The Gates Key West
Key West, Florida
Beachy Modern, $ ($160)
FLORIDA KEYS - One year, during a particularly brutal stretch of March doldrums, I took a low-key road trip through the Florida Keys. I say low-key, and I really mean it, despite traveling with my toddler, parents, siblings, nieces, and nephew (ten people in all) in two cars, for a week. The string of islands off the southern tip of Florida are laid-back, unpretentious, and democratic. Rickety conch shacks draw American families and leather-donning Harley riders alike. We started at West Palm Beach airport and made our way down to Key West, doing an informal key lime pie crawl down the Overseas Highway. We visited an open-air aquarium, read up on Hemingway, and rented a party boat (with a slide!) for the day, where we picnicked on a bright white sandbar surrounded by ankle-deep water for a hundred feet (an awesome scenario whether or not you have little kids).
Our hotel choices were just as easy-breezy and included two nights at The Gates Key West, a 100-room hotel at the gateway of the island of Key West. Though it has a totally unremarkable-looking exterior, we found the interiors to be fresh and modern, the layout functional, and the price point spot-on. Blond wood furnishings, bold print textiles, sliding barn-style bathroom doors, and big round mirrors feel on trend but not too trendy, like Joanna Gaines doing budget at the beach. Award-winning local photographer Jorge de la Torriente's bright, fun pictures of local Key West life are the kinds of images that do well on Instagram. Fitness-focused amenities like running maps, bicycles, yoga classes, and lawn games are simple but deliver on charm. Plus, the WiFi is strong, the kids stay free, and nobody cares if you make noise in the pool.
At a Glance
The Vibe: New-school budget boutique mets old-school Floridian kitsch. You know that phrase "no shoes, no shirt, no service?" It definitely does not apply here.
Standout Detail: There are really cute and thoughtful amenities that go beyond the fleet of beach cruiser bicycles and free weekend yoga classes, like an "underwater library" of waterproof books for in-pool reading; Bootcamp in a Box, a take-away container filled with a jumprope, weights, and instructions for 30 minutes of self-guided cardio; and a partnership with local sandal company Kino wherein handmade flip flops are delivered to your hotel room door in an hour.
This Place Is Perfect For: The young and the restless (who will be drawn to the pool parties and Taco Tuesdays) or families with young, restless kids — especially groups sensitive to both price point and design.
Rooms: There are 100 rooms in neutral shades with modern furnishings, beachy wood bed frames, little design accents (ikat print pillows, organic wooden bowls) and local photography. King rooms have a love seat and larger rooms have a poolside terrace. You'll find Turkish towels and woven Turkish bathrobes in the bathroom.
On Site: A year-round outdoor pool, complimentary shuttle to Key West Old Town, and a big green lawn (over 12,000 feet) for private outdoor events as well as movie nights, family-friendly concerts, and games.
Food + Drink: The Blind Pig food truck is permanently parked and serving the regional cuisine called "conch fusion," a mash-up of Cuban/Bahamanian/Floridian foods— breakfast tacos, Cuban sandwiches, ceviche. Rum Row is the all-day kitschy poolside bar for Mojitos and Dark-n-Stormies. Both draw locals and visitors, which makes for a nice vibe.
What to Do Nearby
The Gates Key West is pretty much the entry point to the island.Key West Art and Historical Society and Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum are the cultural highlights.Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden is a tropical parrot sanctuary. Coast Projects brings new and relevant live music to "the end of the road." For more on what to do, see, eat, and drink, check out Fathom's Eco-Friendly Guide to the Florida Keys.