Top Florida Attractions
Thanks to more than 1,350 miles of sandy shoreline, beach hopping in Florida is a connoisseur’s sport. Here, four of our favorite seaside spots.
Delray Beach: Despite its cosmopolitan vibe, with boutiques and galleries and the glossy Seagate Hotel & Spa ($$), the cozy downtown feels like a village—and fronts an inviting, umbrella-dotted stretch of sand.
Vero Beach: Stay at Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa ($$) and stroll the virtually crowd-free shore. The town’s cultural offerings are surprisingly good—check out the musicals at the Riverside Theatre and the modern collection at the Vero Beach Museum of Art.
Related: Florida Keys Travel Guide
Anna Maria Island: As notable for what it doesn’t have—namely, high-rise buildings along the water—as for what it does: seven miles of quiet, tree-fringed beach and unpretentious seafood shacks like the Rod & Reel Pier (941/778-1885; $$).
Gasparilla Island: Park your bike on the one-lane road and search for lightning whelks at low tide, then head to the 1890’s lighthouse to look for roseate spoonbills. After you’ve fished for tarpon, kick back on the porch at your hotel, the Gasparilla Inn & Club ($$).
Did you know? No matter where you are in Florida, you’re never more than 60 miles from the ocean.
Miami: Secret Couture Source
Society types from as far away as Europe and South America come to the Consignment Bar (5580 N.E. Fourth Court) to buy and sell designer goods. It’s secondhand shopping as haute retail indulgence: ogle the status items on the shelves, from butter-soft Bottega Venetas to that holy grail of handbags, the Hermès Birkin.
Cocktails by the Pool
The Hotel: Mandarin Oriental, Miami
The Drink: The flashy Caribbean Colada, served in a pineapple husk.
The Scene: Apart from the Sunday pool parties, the vibe is surprisingly low-key.
The Hotel: W Fort Lauderdale
The Drink: The Day-Glo green Coconut Basil gimlet.
The Scene: Take your pick: the high-energy Wet East pool by the ocean, or the serene Wet West.
The Hotel: SLS Hotel South Beach 1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach.
The Drink: The crimson-hued Love Unit, featuring muddled red bell pepper.
The Scene: Sexy day-to-night Hyde Beach, the poolside lounge, has drawn the likes of J. Lo and the Miami Heat’s star roster.
Miami: Ultimate People-Watching
Now in its 11th year, Art Basel Miami Beach (Dec. 6–9) is as much global bacchanal as art fair. When the world’s top dealers, advisers, and collectors descend upon the Miami Beach Convention Center this month, a flood of larger-than-life personalities will follow in their wake. With so many VIP’s flitting from one cocktail party to the next, name badges are redundant—the real way to tell who’s who is by attire. Here, a breakdown.
The Power Players
Dealers and gallery owners—the true lifeblood of Art Basel—come decked in designer shift dresses or tailored pastel shirts from Arnys in Paris.
Spotted: At private parties at the Raleigh Hotel or Soho Beach House.
The look is golf-club chic: Ralph Lauren twinsets; cashmere sweaters draped around their necks; Stubbs & Wootton slippers or Jack Rogers sandals.
Spotted: Dining in the lobby bar of the Setai or the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach.
The Window Dressing
Actors and fashion groupies come to the fair to flaunt their style in sinuous scarves and jagged-edged T-shirts chosen to maximize paparazzi potential.
Spotted: At Le Baron, a pop-up nightclub in the Delano Hotel.
Look for basic shorts and tank tops from this season’s American Apparel. Exposed bikini straps and baseball caps are dead giveaways.
Spotted: Gawking in front of the bouncers at the 1111 Lincoln Road elevators.
The Big Money
The least fashion-forward of all, the hedge-fund set, is there to spend. Baggy shorts and sneakers underscore their comfort in their new domain.
Spotted At private tables in the Dutch, Nobu, and Casa Tua restaurants.
Hotel of the Moment: The just-opened James Royal Palm ($$$) is this year’s unofficial Art Basel HQ for insiders—hotel guests can mingle with the partygoers at the fourth-floor spa, which doubles as a lounge during the fair for round-the-clock schmoozing.
Fort Lauderdale: Cruise the Canals
Miami’s northern neighbor calls itself the Venice of America, a reference to the 165 miles of inland waterways that wind around the city’s prettiest real estate. The poshest way to see the sights: Gondolas West (from $180 for a 1 1/2-hour sunset tour for up to six people), on Captain Chris McCoy’s 22-foot electric boat. The teak-trimmed vessel barely whispers as it glides toward downtown high-rises or behind stately backyards.
