Spring Break, Grown Up: Your Guide to Palm Beach
If you’re dreaming up the perfect spring vacation, visions of fruity cocktails on a sugary Florida beach are surely dancing in your head. But what if the beer-bong-and-bikini destinations of Miami and Fort Lauderdale aren't quite your style? There's a quieter South Florida gem that shouldn't be overlooked: Palm Beach.
True, "PB" has a reputation as a resort town for an older, moneyed crowd, but don’t be fooled. There's a bubbling scene here for the younger, hipper set too—you just need to know where to look.
To start off, check in at The Omphoy Ocean Resort, a happening, unpretentious beachfront boutique that pulls in a youthful, spirited crowd. As soon as your luggage is in the room, get down to your primary order of business: drinks. While the nightlife vibe in Palm Beach is more martini than beer bong, your cocktail cup will still floweth over with fun options.
The liveliest cocktailing happens at restaurants with buzzing bars or after-dark music. The laid back lounge at perpetually packed small plates restaurant būccan has become a de facto "living room," with clusters of comfortable yet chic sofas and armchairs filled with trendy tourists and locals. Hip young things also flock to the bar at Palm Beach stalwart Michael R. McCarty's on weekend nights; when things really heat up, the restaurant also opens Rory’s—its pink-kissed private cocktail lounge—to the public.
If you want to shake a tail feather while imbibing, head to Med-Italian restaurant Cucina Dell’Arte after 10 PM, when they push aside the tables in the dining room to make way for a dance party. Go ahead and work up an appetite—the kitchen is open until 3 AM. E.R. Bradley’s Saloon is another post-10 PM transformer on Friday and Saturday nights, when the focus at this family eatery turns to music and margaritas, as rum-steeped regulars dance to live bands.
OK, so that covers the fruity cocktails bit of your vision, but what about sugary beaches? Not to worry—Palm Beach has you amply covered in that department. Although many prime strips of sand are indeed claimed by members-only beach clubs, the equally lovely public beaches here are awesome (and free!) alternatives: clean, pristine, and blissfully un-crowded. One of the most popular, the Palm Beach Municipal Beach, is easily accessed from the main shopping drag, Worth Avenue.
Speaking of shopping, Palm Beach is no small-town backwater when it comes to fashion. Since the 1920s, when the exclusive Everglades Club held weekly fashion shows that helped launch the likes of Valentino and Elizabeth Arden, the town's sleepy shopping vias (alleyways) have intersected with haute couture runways. That means you'll get the best of the same current fashions you might find in, say, New York City, but with a resort-wear slant. Case in point: the outpost of Saks Fifth Avenue, where in the front room of the second floor you'll find trendier, more accessible togs amid the high-end offerings.
For fun and flirty casuals, hit unique boutiques like Rapunzel's Closet, Eye of the Needle, and C. Orrico. To accessorize your new get-up, grab a set of bangles at funky jeweler Alex and Ani. And for with-it beachwear, hit Calypso St. Barth. Though there's nothing particularly "homegrown" about the mall staples like Banana Republic and Anthropologie at over-the-bridge shopping center CityPlace, this West Palm Beach outdoor mall is still a good bet for a shopping outing complete with tons of dining options.
Yes, that's right—you can't live on cocktails alone—you've got to eat! Like any upscale resort town, Palm Beach has got its share of overpriced eateries with ambitious menus, but there are also affordable spots with good eats and plenty of atmosphere. In West Palm Beach, pair your margarita with the famous guacamole and addictive tortilla chips at festive Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar or grab a burger at old Palm Beach haunt Hamburger Heaven. Time warp back to the 1950s at Green’s Luncheonette, a vintage greasy spoon in an old drug store where classics (especially good breakfasts) can be had at the Formica counter. Definitely stop by for thin-crust pies on the patio at Pizza al Fresco. And for something a little more substantial, tuck into the American comfort food (think ribs, crab cakes, and hot fudge sundaes) at the perennially mobbed Palm Beach Grill.
And if you need to work off some of that indulgence? Hit the picturesque Palm Beach Lake Trail, a tree-lined waterside promenade ideally suited to running, biking, rollerblading, or power walking. While taking in views of the elaborate mansions that line the path (albeit most obscured behind hedges and gates), you can dream about the days you'll be a regular snowbird here—with your very own well-feathered nest.
For more details on any of these recommendations as well as additional venues, check out our online Palm Beach guide or our fully mobile eBook guide, The Purple Passport to Palm Beach, available at Amazon.
Photos courtesy of The Purple Passport.
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