Megan Padilla
Megan Padilla

No matter your political leanings, you have to admit that in news reports on the president from his "weekend White House" in Palm Beach, the optics are pretty enticing. Viewers see a Technicolor landscape of ocean waves, white sand, manicured lawns with hibiscus in bloom and palm fronds against a clear blue sky.

Rich Basen is the senior vice president of marketing for Discover the Palm Beaches, the official tourism-marketing corporation for Palm Beach County. Says Basen, "When Trump is seen out and about, the world sees the backdrop of what this destination looks like."

But is Palm Beach for everyone? Turns out, there's much more to Palm Beach County than the moneyed island that has long been a preferred destination for global jet-setters. The Palm Beaches encompass 2,200 square miles, a larger footprint than the state of Rhode Island. Basen underscores the point: "We don't have one large anchor city. We have a collection of 39 cities and towns across the vast county that includes 47 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches. Each has its own unique vibe."

The beach communities from north to south are Jupiter Beach, Juno Beach (dog friendly), Singer Island, Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray and Boca Raton. Agents can check out a dozen videos that articulate the character of each area at Discover the Palm Beaches.

The message that Discover the Palm Beaches is sending: the Palm Beaches offer attainable luxury and are more affordable than people think, especially in summer when full-service beach resorts offer cut-rate deals during the week. But what they really want you to know is that the destination is so much more than the iconic, historical properties on Palm Beach proper that have defined it since the late 1800s.

The Taproom at Due South Brewing, a craft brewery in Boynton Beach.
The Taproom at Due South Brewing, a craft brewery in Boynton Beach.

West Palm Beach is in a state of ongoing development and has evolved with craft breweries, celebrity chefs, pop art and new hotels. The area generates $7.3 billion annually in tourism alone. Since Jan. 2016, Palm Beach County has added 932 hotel rooms, with another 210 to be completed by end of year. These new hotels are telling a modern story to attract a younger, hipper, more diverse audience.

The 400-room Hilton West Palm Beach recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and has made big waves in setting a new tone. Though connected directly to the convention center downtown, its vibe is drawing leisure travelers and locals alike, who flock to weekly events such as poolside barbecues and Sunday mornings that kick-off with a boot camp class at 9, yoga class on the lawn at 10 then mimosas and a la carte brunch from 11, with a daylong soundtrack played by DJ Adam Lipson, the Hilton's music curator. The hotel showcases an extensive art collection, craft booze at the Prohibition-style bar and locally roasted nitrogen coffee on tap at the marketplace called Provisions add to the overall experience.

Other notable openings include the 200-room, 13-story Hyatt Place hotel that opened in January in the heart of downtown Boca Raton, also where the 158-room Boca Raton Mandarin Oriental hotel and residences is set to debut in late 2017 as the second Mandarin Oriental in Florida. Other anticipated Palm Beach County openings include a 122-room Aloft Delray Beach in the SofA (South of Atlantic Avenue) district, to open in 2019, and a Canopy by Hilton Hotels in West Palm Beach, one of eight planned for the new brand,  which is being touted as an energized and natural extension of its neighborhood, with local design, culture and food and drink. Ground breaking for that 150-room, 14-story hotel is slated for later this year, just two blocks from CityPlace, the area's premier dining, shopping and entertainment spot.

Discover the Palm Beaches' year-end hotel performance dashboard data shows a higher-than-forecasted 7.4 million visitors came to the Palm Beaches in 2016, which is a 5.8% visitation increase over 2015. The total increase in visitation was driven by a 7% increase in domestic visitors (U.S.) and a 7.3% increase in Florida-based visitors, compared with the previous year. The number of hotel room nights sold, 4.4 million, represented a 2.3% increase.

The 2016 end-of-year numbers follow numerous hotel updates. The Breakers unveiled its Seafood Bar, fully made over to take advantage of its panoramic ocean views by creating a sense of dining aboard a private luxury yacht. The Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa infused $6.8 million to refresh guestrooms and transitional spaces with coastal style. In October 2016, the Waterstone Resort & Marina in Boca Raton was announced as one of the newest additions to Curio  A Collection by Hilton. A particularly distinguishing feature of the 11-story boutique hotel's 139 guestrooms and suites is the nearly 200 feet of boat docking facilities and promenade. The PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens spent $4 million upgrading its sports and racquet club, on the heels of a renovation to its spa. Finally, completed in January, the West Palm Beach Marriott displays a new functional, modern redesign.

Layered upon the diverse hotel options are nearly two dozen new restaurants and craft breweries. Of note, the Warehouse District is coming to West Palm Beach later this year. The eclectic urban neighborhood comprising eight vintage-style buildings is experiencing a transformation spearheaded by local food and beverage vendors, artists, fitness enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. The 85,000-square-foot district will include Grange Hall Market, a New York-style food hall, and the home goods store Elizabeth Ave Station, which opened earlier this year with pop-up shopping space featuring wares from local artisans and entrepreneurs


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