Palm Beach See And Do
One Whitehall Way
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 655 2833
Railroad magnate Henry Flagler spent many of his millions building Whitehall mansion as a wedding gift to his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan (40 years his junior, natch). The circa-1902 mansion was an extraordinary achievement: Fully electrified from the first day, it also had the only private telephone in Florida, inside Flagler's master bathroom (one of an astonishing 28 bathrooms in the house). The docents are a notch above most tour guidesknowledgeable, enthusiastic, and in many cases wealthy enough to have helped sponsor the mansion's renovations in 2002. They'll fill you in on the house's secrets: The seemingly wood and leather trompe l'oeil ceilings are actually made of plaster to better withstand the Florida humidity. But don't expect them to dish on Flagler's colorful personal life, like the fact that Florida passed a new divorce law so that seventysomething Flagler could wed Mary while wife No. 2 remained in an insane asylum. Highlights include the grand Marble Hall with its enormous green Russian marble table and the Music Room's 1,249-pipe organ. Be sure to visit the pavilion that houses car No. 91, Flagler's personal railroad wagon, which featured a private shower. Even Rockefeller didn't have one of those in his.
Golf is a huge part of the Palm Beach lifestyle, and the area's waterfront courses and vibrant greens make it a regular stop on the PGA tour. There's even a PGA Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, a 20-minute drive from Palm Beach proper. The courses at the resort are some of the toughest around: Lee Trevino once described the last three holes on the Jack Nicklausdesigned Champions course as "the real killer in golf." Another of the area's more challenging courses is at the Abacoa Golf Club, a 20-minute drive from West Palm Beach in the town of Jupiter. The par-72, 7,200-yard course was one of the final designs overseen by legend Joe Lee before he died in 2002, and the surprisingly hilly elevation rises up to 40 feet, unheard of for a South Florida course.
There are also courses in Palm Beach, of course. The Ocean Course at the Breakers is the oldest in Florida. Railroad magnate Henry Flagler had it built as a 9-hole course when he opened the hotel here in the 1890s, then had it expanded in 1901 to a full 18. It was revamped in 2000 by Brian Silva and is now about 6,200 yards and a par-70 course. The hotel's other course was once known as Breakers West but was renamed the Breakers Rees Jones Course after the designer transformed it in 2004 to a 7,100-yard, par-72 spot. The downside to these two courses is that you have to be either a guest at the hotel or a club member to get a tee time. The public Palm Beach Golf Course is open to all. Endearingly known locally as the Par 3, the course was designed in 1961 by Dick Wilson and is still a favorite today (pro Jasper Parnevik is a fan). The superb views along the Intracoastal Waterway are its best feature, and it's a short course, just 2,465 yards, with holes ranging from 100 to 222 yards each. Its place in golf history was solidified shortly after it opened, when LPGA Hall of Famer Louise Suggs trounced a dozen male pros, Billie Jean Kingstyle.
1451 South Olive Avenue
West Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 832 5196
This eclectic but impressive collection centers on post-1900 boldfaced names like Picasso and Matisse as well as Americana from Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper. There are also some edgier pieces like Soutine's tight-mouthed Portrait of Madeleine Castaing, Henry Moore's Family Group, and Brancusi's shimmering bronze Mlle Pogany II. The museum was founded in 1941 and a new wing was added in 1997 to accommodate the growing collection. That's where you'll find its roster of Old Mastersthe Brueghel still life has been helpfully annotated with all the plant and insect species depicted. There is an Impressionist room full of Renoir and Degas sketches, Gauguin, Monet, Cézanne, plus a typically tender Berthe Morisot. The new wing also contains one of Dale Chihuly's signature trippy glass installations exhibited in a see-through ceiling. If you have kids in tow, duck outside into the garden, where the tiled maze called Theseus and the Minotaur (complete with solution on the descriptive card) will cure any Impressionist boredom. Note that the Norton has a frustratingly small on-site parking lot: It's easier to park at City Place shopping center and hop the free downtown trolley.
Palm Beach , Florida
Palm Beach is a very different place from Thanksgiving through late April. That's the fabled "Season," when East Coast society swaps New England and New York for the Island. In response, Palm Beach hosts several diversionsmany of which are just as enjoyable for the nonresidents. The ponies winter down here as well so there are several polo tournaments at Wellington in January and February (check for dates and schedules at www.internationalpoloclub.com and www.palmbeachpolo.com). February's Fine Art & Antiques Fair attracts the world's top dealers. Even if you aren't in the market, it's worth ducking in for some jaw-dropping window shopping (Palm Beach County Convention Center; 650 Okeechobee Blvd.; West Palm Beach; www.palmbeachfair.com). The Society of the Four Arts Gardens is also a great way to spend the afternoon. Founded in 1936, this cultural organization has sculpture and horticultural gardens open daily and hosts notable speakers, concerts, films, educational programs, and art exhibits (2 Four Arts Plaza; Palm Beach; 561-655-7226; www.fourarts.org).