Palm Beach is the pristine barrier island renowned for its shopping on Worth Avenue, luxury properties, art galleries, and generally, as a playground for the affluent.
The geography sets the scene. As you cross the Royal Park Bridge from West Palm Beach to Palm Beach you’ll sense the different dimension that this barrier island exudes. Driving along Royal Palm Way, literally lined with palm trees, travelers are enveloped in the elusive atmosphere that is worth a visit, even if it’s not your taste. Stroll down Worth Avenue where designer shops, galleries, and restaurants dot the landscape. Turn down the side streets for smaller, independent stores. For a bit of history, follow Worth Avenue to the ocean, where the Palm Beach Pier, stretching more than1,000 feet into the ocean, once stood. Built in 1925 at the east end of the Avenue, the pier suffered so much damage from hurricanes and other storms, that the town demolished it in 1969. A brass marker, installed in 1991, is a reminder of what once was. Visit the Flagler Museum, now a National Historic Landmark, (www.flaglermuseum.us), completed in 1902, originally the home of Henry Flagler, the railroad magnate. Called Whitehall, the white Beaux Arts structure roofed with red barrel tiles became Florida’s first museum.
Ideal places to stay in Palm Beach include The Breakers (www.thebreakers.com),the renowned resort where no request will be left unfulfilled. The Colony (www.thecolonypalmbeach.com) is centrally located at near Worth Avenue, and the less expensive Chesterfield (www.chesterfieldpb.com), is an easy two-block walk to Worth Avenue.
WEST PALM BEACH
The Royal Palm Bridge is a pedestrian bridge as well. Energetic travelers can traverse the bridge to West Palm Beach to visit the Norton Museum of Art (www.norton.org). Art After Dark is a weekly celebration of performing and visual art, Thursdays from 5-9 p.m.and is free with $12 museum admission; children 12 and under, free. Until March 25th, watch a glass blower from the Corning Museum of Glass there, and maybe even win a piece of art glass to take home. The museum’s permanent collection includes American, European, and Chinese art, as well as photography.
One of the major attractions in West Palm Beach is the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts (www.kravis.org), which opened in September 1992. Three venues are host to a diverse schedule that includes Kravis on Broadway, major vocalists and groups ranging from the Rolling Stones to Matisyahu to Michael Feinstein, regional artists, legitimate theater, opera and ballet. On Clematis Street, a revitalized section of West Palm Beach, stop by the Palm Beach Photographic Centre (www.workshop.org) to view changing exhibitions in the museum and gallery.
Miami Beach is the barrier island adjacent to the City of Miami, and has an exuberance all its own. From Miami, take the Julia Tuttle Causeway, the Venetian Causeway, or the MacArthur Causeway into Miami Beach, where the fun begins. Miami Beach has its own brand of excitement from the beaches to the Art Deco buildings including a range of hotels, beachfront and in town properties. Neon dots South Beach Art Deco District, which stretches from Southpointe Park near 1st Street to 17th Street. Ocean Drive is the ideal place to stroll when in South Beach. Visitors interested in an Art Deco walking tour can stop at the Art Deco Welcome Center (1001 Ocean Drive and 10th Street, (www.mdpl.org) to meet a guide for a 90-minute tour that covers Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, and Miami Modern styles in the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District. The price is $20; $15 for seniors, veterans and students. Otherwise, wander on your own, and you won’t be disappointed. Tune into what’s around you: the sights and sounds that are unique to South Beach. Walking along Collins Avenue, visitors are likely to hear wonderful jazz wafting from the porch of Tudor House, a neighborhood cafe.
Another option is to walk along Collins Avenue, to Washington Avenue until it intersects with Lincoln Road, a pedestrian mall where people-watching is a major activity along with strolling, shopping, and relaxing in the outdoor cafes.
Annual events are Art Basel Miami (www.miamibeach.artbasel.com) at the Miami Beach Convention Center every December and the Art Deco Weekend each January.
For more fun in Florida, go to www.visitflorida.com