Palm Beach never got the news about the Gilded Age ending. First declared a “veritable paradise” in the 1890s by Standard Oil tycoon Henry Flagler, Florida’s easternmost town is still a playground for the rich and famous—or at least for those who like to winter like they are. (Guilty.)
Set on a barrier island, Palm Beach has a lean year-round population that doubles during high season, and the Kennedys, Vanderbilts, Lauders and Trumps have all had homes here that would make Downton Abbey look like a humble abode. But if you lack a compound of your own, the Kimpton-run Tideline Resort, right in the middle of the island, is an ideal spot to crash. Unpack in one of the rooms lining the suede-walled hallways and head straight to the bar, where head bartender Ivan Ramirez mixes up awe-inspiring libations like Midnight Thoughts of Independence, made with mezcal and garnished with red roses and a smoking bullet shell filled with dry ice. Enjoy your cocktail alongside a fish burger or some stellar sushi from Brandon’s, the resort’s onsite restaurant. Or take your tipple out to the beach to sip by the surf—just watch out for the turtle nests dotting the shore during nesting season.
There’s plenty to do at the resort once you’ve settled in, whether you’d rather wake up with a beach yoga class or unwind with a spa service like the cooling After Sun Relief treatment, and the Tideline offers loaner bikes for exploring the town. But if you prefer to be closer to the action on Worth Avenue, the Colony Hotel is another solid choice. From the outside, this bubblegum-pink palace looks like it could be the backdrop for a Wes Anderson flick; inside it’s classic Palm Beach, with splashy floral fabrics, rattan furniture and preppy striped poolside umbrellas.
Worth Avenue, Palm Beach’s prime spot for people-watching, shopping and dining, used to be a dirt road called Jungle Road that was famous for alligator wresting. Now you’re more likely to spot shoppers wrestling over an alligator Birkin. Stroll the main drag, where you’ll find shops like Cartier, Tiffany and Louis Vuitton, but explore the side streets; there’s just as much action in the alleys, or “vias,” as there is on the main street. Each via looks like it was transplanted directly from Italy, with gorgeous piazzas, tiled stairs and arched walkways. The iconic building style is in large part thanks to architect Addison Mizner, who together with Paris Singer, heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, designed Worth Avenue’s Everglades Club as a hospital for wounded World War I soldiers, only to have the war end before the opening. So it was turned into a social club, which it remains today—golf course, yacht basin and all.
Mizner also designed La Guerida, the Palm Beach mansion JFK frequented during his presidency; it’s even referred to as his Winter White House. While he was in town, he loved dining at Ta-boo, a see-and-be-seen hotspot on Worth Avenue where ladies (and gentlemen) who lunch dine on laidback fare like grilled pizza piled high with grapes and brie and drizzled with balsamic.
Kennedy wasn’t the only one to clock some winter work hours in Palm Beach: Aldo Gucci set up his first U.S. office on Worth Avenue. Another famous fashion A-lister with roots on the island is Lilly Pulitzer, who moved here after eloping with her husband. Rumor has it she came up with her signature preppy prints as a solution to the spills at the juice stand she opened in town. The patterns were designed to cleverly conceal stains, but they ended up becoming just as much a symbol of Palm Beach style as Mizner’s oft-imitated architecture.
Of course, nothing says moneyed style like a pair of velvet slippers, which you’ll find at the Stubbs and Wootton shop on Via Parigi (named for Mizner’s pal Paris Singer). But if made-to-measure is more your thing, pop into Via Capri 34, where Capri-born shoemaker Francesco Pasta crafts sandals for men and women. Most pairs run between $150 and $500, and chances are you’ll catch Pasta seated at his stool in the middle of the shop with a hammer in hand. Via Capri opened just last fall, but you should also pay a visit to Worth Avenue’s oldest store, lingerie shop Kassatly’s. Opened in 1923, it mostly sells housecoats and is a far cry from Victoria’s Secret, but it’s a great reminder that more than half the stores and restaurants on Worth Avenue are indie-owned and operated.
If all the shopping in the sun has your skin stressed, head to newly renovated Swiss spa Le Visage for a facial. Pick your poison: Bee venom or snake venom? Le Visage stocks a range of products from Venofye that pack some not-so-pretty (but definitely beautifying) ingredients that promise instant results lasting up to 10 hours.
Stores and spas close early on the island; most shutter by 5 pm, right in time for cocktails. Head to famed hotel the Breakers for a drink—like the jalapeno-topped Floozy—at the HMF restaurant, named after founder Henry Morrison Flagler. After a tipple, and perhaps something from the menu’s staggering selection of cigars, Palm Beach may make a believer of you too.
-Via Mizner is home to the only two gravesites on the entire island. One belongs to Addison Mizner’s pet monkey, Johnnie Brown, and the other to a dog named Laddie.
-The Worth Avenue Association leads walking architecture tours on Wednesday mornings—perfect for scoping out tucked-away vias that you might otherwise miss.
Brandon’s Palm Beach brandonspalmbeach.com
The Breakers Resort thebreakers.com
The Colony Hotel thecolonypalmbeach.com
The Everglades Club 561-655-7810
HMF hmfpalmbeach.com; Kassatly’s 561-655-5655
Le Visage levisageus.com
Lilly Pulitzer lillypulitzer.com
Stubbs and Wootton stubbsandwootton.com
Tideline Resort tidelineresort.com
Via Capri viacapri34.com
Worth Avenue Association worth-avenue.com