Palm Beach County was created in 1909, carved from a portion of Dade County, and its success story began from those tight-knit roots. The county grew from just 5,500 residents in 1910 to 1.4 million last year; now Palm Beach County can brag about being the 14th most populous county in the United States. Snowbirds and natives enjoy 234 days of sunshine per year, even as West Palm Beach is well-known as one of the wettest cities in the country!
Palm Beach County, large and spacious, is arguably the most relaxed county in South Florida. Originally priding itself as being nothing like hectic and fast-paced Miami, Palm Beach County has grown and thrived, becoming a vital part of the South Florida metropolitan area. It’s also growing into an LGBT tourist destination of its own, while still close and very accessible to the bigger scenes further south. Let me tell you what you should see and do in Palm Beach County.
WHERE TO STAY
The Colony Palm Beach is a sophisticated accommodation choice for the equally sophisticated traveler. The rooms are designed by the same firm that recently decorated The White House. With slow-glow mood lighting in the bathroom, walk-in closets and TVs that allow for streaming net-based TV, you may not even want to leave your room! (155 Hammon Ave., Palm Beach, 561-655-5430)
The Chesterfield Palm Beach is beautiful and luxurious, and is located two blocks from all teh high-end shopping on Worth Avenue. all 53 of the rooms and suites are decorated in soft colors that bring out the essence of life in Palm Beach. If you have a chance, book the Founder’s Suite; the Beige, gold and off-white color scheme makes you feel at home, surrounded by opulance. (363 Cocoanut Row, Palm Beach, 561-659-5800)
Grandview Gardens allows the traveler to choose their own luxury accommodations. Would you like a bed and breakfast experience or would you like to rent a vacation home? Grandview Gardens can help you with either choice. This property, built in the Mediterranean style and dating from 1925, is impeccably designed and feels fancy, yet intimate and inviting. (1608 Lake Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-833-9023)
Waterstone Resort and Marina is one of the newest offerings from Doubletree by Hilton. All rooms are spacious and have balconies that overlook either the Intracoastal Waterway or the Atlantic. Grab a bite to eat at one of the two on-site restaurants, stroll down the waterfront promenade, or even take a shuttle to the beach, free of charge! (999 E. Camino Real, Boca Raton, 561-368-9500)
WHERE TO PLAY
Palm Beach County’s gay scene is smaller than Broward County’s. With that said, there are quite a few offerings that are thriving. Fort Dix (6205 Georgia Ave., West Palm Beach) touts itself as host to the Palm Beaches’ best drag shows. The Palm Beach Leathermen also meet here each month. Roosters (823 Belvedere Rd., West Palm Beach) hosts drag shows, karaoke, and Latin nights, to name a few, and celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. Penny’s at the Duke (902 N. Dixie Hwy., Ste. B, Lantana) opened two years ago, shortly after The Bar Lake Worth closed, and is operated by the same owner. This welcoming mixed-crowd space is only missing your face! Another cozy bar where everyone is bound to know your name after a few visits is The Mad Hatter (1532 N. Dixie Hwy., Lake Worth). This place is laid-back and has a very comfortable atmosphere. Definitely don’t miss Blue Front BBQ Bar & Grill (1132 N. Dixie Hwy., Lake Worth), a mainstream venue with LGBT-themed nights, such as Wednesday’s “Sexy Show” hosted by Velvet Lenore. Finally, Camelot (114 S. Narcissus Ave., West Palm Beach) bills itself as an “alternative venue,” which definitely includes the LGBT community on various theme nights. Check back on September 10, when they will host a grand re-opening party!
WHERE TO GO
If you want to get the lowdown of all the fun places that will interest you as a gay traveler, be sure to stop by Compass, which is the LGBT community center in Palm Beach County. They are located at 201 N. Dixie Hwy. in Lake Worth and they will be glad to give you a more in-depth insider’s view on all the sights to see.
Palm Beach County has a lot of fun places that are built for exploring. For a taste of Japan, visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. There are many exhibits dedicated to Japanese history and culture, and many traditional Japanese festivals are held at the museum and in the gardens each year. The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach is the largest museum in Florida, with a collection that encompasses over 7,000 works of American, European and Asian art. The Flagler Museum, originally bought by Standard Oil’s Henry Flagler for his wife Mary Lily, is now a historical landmark and is host to many galas and parties on the Palm Beach social calendar.
Palm Beach County is rich in shopping opportunities as well. Want to pick up your favorite designer apparel? Worth Avenue in Palm Beach offers Tiffany, Gucci, Chanel, Cartier, and many more up and down the palm tree-lined drive. CityPlace in downtown West Palm Beach is built in the style of a European village, and features over 50 department stores and dining options, including a two-story stand-alone Macy’s. Altier Jewelers in Boca Raton is Palm Beach County’s oldest continuously-operating jeweler, and they can supply beautiful rings, necklaces, earrings, and more for every occasion, from a shopping spree to your most special day.
If you’re taking in a show, the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts welcomes nationally and internationally-known names in arts and entertainment, and offers a popular multiple-show Broadway touring season. If you want to do something more athletic, the PGA National Resort and Spa is located in West Palm Beach and offers five of the state’s best golf courses. If polo is more your cup of tea, gay and straight fans of polo converge yearly in the spring on the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington for the gay polo week and for the U.S. polo grand finals.
Palm Beach County has miles upon miles of beautiful beaches, but none are as untouched and as peaceful as the coastline at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, between Riviera Beach and North Palm Beach. Open to the public year-round, this park includes a 1,600-foot boardwalk overlooking a lake, and miles of unspoiled, majestic beach.
Read more about Palm Beach County at the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s official website, located at palmbeachfl.com.