The Palm Beach Guide: What To See & Do

Happy Wednesday, all! I hope you enjoyed my recent Miami travel guides (if you missed my recommendations for attractions to visit and places to eat, you can check them out here and here.) Last May’s trip was both Tania’s and my first time in Miami, and we knew we couldn’t plan this vacation without including a stop in Palm Beach. I’d always wanted to see this iconic oceanfront town, and even though we both adored Miami, Tania and I both agreed that we loved Palm Beach even more – it was our favourite part of the trip! Known for its beautiful architecture as much as for its notable residents, Palm Beach is brimming with culture, style and sophistication. While we didn’t have much time to spend there, we managed to visit quite a few amazing spots in the limited amount of time we had, and I wanted to share my favourites with you. If you’re planning a weekend trip of your own in Palm Beach, I hope these suggestions will be helpful!

Worth Avenue – Right up there with Fifth Avenue and Rodeo Drive, Worth Avenue is one of America’s most famous luxury shopping streets, and it’s the heart of Palm Beach. Worth Avenue was established in 1913 and spans four blocks from Lake Worth to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s home to around 250 businesses that include several fine dining establishments, renowned art galleries and upscale boutiques. My picks for must-visit shops include Aerin Lauder’s eponymous lifestyle store Aerin, luxury bedding and lingerie retailer Kassatly’s (Worth Avenue’s oldest store, established in 1923) and Lilly Pulitzer’s flagship (more on Lilly below!) But there’s more to Worth Avenue than just shopping. Its Mediterranean-style architecture and delightful “vias” are what give it so much charm and set it apart from your typical shopping street. The “vias” are hidden passageways and courtyards located off the main avenue, and you just have to stroll down any one of them to feel like you’ve been transported from Florida to a quaint European city. Think cobblestone pathways, trickling fountains, colourful tiled staircases, lush landscaping and hot pink bougainvillea. You could spend all day getting lost in the vias and I recommend visiting them all if you get the chance, but some of the prettiest ones (in my opinion) include Via Parigi, Via Amore and Via Mizner – named after famed architect and Worth Avenue founder Addison Mizner.

Lilly Pulitzer Flagship – I’ve always been a huge fan of Lilly Pulitzer’s clothes. She famously advised “despite the forecast, live like it’s spring” and her designs are a true reflection of that ethos. No matter the weather or time of year, any time I throw on one of her shift dresses, their vibrant colours and outrageous patterns never fail to put me in a sunny state of mind. It’s no surprise that Lilly’s flagship store is in Palm Beach, as it’s where she lived for most of her life and where she got her start as a fashion designer. It’s a pretty fascinating backstory if you haven’t heard it: a young socialite and wife who was getting bored with society life, Lilly decided to occupy her days by opening a juice stand on Via Mizner and selling juice made with oranges from her husband’s groves. She asked her dressmaker to design a dress to disguise the juice stains that inevitably made their way onto her clothes. Customers were instantly intrigued by the brightly patterned “Lillys” and, sensing an opportunity, Pulitzer decided to produce more dresses to sell at her stand. Soon she was selling more dresses than juice, and after her former classmate Jackie Kennedy wore a “Lilly” in Life Magazine, the rest was history. Today, Lilly Pulitzer is one of the most iconic American fashion brands, and certainly the most recognizable – you could spot a Lilly dress from a mile away! If you’re a Lilly fan, you absolutely have to visit her Worth Avenue flagship store. The interior is gorgeous: Lilly prints are incorporated everywhere, from the dressing room wallpaper to the furniture upholstery. There’s even an in-store print design studio, where you can observe the creative process behind some of Lilly’s most popular patterns. Most notably, this location is the only Lilly store to offer a custom shift shop, where you can design your own dress in whatever style and print you’d like. (If you’re a Canadian Lilly fan like me and won’t be getting to Florida anytime soon, fear not: Lilly’s only Canadian store, Island View, is located right here in Oakville!)

Worth Avenue Clock Tower – Located at the eastern end of Worth Avenue overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this architecturally stunning clock tower is Palm Beach’s most recognizable landmark. The 25-foot-tall tower was built in 2010 as part of a $15 million makeover of Worth Avenue. It serves as a monument to the Palm Beach Pier, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1930. This is an absolutely gorgeous spot for photos, and there are several benches nearby where you can take a rest, look out over the water, and enjoy the ocean air.

The Breakers – As I’ve mentioned many times before on this blog, I have a love for historic hotels – the grander, the better! The Breakers certainly fits the bill. First built in 1896 by industrialist and Standard Oil founder Henry Flagler, this opulent Renaissance Revival-style hotel is one of America’s most iconic resorts, and is synonymous with Palm Beach culture. It occupies a whopping 140 acres of oceanfront property and has 538 rooms, 10 restaurants, 2 golf courses and a Forbes Five-Star spa. Notable guests include JFK, Elton John, and William Randolph Hearst. At room prices of nearly $2000 a night, a stay at The Breakers was far out of our budget, but we still wanted to go see this iconic piece of history for ourselves! The good news is that The Breakers is open to non-guests for dining and shopping. The Shops at The Breakers contains 13 boutiques to peruse, including a Lilly Pulitzer store and a hotel signature shop where we picked up some cute souvenirs. Of course, while we were shopping, we had to take a quick walk around the hotel and see what all the fuss was about! We took a peek at the grand lobby, famed restaurants HMF and The Circle, and the stunning courtyard. Everyone at The Breakers was so nice and welcoming, even though we weren’t hotel guests – I think a lot of people come just to dine or shop and check out the space! If I ever have an extra $2000 to spend on a hotel stay, you can bet I’ll be heading to The Breakers.

Four Arts Gardens – Maintained by non-profit cultural organization The Society of the Four Arts, this sculpture and botanical garden is one of the prettiest attractions in Palm Beach, and it’s completely free to visit! Located at the intersection of Cocoanut Row and Royal Palm Way, the gardens provide a tranquil and relaxing refuge from the hustle and bustle of Worth Avenue. The botanical gardens consist of several different gardens in various styles and themes, from a lush jungle garden to a formal rose garden to an elegant Chinese garden with a water lily pond. The Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden contains 20 sculptures by world-famous artists, a classical garden pavilion, and an architecturally stunning plaza. We loved strolling through the gardens and checking out all of the beautiful flowers, plants and artwork on display. Keep an eye out for lizards – Palm Beach in general is full of them, but especially so here!

Henry Morrison Flagler Museum – This extravagant Gilded Age mansion was the home of the aforementioned Henry Flagler, who played a major role in the development of Florida as a tourist destination. He built this 75-room, 100,000 square foot home – which he named Whitehall – for his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan, in 1902 (that’s one heck of a wedding present!) Designated a National Historic Landmark, the estate is a prime example of neoclassical Beaux Arts architecture, and was designed to rival the opulent homes of Newport, Rhode Island. General admission tickets are $26 ($13 for children under 12) and can be purchased online or onsite. I’m a big fan of traditional interior design and am a self-confessed maximalist, so I was like a kid in a candy store when it came to touring all of the magnificent rooms at Whitehall. My favourite rooms were the grand French Renaissance-style dining room and the fresco-ceilinged Drawing Room, but I also loved the many guest bedrooms, with their vibrant colour schemes and intricately patterned wallpapers. Each one has its own personality!

I hope you enjoyed this roundup of my favourite things to see and do in Palm Beach! I’ll be back later this week with my recommendations for places to eat in this beautiful oceanfront town, because let’s be honest, all that shopping and sightseeing sure can leave one hungry!

Until then, I hope you all have a great rest of your week.

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