KEY WEST, Florida Keys — For visitors who wonder how Key West residents live — and what lies behind their houses’ white picket fences, striking facades and gleaming front doors — home tours scheduled for December, January, February and March offer a rare chance to find out.
The tours are presented by the not-for-profit Old Island Restoration Foundation and display both Key West’s unique historic architecture and modern island-style design. Established in 1960, they are believed to be among the longest-running home tours in the United States.
Visitors can enjoy the first tour of the season Friday and Saturday, Dec. 28-29. The intriguing self-guided exploration, scheduled for 3-6 p.m. both days, shows off beautiful examples of older homes and more recent gems — each one decorated inside and out for the holidays.
Following the December tours, three more home showcases are planned. They’re set for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18-19, Feb. 15-16 and March 15-16. All feature dwellings illustrating Key West’s early architectural tradition, creative renovations and contemporary structures.
Old Island Restoration Foundation volunteers serve as guides at each stop, informing visitors about the featured house’s history, architecture and décor. While tours typically include five homes, during the 2018-19 season a historic inn or hotel will be added as a “bonus” sixth stop with nibbles and libations for participants.
The January tours are set for 3-6 p.m. both evenings. Transportation between homes will be offered with limited reserve seats aboard Conch Tour Trains, or participants can proceed from place to place at their own pace. The February and March tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and visitors are responsible for their own transportation.
Tickets for each self-guided tour cost $35 per person in advance or $40 on the day of the tour. Cost for January tours with Conch Train transportation is $45 per person in advance and seating is limited. A season ticket package is available for $119 per person and includes one ticket for each month’s home tour.
Funds raised through the annual tours are used to maintain Key West’s Oldest House Museum and for the Old Island Restoration Foundation’s grants program, scholarships and other activities supporting the preservation of Key West’s historic district.