Ever since the oil tycoon Henry Flagler turned the alligator-infested jungle known as Lake Worth into a tropical paradise for the 1 percent (it was the Gilded Age, after all) with palatial hotels and a railroad to serve them, Palm Beach has been synonymous with the biggest and the best: fortunes, jewels, scandals. The 16-mile-long island of extravagant mansions, tony retailers and fanciful landscaping is rich in history and significant landmarks, from the magnificent Mar-a-Lago estate (completed in 1927 for Marjorie Merriweather Post, now Donald Trump’s private club) and the Paramount Theater (a former movie palace that houses a trove of vintage screen star photos) to St. Edward’s church (where the Kennedys worshiped) and Green’s Pharmacy (where John F. Kennedy enjoyed burgers in the luncheonette). But Palm Beach is also a small gem offering simple pleasures. You can ride a bike anywhere or linger over coffee at a lunch counter and never be more than a block or two from the beach. Even the new Orange Line trolley that shuttles riders between arts destinations in Palm Beach and neighboring West Palm Beach adds a down-to-earth touch to this high-rolling town (and it’s free!). When the season ends after Easter, parking spots and dinner reservations are readily available once again (not to mention discounted restaurant and hotel prices), making this perhaps the best time of all to visit.
Friday1. On the Beach | 4 p.m.
Grab a snack and head for the beach. At Amici Market, Maurizio Ciminella, managing partner and a former local restaurateur, sells everything from chicken Marsala and panini to caviar and Champagne. Take your goodies to the public beach, where locals and visitors share the sand and surf, or stroll the wide sidewalk (entrances along South Ocean Boulevard between Royal Palm Way and Hammon Avenue). There’s still time to rent a paddleboard for $20 an hour at PB Boys Club a block from the beach.
2. Breakers and Beyond | 7 p.m.
Palm Beach is home to many fine restaurants, from old favorites like Ta-boo on Worth Avenue to exciting new venues like HMF at the Breakers. Head over to the Breakers, as there’s no better welcome to the island than a visit to this splendid hotel, which has been hosting the world’s elite since 1896 (including Rockefellers, presidents and Elton John). Linger in the sumptuous lobby, then head for what was once the celebrated Tapestry Bar, now the lavishly updated HMF (Henry Flagler’s initials), where the younger crowd comes to see and be seen while sampling tantalizing tapas (try the duck bao buns with blood orange ponzu, $23) and cocktails (the Redhead — cranberry juice, orange liqueur and vodka — is topped with a thick lime foam, $15). If you’re still hungry, Cucina Dell’Arte serves Italian fare in a lively setting. Save room for the bacche e sabayon (Marsala custard with berries in a crispy almond basket). Dinner for two with wine, about $120.
3. A Little Night Music | 10 p.m.
End your evening with music. The Brazilian Court Hotel features Raquel Williams singing soulful cabaret in the intimate Cafe Boulud lounge. At the elegant Cafe L’Europe, David Crohan presides masterfully over the grand piano, and, if you feel like dancing, Cucina Dell’Arte has a busy late-night bar scene and a disco ball.
Saturday4. Rise and Shine | 8 a.m.
Get eggs Benedict with arugula ($11) at the new SurfSide Diner on South County Road, or pick up French pastries and cappuccino at Patrick Lézé in the Palm Beach Hotel building on Sunrise Avenue. Then take I-95 about 25 miles south to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands (free). This man-made preserve with a boardwalk teems with waterfowl, alligators and turtles; over 140 bird species have been identified here, including roseate spoonbills. In spring the females tend their young in nests and you can get quite close. Bring binoculars, hat and sunblock.
5. Arepas, Falafel and More | 11 a.m.
On your way back, stop by the West Palm Beach GreenMarket. This much-loved market flourishes in the newly revitalized waterfront area, now a pedestrian destination and site of annual events such as SunFest, a music extravaganza (April 29 to May 3; headliners include the Pixies, Lenny Kravitz and Wilco). Sample Rabbit Coffee Roasters’ single-origin coffees, then get in line at TocToc Arepas, where the juicy pulled pork or veggie omelet arepa ($6.95) is worth the wait. Did you say falafel? Nearby, on Fifth Street, in a stucco storefront, the Mediterranean Market and Deli sells delicious homemade hummus, tabbouleh, olives, pita and more. Takeout only.
