The Palm Beaches in Florida, which encompass the stodgier old-line Palm Beach and its younger, more relaxed sister city, West Palm Beach, make for a perfect afternoon getaway, a mix of high art within the Norton Museum of Art and assorted diversions around town.
For general information about Palm Beach County, visit www.PalmBeachFl.com or www.PalmBeachSummer.com. The, plan your art fix. To get a sense of how much time you’ll need to tour the Norton Museum of Art, one of Florida’s major cultural institutions known for its collections of American, Chinese, and contemporary art, check out the museum website to see what temporary exhibitions are on view.
While you’re there, don’t miss the masterpieces of 19th century and 20th century painting and sculpture in its permanent collection, which includes works by Brancusi, Gauguin, Matisse, Miró, Monet, Picasso, Hopper, O'Keeffe, and Pollock. Plan to go on the early side—the museum closes daily at 5 p.m., except for Thursdays, when it’s open until 9 p.m. Also note ticket specials: Florida residents can visit for free on Thursdays through September 3, and children under 12 always get free admission.
Since the Norton Museum is fairly compact and easy to see in the first half of a day, know that the town of Palm Beach has two more choice museums, The Flagler Museum, a 55-room Beaux Arts estate that’s a National Historic Landmark, and the Society of the Four Arts, which offers programming in everything from fine art to music and theater.
Though it may seem ambitious to try to fit so much into one day, the museums of the Palm Beaches are part of a new Arts & Entertainment District—some 22 organizations that are linked together with a free, 10-stop trolley bus that runs Tuesdays through Saturdays.
When you’re done, give your feet a rest and refuel at Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud Palm Beach, which hosts the DBGB Takeover, featuring casual dining selections (house-made sausage, burgers, and more) from New York’s DBGB, now through October 12. Reservations are a traveler’s best friend, and though it’s more relaxed during summer in Palm Beach, calling ahead never hurts.
On the town
If you feel like venturing further, the next great neighborhood is the just-edgy-enough Northwood area, full of sharp restaurants (Harold’s Coffee Shop and Malakor Thai Café), galleries, and vintage clothing shops (Melanie’s Real Thrift & Things is crammed with great finds).
The Summer Shack at PB Catch Seafood & Raw Bar, on through October in the restaurant’s lounge, offers an easygoing mix of summery drinks like watermelon sangria and light dishes such as Ahi tuna tacos.
Ready for a shopping break? In West Palm Beach, the vast CityPlace mall offers a wide range of well-known retailers, while in Northwood, Bohemia AG may be the only place in America where it’s possible to buy iron chain sculpture by Slag, slightly scary Orthodox Diesel t-shirts celebrating industrial music, and gelato from Delray Beach’s Gelato Tetrini—all in one place.
Before you turn in for the evening, stop by Clematis Street, the center of West Palm Beach nightlife. The free Clematis by Night music series on Thursdays features live bands, and on the second Saturday evening of every month, Northwood hosts a lively Art Walk; the popular Art & Wine Promenade, a chance to visit the area’s galleries and sample wines as you stroll, for free, is the last Friday evening of every month.
Tom Austin is based in Miami and covers the Florida beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter at @TomAustin.