This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cultural Council of Palm Beach County. All opinions are 100% mine.
If you have been following this blog for a while, you will know that we are huge fans of quick weekend getaways. They don’t take too much time away from the responsibilities of real life and still offer a change of scenery that makes you feel like you just came back from a “real” vacation. This weekend’s destination was to a place not too far away from us, but which we’ve yet to ever visit: West Palm Beach.
While planning our trip that spanned about 48-hours in West Palm Beach, we took advantage of insights from the Cultural Concierge program. Our Concierge, Bama, was very helpful and provided a long list of places to visit, people to talk to and even some beautiful local drives to enjoy. It’s an extremely easy service to use, via email or phone, and their recommendations mirrored many of the places we found after our own online searching. I highly recommend you contact them when you plan your trip.
Since my in-laws are currently snowbirding in SW Florida and are always happy to spend more time with their granddaughter, we used the opportunity to sneak away on a little couple’s vacation. Dropping the dog off at the sitter on the way, we hit the road to Florida’s East Coast around noon, arriving shortly after 4pm at the hotel.
We picked the Hilton West Palm Beach as our home away from home. Its location is super central to downtown West Palm Beach and their rates are very competitive. It’s a beautiful hotel with a modern look and there was a lot of action going on. The weekend we were there Saturday morning brunch was offered poolside and they had a live band in one of the onsite restaurant/bars, as well as several wedding parties and a fitness competition at the convention center next door. People were always coming and going which was fun and interesting!
The rooms were very modern and elegant and we had a fantastic suite on the second floor, facing the street. The spacious suite sleeps up to 4 and included an office/living room as well as a large bedroom and an elegant bath. All of the staff we interacted with were extremely friendly and we had a wonderful stay. The only slight drawback was a bit of street construction out front that caused a few crazy traffic incidents, and an early morning train each day that honked and blared as it crossed the intersection. It woke up DH at around 5:30 am which was a bit earlier than usual for him… but I snoozed right through it. It definitely isn’t something that would keep us from coming back.
One of the reasons we picked this hotel was that we could just park our car on Friday afternoon and leave it there. West Palm Beach is urban and fairly small, so we were looking forward to walking, biking or taking the free trolly service wherever we wanted to go during our stay. Did you know West Palm Beach has a free Downtown Trolley service which has several lines that allow you to travel all over West Palm Beach? For example, just across the street from the Hilton is CityPlace, a large retail and commercial space that spans several blocks and is filled with stores and restaurants. It also has both bike rental locations and trolley stops.
Exploring Northwood Village
After a quick break and freshening up in the room, we decided to head out for a little stroll through CityPlace to start our exploration and then kept on going to Clematis St., another hot spot in the area (about 7 blocks total). Our target destination was the hip neighborhood of Northwood Village, just a few minutes north of the Hilton using the free downtown trolley service. Unfortunately, we got a bit distracted by some of the street art after walking Clematis St. and missed the Blue Line trolley going to Northwood. So we grabbed a quick ride with Uber instead.
We were thirsty from all of our traveling, so our first stop in Northwood Village was Harold’s Coffee Lounge (509 Northwood Rd) for a latte and some water. It was a funky, hip coffee shop that took a lot of pride in the latte they served. In fact, it was one of the best coffees I have ever had. They also had lots of outdoor seating and seem to take cold brewing their coffee extremely seriously judging from all the cold brew glassware they had inside.
Pepped up with the fresh caffeine, we set off to stroll the streets. Northwood Village is a small district within the city of West Palm Beach which is an up-and-coming artsy neighborhood that is still a little rough around the edges. We love that edginess and urban, young vibe there, much like we found while living in Berlin.
When I told the free Cultural Concierge provided by Cultural Council of Palm Beach County that I really like street art and photographing colorful things, he recommended that I not miss the colorful murals in Northwood Village. We were definitely not disappointed, but I found that there were murals and sculptures hiding all over the city, something I absolutely love. We stopped more than one during our weekend trip to photograph something beautiful tucked away in an alley.
Northwood Village was rather quiet when we were there, but if you’re lucky to catch one, the district has quite a few recurring monthly events like Food Truck Wednesday and an Art Night. We loved the eclectic collection of shops, from a beautiful florist to antique shops and specialty retail, as well as the beautiful green spaces at the end of the block. We caught an amazing sunset off the pier as we were enjoying the area.
As the sun set and darkness wrapped around the community, we noticed the cute and delicious smelling restaurants which are scattered around the street coming to life. It was time for dinner!
Dinner at Agora
We had done a little research before our trip and had our eye on Agora Mediterranean Kitchen (2505 N Dixie Hwy). Being a big fan of Turkish cuisine since our days in Berlin (which has a huge Turkish community), I was really looking forward to trying their food. This little restaurant has a mindblowing 4.7 stars on Google with more than 200 reviews, so it seemed like a safe bet that we could scratch our itch for some authentic Turkish food here.
