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Coastal Culture

Exploring the blend of arts in The Palm Beaches, Florida

From my desk at work, I couldn’t shake visions of palm trees, tropical cocktails and sand between my toes. Maybe it was my fault for hanging up a tropical-themed calendar. At any rate, a beachside getaway sounded like the perfect change of pace for my husband and me. But I wanted more than just an amazing beach; I wanted something upscale and cultured, too.   A friend suggested The Palm Beaches, in South Florida, a collection of cities and towns along 47 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline. The cities—including West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Jupiter—offered sophistication and serenity. Sounded like heaven, so we packed our bags and headed south.  

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It had been hard to choose from the myriad of charming B&Bs, luxury resorts and boutique hotels until the oceanfront pool at the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach lured us in at first sight. After a few hours in the clear blue waters, I felt recharged—like I had been on vacation for a week already. So, after drying off, we ventured out to see what else The Palm Beaches had to offer.  

Art and Architecture

Gilded Age opulence was on full display at the stunning Flagler Museum, a sprawling estate built in 1902 by Florida business magnate Henry Flagler. The New York Herald wasn’t exaggerating when it wrote in 1902 that the estate was “more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world.”   At every turn, I noticed exquisite attention to detail, from soaring white Doric columns at the entrance, which evoked the feel of a Greek temple, to rich marble and towering chandeliers. My favorite part was the Flagler Kenan Pavilion, which housed the beautiful Café des Beaux-Arts. In this cavernous, sunlight-filled room, I felt like my husband and I had been transported to turn-of-the-century Paris.  

It was hard to leave this stunning time capsule, but we wanted to answer the call of the waves and spend some quality time on the sand.  

Florida’s past brought to light

Later that day, we headed to a towering red lighthouse for a peek into Florida’s intriguing history. At the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum, visitors can take a climbing tour of an 1860 lighthouse and learn about Spanish expeditions and shipwrecks.   Because we arrived in the evening, we were able to enjoy the romantic sunset tour, where we saw the lighthouse cast its glow through the night sky. We were also able to see inside the lighthouse’s watch room, where the keeper used to stand watch over the water.  

Seeing the lighthouse in person and hearing our guide’s stories brought the past to life for me. I appreciated that this whole experience was far more than just a beach vacation.  

Tranquility in timeless gardens

After a restful night’s sleep, we enjoyed a poolside breakfast and a walk on the beach before heading to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. While wandering these 16 acres of gardens, I was once again transported to another time and place—all while remaining in The Palm Beaches.  

We strolled on tree-lined paths, admired the unique bonsai and paused by a pool of water to watch colorful koi fish. I loved the peaceful rock gardens and elegant bamboo grove. Inside the museum, which looks like a real Japanese villa, we learned about Japan’s connection to South Florida and witnessed a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  

After that stop, my husband and I agreed that the trip was starting to feel like no other. Somehow, I felt like we were relaxing on an island and touring Europe and Japan—at the same time.   My friend had been right: The Palm Beaches really was the cultural capital of Florida, a perfect escape for couples who want the best of hotels, restaurants, museums and sights while still partaking in all the perks of a tropical paradise, including pristine sandy beaches.  

The play’s the thing

For the finale of our vacation, we checked out a show at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, a beautiful performing arts center in The Palm Beaches that features concerts, dance performances, plays, musicals and more. I love theater, and I like to check out other city’s performing arts centers. This one was superb.

Next time, I want to catch the annual Shakespeare by the Sea performance, part of the summertime The Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival. It’s held at the oceanfront Carlin Park and gets rave reviews. A good excuse for another trip in our future!   Explore more of The Palm Beaches’ cultural side.  


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