The Palm Beaches is known as America’s First Resort Destination. Many have heard of the popular attractions like Flagler Mansion, The Norton Museum of Art, or The Kravis Center. Sitting right across the Lake Worth Lagoon is one of the Palm Beaches hidden gems, West Palm Beach. Here you can dine at one-of-a-kind restaurants, experience unique cultural events, and enjoy the sun, sand, and sea! West Palm Beach also has a large, respected LGBTQ+ population, and there’s a variety of activities for everyone.
The Ben (thebenwestpalm.com) is a luxurious 208-room boutique hotel on the West Palm Beach waterfront. Relax in the gorgeous lobby and sip a complimentary Paloma, a tequila-based cocktail. The King Guest room features magnificent view of the mega yachts in the Palm Harbor Marina and spectacular Intracoastal Waterway. There’s also a moving bookcase in the room that uncovers what seems to be a hidden passage. When you move it over there is a glass panel which is part of the shower, where you can catch a view of the Harbor while showering. The Ben’s rooftop bar Spruzzo (spruzzowestpalm.com) is the perfect place to enjoy waterfront dining and cocktails. Right next to the restaurant there’s a heated saltwater pool and cabanas are available for guests to reserve.
The Ben’s Proper Grit (propergrit.com) restaurant features delicious starters like Smoked Fish Dip made with sun-dried tomato, parmesan crackers, and Gratitude Farms mushroom bruschetta made with sourdough, goat cheese, balsamic onions, lemon, and petite greens. For dinner, order Sliders à la carte which consists of Philly cheesesteak, shrimp & slaw, and chicken and chile verde served with shoestring French fries. A personal favorite was the chicken & chile verde slider. Proper Grit also serves breakfast, lunch, and has daily specials as well. They have Live Music Thursday & Friday, and happy hour Monday through Friday. If you are traveling with your dog, their In Bed with Bruno program provides guests with a luxurious room with a balcony, breakfast for two at Proper Grit, two complimentary drinks at Spruzzo, and “Bruno,” aka your beloved pet, stays for free.
Harold’s Coffee Lounge (haroldscoffee.com) in Northwood Village is an eclectic coffeehouse with a statue of a knight standing outside the front door. The staff is very friendly, and Harold’s is home of the original cold brew coffee.
There is also an LGBTQ+ crosswalk and other colorful spots to try in the Northwood Village area. At Subculture Coffee (subculturecoffee.com), located on Clematis Street, they serve breakfast and lunch. Make sure to try their chicken curry empanada. They were voted the best coffeehouse by Restaurant Guru in 2020. Here you’ll find chill vibes, plants on the walls, and founders who strongly believe in fostering a community of diversity and expression.
For lunch, Elisabetta’s Ristorante (elisabettas.com) is definitely the place to go for homemade Italian pasta. Sit across from the beautiful outdoor fireplace and enjoy an Aperol Spritz before ordering their mozzarella tasting with three different mozzarellas, including Fior Di Latte, Burrata and Mozzarella Di Bufala with pomodorini, basil and estate olive oil. Great pasta choices include linguine made with clams and white wine, to calamarata with calamari, roasted tomatoes, Calabrian tapenade, and pangrattato. They also serve delicious woodfired brick oven pizza like the traditional Margherita pizza or their Funghi Misti made with wild mushroom, smoked buffalo mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, and truffle oil.
Kapow! Noodle Bar (kapownoodlebar.com) combines contemporary Asian cuisine with a South Florida vibe for lunch. The food is delicious, and my favorite appetizers on the menu were the General Tso’s cauliflower (vegan) made with sweet shallots, chili sauce, and Chinese black vinegar; and crispy lobster Rangoons made with hot and sour apricot, Chinese mustard, and tobiko.
Table 26 (table26palmbeach.com) is an LGBTQ+-owned nautical-themed eatery owned by husbands Eddie Schmidt and Ozzie Medeiros. As soon as you enter the doors you automatically feel welcome. The walls and ceilings have pictures of maps, navigation points, and other nautical objects like anchors, and their outstanding sommelier, Trey Santorine, knows everything about wine. I began my meal with the delicious tempura-fried squash blossoms, then moved on to the horseradish crusted salmon with seasonal vegetables. During the dinner, executive chef Martha Encamacion came out to introduce herself. Everyone she works with calls her mom, and she is a true delight. Her recommedation for dessert was the warm bread pudding with dulce de leche, bananas brulee, and caramel sauce. Their espresso martini made with Absolut Vanilla, Baileys Irish Cream, and Kahlua was the perfect ending to the perfect meal.
THINGS TO DO
Jet skiing (visitpalmbeach.com/jet-skiing) is definitely a thrilling experience, but if you were born after January 1, 1988, you must take a Boater Safety Course first. It’s a wonderful experience riding a jet ski, and a little nerve-wracking at first until you get the hang of it. If you go during the summer, you may even see dolphins, turtles, manatees, and more.
For local products, The West Palm Beach Green Market takes place every Saturday from 9 A.M. until 1 P.M., October through April on Clematis Street. More than 70 vendors offer the freshest produce, baked goods, crafts, and more.
Polo Anyone? It’s off to the races with tailgates and tournaments at the Gay Polo League’s (gaypolo.com) annual event, The Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament. Make sure to wear one of your wildest wigs to the Polotini party, because this is definitely a hair raising extravaganza. In addition to an open bar, and appetizing hors d’oeuvres like chicken skewers, BBQ cauliflower wings, and raspberry puff pastries, expect exceptional live entertainment. In 2022, Varla Jean Merman performed to help raise money for onePULSE foundation.
Palm Beach Pride (thepalmbeaches.com) is a two-day festival that celebrates the LGBTQ community, equality, and respect in a family friendly environment. The festival is located in Bryant Park in Downtown Lake Worth Beach. For more than two decades, Palm Beach Pride has served as Palm Beach County’s largest gay & lesbian visibility event. The event features a parade, live performances and entertainment for all ages.
LAKE WORTH AREA
The Compass Community Center (compassglcc.com) is a nonprofit that offers free mental health and physican services, social and support groups, and hosts a variety of different events including Palm Beach Pride every March. Ernie Gonzales, the Compass Community Center Director said there’s been an influx of people from the LGBTQ+ community to the center because of all the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation happening in Florida. Compass is the only LGBTQ+ center in all of Palm Beach County. In the surrounding Lake Worth area, visit the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County (palmbeachculture.com). Their exhibit “Being Heard, Being Seen,” included artists who identify as LGBTQ. For theatre lovers, the Lake Worth Playhouse (lakeworthplayhouse.org), a nonprofit community theatre with year-round programming, presents award-winning musicals, Broadway favorites, live concert series, and more.