they even step out of the doors, to feel all those authentic vibes of the island that a lot of people may not even know about.”

Gates Hotel Key West offers free parking (yes, right here in Key West – can you imagine that?) and also a free shuttle to and from Old Town. While staying here you can experience a truly unique balance between relaxing Key West charm and crowded island nightlife.

The closest beach to Gates Hotel – and the largest public beach in Key West – is Smathers Beach, which is about 2.5 miles away. White Street Pier, located nearby, is known to be a fantastic spot for fishing and catching a glimpse of the sunset. Our own Key West favorite is Fort Zachary Taylor Beach. Surrounded by pine trees, it provides you with an absolutely unique, unforgettable oceanfront experience.

After a day at the beach, it’s time to head out and explore the town. Everyone has their own Key West favorites, and here is our list in no particular order:

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum: Being Hemingway’s home from 1931 to 1939, on November 24, 1968, the house was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Step back in time and visit the rooms and gardens that witnessed the most prolific period of this Nobel Prize winner’s writing career.

Harry S. Truman Little White House: Yet another Key West destination being marked by a world-known leader, in 1946 the historic building first served as the winter White House of President Harry S. Truman and also a site for the Cold War response by later Presidents. Today, the Truman Little White House is a public Key West museum as well as a retreat and place of government business.

The building itself was built in 1890 and served as the naval station’s command headquarters during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.

Mallory Square: When you soak up enough history, take a walk through the island’s Old Town. If you happen to take this walk around the Sunset time, it would definitely have to be Mallory Square. A home to world-famous Sunset Celebration, it boasts a range of live shows by independent performers – from jugglers playing with fire to cat whisperers and escape artists.

Duval Street: Your walking experience in Key West would never be fulfilled without strolling down the famous Duval Street. Home to signature bars, restaurants, art galleries and boutiques, it’s a true paradise for tourists and shoppers alike.

Southernmost Point: No Key West experience would be full without a famous photo-op next to the anchored concrete buoy proudly featuring “90 Miles to Cuba” drawn on it. What’s even more interesting is that it is much closer to Cuba than to any other point in the continental USA, including the entertainment capital of Florida, Miami.

Just like we discovered Gates Hotel as the true gates to the Key West entertainment parlour, standing in the row of chic and modern resorts along the coastline, every traveler would continue opening something his or her very own in this world-famous destination. Whether it’s an intimate sunset at Mallory Square, relaxed strolling down Duval Street, or just chilling under the pines at Fort Zachary Taylor, you will open Key West of your own. Soak it up, and lose yourself in it. It truly deserves your undivided attention.

By Vera Sauchanka