Palm Beach Tan: I’ve always enjoyed discovering lesser-known LGBTQ gems – and these are often areas lost in the bright light of their larger neighbours.
As is the case in Florida’s Palm Beach County, a beautiful chain of communities across the Atlantic that are too often neglected in favor of their hospitable southern neighbors, Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach.
Palm Beach County is huge and even bigger than the state of Delaware. From north to south, cities include Jupiter, Juneau Beach, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Manalapan, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton. Palm Beach Airport (PBI) is conveniently located for arriving passengers, but low-cost travelers can also look into tickets to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Miami (MIA), which are about 50 and 70 minutes away by car, respectively.
There’s also the new Brightline train, which is a fantastic and inexpensive option for traveling north from Miami or Fort Lauderdale to the Palm Beach area.
I chose Ben, a member of the Marriott Autograph Collection, as my starting point for exploring the area. Ben is located on West Palm Beach, overlooking the coastal waters. Historically, Palm Beach, the barrier island, has been a busier and more exclusive area with resorts like The Breakers, but Ben brings extra luxury and fashion to West Palm Beach.
The boutique opened only a few weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic, so it still looks fresh and new. Lovely room with a few surprises including a hidden door (it only took a day and a half to find out they were there).
The hotel’s rooftop lounge on the 8th floor of the Spruco always seems to be crowded, and on weekends it’s the place to go and have a look. The adjoining rooftop pool is great on a sunny day (read: most days) and I also enjoyed the dynamic cuisine at the hotel’s Proper Grit restaurant. Proper Grit offers a wide selection of salads, burgers and sandwiches, as well as larger options such as salmon, short ribs, pasta, steaks, and gourmet pasta and cheese entrees.
There is so much delicious food in the area and it is easy to sponsor an LGBTQ owned or friendly restaurant. I had a very good lunch in Kapovo! The Noodle Bar is located right on the busy Clematis Street, and be sure to try the Rangoon lobster. Enjoy the drag show at Hullabaloo, a little further down the road; show at 9pm Friday. It is also recommended to take a walk along Clematis Street for a bite to eat, visit bars, go shopping and people watching. This is the social center of West Palm Beach.
You can’t go wrong with dinner if you hop onto a barrier island and dine at the monstrous Almond Palm Beach. Everything is delicious here: from snacks to yellowfin tuna dishes and mouth-watering date cakes. And an after-dinner drink at the Camelot Yacht Club, a cozy bar celebrating the magical summer days when Kennedy was boating and lounging, is the perfect evening drink.
The annual Palm Beach Pride, recently celebrating its 30th anniversary, is held at the Compass Community in Lake Worth Beach and is usually held in late March. 2023 is from March 26 to 27 and the event includes live performances, parades and various parties.
Compass is housed in a fantastic building and provides a wide range of community support services including mental health counseling, group and individual therapy, youth programs, HIV support programs, social programs and more. The two upcoming events are the third annual West Palm Beach Pride on June 4th and the Stonewall Ball at the Cox Science Center on June 25th.
Deciding to see some more of those places, early in the morning I went on a boat trip on a beautiful boat Hakuna Matata. You can buy a pack of bottomless mimosa or pay for drinks from the menu. The boat has open, shaded areas and restrooms, and the two-hour boat ride up and down the coastal waterway is a relaxing way to spend the morning, as well as see amazing houses along the way (including Sylvester Stallone’s villa). Friendly staff constantly pours drinks and plays a tune.
The annual international gay polo tournament, which takes place at the famous Wellington International Polo Club, about 30 minutes from the country, is getting bigger and bigger. This year’s event, held in early April, featured 16 LGBT polo players from seven countries and was fun to follow.
The celebration began the night before the match with a gala fundraising event called Polotini/Wigstock, where all participants were encouraged to wear their best and brightest wigs. In addition to food, drinks and networking, we had a performance by drag queen and flamboyant performer Varle Jean Merman.
The polo game itself is a fairly calm and peaceful time, with a food service tent in the backyard that provides shade for the participants to eat, drink, visit old and new friends, and occasionally watch the game. You can also buy tickets to sit in the large outdoor dining room and enjoy a more formal meal.