The restaurant is nice and colorful inside, very much like other Turkish restaurants we’ve visited. We were welcomed with a small sample of their house sangria (watch out – it may knock your lights out!) and Babaganoush, which is cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and other seasonings. It was a very good start to the dinner which tasted great.
DH ordered Iskender, which is doner meat over a pita bread, served with tomato sauce and thick yogurt. I ordered Yogurt Kebab, which is ground lamb skewers served with yogurt-covered pita bread and tomato sauce. The lamb was strongly flavored and very good but not quite like I had been craving. But the star of the show was the homemade tomato sauce and thick yogurt with the pita bread. So, so good! Both portions were enormous and we ate as much as we could until we thought we might pop, which was about half.
We left the restaurant very full and content, and ready to head back downtown. Northwood Village is a bit further away so we weren’t prepared to walk but instead finally got our first experience on the trolley’s Blue Line from Northwood Rd. We were all alone on the trolley down to Clematis St. and hopped off to grab a drink at one of the local hot spots.
Hullabaloo (517 Clematis St.) was the first place to grab our attention, and we loved the ambiance inside along with the smell of the food. Not hungry at all, we just ordered a craft cocktail each and watched some of the people streaming by on the sidewalk. It was a pretty busy street for Friday night at 8:30 pm.
We continued our trip back toward the hotel by foot and built up quite a thirst. So we decided to give Manor, one of the Hilton’s restaurant and bars inside the hotel, a try. As we walked over, we heard a rather good live band singing lots of Top 40 hits, and found the bar had our favorite after-dinner drink – Grand Marnier. We enjoyed our drinks as well as a nice cold soda and knew it was soon time to put that beautiful hotel bed to good use for a great night’s sleep.
Saturday Morning at the Waterfront
Up bright and early, we were determined to continue our exploration of this wonderful city and headed out with plans to find some food and take in some new sights. Both of us love Farmers’ markets and had heard from several sources including the Cultural Concierge that West Palm Beach’s Greenmarket at the Waterside is one that shouldn’t be missed. We could have jumped on the trolley’s Yellow Line at CityPlace, but decided to take a stroll over to the Waterfront instead since the weather was so nice.
The Greenmarket was in full swing when we arrived, with lots of stands selling ready-to-eat foods as well as delicious ingredients to take home. We were thrilled to see so many artisanal vendors representing everything from fresh bread to oils to seafood and produce. Celebrating over 20 years in existence, this market has over 90 vendors and it is exactly where you would find me every Saturday morning if I lived in West Palm Beach!
As luck would have it, another event called Lagoon Fest was also going on to build awareness about the Lake Worth Lagoon and the vital role it plays in this local area. We were amazed by the number of info stands there as well and all the things that were being given away for free, including beautiful calendars with local photography and native trees to plant in your yard!
Breakfast at E.R. Bradey’s Saloon
At this point, our tummies were rumbling so we made our way to E.R. Bradley’s Saloon (104 N Clematis St). A massive restaurant facing the Waterway, E.R. Bradley’s had a nice breakfast selection and their Chesapeake Bay Benedict with crab cakes was exactly what I needed to get my day going right. It was absolutely delicious and DH enjoyed his huge Breakfast Club sandwich too!
After all that food, it was time to burn off some calories so we made our way past the Greenmarket to rent bicycles from SkyBike. Sort of a self-serve Uber for bicycles, you can borrow bicycles via an app in 15-minute blocks of time. We had downloaded the app before we left and entered our billing details so within seconds we were happily pedaling away.
The evenings are cool-ish in November (mid-60F) but up to the mid-80s during the day. My wardrobe choice of jeans wasn’t mixing well with the sporty exploring of the city, so we swung back up to the hotel so I could change into shorts. From there, we traveled south toward the Norton Museum of Art via bike, and made use of some back alleys and smaller streets until crossing the railroad tracks. Traveling on any roads but the main arteries via bike was quite easy and the drivers were quite amicable to cyclists which was nice to see. Our biking destination was a stop near the university which was a few blocks from the museum.
Norton Museum of Art
Opened in 1941, the Norton Museum of Art has grown to become a major museum, featuring permanent exhibitions of American and Chinese Art, Contemporary 19th and 20th Century art and my personal favorite: Photography. We spent some time exploring the museum, and the various collections available. Unfortunately for us (good for future visitors), the museum is currently undergoing a massive renovation, so the exhibition space was limited. Entry to the museum, however, was free during the renovation, which is still one of my favorite four-letter words.
The Norton Museum of Art was still very much worth a visit and I marveled at the wonderful curation of this impressive collection within this smaller space. The most expressive and interesting exhibit due to the nature of the works and the amazing textures created was a temporary one called “Earth Works: Mapping the Anthropocene”.
From the museum to the hotel was only a few blocks, so we made our way back on foot, working up a real thirst. Lucky for us, we knew just where to go: the Publix Supermarket in CityPlace. We scooped up some fresh iced tea and other drinks to take back to our room, and then went back to the hotel for a little break. All the exploring had worn us out, and with another full evening and morning planned for ourselves, we enjoyed taking a moment to rest our legs and get a little work done on writing this blog post!
