Written by Barbara Toombs
As the saying goes, “If you haven’t been to Worth Avenue, you haven’t been to Palm Beach.” Running four blocks from Lake Worth to the Atlantic Ocean, the venerable byway is the upscale shopping and dining epicenter of the town, which was established as a resort by Henry Morrison Flagler, a founder of Standard Oil, who made the Atlantic coast barrier island accessible via his Florida East Coast Railway.
Now known as “America’s First Resort Destination,” Palm Beach was incorporated in April 1911 and had at its nucleus Flagler’s two luxury resort hotels: The Royal Poinciana and The Breakers, the latter of which still stands to this day.
Named after General William Jenkins Worth (an American officer during the War of 1812) in 1913, Worth Avenue’s west end was once home to Alligator Joe’s Farm, where Joe entertained winter visitors with his collection of alligators he often wrestled. The avenue’s first steps toward becoming a fashionable mecca began with the construction of the Everglades Club in 1918, followed soon thereafter by the first retail stores nearby. The area has been known for its high-quality merchandise since the 1920s; in fact, Kassatly’s – an establishment founded in 1923 and known for its fine linens, sweaters, sportswear and sleepwear – remains a must-see stop on anyone’s visit to Worth Avenue.
The coconut-palm-lined street, which received a major $15.8 million makeover in 2010, is now home to approximately 250 high-end shops, boutiques, restaurants and art galleries, including Chanel, Gucci, Lilly Pulitzer, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Brioni, Salvatore Ferragamo, St. John, Mariko, Akris, Bottega Veneta, Daniella Ortiz, Max Mara, Vilebrequin and more. At the east end of the legendary Worth Avenue is The Esplanade at 150 Worth, an open-air shopping experience full of exceptional retailers anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue.
Visitors wanting to stay nearby have an incredible array of luxurious properties from which to choose, including The Breakers Hotel (founded in 1896), the Colony Palm Beach Hotel, Brazilian Court Palm Beach, Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, and Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach.
The Brazilian Court Hotel, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, carries a prestigious AAA Four Diamond rating, and with good reason. This private and secluded historic property with elegant Spanish architecture is infused throughout with Roaring ’20s glamour and boutique intimacy, with just 80 rooms nestled into lush tropical courtyards and fountains.
Dining options in and around Worth Avenue are also impressive, headlined by the acclaimed Café Boulud in the Brazilian Court Hotel and the three-Michelin-starred Florie’s at the Four Seasons. You can enjoy a fantastic meal al fresco overlooking the Atlantic at Breeze Ocean Kitchen, an intimate dining experience with unforgettable cuisine at Renato’s, or a delicious meal of classics like fresh Dover sole meuniere, rack of lamb, aged steaks and pasta at Ta-Boo – a staple of Worth Avenue for more than 60 years. Those looking for a more casual meal will find satisfaction at Piccolo Mondo with its variety of sandwiches, salads, grill items and pastas, or indulge in a sweet treat of Italian gelato or sorbetto at Piccolo Gelato.
If you are looking for some educational entertainment before the Opening Night Party on April 12 at the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction, make plans to take part in the Worth Avenue Historic Walking Tour. Held every Wednesday, the 75-minute colorful and informative tour is led by resident docent and author Rick Rose, who uses colorful anecdotes and commentary to explore the origins and character of Worth Avenue, its unique architecture, the historical significance of many of the legendary landmarks and some of its famous residents. The cost of the tour is $25 per person and the net proceeds benefit the Palm Beach Police and Fire Foundation as the “charity of choice” for the season.
While you’re in town for the excitement of the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction, April 13-15, be sure to enjoy Worth Avenue and exploring all that Palm Beach has to offer! For more information, visit Worth-Avenue.com.
Photos courtesy of Discover The Palm Beaches and the Brazillian Court Hotel.