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Palm Beach vacation specials let you live like the rich and famous

PALM BEACH

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. On Thursday nights, the Norton Museum of Art's weekly program brings art and artists together with the public in a casual environment that includes live music, food and cocktails.

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

Go antiquing. Antique Row along S 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. Traffic this time of year is mostly year-round residents, says Ray Hawkins of Hawkins Antiques.

He's especially pleased that Cedric DuPont Antiques, known in part for its celebrity clients, moved in February from downtown to Antique Row, where it's drawing new shoppers to the neighborhood.

Other than Cedric DuPont, most of the shops don't stand out, and a passer-by not looking for antique shops might not notice that he's on Antique Row. S Dixie Highway between Southern Boulevard and Belvedere Road; westpalmbeachantiques.com.

Stop and smell the flowers. Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach has 14 acres of gardens, plus some lovely sculptures. Chairs and benches are scattered throughout the grounds. There's even a gazebo where visitors can take shelter during sudden summer storms if the Garden Shop with its large collection of books isn't within a sprint.

559 N Military Trail, West Palm Beach; (561) 233-1757; mounts.org. Open 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: donations accepted.

Sample a celebrity chef's cuisine. At Cafe Boulud, James Beard award winner Daniel Boulud's restaurant at the Brazilian Court, the three-course prix fixe menu is $20.11 for lunch weekdays, $35 for dinner Sunday through Thursday. On the a la carte lunch menu, by comparison, first courses run $12 to $20. 301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach; (561) 655-6060; thebraziliancourt.com/cafe-boulud.

Over at the Omphoy Ocean Resort, where local celeb chef Michelle Bernstein has an eponymous restaurant, there's a summer special of a three-course prix fixe dinner for $35 Sundays through Thursdays. 2842 S Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach; (561) 540-6444; omphoy.com.

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. The site was later restored by the Palm Beach Maritime Museum and furnished with replica items.

The museum, 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 was built of dredged materials, 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; sailfishmarina.com.

Visit the place where the Season started. Henry Flagler, of Overseas Railroad fame, built Whitehall — a 75-room, 60,000-square-foot Gilded Age mansion — as a winter home. He and his bride, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler, entertained regularly there, establishing the season for Palm Beach society.

Today, Whitehall is Flagler Museum, still notable for its opulence. The Grand Hall, at the entry, has a grand double staircase, seven kinds of marble and a ceiling decorated with a painting of Pythia, the priestess of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi.

One Whitehall Way, Palm Beach; (561) 655-2833; flaglermuseum.us. Open noon-5 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, closed Monday. Admission $18; $10 ages 13-17; $3 ages 6-12; free younger than 6.

Bicycle amid the rich and famous. The Lake Trail, built by Flagler so guests at Whitehall would have a place to stroll, runs for 6 miles along the Intracoastal from the docks south of Royal Palm Way and to the northern tip of Palm Beach.

You'll run into people jogging, bicycling and strolling along the trail, which is free and open to all. Early mornings and evenings are the best choices in summer. Parking places include Flagler Museum, the Society of the Four Arts near the south end, and the Publix at the north end on Sunset Avenue.

Sit in a sculpture garden. Although most of the Society of the Four Arts' programs are on hiatus, the Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden is open to the public daily for free. The park is a botanical garden with rare species of plants and beautifully groomed grounds. Striking sculptures, realistic and abstract, are set amid the plantings.

2 Four Arts Plaza, Palm Beach; (561) 655-7227; fourarts.org. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; free.

Cruise the Intracoastal. If you've wondered who could afford those sprawling mansions — or who could afford to live in them just a few months each year — the captains and tour guides of the Palm Beach Water Taxi will tell you. Some of the owners' names you'll recognize. Unless you're an avid reader of the business pages, though, many of the homeowners are industrialists and entrepreneurs whose products and company names are more familiar than their own.

