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21671
Florida

The Holidays in Key West: A Sunny Take on Christmas Traditions

Discover unique Christmas traditions in the Florida Keys, where you’ll visit historic sites, enjoy traditional cuisine and revel in the famous lights of the Sunset Celebration.
Rating (5)
Program No. 21671RJ
Length
7 days
Starts at
2,499
Florida

The Holidays in Key West: A Sunny Take on Christmas Traditions

Discover unique Christmas traditions in the Florida Keys, where you’ll visit historic sites, enjoy traditional cuisine and revel in the famous lights of the Sunset Celebration.
Length
7 days
Starts at
2,499
Program No. 21671 RJ

Your well-being is our #1 priority

To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
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DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Dec 21 - Dec 27, 2021
Starting at
2,499
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Dec 21 - Dec 27, 2021
Starting at
3,839

At a Glance

Celebrate Christmas as you never have before — Florida Keys-style! Spend four nights in Key West learning about its fascinating history of railroads, navy ships, art and literature and reveling in its unique, sun-soaked variety of holiday traditions. Start and end your adventure with a night in picturesque Key Largo and hop from one island to the next as you study Florida Keys ecology and history with a local expert on the Keys.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walk 1.5 miles on pavement, boardwalks, uneven surfaces such as mulched paths, cobblestone, a few stairs. Some standing on field trips and museum visits.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Experience the protected natural areas of the Keys, including a visit to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the country’s first undersea park.
  • Key West’s colorful history comes alive on visits to the Overseas Railroad Museum, the Custom House and Ernest Hemingway’s home.
  • Enjoy the unique artistic and holiday traditions of sunny Key West, including an expert-led walk through Mallory Square.

General Notes

Van transfer provided between Miami and Key Largo at the start and end of program. All transfers by van.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Heather L Hamilton
Florida native Heather Hamilton has been exploring the beaches, lakes and forests of Florida’s wilderness since she was a little girl. As an experienced camper, hiker, biker, kayaker, fisher and photographer, Heather has seen Florida in just about every light on her extensive travels throughout the state. She studied culinary arts at the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale and became a cook and pastry chef, but she changed careers several times before embracing her passion. She became a Master Naturalist and full-time Florida guide.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Heather Hamilton
Heather L Hamilton View biography
Florida native Heather Hamilton has been exploring the beaches, lakes and forests of Florida’s wilderness since she was a little girl. As an experienced camper, hiker, biker, kayaker, fisher and photographer, Heather has seen Florida in just about every light on her extensive travels throughout the state. She studied culinary arts at the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale and became a cook and pastry chef, but she changed careers several times before embracing her passion. She became a Master Naturalist and full-time Florida guide.
Profile Image of Alberto J Melendez
Alberto J Melendez View biography
Alberto Melendez is a certified educational excursion, a certified Advance Open Water Scuba Diver and a Florida master naturalist. He has been leading kayak and snorkeling explorations in the Orlando area for over eight years. A 'tree-hugger' since the term became popular, he enjoys introducing folks to the inside story of the critters, salt marsh and history of the area.
Profile Image of Howell Geib
Howell Geib View biography
Originally from New England, Howell Geib is trained as an Architect from Tulane University and works to pursue his passion for the intersection of the natural world and the built environment. He continued his education in Sustainable Development and International Relations, pursuing development programs in Africa, the Caribbean and Western Europe. Throughout his career, he has lived in France, Hawaii and Haiti. When not introducing Road Scholars to the natural world, Howell lives on a Biodynamic farm in Upstate New York.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
National Audubon Field Guide to Florida
by Alden / Cech / Nelson
A Land Remembered
by Patrick Smith
Eco-Touring the Florida Keys
by Matthew Landau Larry Gates
Everglades Nat. Park & Surrounding
by Roger Hammer
Hidden Florida Keys & Everglades
by Candace Leslie Ana Boese
Insiders Guide Florida Keys and Key West
by Victoria Shearer and Janet Ware
Key West
by Gerald Sprayregen
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7 days
6 nights
15 meals
6 B 4 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Key Largo
D
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Hotel check-in 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration & Orientation: 5:30 p.m. We will gather in our reserved room in the downstairs Welcome Center Area of the hotel for registration and to get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Because our days will be full, we are not scheduling evening activities. We will also have some “down” time to absorb what each day offers. Travel and transfers will be via 15-passenger vans unless noted otherwise. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with soda, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
2
John Pennekamp State Park, 7 Mile Bridge, Mallory Square
Key West Florida
B,L,D
Westwinds Inn

