When visiting Florida amusement parks will be top of mind but travelers would be remiss not to take in the beauty of the Atlantic coast and its oceanside cities and towns. With miles and miles of picturesque coastline, the sun destination is a treat for all the senses. While some visitors may choose well-known locales like NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral and others may hunt for a gator adventure in the Everglades, here are a few other spots to that are great options for a short getaway or an overnight stay.
The Palm Beaches
A two-hour drive southeast of Orlando, and stretching from Jupiter to Boca Raton, Palm Beach County includes 39 cities and towns each with its own character. Together they are known as “The Palm Beaches”. With something for everyone, the area has over 2 million visitors a year. Whether you’re looking for an upscale experience or a local hangout — there is a spot that will fit your vibe.
Perhaps the best known of the 39 communities in the county is the namesake — Palm Beach — a town of less than 9,000 year-round occupants on a barrier island that is 18 miles (29 kilometres) long and connected to the mainland across an intracoastal waterway by three drawbridges. Palm Beach is an intriguing place to visit as there are estimated to be as many as 44 billionaires with homes here. Start your visit by swinging into the Flagler Museum at Whitehall Way where you will learn of the rich history of the island and the story of Henry Flagler — a Standard Oil tycoon who brought the railway to South Florida at the end of the 19th century and transformed the island into a winter resort for the wealthy.
As the name would indicate, just west of Palm Beach is … West Palm Beach. Originally created by Flagler as a community to house those working at the luxury resorts across the water, West Palm Beach has grown into a city with its own identity. Have lunch along Clematis Street with an assortment of options, then head to the Norton Museum of Art (and make sure to check out their sculpture garden). A highlight of the area is taking a kayak tour of Peanut Island, an 80-acre manmade tropical island that was home to the secret blast shelter made for President John F. Kennedy. Touring the island will have you spotting iguanas and watching out for manatees, followed by a snorkeling stop where you’ll see an incredible variety of tropical fish that have taken up residence.
A little farther south is a small town with a big-city vibe: Delray Beach. The town of 66,000 has an artsy feel with residents taking pride in contributing to their community. The main street, Atlantic Avenue, is home to dozens of small businesses, of which 95% are locally owned and operated. Delray boasts the largest public beachfront in Florida with multiple public entries to walk on the white sand to dip your toes into the Atlantic. The “Village by the Sea” has a variety of hotel options, ranging from boutique to resort style, and it is seeing growth: The new Delray Beach Market is a cool facility with an events space, and 27 casual-yet-curated dining and shopping options.
If you’re looking for art, culture, entertainment, and nightlife you’ll want to head to the iconic South Florida island of Miami Beach. Once the home of Gianni Versace, Miami Beach is as vibrant, outrageous and over-the-top as some of the iconic brand’s designs (think Jennifer Lopez’s green Versace silk chiffon dress from the 2000 Grammy Awards).
Ocean Drive — home to all the action — is the perfect place to stay. With dozens of Art Deco boutique hotels to choose from, heritage properties like Hotel Avalon offer stays that are just steps away from the warm sand, and minutes to some of the gayest nightlife in the city.
The Twist Nightclub reigns supreme when it comes to attracting travelers and tourists. With a maze of indoor and outdoor spaces spread throughout multiple floors, partygoers and bar-side conversationalists are sure to find the vibe they want.
If you’re looking to mingle with the locals, Nathan’s Bar is the place to be. Opened by a beloved and former popular bartender from the Twist, Nathan’s took the local clientele to a place all their own. With trendy decor, a selfie station, hot bops, and a mini dance floor, Nathan’s is one of the newest and most welcome additions to the nightlife scene.
For those looking to stay where they play, Hotel Gaythering is a vacation within your vacation. This unique adults-only hotel features a variety of room types including a “Fun King” room complete with a set up for extracurricular activities and an ultra-affordable “Crate Shared Room” that offers more refinement and fun than a standard hostel. When you’re looking to leave your room, Hotel Gaythering’s property also features a sauna, with complimentary access for hotel guests and Bar Gaythering, known for its entertainment options, including Saturday nights with DJ Hotpants.
When it’s time to refuel, it’s time for some Cuban fare all the way. Cortadito Coffee House is a sure-fire way to start your day with a café con leche and the speciality breakfast sandwich: scrambled eggs, two-ham croquetas, American cheese in warm Cuban bread. For those who won’t rise before noon, grab a patio seat at Havana 1957, order a classic mojito complete with a stick of sugar cane and feast on a giant Cubano, the classic sandwich served with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, all stuffed inside perfectly pressed Cuban bread.
When it comes to midday activities, Miami is all about its colorful art scene with a plethora of well-known artists calling the city home. Walking in Wynwood is the best way to take in miles of street art from famed graffiti artists like Ron English, Shepard Fairey, and Alec “Monopoly: Andon. Other experiences like Superblue Miami curate visual displays that play with perspectives and intrigue the mind. For those Instagrammers looking for one of the most impressive backdrops, Superblue’s mirror labyrinth is unlike anything you or your followers have ever seen.
While Miami and its beaches are a hot melting pot of arts, culture, nightlife, and entertainment, the Palm Beaches are rich with history and a variety of experiences to suit your type of travel. Whether you are looking to feel your oats or sew them, South Florida will likely find its way onto your ranking of favorite personal playgrounds.