Arts and Culture Weekend Getaway in the Palm Beaches

  • Distance from Philadelphia: 70 miles
  • Best time: December to April; June to August
  • Best for: RomanticArts and CultureFood and Wine

Palm Beach conjures images of an old money playground that can make it seem removed from the outside world. But with its well-heeled history comes a rich cultural legacy that lends itself to world-class museums. There also are towns with hipper mindsets surrounding Palm Beach, and some of that younger energy is starting to seep into the island enclave. For an artsy weekend with vintage flair that's not overly stuffy, consider our top picks in Palm Beach, its next-door neighbor West Palm Beach, and to the south, Delray Beach, where the downtown area around Atlantic Avenue is popping with new restaurants. –By LoAnn Halden

Friday

Palm Beaches Cheat Sheet

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1.Start the Palm Beach immersion among the well-heeled set at Café Boulud in the Brazilian Court Hotel. This southern sibling to Chef Daniel Boulud's celebrated restaurant on New York's Upper East Side draws inspiration from classic French cooking, world cuisine, farmer's markets, and the changing seasons.

2.Walk to your first stop on a mini-music crawl to kick it old school with a Royal Room Cabaret performance at the Colony Hotel; skip the dinner service to focus on the intimate live show that starts at 8:30 pm. The crowd skews older, but it's a must for any fan of the classic American songbook, a la the Algonquin's Oak Room in NYC.

3.Finish the night with a stroll over to the Leopard Lounge in the historic Chesterfield Hotel, still a throwback but now with toned-down jungle notes and a more tasteful ebony palette than its former crimson. Friday-night singers perform contemporary/Top 40 numbers.

Saturday

1.Dig into comfort food at retro-cool Howley's in West Palm Beach, a '50s style diner that's kept its vintage brightly polished. Full breakfast lasts until noon, but there's an "anytime" menu to cover omelet cravings into the wee hours.

2.Drive about two miles north to explore West Palm Beach's Norton Museum of Art, which emphasizes European, American and Chinese art, contemporary works, and photography. The impressive collection includes heavy hitters like Degas, Picasso, Monet, and Gauguin.

3.Go for a festive lunch at Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar on West Palm Beach's lively Clematis Street, where the guacamole is made tableside. Don't miss the inventive daily taco specials, like fried chicken with mango and sweet chile sauce or Asian tempura.

4.Drive over the bridge into Palm Beach to visit the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, the grand marble-columned estate where the Florida East Coast Railway magnate wintered. Tea, finger sandwiches, and scones are served in true Gilded Age style in the museum's Café des Beaux-Arts.

5.About a mile south, old and new money collide among the shops of Worth Avenue, Florida's answer to Rodeo Drive. Even if Hermes, Chanel, and Jimmy Choo aren't in the budget, it's a beautiful stroll punctuated with bougainvillea, palms, and picturesque side courtyards.

6.Head for dinner at Imoto, the 2012-opened Palm Beach creation of James Beard-nominated chef Clay Conley. The Asian bistro, offering small plates and sushi, sits next to his casually sophisticated success story, Buccan.

Sunday

1.Start the drive south, stopping in Manalapan for early breakfast at newly relocated John G's, now with free parking and expanded seating. French toast is a specialty of the house; sorry, no credit cards.

2.Continue south about 30 minutes to tranquil Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, with six distinct settings that range from landscaped islands to dry rock gardens. Objects from Japanese daily life from 1868 to present form the core of the museum collection.

3.Travel about 20 minutes east into downtown Delray Beach for brunch or lunch fare at Max's Harvest, featuring "farm to fork" dishes like cheddar sage biscuits and sausage gravy, Florida crab and artichoke frittata, and braised short-rib grilled cheese.

Where to Stay

Omphoy Ocean Resort (rooms from $209/night), the newest hotel on the sands of Palm Beach County, is deliciously contemporary in a town that epitomizes old-school style. Miami Beach fans should feel right at home in its Zen meets the sea design, which comes with the price tag to match.

Positioned about two miles south of West Palm Beach's major attractions, Hotel Biba (rooms from $79/night) delivers affordable rates and a groovy sensibility that defies Palm Beach's stuffy side. Be sure to ask for a room that's already upgraded with central AC and spruced up paint and flooring.

When to Go

Count on postcard-worthy weather in Palm Beach from December to April, but there's a charm to the quiet summer months that locals embrace: hotel rates are at their lowest, crowds are diminished at the museums, and you can hit the hottest dining spots without a struggle for reservations. Avoid September, the rainiest month of the year and the height of hurricane season.

February's Jewelry, Art and Antique Show is one of the largest of its kind in the United States, bringing together more than 180 dealers in a showcase for collectors, curators, and designers.

Founded in 1982, SunFest is the state's largest waterfront music and arts festival. Held the first week in May on the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach, it combines a juried arts show and five days of concerts.

How to Get There

By car: West Palm Beach is about 1 hour, 20 minutes from Miami. Take I-95 north to exit 70, Okeechobee Boulevard, and head east. Palm Beach is located on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway after you pass through West Palm Beach.

Delray Beach is about 1 hour from Miami. Take Exit 52, Atlantic Avenue and head east to reach downtown Delray.

Photo Credits

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