Activity note: Getting in/out of passenger van(s). Getting on/off a boat. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day in short installments; boardwalks, paved sidewalks, some uneven terrain. The drive is 92 miles, approximately 2.5 hours. Boat ride is about a 1/2 hour.

Breakfast: At a warm, friendly restaurant featuring traditional home-cooked meals, we’ll have a plated meal with juice, coffee, tea, water, included.

Morning: We’ll ride with our Group Leader to the Environmental Education and Visitor Centre at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The Visitor Center features a 30,000 gallon saltwater aquarium and other natural history exhibits providing examples of the park’s unique marine environment. After our short visit to the visitor center, we’ll embark on an expert-led field trip through the park, including a mile long walk through mangrove habitats over pathways and boardwalk. We’ll learn about the importance of mangroves to the reefs and why the mangrove system is the second most productive bio-zone on the planet as we walk inside this virtual jungle above the water. We’ll drive to the Pigeon Key Visitor Center and take a boat to the island, a U.S. Historic District, and see the 7 Mile Bridge. This tiny spit of land covering only 5 acres was a key site during construction of the Florida Over-Sea Railroad from 1908-1912. Up to 400 laborers at a time were based here, working long days building bridges that would link the Florida Keys, then returning to bunkhouses we can still see. Today, the non-profit Pigeon Key Foundation manages the island, hosting marine science field trips and other educational activities. One of the structures holds a small museum. We will have a presentation by a local expert and explore the historic buildings and the museum.

Lunch: On Pigeon Key overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay, we’ll prepare our own sandwiches and salads from a spread with all the fixings; iced tea, juice, water included.

Afternoon: Returning to the mainland as we came, we’ll continue our journey to Key West. We expect to arrive and check in to our hotel by approximately 4:30 p.m.

Dinner: We will walk to a local restaurant for a plated meal with soda, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll have a leisurely walk with our Group Leader to Mallory Square for the daily Sunset Celebration, a uniquely Key West event when people raise a glass in tribute to the sun and the celebration itself. In addition to locals and visitors, the participants might include artists, clowns, jugglers, magicians, musicians, psychics, and more as well as a variety of food vendors. Stay as long as you like! The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions about where to go and what to do such as entertainers worth seeing.

DAY
3
Key West Trolley, Railway Historeum, Custom House, Free Time
Key West Florida
B,L
Westwinds Inn

Activity note: Walking a total of approximately 2 to 2.5 miles throughout the day; paved sidewalks.

Breakfast: By the hotel pool, the breakfast buffet offers choices such as eggs, cereal, fruit, bagels, pastries, eggs, milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll take a field trip via trolley with narration to learn about the city’s history and some of its attractions. At the Overseas Railroad Museum, we’ll imagine the thrill of riding down the Florida Keys in 1929 aboard the “railway that went to the sea.” We’ll learn about the Key West Extension, and the tragic demise of Flagler’s dream in the devastating Labor Day hurricane of 1935. The Custom House, built in 1891, served as a post office, court house and government center when wrecking made Key West the richest city.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with soda, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. It’s an old cliché that Key West is enticing in a raffish sort of way. If you’d like to see for yourself, you might like to explore the lively night life and visit (or re-visit) one of the popular watering holes on Duval Street; take in a cabaret show or jazz venue; walk through some quieter neighborhoods on a Ghost Walk; stroll down to the marina or Old Seaport to gawk at visiting luxury yachts; or just relax and watch the always colorful people parade.