This 90-minute lap around the Lake Worth Lagoon part of the Intracoastal is both entertaining and refreshing — especially if you hit the 10 a.m. tour before the temperature soars.

The taxi sails out of Sailfish Marina, 98 Lake Drive, Singer Island; (561) 683-8294; sailfishmarina.com. Tours at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Cost: adults $28, children $14, free for 3 and younger. Palm Beach Water Taxi also provides shuttles to the foot of Clematis Street ($15) and to Peanut Island ($10); call for times.

Dance to the Music. West Palm Beach has turned its waterfront and commons at the end of Clematis Street into an inviting public space where all manner of fun, most of it free, occurs. Thursday nights are dance parties with live music. A jazz concert is on the third Friday of the month, and family movies are projected on an inflatable screen on other Fridays.

During the day, you'll find youngsters in bathing suits squealing and playing in the fountain, water spouts that go off at unpredictable moments, 6 inches high this time, 6 feet high a few seconds later. Swinging benches are suspended from pergolas along the street, and on the dock, planters rimmed with wide seats provide a pretty panorama.

Information at wpb.org/waterfront.

Hotel deals | Palm Beach's luxury hotels are offering a variety of discounts. Here's a sampling:

. The Brazilian Court Hotel & Beach Club, 301 Australian Ave.; braziliancourt.com; (561) 655-7740. The hotel is offering Florida residents rooms starting at $179, including valet parking, through Sept. 30, a $35 savings.

. The Breakers, 1 S County Road; toll-free 1-888-273-2537; thebreakers.com. Summer rates start at $269 through Sept. 30, compared to $499 in high season. In October, rates start at $319, and in November, $389. Rates include unlimited fitness classes, tennis and WiFi, plus some weekday benefits such as kids' camp and valet parking. In addition, greens fees are discounted.

. The Chesterfield Hotel Palm Beach, 363 Cocoanut Row; (561) 659-5800 or toll-free 1-800-243-7871; chesterfieldpb.com. The Florida Resident Special has rooms from $127.20, including breakfast, a 20 percent savings, until Oct. 31. The hotel's 3-for-2 promotion offers three nights for the price of two starting at $159 per night, a one-third savings. See website for details of packages, including the Road Trip Package, two nights starting at $370 with other credits or discounts, through Sept. 30.

. The Colony Hotel Palm Beach, 155 Hammon Ave.;

thecolonypalmbeach.com; (561) 655-5430. The Colony offers a Florida residents rate of $175, a $15 savings, through Oct. 31. Also see the hotel's website for details of other packages, including the "Girls Just Want to Have Fun Package" (lodging for up to four in a two-bedroom villa with Nieman Marcus makeovers and other amenities) for $495 per night based on a two-night stay through Sept. 30.

. Four Seasons Palm Beach, 2800 S Ocean Blvd.; (561) 582-2800; fourseasons.com/palmbeach. The resort offers a resident rate starting at $180, including valet parking, through Sept. 30 (a 67 percent savings from high season rates).

. The Omphoy Ocean Resort, 2842 S Ocean Blvd.; (561) 540-6440; omphoy.com. The Simply Summer Package offers 30 percent off best available room rates until Sept. 30. That means, for example, $153.30 for a basic room with an Intracoastal view or $286.30 for a room with oceanview veranda. The package includes daily continental breakfast, 50 percent off parking, and a $25 credit in Exhale Spa. Michelle Bernstein at the Omphoy also offers a three-course prix fixe dinner for $35 Sundays through Thursdays.

. The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, 100 S Ocean Blvd., Manalapan; (561) 533-6000; ritzcarlton.com/palmbeach. For certain rooms booked 72 hours in advance, the rate is $189 (usually $229) until Sept. 30. Through Oct. 31, the spa also offers shorter treatments at reduced prices. And the Temple Orange restaurant has a $35 three-course prix fixe dinner (a 25 percent discount) through Sept. 30.

Palm Beach vacation specials let you live like the rich and famous 09/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 3, 2011 5:30am]

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