The face of Palm Beach has become younger, hipper, and best of all FUN! Though not quite as fast paced as Miami, the peninsula offers tony chic while remaining low key and newly accessible. Just back from a long weekend here’s our comprehensive guide to make the most of your stay in Palm Beach.
Tripper Tips:Did you know...Mar-a-lago is the former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post who envisioned the house as a winter White House, bequeathing it to the nation at her death. Successive presidents declined to use the mansion and it was later returned to Post's estate back in 1980. In an ironic twist Donald Trump bought the property in 1985 and it appears he has every intention to use it as his winter retreat. We wonder what Post would think of that! Read more about the heiress order 'Living Artfully-At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post' here.
For a peek of some more contemporary residences check out Palm Beach Chic by Jennifer Ash Rudick. From restored revival houses to charming cottages and condos, the book explores the eclectic mix of new and old that is Palm Beach today.
Classic Stay: Palm Beach’s landmark hotel, The Breakers, is back! There’s a brand new beautiful spa (book a massage with Mario) and a new oceanfront fitness center that’s one of the better hotel gyms we’ve come across. HMF, the large lounge like restaurant just off the main lobby, is drawing the crowds in for an eclectic mix of Asian and American small plates, perfect for sharing. The newly reopened Seafood Bar on the sea wall is buzzy at lunch and dinner, where people gather to enjoy stone crabs, tuna tostadas or shrimp cocktails all served up with water views. This is a big, resort hotel, catering to everyone from families to conventions, but it’s run like a well-oiled machine and works. If you want to be on the beach and close to town then this is not only your best option, but also the only beachfront option. Note: the beach at the Breakers has eroded considerably over the years and is quite narrow, most guests lounge at one of the four pools, two restaurants or in the hot tub. (The Four Seasons is a 15-minute drive south and has a much wider sandy beach.)
Boutique Stay: For those looking for something a bit more intimate yet no less luxe, The Brazilian Court is just the place. This in-town hotel, within walking distance to the beach and Worth Ave, is a romantic oasis with a tropical feel. Café Boulud anchors the hotel serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. On a nice day, nothing beats the courtyard for an alfresco lunch and their weekend brunch is a hot reservation to have. The Colony , a block off Worth Ave, is sweet; it feels like old Palm Beach, the kind of place one’s grandma might have checked into in her day. The Colony has been redone in bright colors and banana leaf wallpaper, there’s a lovely pool, and the best perk—it’s just a block from the beach. (The hotel will provide you with chairs and an umbrella.)
Hit the Road: Many of the hotels have bike rentals; or you can rent a bike at the Palm Beach Bicycle Trail Shop --this is the most fun and active way to see the town. Don’t miss a ride on The Lake Trail , a paved 6-mile bike trail running along the Intracoastal. It’s great fun especially in the late afternoon as the sun sets over the Intracoastal Waterway. The trail is scenic, you don’t have to worry about traffic and you get to peek into the backyards of some of the amazing estates of Palm Beach.
Culture: From town you can walk to the Flagler Museum, just head north on Lake Trail. The museum, or “White Hall” as it was originally known is a National Historic Landmark. Finished at the turn of the century, the house is Henry Morrison Flagler’s (of Standard Oil) tribute to the Gilded Age. Think ‘Downtown Abbey’ by the beach. The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach is just over the middle bridge; you could ride your bike or even walk. This is a gem of a museum, the perfect size for an afternoon wander. There is a café, which serves dinner on Thursday evenings.
Horsing Around: Head west to Wellington (approximately a half hour) for some horsing around. On Saturdays and Sundays from January through April one can view Grand Prix Show Jumping as well as international Polo. These events run concurrently--great fun and very exciting. There is also competition Wednesdays through Sundays at the Equestrian Center.
Shop: Worth Ave is Florida’s equivalent of Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive with high-end stores such as Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton and smaller boutique favs such as Gypsy and Kiosk. Wander in and out of the avenues vias, the corridors awash with Mediterranean flourishes, fountains, flowers and charming shops.
Antiques: There are many antique and home décor shops on Dixie Hwy, often referred to as Antique Row, including a branch of NY’s Mecox Gardens. Have breakfast or lunch at City Diner, a 50’s throwback diner that’s charming and whimsical with an eclectic menu right near the shops.
Lunch Time: Sit outside at Café Via Flora or Pizza al Fresco just off Worth. The ladies who lunch populate Ta-boo or the outside terrace at Bricktops. Over on Royal Poinciana Way, Sant Ambroeus opened its first branch outside of New York last year to local’s delight.
Grab and Go: Too busy to sit, pick up a gourmet sandwich or salad at Buccan’s sandwich shop, right down the street from the restaurant on Australian Ave. Try their banh-mi and head to the beach for a picnic lunch.
Pamper: A facial at Tammy Fender is…perfect. Walking into the small, charming house just across the bridge in West Palm had us at hello. The whole place just smells so good, thanks to the aromatic oils in all of the products. You choose which scents you’re particularly attracted to and then relax as you surrender to a healing, spiritual facial custom designed for your skin. We’ve become addicted to her line of organic creams and serums and always leave with a box of travel size products that goes right into our toiletry kit. Don’t skip a reflexology treatment with Helya , one of the best we’ve ever experienced.
Work it Out: Co-Founders Lauren Donovan and Jacquelyn Quesada of Studios Etc. have quite a following for their Barre and Momentim Cycle Classes, now available to stream online. Leave some time to browse the well-curated selection of work out clothes at the studio.
Juiced: We love Island Bee, for breakfast smoothies, wellness shots and fresh juices along with some prepared foods. There are plans to soon start serving a more formal breakfast and lunch menu—sure to be an added plus!
Cocktail Hour: Local friends insisted we order the White Cosmo at Cafe Boulud –made with elderflower, vodka, white cranberry and lime juice, served beautifully in a carafe with a lotus flower ice cube. A generous drink, one carafe will fill your martini glass at least 2 times. Looking around the room it’s soon obvious this must be Cafe Boulud’s signature drink. Yes, try this at home!
Dinner: Make a reservation in advance at perennially packed Buccan, our favorite dinner spot in PB featuring small plates with lots of flavors. Skip the larger entrees and make a meal of the appetizers: an excellent short rib empanada, tuna tartare on a crispy wonton, crispy squash blossoms, brussel sprout caesar and a tasty shrimp scampi on toast. The crowd is the hippest and most eclectic we saw on the island. (Note: our only caveat is Buccan is loud) Next-door, Buccan’s sibling, Imoto is the island’s best place for sushi, featuring Happy Hour sushi from 5:30-6:30. Other good choices on the island include: for old world ambiance Café L'Europe and Chez Jean Pierre, old style Italians Renato's, Trevini and Bice. We didn’t have a chance this trip, but we heard good things about newcomer Chez L'Epicier. Across the bridge in West Palm book a table at popular Grato, Table 26 or Kitchen.