DAY
4
Lighthouse, Hemingway Home & Museum, Holiday Trolley
Key West Florida
B,L,D
Westwinds Inn

Activity note: Walking a total of approximately 2 to 2.5 miles throughout the day; paved sidewalks.

Breakfast: Poolside buffet.

Morning: We’ll visit the historic Lighthouse Tower & Keeper’s Quarters for an expert-led exploration. Built in 1848, the lighthouse was de-commissioned in 1969 and has since been turned into a museum dedicated to Key West’s maritime history and heritage and the lives of those who kept the light shining out to sea. We’ll see belongings, photographs, and words of lighthouse leepers and their families. Elective: Those with both stamina and a sense of adventure can climb the 88 steps to the top of the light.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll visit The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in the heart of Old Town Key West. Hemingway visited Key West for the first time in 1928. He and his wife Pauline grew to love the place and a rich uncle bought this house for them in 1931. After writing in the early morning, “Papa” would go fishing or hang out with local friends in his favorite bars. The Hemingways lived here with their two sons until divorcing in 1940 when he left for Cuba. Today, the house looks much as it did during their residence. We’ll learn about the Hemingway era in Key West, his life, and work during some of his most productive days. We may also catch a glimpse of one or more descendants of his original six-toed cat. Docents will be happy to provide information and answer questions.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: What semi-tropical Key West lacks in snow and other trappings of winter holidays, it makes up for with bright lights. We’ll take a trolley ride to see some of the most colorful displays. Plus, we’ll have special holographic glasses that enhance and transform what we see. And, we’ll sing carols along the way! There are Christmas Eve services at a number of local churches. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

DAY
5
Christmas Day Free Time, Marina Walk
Key West Florida
B,D
Westwinds Inn

Breakfast: Poolside buffet.

Morning: Free Time. Sleep late, take a walk, open a gift under a palm tree, attend a service, celebrate the day as you like. The average high temperature at this time of year is 76F. The average low is 67F!

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: With our Group Leader, we’ll set out on a relaxed walk to the Marina to see decorated boats and more of Old Town decked out.

Dinner: At local restaurant; soda, coffee, tea, water included.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Travel to Tavernier
Key Largo
B,L,D
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Walking a total of 1 mile; paved sidewalks, uneven terrain.

Breakfast: Poolside buffet.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel and hop into the van for our return to Key Largo. En route, we’ll stop to visit Fort Zachary Taylor, Florida’s southernmost state park and a designated National Historic Landmark. Construction began in 1845 shortly after Florida became the 27th state in the U.S. It took more than 20 years to complete due to adversities of weather, disease, and shortages of material and human resources. Nevertheless, Fort Zach played important roles in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. During our self guided exploration, we’ll learn about its history. Reboarding the van, we’ll move on to Marathon.

Lunch: At beautiful Sombrero Beach in Marathon, we’ll have a delicious and healthy lunch with fresh salad and sandwiches.

Afternoon: Continuing our ride, we’ll arrive back in Tavernier on Key Largo and check in to the hotel with some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with soda, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: We’ll have a wrap-up session to review highlights of the program and talk about tomorrow. Prepare for check-out and departure following our final field trip in the morning.

DAY
7
Biscayne National Park, Miami Airport, Program Concludes
Key Largo
B

Activity note: Getting in/out of passenger van; driving about 60 miles, approximately 80 mins riding time to Biscayne National Park; driving about 20 miles, approximately 1 hour driving time to Miami International Airport; all times depending on local traffic. Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with juice, coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel by 7:00 a.m., board the van, and begin our transfer to Miami International Airport. En route, we will stop for a field trip to Biscayne National Park. In the welcome center, we’ll hear a presentation by a local expert on the history of the park. We’ll also have some time for independent exploration. From the National Park Service: “Within sight of downtown Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Here too is evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents.” We’ll then be no our way to Miami International Airport with expected arrival approximately 11:30 a.m. (depending on traffic). We advise scheduling homeward flights no earlier than 2:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). This concludes our program.






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.