It’s all beautiful excess in Palm Beach where limestone mansions with terracotta tile roofs peer over tall, manicured hedges onto their pristine, private beaches on South Ocean Boulevard. It’s here, on this four square-mile stretch of a skinny barrier island where visitors instinctually slow down on their drive into town, angling for a glimpse beyond the gilded gates at private pools and tennis courts.
One of the wealthiest enclaves in the U.S., Palm Beach is a mere hour drive from Miami and while it effuses exclusivity, its riches are there for anyone who pulls into a parking spot on unhurried Worth Avenue, so long as you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with those who drape pastel pink cashmere sweaters over theirs.
To get a taste of quintessential Palm Beach, check these five activities off your list for the perfect weekend itinerary.
Shop Worth Avenue
As soon as you set foot on Worth Avenue (pictured at top), you’ll notice a palpable quiet that simply doesn’t exist in Miami. Whether it’s window-shopping or power shopping, Worth Avenue has all the spoils in a beautifully landscaped, Mediterranean setting with high arcades, ivy climbing up storefronts and pocket gardens blossoming with bougainvillea. The street is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, with every designer flagship under the sun, as well as boutiques, like Calypso St. Barth and contemporary fashion labels, like Sandro and Maje.
Lunch at Ta-Boo
With its long onyx bar and dark, cool interiors, Ta-Boo, in the heart of Worth Avenue, is a comforting lunchtime respite from that perfect sunny day outside. An icon on par with Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach, Ta-Boo feels like a fabulous fall from Eden with black and white zebra banquettes and copious leafy potted palms. The amiable owner Franklyn P. De Marco loves holding court at the end of the bar while models from boutiques on Worth Avenue swan through the casual-chic dining room luring the post-lunch crowd and their pocketbooks. The menu of salads, pizzas and sandwiches skews rather traditional with appetizers like shrimp cocktail and deviled eggs, and the wine list figures in just as prominently. Ta-Boo is the kind of place where a large glass of Chardonnay with lunch is de rigueur.
221 Worth Ave., Palm Beach; 561-835-3500
Royal Room & Polo Club at The Colony
Step back in time at The Colony hotel’s Royal Room where dinner-and-a-show cabarets ($120 per person) are hosted every night of the week in season and over the weekends in the summertime. Talent ranges from Broadway belters to jazzy crooners singing their way through the American Song Book with a full band. Dress is formal (a suit and tie is required for gentlemen), but the real party starts at the adjacent Polo Lounge post-show. Here, a live pianist keeps the crowd singing and dancing late into the night and the Royal Room’s headliner might just come out for an informal encore.
155 Hammon Ave., Palm Beach; 561-655-5430
Brunch at The Circle at The Breakers
The Breakers is a Palm Beach institution. Founded in 1896 by Henry Flagler, the sweeping resort covers 140 oceanfront acres, and while it’s certainly a grand dame, she’s not stuffy. Independently owned by descendants of Flagler, The Breakers invests no less than $30 million annually into capital improvements, so these hallowed halls are always at the peak of chic. Sunday brunch in The Circle—a dramatic oceanfront dining room with a 30-foot high vaulted frescoed ceiling and grand chandelier—is a Palm Beach tradition. The spread and service is beyond impressive with a dessert bar that could be a meal unto itself. $105 per person.
One South County Rd., Palm Beach; 888-273-2537
Visit the Flagler Museum
Not far from The Breakers is Flagler’s Palm Beach estate known as Whitehall, which was built in 1902. Today, it’s a museum dedicated to his life and career as one of South Florida’s earliest developers. The impressive Beaux Arts home boasts original furnishings for a glimpse into the Gilded Age, a time in Florida when Flagler built the Overseas Railroad connecting Key West to the mainland and a slew of luxury resorts at major stops along the way.
One Whitehall Way, Palm Beach; 561-655-2833
Shayne Benowitz is Miami.com’s travel editor. Follow her on Twitter @ShayneBenowitz.