Frugal Traveler

Penny-pinching tips for visiting Florida’s Palm Beaches

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceFebruary 23, 2013 

The Palm Beaches represent one of the largest residential concentrations of wealth in the world. A popular destination for shopping celebrities, political fundraisers and bejeweled billionaires, Palm Beach and West Palm Beach make a vacation pairing most penny pinchers wouldn’t dream of adding to their itinerary. Believe it or not, bargains are abundant along this stretch of Florida coastline if one knows where to look.

Arts: Cultural events are one of the biggest entertainment options here, and many are affordable. The Norton Museum of Art, for example, offers adult admission prices of $12, with rotating exhibits from around the world, including pieces from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, to name a few. To get the best bang for your buck, visit on Thursday evenings when the venue’s weekly Art after Dark event takes place. Included with the price of admission, it’s a great value that features performing arts, socializing, culinary treats and more. Similarly, the Kravis Center for Performing Arts boasts multiple theaters for a variety of acts, from Broadway plays to ballet groups. Mezzanine and balcony tickets start as low as $20, and the center is within walking distance of the West Palm Beach tri-rail station.

Accommodations: Bed and breakfast establishments aren’t numerous but they do exist. One particular gem for penny pinchers is Grandview Gardens, a boutique property with private gardens for several of the rooms, a swimming pool and free use of bicycles for exploring Palm Beach. Room rates start as low as $119, and include an evening cocktail reception as well as a morning candlelight breakfast buffet for two with eggs cooked to order. If you have a desire to splurge, The Colony is an iconic establishment located steps from the water and a short stroll from the famous shopping district on Worth Avenue. The rooms have a comfy, vintage feel and the lobby area makes an inviting spot to curl up with a book if you’re waiting to meet friends.

The lesser-priced rooms can ring in at $440, although it’s possible to spend half that if you travel during the off season. If you’re planning your getaway during a high traffic time, there are a couple of saving strategies you may wish to implement. First, multi-night package rates available early in the week bring the nightly rack rate down to $300, including a full English breakfast for two daily. I’ve also seen one-night rates for $500, which include the same English breakfast offering, as well as a dinner and cabaret show for two.

Activities: The Downtown Development Authority for West Palm Beach offers historic trolley tours for $5 per person. Participants enjoy a guided, period-themed event led by a tour guide who appears in character. If Worth Avenue’s fashion glitz gets a bit overwhelming, consider exploring Clematis Street instead. It’s a pretty area near the water with an abundance of restaurants, shops, galleries and more. To make the most of your time there, visit on Thursday nights when the parks and recreation department sponsors weekly free concerts in Centennial Square. Taking in the complimentary show and grabbing a cocktail afterward is a fun and frugal date for couples touring the area for the first time. City Place is another popular shopping venue that often offers free outdoor concerts for shoppers to enjoy. Musical acts range from rock and pop to soul and funk.

Appetite: If you’d like to grab some great affordable grub after enjoying City Center’s shopping and entertainment offerings, head to Mojito. It’s a sexy small-plate and beverage establishment offering Latin cuisine and yet another opportunity to enjoy live music, depending on which night of the week you visit. Plate prices start as low as $4.50, and include such diverse selections as savory duck, guacamole, paella and pulled pork sliders. Farthe away near the design district, Buccan offers high-end, casual dining at mid-range prices. Many of their menu choices are available in half sizes, providing a money-saving dinner option that feels sinfully indulgent. Their short rib empanadas are particularly delish, and represent an affordable start to your meal with a price tag of only 6 bucks.

Those preferring French fare should head to Pistache. Main dinner plates start at less than $20, or you could pair a starter salad with any of their $7 sides. Options include ratatouille, haricots verts and pommes frites. To enjoy a decadent lunch for less, head to the famous Cafe Boulud. Located in the historic Brazilian Court Hotel, it’s a place to see and be seen. With $25 fixed-price menus, $4 sorbets and generously-sized chickpea fries available for $7, there’s plenty for penny pinchers to enjoy.

Myscha Theriault/McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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