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If You Linger in the Palm Beach Area and Boca Raton
They are packed with restaurants, stunning hotels and spectacular views.
Palm Beach, Fla., is know for its ocean views.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times
By Joseph B. Treaster
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Across the darkened Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Beach, a string of lights traced the twin towers of the Breakers Hotel. The white marble and stone walls of the Henry Morrison Flagler mansion — now a museum of life in the Gilded Age — glowed in a wash of spotlights.
At the lookout point, the rooftop bar and pool of the Ben hotel, the voices of nicely turned-out men and women struggled against thumping, party rhythms. The margaritas and sauvignon blanc were flowing.
It was the start of another pleasant evening in the sister cities of the Palm Beaches, fabulously wealthy Palm Beach and the striving business city of West Palm Beach.
They and nearby Boca Raton — another place with more than its share of Bentleys, Aston Martins and Maseratis — often see a surge in visitors in early December when their art museums — the Norton Museum of Art and the Boca Raton Museum of Art — attract spillover audiences from the tens of thousands of art lovers going to Art Basel Miami Beach. This year the museums are presenting strong Latin American exhibitions in contrast to the mostly contemporary work at Art Basel.
A couple of days in the Palm Beaches and Boca Raton gives you plenty of time to go to the exhibitions and take a look around.
In Palm Beach, Ta-Boo and Bilboquet are popular restaurants on Worth Avenue, a promenade of high-end resort wear, jewels and art galleries. Renato’s is another popular spot just off Worth on Via Mizner. The Breakers, opened at the dawn of the Twentieth Century, is the pre-eminent hotel. Oceanfront rooms start at $2,500 a night with taxes.
The Ben, the Canopy and the Hilton West Palm Beach are close to the Norton. Clematis Street, near the museum, feels like a party most evenings. It is lined with lively restaurants and anchored at the waterfront by the sprawling E.R. Bradley’s Saloon — crab cakes, burgers and shrimp dishes. The airy, sun-splashed restaurant at the Norton is excellent for lunch.
The warm weather in Palm Beach allows for many outdoor dining options.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times
Palm Beach itself is a museum of sorts with acres of Mediterranean Revival style mansions with reddish barrel-tiled roofs, carved stone arches and balconies and precisely clipped hedges and lawns. There are some fine examples of the British Colonial style popular in Bermuda and the Bahamas, Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern homes and a few starkly modern white concrete and glass boxes. One of the largest estates, Mar-a-Lago, belongs to former President Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Flagler, the Standard Oil and railroad mogul, built palace-like hotels and a grand palace for himself, the 75-room, gold-leaf, velvet and silk-trimmed Whitehall, that is now the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum and a National Historic Landmark.
The flora and fauna are part of the scene. A few minutes’ drive north of downtown West Palm Beach, manatees, the curious, lumbering sea mammals, congregate in the cooler months in warm water spilling from a power plant on the Intracoastal Waterway. It is a sanctuary called Manatee Lagoon. There’s an observation deck, shaded walkways and a gift shop with stuffed toy manatees.
It is common to see manatees in Florida coastal waters.Credit…Getty Images
A charming way to get to Boca Raton, about 30 miles to the south of Palm Beach, is to drive along ocean-hugging Florida State Road A1A, another museum of mansions and paradisiacal landscaping sprinkled with pricey pastel condos.
With a stop at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center across from the beach in Boca Raton, you can take — at no charge — a short stroll on a well-kept boardwalk through acres of mangroves, cabbage palms and hardwoods that show what Florida was like before the developers and paving crews arrived. The center has a hospital for sea turtles and a breeding lab.
The Boca Raton Museum of Art stands at the north end of Mizner Park, a long, narrow. breezy stretch of palm trees, hedges and benches. Restaurants and high-end shops overlook the park.
Irvin Lippman, the executive director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, takes friends to Max’s Grille, the Loch Bar and Kapow! Noodle House. Other art world people recommend nearby Trattoria Romano and Casa D’Angelo.
The closest hotel to the museum is the Hyatt Place Boca Raton/Downtown. Not far away is the Boca Raton, a high-end hotel formerly known as the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
“You can spend some relaxing days in these cities,” Mr. Lippman said, “and have some very pleasant, meaningful experiences.”