Exploring West Palm Beach (WPB) is something I have not done in a while. The cities of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach are all wonderful spots to visit as they all have their own feel, offerings, culture, that make visiting them always rewarding. The drive up Interstate 95 to WPB is fine from Fort Lauderdale and it can be a simple one day adventure, but when it was time to just get away from our all too well-known four walls, an overnight stay was in order. We actually desired to do a midweek exploration and chose one of the newest and only waterfront hotel in downtown West Palm Beach, The Ben West Palm.
We packed our carry on bags with just some amenities (resort casual outfits, swimsuit, athleisure attire, sunglasses, Hat) and caught the Brightline up to West Palm Beach from Fort Lauderdale. A voyage either north or south on the Brightline from Fort Lauderdale just makes travel really effortless. The Ben has launched a larger partnership that they were going to title “Fill Your Belly, Not Your Tank” package, a South Florida resident offer to leave your car at home, ride Brightline to save on gas, and trade up for indulgent all-day food experiences! Yes, that’s basically what we did.
The Ben opened in February 2020, offering its 208-rooms as part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection. We timed our stay there with the beginning of the new Book Butler Reading Club series and the Book Butler Program. These original programs (and the hotel) were inspired by its muse, Byrd Spilman Dewey, a pioneering author who moved to South Florida in the late 1800’s and is largely responsible for the development of West Palm Beach. The hotel channels her love for entertaining, her whimsical interests, and most notably, her talent for extraordinary storytelling.
One fun tidbit on the 6-story hotel. They ordered 6 great dane statues to place on each floor and the lobby, but for some reason, the order was doubled, so now you will see 12 great danes across the property. Some even made it into the banquet room and wedding receptions per the request of the bridal party and others. For more pics of the stunning hotel, check out its photo gallery.
The Book Butler Program is a service that invites guests to dial “0” to order a complimentary book from a curated in-room menu (found in your room), which is hand-delivered to your room by The Ben’s Resident Book Butler. The selection was varied and great!
We had not been to WPB in years so we needed some recommendations. Instead of standing at the front desk and writing down options or trying to remember them we texted Stanford to reach the Ben’s newest digital insider concierge, and were given a list of the best things to do at the hotel and around Downtown West Palm Beach, like pre-dinner cocktail at Spruzzo’s rooftop, and then dinner options like Elisabetta’s Ristorante, or a walk over to The Square, which just opened El Camino, along with other possibilities like Planta and True Food Kitchen.
Stanford did recommend Sunrise Yoga, too, but alas, that was not on my radar for relaxation –
Hosted complimentary to hotel guests every Friday and Sunday morning, The Ben’s rooftop sunrise yoga is offered poolside. The Vin Yin yoga class is about 55 minutes and offers an incredible way to wake up with some of the best views of the Intracoastal Waterway, marina, and ocean.
Since we did not have a car, we could have used another hotel amenity during our stay. Bruno, the property’s new complimentary electric car, would bring us to the beach and other points around town, but the Ben was in such a great location, we walked everywhere (Clematis Street, The Square, Norton Museum of Art, Antique Row, and Worth Avenue), and we could also have used some of The Ben’s complimentary bikes for those journeys if they were a little bit further.
We did not end up doing the beach as we booked a private rooftop cabana for sun rays, prime ocean views, and poolside lunch at Spruzzo, WPB downtown’s only waterfront rooftop dining experience.
And the dining. After the lunch at Spruzzo and the breakfast and dinner at Proper Grit, it was decided that we would return another day to just have dinner or brunch, or just dinner made up of appetizers as they were impressive. This was all because of the new Executive Chef Marc Rosen’s culinary programming overhaul at Proper Grit and Spruzzo. Rosen, who has more than 40 years of culinary experience in esteemed kitchens and celebrity-attended restaurants in NYC and West Palm Beach. Proper Grit keeps guests dining at the hotel and brings in the local crowd, too. The contemporary chophouse recently upgraded its entire menu with a modernized twist on comfort food classics like Hanging Bacon & Corn Bread, Sweet Corn Fritters, and a wide selection of Butcher Block meat cuts.
