Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Palm Beach: America’s First Resort Destination

by Ray Hunt
TripOut Gay Travel

Yes, yes… You’ve heard much about Miami and Fort Lauderdale, but if you want to experience a truly classic Florida resort destination you must check out Palm Beach. The easternmost town in Florida and truly a tropical paradise, Palm Beach is located on a barrier island across the Intercoastal Waterway from its less exclusive, but just as fabulous, sister: West Palm Beach. And get your glam self ready, as Palm Beach Island is the hideaway for the very rich. With neighbors like Elton John, Donald Trump and Ivana, too, you know that this town has everything a mogul or aspiring mogul, could want and need.

Palm Beach is considered “America’s First Resort Destination,” even historically so. At the turn of the century, Henry Flagler, the Standard Oil Company magnate, single-handedly created this opulent destination, building two hotel destinations to provide a winter escape for the well-heeled passengers escaping northern winters aboard his Florida East Coast Railway. What was once a desolate jungle of an island was quickly transformed to this playground for the rich and famous.

These days you’ll still find glamour and opulence in Palm Beach. Sun yourself on white sand beaches, stay at gorgeous hotels (resort or boutique), shop at famous couture houses and eat at some of the best restaurants that Florida has to offer. The best part is, once you have had your fill of high-end shopping, sunning, and relaxing, you can take a short ride across the bridge to West Palm Beach and immerse yourself in tons of gay activities, too.

Poshness aside, Palm Beach County is also a gay rights oasis in Florida. Since the early 1990s, the Palm Beaches have secured tons of rights for the LGBT community, including the oldest gay rights ordinances in effect in Florida. Laws that include affirmative action, housing anti-discrimination and domestic partnership are a part of what makes the Palm Beaches so attractive to the LGBT community. The gay rights pioneers of South Florida are even on the cutting edge of trans rights. In 2007, the Equal Opportunity Ordinance was extended to include gender identity and expression. Definitely check out the beautiful new digs of Compass, Palm Beach County’s LGBT center. It is the largest LGBT community center in the south east and the seventh largest in the nation. Providing tons of essential services to Palm Beach County, Compass truly is the heart and pulse of gay Palm Beach.

Who knows if it’s the LGBT rights track record or the tropical weather that brings the gays to live in the Palm Beaches? Either way, this warm and welcoming LGBT community loves to share what makes their neck of the woods Shangri-La. There is a wide array of activities always on offer, such as the ritualistic Thursday night pre-dinner cocktails at The Colony, evening drinks and cruising at HR Roosters or The Lounge, and shows by well-known cabaret artists at The Royal Room Supper Club. You can view the illustrious homes on Billionaires Row, shop on the exclusive Worth Avenue, do some world-class dining, troll along Antique Row, take a spa treatment at the new and gorgeous Eau Spa at the Ritz Carlton, or take a leisurely stroll through the Norton Museum. And, when you need some downtime, there is always the beach.

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