The Keys: Conch-Fritter Quest
No trip to the Keys is complete without diving into a plate of conch fritters, a Florida attraction all its own. These four spots serve up the tastiest renditions—along with plenty of authentic character.Key Largo
Kitschy old license plates and the bartender’s amiable bulldog mix welcome you to Alabama Jack’s ($), where the food looks as rugged as the bikers at neighboring tables. Equally addictive: the free-form fritters and the Southern sweet tea.
Tucked amid the foliage off busy U.S. 1, the family-owned Key Largo Conch House (100211 Overseas Hwy.; $$) hosts an annual conch-fritter eating contest (devour as many as you can in 10 minutes). Most diners, however, take the leisurely route, savoring the deep-fried concoctions on the wraparound veranda.Marathon
Under a two-story tiki hut overlooking a marina, the aptly named Salty’s Waterfront Grill (7 Mile Marina, 1090 Overseas Hwy.; $$) serves up a version with a side of its famous coconut-curry sauce—not even the bartenders know the secret recipe.Key West
The funky shack that houses B.O.’s Fish Wagon ($$) gets its charm from a mishmash of ripped fishing nets, no sniveling signs, and a rusted truck. And yes, the fritters are superb.
St. Petersburg: Surrealism’s Star Attraction
It’s not just the splashy, Yann Weymouth–designed building that makes the Dalí Museum (1 Dalí Blvd.) a top Florida attraction. Through March 31, the two-year-old geodesic structure is exhibiting a dozen of the artist’s works never shown before on this side of the Atlantic. Included are some of Dalí’s most unusual pieces, such as a set of paintings that form 3-D images across multiple canvases. Not sufficiently disoriented? Tackle the hedge labyrinth on the grounds—with a giant cypress, not a melting clock, at its center.
Winter Park: Small-Town Surprise
Twenty minutes from the gates of Disney World lies idyllic Winter Park (population 28,398). Amid the oak-shaded squares we found restaurants and boutiques that would look right at home in brownstone Brooklyn.
Ace Metric Cycles: Test-ride a sleek one-speed Fuji or build your own dream bike on a bare frame. 444 W. New England Ave.
Cask & Larder: Southern-tinged comfort food that pairs well with handcrafted beers from the in-house brewery. 565 W. Fairbanks Ave. $$
Makr Carry Goods: Handsome, artisan-made canvas rucksacks and leather wallets that define functional simplicity. 444 W. New England Ave.; by appointment only.
Prato: The wood-burning ovens come straight from Naples at this warm and rustic restaurant on the main drag. 124 N. Park Ave. $$
Rifle Paper Co.: The hand-drawn stationery is a hit with everyone from hipsters to chic matrons. 558 W. New England Ave.
The Everglades: Into the Wild
Don your trusty waders for landscape photographer Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery Swamp Walks, which get you up close and personal with his muse: the Everglades, one of the most elemental Florida attractions. As you wade and wend your way through Big Cypress National Preserve’s knee-deep murk, eco-guides divulge the secrets of the 720,000-acre wetlands. 52388 Tamiami Trail, Ochopee; 1 1/2-hour walks from $50 per person, Saturdays, October–March.
Spookiest Sight: In nearby Everglades City, the Ivey House Bed & Breakfast ($$) leads twilight paddling tours that take you to spot alligators—look for the glowing eyes.
Palm Beach: A Restaurant Renaissance
Once synonymous with country clubs and endless orders of Cobb salad, the Palm Beach dining scene is getting a reboot. These five spots are driving the action; this month, you can also mingle with chefs Daniel Boulud, David Burke, and Jacques Torres at the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival (December 7–11).
Blind Monk: Tiny wine bar with tapas-style nibbles and 45 bottles poured by the glass. 410 Evernia St. $$
Buccan: The restaurant that kicked off the local culinary revolution, with an eclectic menu from chef Clay Conley (order the short-rib empanadas). 350 S. County Rd. $$
HMF: The Breakers’ new lounge and bar, designed by Adam Tihany and named for railroad magnate (and resort founder) Henry Morrison Flagler. 1 S. County Rd. $$$
Imoto: The blue-blazer crowd knock back lemongrass-sorbet cocktails between bites of sashimi at Buccan’s younger sibling. 350 S. County Rd. $$$
PB Catch: A sophisticated ode to seafood (seared jumbo scallops; local yellowfin tuna) with sleek, yachtlike interiors and a raw bar. 251 Sunrise Ave. $$$