Dinner at Grease
After a relaxing few hours at the hotel, we were getting quite hungry and ready for some evening enjoyment. Our destination of choice this night was on Clematis St. Themed after NYC’s meat-packing district, Grease (213 Clematis St.) is a burger joint that knocked our socks off. We started with their special of Raging Cajun Wings which were amazingly flavorful. Then each of us had a monstrous burger that was good to the last bite.
I chose the PB Illustrated “A-List” Burger which was topped with fresh mozzarella, red & yellow tomatoes, radicchio, red onion, pesto, and balsamic glaze. It was seriously delicious with so much flavor and the perfect blend of flavors. It tasted just as great as I was hoping it would although fitting it in my mouth was not easy by any means.
DH chose the Brinkman Burger which was topped with deep fried bacon, grilled onions, pepper jack, jalapeños, and sriracha mayo. Thankfully neither of them had any calories at all. And we paired them with a shared order of shoestring fries and fresh cut onion rings. Our waitress, Emily, brought sriracha mayo with the rings as well, which was a very good tip. So tasty!
We considered hanging around a bit longer to have a milkshake, or even one of their alcoholic milkshakes, but decided we need to move a little and digest our burgers before moving on to our next course.
The ‘Canes at Duffy’s
Stuffed and happy, we scoped the street for a fun sports bar where we might be able to watch our alma mater play some football. The University of Miami has had an incredible run this season, and we hoped to enjoy another win. We liked the look and feel of Duffy’s Sports Grill (225 Clematis St.)…and since they had about 50 TV screens in the place, we were pretty sure we could watch the Canes play on at least one TV.
As we ordered, we discovered something really awesome — almost every drink at Duffy’s is BOGO (Buy One Get One Free. All day long. Needless to say, that made us feel right at home.
Our game started at 8 pm, so we settled in for a while. After a couple of beers, we considered leaving with our $13 check — but made a discovery that was music to our ears: Grand Marnier was included in the two-for-one special. So we had a glass or two of “GrandMa” while we stayed to watch the end of the football game. It was an awesome celebration in the bar as many people in there were watching the game and an exciting victory over Virginia Tech. Then we made our way back to the hotel for the evening, thankful to have some cold sodas to go back to for the morning!
Sunday Morning Brunch
Sunday brunch tends to start late in many areas (say 10:30 or 11:00 am), and we really wanted to give Hullabaloo a try. But our hunger was far too great at 9 am to wait that long.
We left the hotel, figuring that somewhere on Clematis Street we would find a place that peaked our interest for breakfast. Or perhaps would find Hullabaloo by some miracle open. We considered walking, but once we spotted the SkyBike station in CityPlace, we decided to take them again. Biking around the city was quite fun and practical — especially with the well-located bike stations. We did have a few return problems at times, but the phone support was always very helpful and resolved things within a few minutes.
Our first stop became C Street Cafe (319 Clematis St.) which did have breakfast options, but we really wanted sit-down service. We decided to take an amazing iced latte instead and really enjoyed it during this already warm morning and our active bike ride. Perhaps we are coffee-starved somehow, but we found that there were quite a few small coffee shops in West Palm Beach, and so many of them really took pride in their coffee. So impressive and refreshing to see.
With only a few options that looked to be open, we opted for E.R. Bradley’s again and hoped to devour another crab cake benedict. On Sundays, they serve up a brunch buffet, complete with waffle and pancake station, an egg and omelet station, a bagel station and so much more, which was plenty delicious too.
Afterwards, we strolled back to the hotel, making use of our pre-arranged late check-out time of noon. It was a great way to wrap up our time in the city. Altogether, we had a fantastic time in West Palm Beach. The service everywhere was so friendly and the food was fantastic. We loved the vibe of the entire city and will be looking forward to visiting again soon, but this time with our daughter in tow. The city had a very family-friendly atmosphere with lots of kids and pets everywhere we went. We’ll also be checking out the cultural event calendar which has information about all kinds of fun events.
One place we didn’t get to experience but wanted to was the Johnson History Museum (300 N. Dixie Highway), operated by the Historical Society of West Palm Beach. Here, you can learn all about the history of the region, particularly that of the earliest modern settlement of future West Palm Beach and the rest of the region. History in Florida is really, really short when contrasted to what we experienced in Europe; even our old farm back in Germany was already a geriatric by the time South Florida was settled. But we always enjoy learning about the entrepreneurial men and women seeking to settle the swampy roughness that used to be South Florida. You definitely had to be tough as nails to brave this part of the Peninsula before the invention of modern conveniences like air conditioning. Admission to the museum is free.
On our way back to the west coast of Florida, we decided to take a drive down a stretch of the infamous highway AIA. If you have the time, this scenic and beautiful drive along the Florida coast is not to be missed. Our Cultural Concierge sent us a great article from the Palm Beach Post with beautiful drives, including the AIA. We stopped in Lantana which has an amazing seawall and vowed to visit the east coast again very, very soon!