Last winter break we stayed at the Ritz Carlton Palm Beach, which is actually in a small enclave called Manalapan, but I guess that doesn’t roll off the tongue like Palm Beach does. It’s actually about 20 minutes south of West Palm Beach, and while when we first arrived, I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t in the middle of West Palm Beach, it ended up being better than I imagined. The property itself is really nice—it’s right on the beach, has some nice pools—one just for adults, which was empty, and one for everyone, which was so packed, and you could tell that people came down in the morning, put their towels on their chairs, and staked their claim for the day. Mildly annoying, especially for people like us. However, it wasn’t really all that warm, and we wanted to explore anyway, so it was okay. Plus Clara was fine just jumping in the hot tub. Rooms were comfortable, and staff was helpful (but then again, when are they every not that at a Ritz Carlton?), and food was good. Décor was very Kelly Wearstler-ish—felt very appropriate to the area—a modern take on old-school rich. One of the best things was the location—it was right across the street from a mini-mall. The mini-mall had a great grocery store, so we bought our snacks and beer/wine there, so we could save on room service. It also had the cutest surf/wakeboard shop, called Coastal Surf&Ski, owned by an incredibly handsome (even Matt said so) dad named Morgan. He runs it with his parents and his wife—they sell all types of surf gear, plus swimsuits and goggles, jewelry and cool ceramic mugs made by his wife. He teaches surfing to kids and adults, and you can book lessons through him directly. Because he has kids, I am sure he would be a great teacher.
One of the best parts about that area is all the resale shops. You don’t want to go to the fancy parts of West Palm Beach where they know exactly what they have, and charge hundreds for vintage Lily Pulitzer. Instead, drive up the Dixie Highway, and stop at every consignment shop you see. We got some crazy steals, including a custom made tux (Matt’s exact size) for $70. Then the owner of the shop recommended a great Italian tailor to him, who tweaked it perfectly for $50, and shipped it up to us within five days. I found Ferragamo shoes for $8. I did notice though, that small shoe sizes prevail here—if you are a 5 of 5 1/2, you’d make out like a bandit.
If you are into natural beauty products, and want to splurge on yourself, make a booking at Tammy Fender Day Spa. I had read about it in Vogue, years ago, saved the article, and the second I knew we were coming this direction, made an appointment. She is pretty magical, and her products are amazing. She gets her essential oils from the best sources and makes all of her products right there. All products are in dark glass containers, and nothing has parabens. While giving me the facial, she taught me something that I still do every night—we were talking about bedtime rituals, and she told me how she does a ‘guided meditation’ with her kids—mainly to center them, calm them down, and get them in the right mindspace for sleep. I tried it with Clara, a little self-conscious the first time, and now she asks for it every night. It’s pretty much doing a version of “you are getting sleepy” your way.
A cute town to visit in the area is Lake Worth. It also has a row of consignment shops, and a nice vegan restaurant, that Tammy Fender recommended to us, called Soma Center Cafe.
Back to Manalapan, we walked to the Old Key Lime House one night for dinner. It is from 1889, and they say it’s Florida’s oldest waterfront restaurant. The walk was easy—across a causeway—and very pretty, and the food was very class Floridian: fried fish, key lime pie, cold beer…the décor was great, and there were even tables out on the dock that has swinging seats. Totally worth a visit. Another really cool thing to do, in walking distance to the hotel, is the Lantana Nature Preserve. Clara ran up and down the paths, learning about all the native plants and trees.
We also loved the little town of Delray Beach—not up near the beach, but more inland…there was the coolest shop called The Trouser Shop that was like a news-stand, but had every type of man’s pant inside, totally Waspy, with rolls of web belts. There was a great old school candy shop down the block, and also a department store completely caught in time. In that area is a sweet lunch spot called Ciao Sidewalk Café, and that’s also by a cute kids shop called Next Generation.