DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- This historical, often bypassed South Florida
resort community has matured as a tourist attraction, according to
a local official.
"People who haven't been here in 10 or 12 years don't realize
that there [now] are many more restaurants, shops and clubs," said
Debra Acquilano, executive director of the Greater Delray Beach
Chamber of Commerce's tourism committee. "Atlantic Avenue [the main
thoroughfare] is filled with antique shops and art galleries, a
natural outgrowth of the town's early days as an artists' colony,"
In fact, every year Delray Beach holds the Delray Fair, a free
arts, crafts and entertainment festival with a juried arts and
crafts show. The 1999 dates are April 9 to 11. "We want to
familiarize people with all the things to see and do so that
they'll extend their stays here instead of making a quick visit and
going on to Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach," Acquilano
The rebirth of Delray Beach started in the mid-1980s when a
civic-minded member of the local historical society, horrified by
news that the town planned to demolish the buildings of Old School
Square, led the charge to reverse the decision and have the complex
declared a protected historical landmark.
"The decision to preserve and restore Old School Square and
transform it into a cultural arts center was the beginning of the
city's renaissance," said Acquilano, who is also director of
services for the cultural arts center.
Today, the center's three buildings -- the oldest of which dates
from 1913 -- house the Cornell Museum, which features the works of
local and national artists; the Crest Theatre, where plays, operas
and other productions are held, and the Gymnasium-Reception Hall, a
popular venue for community and private events. All three
facilities offer space for meetings, parties and other group
Old School Square, Phone: (561) 243-7922, Web:
Delray's first nature center is housed in the former Sandoway
House, which dates from 1936. The center showcases exotic birds,
including a giant macaw, aquariums and exhibits on the area's
ecosystems. Admission to the Sandoway House Nature Center is
Sandoway House, Phone: (561) 274-SAND
The town's most famous attraction, the Morikami Museum and
Japanese Gardens, opened in 1977 on land donated by George Sukeji
Morikami, who settled in the area after emigrating from Japan in
the early 1900s. Throughout the year, the Morikami offers cultural
presentations and exhibits; the museum's collection of kimonos and
Japanese textiles is on view through Jan. 17. There is also a cafe
serving Japanese dishes.
Group tours cost $6 per person (one free tour for every 25
paid); for $18, the tour includes a buffet and origami. The
auditorium and other facilities can be rented.
Morikami Museum, Phone: (561) 495-0233, Web:
Delray Beach is also the home base of Levenger, a firm founded
by the husband-and-wife team of Steve Leveen and Lori Granger that
markets lamps and other items for readers. Since 1987, the company
has grown into an international catalog business, based in a
210,000-square-foot facility here. On the premises is a showroom
featuring products that include wooden bookcases and travel
Levenger, Phone: (800) 544-0880; (561)-276-2436, Web:
Clients interested in seeing how Florida orange juice gets from
grove to glass can visit Blood's Hammock Groves. After sampling
fresh orange juice at the shop's juice bar and perhaps choosing a
gift basket (including Blood's own home-made marmalade) for those
back home, visitors can proceed to the observation area.
From there, they can watch experts select and package oranges
grown on the family's 420 acres of groves, located about 50 miles
north of Delray Beach.
Blood's Hammock Groves, Phone: (561) 498-3400, Web:
In early November, the Delray Beach Gray Line began offering
cruises between Manalapan and Boca Raton aboard the 150-passenger,
double decker Ramblin' Rose Riverboat II. Rates are $9.95 for the
two-and-a-half-hour Sunday cruise; $13.95 for the
three-and-a-half-hour Saturday cruise, and $15.95 for the
three-and-a-half-hour weekday cruise (less for children and
groups). Lunch and dinner buffet cruises are available.
On New Year's Eve, the ship will offer a four-hour Intracoastal
Waterway sail with cocktail, champagne toast, dinner buffet and
entertainment for $65. The boat is available for charter.
Delray Gray Line Rambling Rose II, Phone: (561) 243-0686