Palm Beach: Late summer and fall offer a getaway at lower rates

By Marjie Lambert

McClatchy Newspapers

Published: Saturday, Sept. 10 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

A trolley takes passengers through the Clematis Street District in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Marjie Lambert, MCT

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Many of the waterfront mansions are shuttered for the season, and there are few yachts at the private docks along the Intracoastal. The theater season doesn't start until late October, concerts and art exhibits at the Society for the Four Arts are on hiatus until November, and the walking tours of Worth Avenue won't start again until late November.

But that doesn't mean there's not a weekend getaway's worth of music, art, bicycling, shopping, sightseeing, antiquing and dining in Palm Beach and across the Intracoastal in West Palm Beach.

And for those who crave

la dolce vita but don't want to spend high-season rates of more than $500 a night at the city's luxury hotels, some of those same hotels are offering rooms at less than $200 in late summer and early fall. Some have special deals in their restaurants and spas as well.

Tempted? Here are some things you can do in the two cities connected by the Royal Park Bridge.

Art After Dark. In one room, a painter is demonstrating a few watercolor techniques. In the atrium around the corner, magicians are entertaining the crowd with tricks. In the next room, another artist is demonstrating how to draw comic-book heroes, and in the auditorium, Spock and Darth Vader are arguing over which is better: "Star Wars" or "Star Trek."

It's Thursday night, time for the Norton Museum of Art's weekly Art After Dark program, which brings art and artists together with the public in a more casual environment that includes live music, food and cocktails.

The program is from 5-9 p.m. every Thursday at the Norton, 1451 S. Olive Ave., 561-832-5196, www.norton.org. Admission $12 for adults, $5 for ages 13 to 21. The Norton will be closed Sept. 12-30 to reinstall its galleries of European and American art; Art After Dark resumes on Oct. 6.

Go antiquing. Antique Row along South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach has more than 30 shops. Although business slows in the summer, the shops stay open and their owners refresh their stock. South Dixie Highway between Southern Boulevard and Belvedere Road; westpalm beachantiques.com/.

Stop and smell the flowers. Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach has 14 acres of gardens: the butterfly garden, the rose garden, herb and vegetables gardens, a display of succulents, exotic trees, tropical fruits and more, plus some lovely sculptures.

559 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach; 561-233-1757; www.mounts.org. Open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, noon-4 p.m. Admission: suggested donation of $5.

Revisit the Cold War. On Peanut Island, at the mouth of the Lake Worth Inlet not far from the former Kennedy estate at Palm Beach, are a bunker and command center built for President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The bunker is 25 feet underground and includes a radio room and decontamination chamber as well as living quarters. After Kennedy's assassination, the facilities fell into disrepair and were flooded. The site was later was restored by the Palm Beach Maritime Museum and furnished with replica items.

The museum, located in the old Coast Guard station, offers tours of the Kennedy Bunker between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Admission: $10; $9 seniors; $5 students. The island, which is not natural but was built of materials from dredging, is itself a park that includes campgrounds, picnic shelters and some prime snorkeling spots.

The island is accessible by private boat or shuttles from the Riviera Beach Marina, 200 E. 13th St., Riviera Beach, 561-339-2504, or the Palm Beach Water Taxi, Sailfish Marina Resort, 98 Lake Drive, Singer Island, 561-683-8294; www.sailfishmarina.com.

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