There’s no denying it, South Florida is a sprawling and overcrowded urban mess, with traffic and heat and plenty of confusion. There’s the infamous history and current problems as well, but in a region full of cities that can’t escape vice pasts, a little town stands alone.
Delray Beach is about an hour drive north of Miami, but may as well be a world away. Just thirty minutes south of posh Palm Beach, Delray is an unusual mix of casual wealth meeting Americana. Home to a variety of ages and lifestyles, there is nothing more defining than its undeniable charm.
Unique in more ways than one, it is considered to be a hidden treasure by many South Florida residents. An “All American City” finalist in 1998, and winner in 2001, Delray is a treasured escape from the urban sprawl which surrounds it.
The main event here is the nearly two miles of pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear water, but the heart of Delray is Atlantic Avenue or as the locals would say, ‘the Ave’. Teeming with art galleries, distinctive shopping and exotic restaurants, The Ave is the center of activity for this beachside town and home to its bursting schedule of festivals and events.
The perfect day in Delray Beach must start on a full stomach, and your typical bacon and eggs won’t do. Enjoy an Italian omelet stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and Gorgonzola cheese, at the beautiful Café Luna Rosa, located beachside. Get there early and watch the sun come up while you linger over coffee.
After breakfast hit the Ave. With a large variety of shopping and art, there truly is something for everyone. Don’t forget to stroll through Pineapple Grove, the Ave’s “little sister”, for more shops and galleries. Take time to walk through the Palm Beach Photographic Centre, where there are ever changing exhibits of photography from around the world.
To name all of the exceptional shopping in Delray would be fruitless, so for something truly unusual, stop at The House of Vintage on Swinton, just off of Atlantic. The store has an amazing selection of vintage clothing, and oddly enough, a bakery.
For lunch, make your way back down the Ave to Lemon Grass Asian Bistro. A local favorite, Lemon Grass offers an Asian fusion menu in an energetic atmosphere. For something on the lighter side, try the Tuna Lover Salad. Feeling adventurous? Go for the Holy Snapper, a whole, fried, boneless snapper topped with sweet garlic chili sauce.
As previously mentioned, the beach is the main attraction in Delray, and the perfect place to spend the afternoon. Delray Beach Water Sports, located appropriately on the beach, has a variety of rental equipment from sailboats, to surf and kite boards.
Afterwards, make your way to the Morakami Museum and Japanese Gardens, located about 15 minutes west of Downtown. Morakami is an unusual spot amidst the South Florida scene.
Acres of Japanese gardens provide for a most tranquil setting and the museum has a variety of exhibits dedicated to Japanese culture. Its beauty and unique theme will make for an unforgettable visit.
Dinner is my favorite meal to be had in Delray, as one can witness the quaint seaside town transform into a bustling and swanky host for nightlife. When the trees light up, they create the perfect “downtown” feeling as locals and visitors alike begin to fill Atlantic Avenue.
The premier place for dinner in Delray Beach is none other than 32 East. No matter what your preference, 32 East suits all tastes, and the nightly changing menu makes the best possible use of fresh and seasonal ingredients. The ambiance is that of a ritzy nightspot, with all the class and glamour of a big city. Yet, the upscale feel is in no way pretentious as the food conjures up the comfort of home cooking with an intriguing twist.
Save coffee and dessert for Dada, a historical home on Swinton converted into a restaurant with desirable garden seating. Enjoy the nightly entertainment ranging from poetry slams to live local bands, as you indulge in their chocolate fondue or one of their signature mojitos.
Not done yet? The nightlife in Delray offers an assortment of options, ranging from the full on club scene of Delux, to the trendy lounge atmosphere of The Blue Fish. For the more casual affair make your way to The Hurricane where you can enjoy nightly live music and mingle with the locals.
Delray Beach, with all of its local color and hospitality, truly is an escape from the hectic atmosphere of South Florida. So tucked away and discrete it is easy to miss, but impossible to forget.
What & Where:
Café Luna Rosa (34 S. Ocean Blvd; 561-274-9404)
House of Vintage (123 S. Swinton Ave; 561-276-7477)
Palm Beach Photographic Centre (55 NE 2nd Ave; 561-276-9797)
Lemon Grass Asian Bistro (420 E. Atlantic Ave; 561-278-5050)
Delray Beach Water Sports (southeast corner of Causerina Road and A1A; 561-279-0008)
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens (4000 Morikami Park Rd; 561-495-0233. Info: Closed Mondays $10 for adults and $6 for students and kids)
32 East (32 East Atlantic Ave;561-276-7868. Info:Reservations strongly suggested)
Dada (52 N. Swinton Ave; 561-330-DADA)
Delux (16 E. Atlantic Ave; 561-279-4792)
The Blue Fish (110 E. Atlantic Ave; 561-330-3474)
The Hurricane (640 E. Atlantic Ave; 561-278-0282)