Florida's playground for the rich and famous can be amazingly inexpensive and accessible. We show you Palm Beach for the rest of us.
Palm Beach might be known for the society set, but it's about more than the Benjamins. This South Florida destination oozes
lifestyle--from hob-nobbing with models during a match at the International Polo Club Palm Beach to shopping for designer
rags. But, even among the jet set, value isn't a four-letter word. We found all kinds of bargains in this fabled beach retreat,
proving you don't need a Bentley and a trust fund to join the party.
During the week and on Saturdays, put your wallet away--matches are free. Pull your car right up to the field, and set up your tailgate spread just feet from the action. Sure, you will see your share of Mercedes-Benzes, but they're parked alongside VW Beetles, ramshackle pickup trucks, and soccer-mom-friendly SUVs. Spectators (many of whom are players) are more than happy to initiate a novice and create a new fan. The atmosphere mirrors that of a kickball tournament--zero pretension.
Polo players compete in Palm Beach.
On Sundays, matches are played in the stadium and tend to be a bit more formal, with tented tailgates that rival The Grove
at Ole Miss (silver platters, vases overflowing with flowers, women balancing hats the size of Saturn on their heads). Even
so, a $15 ticket gets you a seat along the field and free-flowing Champagne at halftime, when the crowd descends for the traditional
divot stomp to replace the upturned turf. 3667 120th Avenue South, Wellington, FL 33414; www.internationalpoloclub.com or (561) 204-5687. Matches are free Wednesday-Saturday and $15 on Sunday. Call to confirm exact times.
Although the International Polo Club Palm Beach is a private club, with members-only privileges, the polo matches themselves open arms wide to the public. Forget the idea of polo as an elite, invitation-only activity.
The club wraps up its season (January-April), which draws some of the world's best athletes from the worldwide circuit (Argentina, Palm Beach, the Hamptons, and beyond), including the current No. 1 ranked player, Adolfo Cambioso. Not to mention Nacho Figueras, member of the Black Watch team--there's a reason he's a Ralph Lauren model.
photo: Nacho Figueras (second from left) and his Black Watch teammates rest on the sidelines.
The Gucci-Pucci set lays claim to Worth Avenue. But for the rest of us, you only have to stray a little from the bankrolled
path. From consignment shops on Royal Poinciana Way to home boutiques in the up-and-coming Northwood Village, where once-abandoned
stores have been polished back to mint condition, it's a bargain shopper's dream. Sort of like buying Proenza Schouler at
Gardenhouse, a furniture store, stocks bright, candy-colored pieces: a kiwi green dining set, chaise lounges covered in supersize flower fabric, and a pink patent leather ottoman. Owner Cheryl Maeder buys vintage and redesigns with modern flair. How's that for recycling? 437 Northwood Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33407; www.gardenhousedecor.net or (561) 832-8260. Accessories start at $20.
If you could spend hours rummaging through your grandma's cedar chests, don't miss Etc. for framed art posters, Tiffany lamps, and objets d'art for your home and garden. 536 Northwood Road, Palm Beach, FL 33407; (561) 653-0121. Items start at $25.
Pop inside Circa Who, a furniture and accessories store for those who wish it were 1973. Tracy DeRamus and Dawn DeCesare have eyes for all things groovy. 531 Northwood Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33407; www.circawho.com or (561) 655-5224. Accessories start at $10 and furniture at $50.
Though it's consignment, you'll find brand-name clothes, such as Chanel, with the tags still attached, at Deja Vu. We found a $700 Italian Etro jacket for $72.50. Try that on for size. 219 Royal Poinciana Way, Palm Beach, FL 33480; (561) 833-6624.
photo: The goods are aplenty at Gardenhouse. Find colorful indoor-outdoor chairs, fine-art photography, and seashell mobiles.
Although there's no lack of fine dining in Palm Beach, we don't see any need to blow the budget to eat well.
Grab a bite at Jade Kitchen, a quaint sidewalk cafe with to-die-for lobster rolls. Order the iced tea; it comes with fresh mint and a lemon icicle for a swizzle stick. 422 Northwood Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33407; (561) 366-1185. Lunch for two around $30.
Cafe Centro's extensive menu of Italian specialties will win you over. Start with La Classica Margherita pizza, and then move on to chicken piccata--the yummiest version this side of Rome. 2409 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33407; www.mycafecentro.com or (561) 514-4070. Dinner for two about $50.
For a picnic of the "Champagne wishes and caviar dreams" caliber, stop by co-founder of BET Sheila Johnson's Market Salamander Palm Beach. This epicurean playground, the perfect place to get your spread for the polo match, stocks everything from foie gras and baked snapper to chicken salad. Fill a picnic hamper with charcuterie, olives, smoked salmon, and the like. 155 North County Road, Palm Beach, FL 33480; www.market-salamander.com or (561) 659-6772.
photo: Sit outside, shaded from the Florida sun, at Jade Kitchen and enjoy the mouthwatering lobster rolls.
For a great-value stay, try Hotel Biba in El Cid (room rates start at $99). Designer Barbara Hulanicki (known for her work
with Island Outpost and London's fashion boutique Biba) revamped this former motor lodge into a modern 41-room stunner. 320
Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33405; www.hotelbiba.com or (561) 832-0094.
Make Plans To Go
Contact the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2504 Church Street, Galveston, TX 77550; www.galveston.com or 1-888-425-4753.
photo: Polo matches attract families and their furry friends.