Friday, October 28, 2011

Key West, Provincetown, Palm Springs - which resort is best and most beautiful?

In the battle of the resorts which of the big 3 wins? Key West vs. Provincetown vs. Palm Springs?

If you’ve not visited and want some help deciding, I’ve been to all three (I'm actually in Palm Springs as I write this post) and here I present my highly opinionated and very biased review of all three!

I suppose you think that because I am a Key West blogger, then Key West will win – but not necessarily.  Read on to find out!.....

Let’s do this by category and we’ll start with the weather.

It’s a vital consideration for a vacation and whilst all three are known as sunny locations the weather is very different between the three.  Basically, it totally comes down to when you are travelling.

Provincetown – it’s balmy and wonderful, and just perfectly warm from June to September.  Whilst Palm Springs and Key West can be brutally hot and / or humid in these months, Provincetown is perfect for these months.  However, even a month outside of that it can be chilly, wet and overcast in Ptown.

Key West – it’s the only one of the three which is tropical so it’s ‘big weather’ – more varied, more interesting and more rain!  The weather can be very challenging in the summer (June to end October) if you don’t like thunderstorms or humidity.  Having said that, during this time it’s quieter and cheaper and I had a great time when I visited in September 2011 – read my review on the weather then and how it impacted my vacation.
If you are visiting Key West in the great weather months (beginning of November through May) then the weather is fantastic and the nights warm.  At this time most visitors wear shorts day and night – which you cannot say of Palm Springs (at night).

And Palm Springs for weather.  It’s reliable in the months when the others are not – for example, when I visited in October 2011 the weather was cloudless, and at mid to high 80s with low humidity perfect for 5 whole days.  Key West had bad, rainy weather during this period. Yuck!

So, here’s the year broken down with the ideal place to visit:
June to mid Sept – Provincetown
Sept to November – Palm Springs
November to March – Key West
March to June – Palm Springs

I’ll make this a mega quick summary of the top attractions of each:

Provincetown – wandering the quaint streets and cute shops, art galleries, eating, watching the sea, whale watching from Provincetown harbour

Palm Springs – going up the Mount San Jacinto aerial tramway (or cable car, from altitude 2500ft to 8500ft in 12 minutes), drive around town seeing the modernist mansions, eating, playing golf

Key West
The clear winner by a long way of things to do in town.  You can easily keep occupied for a week without a car and without leaving the island.  Wandering the streets to see the houses and trees are a joy.  Lots of tourist stuff like –trolley tour, Hemingway house, light house, Key West art and history museum, aquarium.  The list goes on.

Then there’s Key West’s extensive bars and restaurants, and the gay/drag scene.  It’s been a lively place for visitors from out of town for over a hundred years.

This is an important points: The beauty for me is NOT needing a car for the whole week and so being able to walk everywhere (i.e. very relaxing).  Whilst you can walk Ptown, there’s not enough in town to keep you busy so you’ll need to drive at some point.  Evan more so for Palm Springs, you’ll definitely need a car.

Provincetown – the 100 miles of pristine beaches, coves and harbors down Cape Code.  Amazing.

Key West – Day trip to Dry Tortugas (island 2 hours away towards Cuba). All the attractions 100 miles up the pencil thin Florida Keys, including dolphin and turtle rescue centers, 7 mile bridge, and the best beach in the USA.  Amazing.

Palm Springs – the San Jacinto Wilderness alpine forest, all the high desert including Anza-Borrego desert state park and Joshua Tree national park (which is an hour away).  Amazing.

So they both have mighty natural backdrops – Ptown and Key West the expanse of the ever changing ocean; Palm Springs the expanse of the desert valley and the imposing mountains.  All with lots to do. So which is best?  

It’s a fight out between Ptown and Palm Springs I think but with Key West close behind.

With any three, there is easily enough to do to keep you occupied and busy for weeks, if you want to be busy that is!

This is where personal viewpoints and prejudices will really come into play.  Here we go.  I’ll try and sum up the vibe for me as a visitor (i.e. not a local):

Palm Springs: it’s known for retirement, golf and money.  And that’s pretty much what comes over to the visitor.  I came here after a week in San Diego and the contrast was amazing – there really are a lot of old people having fun here!

It’s a man made oasis in the desert.  So as a result it’s a little artificial, artificially perfect if you like because of its perfectly manicured streets and trees and grass.

It’s not a party town – it’s pretty quiet and restrained.

There are wide avenues and lots of palms and it’s all very spread out.  This is a car town (albeit with no traffic congestion) and so lacks a genuine centre like the other two.

Provincetown – is trendy, arty, summer town with an influx of partying youths in the summer months.  Its youth and art makes it feel younger than the other two.  Because it’s a walking town, with lots of locals that live local and walk around, it feels really friendly.  They claim to be the doggie capital of the US and I would not disagree.

Key West – is a party town.  

From fantasy fest to bikers, every week there is a unique event in town.  

There is masses of history – from pirates through the Cuban influence.  It’s a working harbour.  Because it’s a very small island and everything revolves around Duval it’s very very friendly and you really get a feel for the community – even as a first time tourist.  It’s the busiest evening and night life of the three resorts in terms of bars and restaurants and clubs – all year round.
The winner?  All depends on you!  (see below)

Ok then….
If weather is really really important to you and you don’t care for much else – go to Palm Springs as it’s the most reliable weather

If you want a cuter more village like feel with frequent trips to stunning beaches and cliffs, and you don’t want it too lively or crazy at night – go to Provincetown

If you want a busy, fun packed time and want a very busy bar scene, with a few beaches here and there,  then go to Key West.

Personally, I relax the most in Key West because of having no car.

So for me, yes, it’s Key West and then Ptown – because they are both a bit funky, younger, trendier, and a little flawed.  Palm Springs is too old and too perfect and too much of a clique.

I think Key West is friendliest.  The walking culture, the drinking culture and the small town layout make it feel more like a community.  People say hi and talk to you (a lot!).

If I could I’d visit them all every year I’d do this (these are the best months to visit each):
February  - Key West
Late August or early September – Provincetown
Late October or early November – Palm Springs

What do you think?  Leave me a comment and give your view.