PALM BEACH, Florida ― Many of the waterfront mansions are shuttered for the season, and there are few yachts at the private docks along the Intracoastal. The theater season doesn’t start until late October, concerts and art exhibits at the Society for the Four Arts are on hiatus until November, and the walking tours of Worth Avenue won’t start again until late November.
But that doesn’t mean there’s not a weekend getaway’s worth of music, art, bicycling, shopping, sightseeing, antiquing and dining in Palm Beach and across the Intracoastal in West Palm Beach.
Kids keep cool by splashing in the fountain at the waterfront park in West Palm Beach, Florida. (MCT)
And for those who crave la dolce vita but don’t want to spend high-season rates of more than $500 a night at the city’s luxury hotels, some of those same hotels are offering rooms at less than $200 in late summer and early fall. Some have special deals in their restaurants and spas as well.
Tempted? Here are 10 things you can do in the two cities connected by the Royal Park Bridge.
• Art After Dark. In one room, a painter is demonstrating a few watercolor techniques. In the atrium around the corner, magicians are entertaining the crowd with tricks. In the next room, another artist is demonstrating how to draw comic-book heroes, and in the auditorium, Spock and Darth Vader are arguing over which is better: “Star Wars” or “Star Trek.”
People ― adults and kids, too ― are wandering through galleries, looking at exhibits. (Kids especially like “Out of This World: Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television,” an exhibit of costumes from science fiction movies and TV shows, that runs through Sept. 4).
It’s Thursday night, time for the Norton Museum of Art’s weekly Art After Dark program, which brings art and artists together with the public in a more casual environment that includes live music, food and cocktails.
The program is from 5 to 9 p.m. every Thursday at the Norton, 1451 S. Olive Ave., 561-832-5196, www.norton.org. Admission $12 for adults, $5 for ages 13 to 21. The Norton will be closed Sept. 12-30 to reinstall its galleries of European and American art; Art After Dark resumes on Oct. 6.
• Go antiquing. Antique Row along South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach has more than 30 shops. Although business slows in the summer, the shops stay open and their owners refresh their stock. Traffic this time of year is mostly year-round residents, says Ray Hawkins of Hawkins Antiques. Late in the year, snowbirds send their designers ahead to shop for an antique breakfront or a giltwood mirror ― or a whole roomful of antiques.
“The thing that attracts a lot of attention is there are 30 or 40 shops and very few shops are empty,” Hawkins says. He’s especially pleased that Cedric DuPont Antiques, known in part for its celebrity clients, moved in February from downtown to Antique Row, where it’s drawing new shoppers to the neighborhood.
Other than Cedric DuPont, most of the shops don’t stand out, and a passerby not looking for antique shops might not notice that he’s on Antique Row. South Dixie Highway between Southern Boulevard and Belvedere Road; http://westpalmbeachantiques.com/.
• Stop and smell the flowers. Literally.
Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach has 14 acres of gardens: the butterfly garden, the rose garden, herb and vegetables gardens, a display of succulents, exotic trees, tropical fruits and more, plus some lovely sculptures. Chairs and benches are scattered throughout the grounds. There’s even a gazebo where visitors can take shelter during sudden summer storms if the Garden Shop with its large collection of books isn’t within a quick sprint.
559 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach; 561-233-1757; www.mounts.org. Open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, noon-4 p.m. Admission: suggested donation of $5.
• Sample a celebrity chef’s cuisine. At Cafe Boulud, James Beard award winner Daniel Boulud’s restaurant at the Brazilian Court, the “Summer Sizzles” three-course prix fixe menu is $20.11 for lunch weekdays, $35 for dinner Sunday through Thursday. For the lunch first course, a diner might choose from Golden Beet Borscht with Smoked Trout Rillette, Mesclun Salad with Poached Laughing Bird Shrimp, and Crispy Lamb Ribs with Minted Yogurt. On the a la carte lunch menu, by comparison, first courses run $12 to $20. 301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach; 561-655-6060; www.thebraziliancourt.com/cafe-boulud/.
Over at the Omphoy Ocean Resort, where local celeb chef Michelle Bernstein has an eponymous restaurant, there’s a summer special of a three-course prix fixe dinner for $35 Sundays through Thursdays. 2842 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach; 561-540-6444; www.omphoy.com.
• Revisit the Cold War. On Peanut Island, at the mouth of the Lake Worth Inlet not far from the former Kennedy estate at Palm Beach, are a bunker and command center built for President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The bunker is 25 feet underground and includes a radio room and decontamination chamber as well as living quarters. After Kennedy’s assassination, the facilities fell into disrepair and were flooded. The site was later was restored by the Palm Beach Maritime Museum and furnished with replica items.
The museum, located in the old Coast Guard station, offers tours of the Kennedy Bunker between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Admission: $10; $9 seniors; $5 students.
The island, which is not natural but was built of materials from dredging, is itself a park that includes campgrounds, picnic shelters, and some prime snorkeling spots. The island is accessible by private boat or shuttles from the Riviera Beach Marina, 200 E 13th Street, Riviera Beach, 561-339-2504, or the Palm Beach Water Taxi, Sailfish Marina Resort, 98 Lake Dr., Singer Island, 561-683-8294; www.sailfishmarina.com.
• Visit the place where The Season started. Henry Flagler, he of Overseas Railroad fame, built Whitehall ― a 75-room, 60,000-square-foot Gilded Age mansion ― as a winter home. He and his bride, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler, entertained regularly there, establishing The Season for Palm Beach society.
Today Whitehall is Flagler Museum, still notable for its opulence. The Grand Hall, at the entry, has a grand double staircase, seven kinds of marble, a bust of Caesar Augustus, a fabulous ornate clock made of rosewood and bronze, and a ceiling decorated with a painting of Pythia, the priestess of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi.
Adjacent to the mansion is a pavilion built to house Flagler’s private Railcar No. 91, restored to its 1912 condition. Visitors can walk through the railcar.
One Whitehall Way, Palm Beach; 561-655-2833; www.flaglermuseum.us. Open noon-5 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, closed Monday. Admission $18; $10 ages 13-17; $3 ages 6-12; free under age 6.
• Bicycle among the rich and famous. Or at least among their houses.
The Lake Trail, built by Henry Flagler so guests at Whitehall would have a place to stroll, runs for six miles along the Intracoastal in Pam Beach. It starts at the docks south of Royal Palm Way and runs to the northern tip of Palm Beach.
This wide, smooth strip of asphalt runs between mansions and their docks. Most of the homes have at least a low wall between them and the trail, but parts of many of the houses and backyards are visible.
You’ll run into people jogging, bicycling and just strolling along the trail, which is free and open to all. Early morning and evenings are the best choices in summer. Parking places include Flagler Museum and the Society of the Four Arts near the south end, and the Publix on the north end on Sunset Avenue.
By Marjie Lambert
(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)