Go Contemporary in Palm Beach

1. Where to Stay

The Omphoy features spacious balconies with ocean views and custom-designed beds.Photo: Courtesy of the Omphoy

Commandeer a shady pagoda on the ocean-facing patio of the Omphoy (from $159), a design-conscious property opened in 2009 with Asian-inspired touches, including a grand Shinto-shaped entrance. In the evening, sip a foie gras-infused cognac cocktail ($14) at the lobby bar and play a game of billiards on the handsome Italian table.

Sleep in a charming historical landmark at the Chesterfield (from $169), an 85-year-old hotel built in the style of an English country house and located minutes away from Worth Avenue’s shops and galleries. Its 55 rooms are individually decorated with touches of muted southern camp (think tasseled magnolia-print pillows and beige plaid wallpaper), and the bar is decked out in over-the-top leopard print.

Channel your inner diva in one of the elegant boudoirs at the storied Brazilian Court (from $459), which once hosted the likes of Cary Grant and Greta Garbo. Opened in 1926, the building completed its latest multimillion-dollar refresh in 2008, ushering in an updated island-chic décor. Visit the in-house gallery of California-based artist Mark Bowles’s dreamy abstract paintings, and eat well at the hotel’s outpost of Café Boulud.

2. Where to Eat

Michelle Bernstein serves up fresh seafood surrounded by floor-to-ceiling views of the Atlantic. Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Bernstein

Call in advance for a table at Chez Jean-Pierre, a family-owned eatery that draws a regular crowd of well-heeled locals with its Continental fare. Popular dishes include the in-shell caviar with scrambled eggs ($34) and profiteroles au chocolat ($10), and the wine cellar has 4,500 bottles to choose from.

Stop for lunch at the Norton Museum’s Café 1451, worthy of a detour even if you’re not already there for the Matisses, Miros, and Frank Stellas. Start with an escabeche of wahoo ($10), a local fish with a delicate texture and clean taste, before moving on to a hearty beef bourguignonne ($18) made with short ribs or a curried chicken salad that’s nicely balanced by green apple slices ($13).

Opt for the five-course tasting menu (starting at $75) at Michelle Bernstein’s, where you’ll choose from a list of fresh ingredients like the seafood catch of the day, and let the James Beard Award–winning chef decide the rest. Go with a 2007 Il Bruciato ($62) from the eighteen-page list or opt for the sommelier’s pairings for an additional $40.

3. What to Do

Gavlak Gallery hosts exhibits from artists like Carolyn Carr and Orly Genger.Photo: Courtesy of Gavlak Gallery

Find a more contemporary focus layered over the Norton Museum’s impressive permanent collection thanks to its new director, Hope Alswang, hired in early 2010. You can still admire gems like Georgia O’Keeffe’s iconic Ranchos Church No. 1, but you’ll also come across exhibitions like Nick Cave’s experiment in sound, movement, and costume; a handpicked selection of artists from Art Basel Miami; or stark photography, including a series that depicts contraband items confiscated at JFK Airport over five days in November 2009.

Stroll down posh Worth Avenue for a look at the area’s best art galleries. At Gavlak Gallery, a recent show showcased the minimalist sculptures of Orly Genger. Find contemporary photography at Holden Luntz, as well as crowd-pleasers like vintage shots of forties Paris. Gravitate to Gasiunasean and Wally Findlay for work by the greats: Picasso, Chagall, and Botero at the former, Degas and Calder at the latter. Most galleries are closed Sunday, so plan accordingly.

Flashback to the decade of mod at A.R.T., a high-end jewelry boutique owned by sixties style icon “Sweet Baby Jane” Holzer that also hosts art shows. Past exhibits have included work by Marc Quinn and Andy Warhol, who counted Holzer among his muses. Currently on view is a selection of sparkly “Diamond Dust” portraits by Damien Hirst and striking celebrity photos by Priscilla Rattazzi.

4. Insider’s Tip

Philip Estlund's photo project "Portraits From Paradise." Works featured here: Skip, Philip and Gabriella, Tuesday. Photo: Philip Estlund

There’s an abundance of galleries downtown, but in order to see working artists honing their craft, you’ll have to go to nearby Lake Worth. Only a fifteen-minute drive away from the glitz of the Palm Beach elite, rents here are low and spaces are large, so the area has attracted a small community of artists like Sibel Kocabasi, Sue Stevens, and Jacek Gancarz. Stop by the studio of sculptor and collagist Philip Estlund to check out selections from his photo project “Portraits From Paradise”—a series of characters posed before a shredded tropical-beach backdrop. If you’re lucky, you may even find yourself mugging for his camera.

5. Oddball Day

Tapestry Bar in the Breakers is the perfect spot to indulge in cocktails and caviar. Photo: Courtesy of the Breakers

Prepare for a day of upper-crust excess with bacon and eggs ($7.25) at Green’s Pharmacy and Luncheonette, where the Kennedys are said to have dined after Sunday mass. Drive fifteen minutes north to Sailfish Marina and board the water taxi for a narrated cruise ($28) of the yachts and mansions along the Intracoastal—including Bernie Madoff’s old villa. Ride back to Worth Avenue and stake out a bar stool at Ta-boo, where the grilled tuna ($17.50) is fine, but the people-watching is top notch. Outfit yourself in pastel oxfords and Bermudas at Vicomte A. before cruising 30 minutes west to the International Polo Club greens in nearby Wellington. Catch a match on in-season Sundays; lawn seats ($15) offer good views of the elegant field while pavilion passes ($50) allow you to sip bubbly while scanning the crowd. Afterward, drive back to Palm Beach and head to the venerable Breakers for cherry and apricot brandy aviators ($11.75) and live music in the tufted Tapestry Bar. Next, head two minutes up South County Road and park near Public Beach to take a sunset walk along the water. Wipe the sand off your feet and drive less than half a mile west, up palm-lined Royal Poinciana Way, for dinner at the Palm Beach Grill. It’s actually a Houlihan’s with a tweaked menu (city ordinance bans chains), but it’s a local hot spot, always short on reservations and buzzing nightly with a packed house of island notables—kosher hot dogs ($12) served on silver platters are a favorite. Cap off your evening across the street at Cucina, which hosts near-nightly dance parties where you can shimmy with trust-fund babies, socialites, and polo players.

6. Links

The Palm Beach Arts Council offers a map of every museum in the county.

Trust PB Pulse at the Palm Beach Post for bar and restaurant reviews.

Keep track of the social scene via the Society News pages of the Palm Beach Daily.

Palm Beach Illustrated breaks down the details of local life on the island: where to go, what to eat, and what to wear.

Go Contemporary in Palm Beach