Grownup fun, times four.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Five hundred years ago, Spanish explorers led by Juan Ponce de León stepped ashore in Florida. 2013 marks the milestone of that fateful step. Led by the Florida Department of State, the Viva Florida 500 celebration is taking place throughout the year. With hundreds of events and travel promotions statewide, the goal is to promote the place where the birth of the nation began. It’s a celebration, an education, and a great excuse to visit Florida.
Here are four fun things to add to your Florida East Coast itinerary, whether you find yourself in the Palm Beach area for a business conference, a vacation or are just passing by on a road trip.
The Brazilian Court opened in 1926 as an apartment building. Today it’s one of the swankiest hotels in Palm Beach. Designed around two central courtyards with a labyrinth of corridors and private rooms, the luxurious retreat has long welcomed discerning guests who like privacy—including Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, Errol Flynn, James Michener, among others. If you’d like a taste of the star-studded treatment but don’t need overnight accommodations, head to Café Boulud for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The large French-American restaurant spills out onto a tented poolside patio, which is where you’ll want to be seated if the weather is nice. Servers are attentive and charming. The menu presents options in four categories: dishes that (1) are classic French, (2) feature local ingredients, (3) are strictly vegetarian, and (4) are influenced by a variety of world cuisines. Preparations are as upscale and fresh as should be expected of its world renowned Chef Daniel Boulud. Be sure to save room for dessert. And make reservations, especially if you’re planning on Sunday Brunch, since the award-winning Café Boulud is popular with locals as well as travelers.
Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens is a cut above the average mall shopping destination. For starters, its spacious atrium is artfully color-coordinated in a way rarely seen outside of expensive hotels or seasonal gardens. And it’s very, very clean. The average American mall would benefit from a good scrubbing; this one sparkles so bright it seems like you could eat right off the floor—but that would be tacky, plus I didn’t inspect it with a CSI-style black light, so don’t do it. More than 160 shops occupy the 1.4 million square feet of space in this mall, with a tenant mix that ranges from Nordstrom to Sears. Other merchants include department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and designer shops like Burberry, Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. You’ll also find Abercrombie & Fitch, Apple, Tory Burch, Coach, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co. Eighteen restaurant options including Brio Tuscan Grille, California Pizza Kitchen, Ruby Tuesday and others ensure you won’t go hungry. For nearly any budget, if you can’t find something that you want to buy here, you haven’t looked hard enough.
“Romance has long been part of the history of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, since 1898 when pioneer Harry DuBois fell in love with Susan Sanders on a blind date at the top and proposed.” If that tidbit from the brochure doesn’t warm your heart, then you must be dead inside. Visitors can stand where DuBois proposed; climb 105 steps to the top of this 1860 landmark which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s also a museum tucked into a restored WWII building that has 5,000 years of history on display with many fascinating artifacts such as beads that settlers used when trading with Native Americans. Also on site is the Tindall Pioneer Homestead, a historic cracker-style structure built in 1892 that is considered to be one of the oldest houses in Palm Beach County. A 45-minute guided tour includes the lighthouse, museum and pioneer homestead for interesting insights into state and marine history. You can also learn about Florida greenery, since all plants on the property are native.
@21plus Travel Tip: Grownups might especially enjoy a sunset tour (the first and third Friday and second and fourth Wednesday of each month) or a full moon tour (when the full moon rises).
Enthusiasm is contagious, so whether or not you enter this place as a sea turtle fan, after a tour with one of the experts here you’re bound to love them. The only turtle hospital between Orlando and the Keys, this center in Palm Beach County is located adjacent to one of the most heavily nested sea turtle beaches in the world—there were more than 11,000 loggerhead nests last year, but on average only one in 10,000 sea turtles survives to adulthood. This center serves the important functions of helping protect 9.8 miles of beach as well as treat injured turtles that may be brought here from wherever they’re found plus educate humans about how each of us can take steps to protect natural resources. Outdoor recovery tanks house sick and injured sea turtle patients; some may receive treatments during your visit. Leatherbacks, loggerheads and greens nest nearby, so are the most common patients. Aquariums inside the center display fish and organisms native to Florida’s coastal ecosystems—mangrove, sea grass, shoreline and reef—as well as the conservation methods that help protect them. It’s free to visit and learn; donations help save turtles; volunteers keep the place operating.
Read more about Florida’s East Coast…
-First 3 photos courtesy Hayworth PR; lighthouse close-up and sea turtle © HSP Media LLC