5 Reasons Palm Beach Is A Cultural Destination

5 Reasons Palm Beach Is A Cultural Destination

As America’s first resort destination, Palm Beach historically drew travelers with its soft, sandy beaches and glamorous vibe. But there’s a new reason to visit this area: its emergence as a culture hub.

From an outdoor art show to an enchanted Japanese garden, our Forbes Travel Guide editors found five reasons you should make Palm Beach County your next trip — not just for soaking up some sun but also for some remarkable cultural experiences.

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Canvas Outdoor Museum Show
Downtown West Palm Beach wisely decided to use its best asset — the city’s palm-tree-filled surroundings — as the backdrop for Canvas, the nation’s largest outdoor museum exhibition. Started in 2015, the nascent show draws renowned international artists to create innovative interactive, public pieces (past participants include Pichi and Avo of Spain, and Eduardo Kobra of Brazil, whose vibrant rainbow Albert Einstein photorealistic mural is above).

To catch up on the local art scene, check out the Canvas Local Showdown. At the 2016 edition, we watched the artists make murals on 40-foot-long shipping containers. A favorite was produced by Anón, whose many painted triangles formed a mosaic of an intense-looking woman crouched and poised to start a race.

Canvas runs in November, but many of the resulting works remain, making the city plush with new art each year. Seek out Laura Kimpton of California’s 61-foot-long, 12-foot-high metal letter sculptures that spell out “Be Art” between Fourth and Fifth streets and Kobra’s Einstein mural next to Subculture Coffee.

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Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
You’d never expect to stumble on this oasis in Delray Beach. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the museum is surrounded by 16 immaculate acres of Japanese gardens designed specifically to evoke reflection.

Wander through the tranquil grounds and you’ll discover a large lake; a bamboo grove; a wisdom ring, a replica of a 500-year-old Japanese lantern; a tree tunnel; a late rock garden, where rocks sit among rows of carefully raked gravel (see above); a small contemplation pavilion; a bonsai collection; and waterfalls. You also may run into koi, Florida cooters, Florida red-bellied turtles and great blue herons along the grounds’ many paths.

Inside the museum, exhibits rotate through the year. We caught an excellent display on modern abstract origami. But the museum also touts its own research library and an endless list of classes, workshops, cultural demonstrations and other programming that cover bonsai, ikebana (flower arranging), tea ceremonies, summer walks and more.

Lunch at the museum’s Cornell Café is a must. Locals crowd the restaurant for the fresh yellowtail sashimi; delectable dragon rolls stuffed with tempura shrimp, cream cheese and avocado; and battered, fried pork drizzled with a sweet mirin sauce. To top it off, the alfresco restaurant offers lake vistas.

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The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum
This Boca Raton theater stages musicals (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs through July 9), but there’s another attraction at the Wick: its extensive costume museum. The Wick family holds the nation’s biggest collection of original Broadway wardrobes, which will interest fans of musicals and fashionistas alike.

The Wick constantly changes up the exhibits in the museum, but during our visit, we saw vintage purses and gowns from Joan Rivers, sequined hats from Judy Garland, accessories Elizabeth Taylor used in the film Cleopatra, an ornate red and pink dress that Ginger Rogers donned in Hello, Dolly! and gorgeous ball gowns made of brocades, silks and chiffons from My Fair Lady, including a dazzling white and silver empire-waist number that Julie Andrews wore.

Another piece of history can be found in the theater’s restaurant, Tavern at the Wick. The chandelier, linens and coffee urn are from New York’s famed Tavern on the Green (purchased at an auction when the famed restaurant closed in 2009). And the Wick took photos of the Central Park eatery’s Crystal Room and used it to wallpaper the space. (Meals here come with museum tour and show packages.)

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Bike Tour with Island Living and Ebikes2you
Delve into Palm Beach’s history on while basking in South Florida’s sunny weather on a two-wheeler. Longtime Palm Beach resident and 13-year tour guide Leslie Diver gives you an inside look at the U.S.’s most expensive zip code, starting with the scandalous story of Palm Beach founding father Henry Flagler and his wives all the way to how President Trump acquired Mar-a-Lago and turned it into a private club.

Along the way, Diver will familiarize you with Addison Mizner’s distinctive architecture, which is all over the area; show you lovely vias (courtyards off shopping corridor Worth Avenue); and spill more local gossip of what occurs behind mansion walls.

The 90-minute tour is six miles long, but don’t let the distance intimidate you. Pedaling is a breeze — and fun — with easy-to-use electronic bikes.

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Norton Museum of Art
Since 1941, the Norton has long established itself as a top Florida museum. But it will go further in clinching that title with a renovation that will transform the West Palm Beach institution.

A new west wing will add a new entrance, a four-story great hall (which the Norton hopes will become a social hub), a 210-seat auditorium, an expanded education center and an extra 12,000 square feet of gallery space.

The revitalized campus also will debut a 9,000-square-foot sculpture garden, a shade garden and sub-tropical pathways to make the setting more scenic.

The museum will unveil its new look in 2018, but it’s still open during construction. So stop by to peruse the prized Chinese bronze and jade and works from masters like Miró, Monet, Picasso and Pollock. Opening September 5 will be “Earth Works: Mapping the Anthropocene,” more than 30 photographic works by Justin Brice Guariglia, who flew with NASA to document how Greenland’s melting glaciers affect rising sea levels.

Victor DeFrisco Headshot
Phone: 561-951-3759
Dated: February 5th 2018
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