Today’s Key West
Chickens still cross the road at the intersection of Duval and Truman, said Mike Williams in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Other reassuring sights in laid-back Key West are drunks “wandering arm-in-arm out of Sloppy Joe’s” and descendents of Ernest Hemingway’s cats lapping water from a public urinal that the author once took home from a bar. But there’s more to do here these days than just sing along to a Jimmy Buffet song. Many art galleries have opened, there’s a new art-film cinema, and a small symphony now “calls the island home.” Non-cultural fare includes scuba diving off “America’s only coral reef,” sport fishing in the Gulf Stream, kite-surfing, and taking a stroll past “Victorian mansions set in a tropical paradise.” You can rent a bicycle or motor scooter to sightsee the 4-mile-long island. And don’t miss the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, where gold coins and dazzling treasure found by “Key’s West’s most famous salvage outfit” are on exhibit.
U.S. Grant’s hometown
Almost all of downtown Galena, Ill., is on the National Register of Historic Places, said Kit Kiefer in The New York Times. The route to this architectural treasure trove in the northwest corner of Illinois is maze-like, as it twists through steep hills and ravines. But this “great American river town” was the Midwest’s primary lead-mining center in the 1850s, and for a time its growth outpaced Chicago’s. As late as 1860, Ulysses Grant worked here “as a clerk in his father’s leather-goods store.” After the Civil War, zinc mines and railroads brought more prosperity—until the railroads chose Chicago as their main Illinois hub. Decline ensued, followed by a devastating flood in 1937. In recent years, tourists—along with Chicagoans seeking second homes— have given the town new life. Signs of change include more restaurants and fewer antiques shops. The beach towns of western Michigan are a short drive away.