6. Along Worth Avenue | 1 p.m.
This renowned avenue of luxury retailers, galleries and restaurants reflects the Mediterranean Revival architectural style — whitewashed stucco, red barrel-tile roofs — introduced by the architect Addison Mizner almost 100 years ago. This is ground zero for people-watching, so focus. Why do so many people bring small dogs shopping with them, you may wonder, as you watch Bentleys and Jaguars jockey for parking spots. Oh, and window-shop (then spend your money in the designer resale shops clustered around the corner of North County and Sunset; there’s even an upscale Palm Beach Goodwill). Get lost in the meandering “vias” off the avenue, savor the music of gurgling fountains and imagine you’re in Italy. Continue the fantasy over thin-crust pizza (try the frutti di mare topped with calamari, scallops and shrimp, $23) at Pizza Al Fresco, a charming oasis tucked away on Via Mizner, as models saunter among the outdoor tables displaying designer wear from the avenue. Now study the excellent Palm Beach Preservation Foundation map you’ve downloaded (palmbeachpreservation.org) to better explore the neighborhood’s architecture and small parks, especially Pan’s Garden. Then step inside the Colony Hotel (one block from Worth) to check out its bold new makeover, featuring brilliant Florida colors and banana-leaf wallpaper.
7. Calm Down | 5 p.m.
Find serenity at the English Gothic-style Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal church, built in 1925. Amble through the cloistered walkways and courtyard to the Cluett Memorial Garden, where you can sit in a small gazebo and gaze at the fountain and fish pond. As you leave, look up and try to spot the gargoyles along the roof.
8. Creative Cuisine | 7 p.m.
If you can get a reservation at Buccan, congratulations! The acclaimed chef Clay Conley combines a bustling informal ambience with innovative small plates that reflect myriad influences. The menu recently included crispy General Tso’s-style sweetbreads ( $17) and hot dog panini with sauerkraut, Gruyère, mustard and chile ($12; a favorite of the Allman Brothers’ drummer Butch Trucks). Dinner for two with drinks, about $150. Imoto, Buccan’s “little sister” next door, serves Asian-inspired dishes, sushi and sashimi.
9. Across the Bridge | 10 p.m.
On Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, the night life can be raucous: a mix of restaurants, cavernous crowded bars and dance clubs. The new Alchemist Gastropub serves updated comfort food (bacon strips at the bar instead of nuts) and attracts an after-dinner crowd with cocktails and local beer in a speakeasy atmosphere. Stop in at Pistache French Bistro to soak up the Parisian-style ambience — crimson banquettes, dark wood and brass — while sipping a French Pear Martini (St. Germain liqueur, pear vodka, Champagne, $13). Cafe Centro in the Northwood arts district draws revelers to the crystal-chandeliered piano bar with a Sinatra-like crooner.
Sunday10. Hit the Trail | 8 a.m.
Get a sidewalk table at Nick and Johnnie’s and try the Crepe Madame (ham, Gruyère, fried eggs, $12) or the Amazon Bowl (yogurt, quinoa, nuts, fruit, coconut, $16). Then rent bikes at the Palm Beach Bicycle Trail Shop on Sunrise ($29 for up to four hours). Cross Bradley Place to enter the six-mile-long Lake Trail, then ride north past the Sailfish Club where the path ends; continue on North Lake Way to the Inlet, where ships come and go from the Port of Palm Beach. As you ride back toward town, notice the ficus hedges, artfully sculpted or forming towering walls, and watch for pelicans and parrots overhead. Continue south across Royal Poinciana past the Flagler Museum, Henry Flagler’s spectacular Gilded Age home (which offers a fascinating look at the life of a turn-of-the-century industry titan). Stop to admire the 186-year-old kapok tree, then continue to the Society of the Four Arts complex, where you can tour the botanical and sculpture gardens around the library. Cool off under the trees at the nearby Palm Beach Docks. Check out those megayachts!
11. Lunch With a View | Noon
Perched atop the two-story, Key West-style clubhouse at the Palm Beach Par 3 Golf Course, the new Al Fresco restaurant is one of the most beautiful outdoor dining spots in the area. You can enjoy the breeze on the covered deck overlooking the ocean and sample an Italian specialty like the ravioli Al Fresco (burrata cheese, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and shallot sauce, $21).
12. Polo, Of Course! | 1:30 p.m.
Sunday Polo doesn’t start until 3, but for a quintessential local experience, arrive early and mingle with the well-dressed crowd at the International Polo Club in Wellington. Whether you opt for the lavish $120 Champagne brunch in the Pavilion (2 p.m.) or lawn seating (center is best, $30), everyone converges on the field at halftime to stomp divots (stomp down the turf) — bring sensible shoes — and partake of free Champagne and ice cream. The glistening ponies thundering by, mallets thwacking and crowds cheering make for an unforgettable experience. General admission is $10.
SOURCE: NEW YORK TIMES
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