9 Reasons You Need To Conquer The Conch Republic Of Key West

9 Reasons You Need To Conquer The Conch Republic Of Key West

Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard you call.
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Most kids dream of Mickey ears and seeing the castle, trips to see that family member who has the awesome tv and games, even sliding down that giant slide surrounded by fish in Atlantis.

My parents, however, raised me a Parrothead and I wanted nothing more than to sit at Captain Tony's and see a piece of Cuba while being crossed by a rooster (more on both of those later). All of this making my trip to Key West once I turned twenty-one one that was extremely awaited for and I needed to do it right, thus this guide on how I conquered the best of the best in Key West, making sure to allow extra time in case you get stuck in a Guinness drinking contest at Irish Kevin's.

This is your bare-bones, most notable authentic guide to Key West :

1. Breakfast or Brunch at the Blue Heaven.

Enjoy a fresh squeezed mimosa while listening to an acoustic set to start out your morning with a very al fresco menu. You'll be joined by the local roosters as they parade around the property while surrounded by bath tubs full of bountiful gardens and shaded by overgrown foliage and bulbed strings of lights. The ambiance is to die for and trust me, you'll never want to brunch another way again.

After all, "It's a flashback kind of crowd, It's a cabaret sound, There's still some magic left in this tourist town, at the Blue Heaven rendezvous."

2. Check out Robbie's in Islasmorada.

Now, this is a little trek compared to all the walking you've been able to do throughout the city. It's roughly two hours north of Key West, and if you're driving into Key West, it's right on the way, so pretty please with whipped cream and a floater on top , stop in! There are usually local artists and merchants outside selling goods, but set far back on the property behind the restaurant is a marina. You can pay admission to go out on the marina (I wanna say the whole experience cost me $7) and purchase a bucket of frozen fish. You then can go out, lay out on the marina and feed the massive Tarpon, which trust me I know sounds totally weird, but it is such a cool experience and will not disappoint.

3. Drink a Piña colada at Hogs Breath.

Now this is going to be short and sweet. Hog's Breath is definitely a touristy restaurant/bar in Key West, and I don't spend that much time there. However, GET THE PINA COLADA. Not all pina coladas are made equally, and Hog's Breath may just be the place that will teach you that lesson.

4. Find the Smokin' Tuna and fall in love.

The Smokin' Tuna became one of my absolute favorite spots in Key West to just relax and enjoy life. It's off Duval down an alley behind Dirty Harry's and trust me, you won't be disappointed you strayed a block from Duval. They have two large bars and a stage all surrounded by foliage and some of the sweetest bartenders from around the world. If you're not trying to be surrounded by a spring break-esque crowd, yet you want to be under the stars and not tucked away in a closed up bar, this is your place.

5. See the statue at the Key West Art and Historical Society.

Now, while I don't really recommend taking the time to go through the museum if you're on any sort of time crunch, to be honest it's a little dated, I do, however strongly recommend standing and marvelling at the statue outside. It's size will astound you and, to me, it is the heart of Key West, simply iconic. The building's structure itself is a sight to see and will leave you feeling as if you're in the middle of Old Key West.

6. For the Old-School Buffett fan, check out Capt Tony's and all of its history.

Captain Tony was the mayor of Key West for two years and the star of one of my all time favorite Jimmy Buffett anthems. He was a jack of all trades, and as far as I'm concerned the original Key West pirate. His bar now represents a hole-in-the-wall with impeccable character and clad in his campaign memorabilia, newspaper articles, pictures, and dollar bills. Billiards will keep you busy while you listen to some of the most raw and inventive acoustic sets that side of Duval.

7. Experience sunset at Mallory Square.

Check your phone for the sunset time and head on over to Mallory Square for the festival that ensues beforehand. It's different every night, so checkout the graveyard that's right before the water, grab a cocktail in a pineapple, and start discovering all the performers and spots to view the most beautiful sunset.

8. Bruschetta at Fogharty's.

Out of all the time I have spent in the Conch Republic, I somehow always end up at Fogharty's for nearly all of my meals. The Bruschetta will swoon you and make you never love a spread the same way again. It also just might be the thing that saves you from all those signature drinks you've been drinking in the tropical sun all day.

9. Take a couple hour snorkel excursion.

Now, I hear ya, I myself personally loathe excursions. The whole super organized, expensive, planned fun thing somehow just does not appeal to me on any level. Yet, the FURY excursion was one of my favorite things I had the chance to do in Key West. It was only like a 3 hour endeavour and it picks you up and drops off in the marina right behind the Key West Art and Historical Society, and only cost about $35. That being said, most of them are all-you-can-drink rum punch cruises! They take you out to the reefs, supply all your gear, and are out in the water to help you. We were able to see sharks, the reef and hundreds of rainbow fish, but honestly skip this if you are there during jellyfish season which is typically August to early October. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience, so just spend the 30 bucks and get out there and explore the reef (And get your drink on before you get back to Duval St)!

Cover Image Credit: Brandi Harmon

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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'Culling' The Bullsh*t; Taking A Deeper Look At The Antibiotics In The Livestock Industry

You want the truth? Here it is.

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As many people have seen around the internet, one of the hot topics is having cattle or other livestock antibiotic free. This has lead to a movement that is not only incorrect with their basic information, but they are hurting family farms across the nation. This stems from the idea that antibiotics contaminate meat products and will affect the consumer. In this article the main points that "justify" the antibiotic culture will be broken down and simplified. I hope by the end of reading this you will be more knowledgeable about this subject, and will make the best decision for you and your family.

1. "If you don't specifically buy antibiotic free meat, you will buy meat with antibiotics in it."

The FDA has control check on the processing line when livestock is processed. This means that the likelihood of any "antibiotic filled" animal to make it through is slim to none. If by chance a ranch or feedlot gets flagged by FDA, they will be fined with a bill in the thousands. This type of flag will make it difficult for that ranch to ever sell livestock in the normal market again. This is only one of the incentives for ranch owners to stay in the clear.

2. "Antibiotics are used to promote growth"

This statement is false. Antibiotics are used to treat an illness. Yes an animal might gain weight after treatment. But that is because when we are sick we tend to not eat as much. Once you start to feel better, it stirs up your hunger. Antibiotics are and have never been used to promote growth.

3. What happens to the animal on an antibiotic free farm when it gets sick.

Let's do a comparison example. If your child got sick what do you normally do? Take them to the doctor and if he prescribes a medication for them you would provide the correct amount to treat the illness. This is the same way with the livestock industry. Most antibiotics and medication in general are a prescription based. Therefore, a vet will need to sign off on the treatment of the animals. While most ranches will treat the illness and move on, antibiotic free farms need to move that animal off site to another ranch. Some of the time they have a secondary place where those treated animals go to live out their life. Not treating a sick animal is inhumane.

These are only a few of the antibiotic free lies that surround the livestock world. And I am not saying for someone to completely change their beliefs over one article, what I am saying is do your research. From both sides of the argument. Then base your final decision from what you have learned. The agriculture industry has many that oppose that will use fear-tactics to push their agenda. And although we are not a perfect industry, we are a very important part of society. And we hold high standards for ourselves because of that.

Thank you for reading,

if you have a suggestion of what I should talk about next leave a comment.

-Chrystal B.

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