The dining options, roof top pool and bar, the great Sunday brunches bring in the locals and travelers. They also bring in individuals from other hotels, even the ones from Palm Beach. We saw why as the options were great and we’re planning a trip back just for the food.
Since this was our first visit to The Ben we went all out and joined the Book Butler Reading Club Event with with author Sheila O’Connor of Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions. This took a little planning ahead as we had to get the book and read it so we would know what is going on.
Starting this summer, The Ben is inviting book lovers from South Florida to dive into purposefully selected reads and engage in exclusive literary conversations with bestselling authors firsthand. Each event will feature engaging live author Q&As, meet-and-greets, book signings, and a dynamic evening with specially curated bites and cocktails by Proper Grit.
I am far from a dedicated reader, but this was a great event to meet an author, discuss the book with a variety of people, and enjoy a nice cocktail hour. It was an elevated book club like event that made me appreciate the effort I made to complete the book. I had time after the event to actually meet the author, ask some clarifying questions, and learn more about what was hinted at and not covered in those pages. I may even go back and read the book again.
For more information on the The Ben hotel, check out its website and its social media.
The Ben West Palm – 251 N Narcissus Ave, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
West Palm Beach Food Tour –
Another reason to hop up to WPB might be to check out its very appealing food tour.
We believe the best way to experience West Palm Beach is through food because food tells the story of a neighborhood’s people, history, and culture. Whenever we travel, food tours top our list of favorite things to do. Join us on a culinary experience today! We can’t wait to share West Palm Beach with you!
Gay Happenings in Town? LGBT in WPB
In a 2018 article, we see the rich history of West Palm Beach, but also realize that so much has changed. In The Lost Gay Bars of West Palm Beach, we are told of an environment extremely different than what exists today.
West Palm Beach is South Florida’s oldest municipality, founded in 1894. It’s no secret that it is probably often seen as the weakling in the tri-county area gay scene, but West Palm is able to offer an experience that probably goes unmatched in Broward and Dade Counties.
There were three “dedicated” gay places in West Palm Beach when I was visiting before the pandemic. They’re all great options to meet locals and shoot the breeze, but now only one remains.
H.G. Roosters – Reopening Fall 2022?
This was Florida’s longest-running gay bar (76 years) but unfortunately was closed because of COVID and then was largely burned down in a fire in May 2020. It was a staple of The Palm Beach’s gay nightlife. They hosted several weekly events, including Wine Down Wednesday and Lip Sync Battle Friday. It was my place of choice to go when visiting the area and needed to see gay people and sip a cold one. Will it open in Fall of 2022 as the Facebook comment mentioned? We shall see.
The Mad Hatter Lounge – Still open
This bar in Lake Worth is one of the area’s most popular gay bars. It’s a full-service bar that hosts theme parties throughout the year.
Fort Dix Bar and Club Inc – CLOSED
I liked coming to this “alternative” gay bar. It was often dark with a back patio area that could make a shy boy think about blushing. Never saw anything going on there, but… Fort Dix closed in March of 2019.
But living in Fort Lauderdale / Wilton Manors, I have access to 10+ gay bars in about 6 blocks. I’m not going for the gay bar atmosphere of WPB, maybe just the opposite. But where ever you go in WPB, you will see gay people. We met many in the shops, restaurants, and at the hotel. Yes, it is Florida – the “Don’t Say Gay” State and West Palm Beach is just across the Intracoastal from Palm Beach – where the orange 45 lives, but it is still a community with the LGBT all over it.
More about the Brightline –
Since my first ride on the Brightline just a couple of months ago, I’ve paid attention to their web page for specials, programs, and incentives, but seriously, remembering that exhale, I know it’s a better option than the drive. And I’ve also kept it in mind when desiring to take in new restaurants, go to a game, play, or musical, or even to visit South Beach. The next promo is actually for people coming to Fort Lauderdale.