Palm Beach and West Palm Beach
Palm Beach and West Palm Beach are indeed two completely different places, separated by the Intercoastal Waterway and by perhaps the size of ones bank account.
Palm Beach is located on the east side of the Intercoastal Waterway on the Atlantic Ocean beach side. It is an extravagant, glamorous and exclusive community with the finest shops and dinning. The palatial homes are gated and hidden behind rows of beautifully manicured shrubs, keeping them out of view of would be sight seers. Palm Beach is ranked high on the list of wealthiest places in the United States and some of their residents are among the rich and famous, including one of its more notable part time residents, current US President, Donald Trump.
In 1985 President Trump purchased Mar-A-Lago, an historic landmark 62,500 square foot, 126 room, mansion resort built by cereal heiress Marjorie Meriweather Post. Known now as the Winter White House, The President and his family maintains residence in a closed off section of the mansion with its own private grounds. Mar-A-Lago sits on 20 acres of pristine property with a breathtaking view and has become one of the most sought after members only private clubs in the United States.
John and I spent a couple hours just gawking at the huge homes with perfectly manicured landscaping and we couldn’t help but think that Palm Beach must be a landscapers dream as just one account for a landscaper could probably support a family for a year!! Maybe an exaggeration there but it really was remarkable that every hedge, plant and tree was perfectly placed and evenly in line without exception. John and I also took a drive down the Worth Avenue shopping district but we didn’t get out of the car as even window shopping there would be out of our budget.
Henry Morrison Flagler Museum – Whitehall
Palm Beach was once a sparsely populated primitive island that was almost impossible to reach until the 1885 construction of Henry Morrison Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad. Flagler after having made his fortune partnering with John D Rockefeller in the Standard Oil Company, turned his interests and attention to the development of Florida’s East Coast, building several luxury hotels and connecting the cities of the east coast with the Florida East Coast Railroad that ran from Jacksonville to Key West.
Henry Flagler built Whitehall in 1902 as a wedding present for his wife and it became their Palm Beach winter retreat. As they say, money attracts money so it wasn’t long before Palm Beach became a world renowned winter resort spot for the elite and powerful.
With more than 75 rooms and restored to its original grandeur, Whitehall today is open to the public for all to enjoy its history and masterful architecture. John and I toured the mansion choosing the guided tour and I would recommend this over the self guided tour as our guide was so much more informative than any brochure could ever be. Our guide not only gave us the history of Whitehall itself but of the Flagler family and the famous visitors that were entertained here in the mansion’s glory days. The tour guide with his passion for Whitehall, brought the place alive in my imagination and I found myself visualizing what it must have been like to be a guest at one of the Flagler’s grand parties.
It was obviously apparent that great attention to every detail was put forth in to the restoration and presentation of this museum. For John and I, it was a fascinating peek back into a golden era of time that in some ways I wish I could have experienced. The opulence of lifestyle that has been preserved for our viewing in this magnificent mansion was truly worth the visit.
Equally impressive was the exhibit of Henry Flagler’s private rail car in a building next to the Whitehall Mansion.
Admission to the Palm Beach Flagler museum is 18.00 and you should allow yourself at least 2 and a half hours or more to enjoy this experience. The Whitehall Henry Morrison Flagler Museum is located at 1 Whitehall Way in Palm Beach Florida.
West Palm Beach
John and I crossed back over the Intercoastal Waterway and back to reality for us, in to West Palm Beach. Now don’t get me wrong, West Palm Beach is a very nice and high end community as well but with more affordable accommodations available for average Joe’s like us. John and I chose the Hilton in downtown West Palm Beach for our evening stay, mainly as it is convenient to shopping and dining choices. Across the street from our Hilton Hotel was City Place also called Rosemary Square, an open air shopping and entertainment district with multiple restaurants, shops, a preforming arts theater and a 20 screen movie theater.
We spent a leisurely evening dining and having a cocktail by the pool at the Downtown West Palm Beach Hilton and then walking across the boulevard to enjoy some shopping and sight seeing at City Place.
There is much to do and see in the Palm Beaches of Florida and since this was just a weekend trip we just could not fit everything we wanted to do in to the short amount of time we had. As usual the weekend was over as quickly as it began and we didn’t have time to get to visit 2 places on our list, The Breakers Hotel an historic landmark hotel built by Henry Flagler in Palm Beach nor did we get to Lion Country Safari, a drive through safari and amusement park that sounds like a really cool place to visit. Oh well, I guess we have at least 2 good reasons to go back!! 🙂