If you really squint at the shape of New Jersey, it looks like a malformed hand pointing angrily at the ocean. And the fingertip that’s jabbing at Mother Nature is Cape May, the southernmost city in the state, where my family has owned a home since 1964. For the most part, Cape May is a sleepy Shore town with an everybody-knows-everybody vibe. It’s the sort of place where most residences, even businesses, don’t lock the doors. Read more »
Considering that they’re nearly a thousand miles apart, Philly has always had an unexpectedly tight relationship with Florida. There are the old-money Main Liners who’ve long wintered (yes, you know you’ve arrived when you use it as a verb) in Palm Beach. The rabid Phillies fans who cheat the start of spring with a visit to Clearwater. And the parents who get ransom notes from their darling children, saying: “Take us to Disney or there’s gonna be trouble.” Nothing wrong with any of those reasons to visit Florida, but if that’s all you’ve seen of the Sunshine State, you’re missing out. What follows are seven itineraries that will leave you tanned, rested, and just maybe dreaming of gators.
Edited by Tom McGrath and Ashley Primis
Bold + Beautiful
The art of fitting in in Miami Beach
Those in the see-and-be-seen crowd (read: people who don’t mind packing more stilettos than flip-flops) will feel right at home in the buzzy barrier-island resort city. You can eat, shop and dance, but mostly you’ll just feel fabulous.
At the clubby Miami Beach Edition, hotelier Ian Schrager encapsulates all the flash of Miami: vast expanses of glossy white Carrara marble, gold columns, sleek rooms, and a staff of alarmingly beautiful people. For even more glamour, snag a room at the Fontainebleau, one of Miami Beach’s most iconic spots, with palm-lined pools, four signature restaurants, and one of the top spas in the city. Edition: 2901 Collins Avenue; from $429. Fontainebleau: 4441 Collins Avenue; from $399.
Highbrow: The Miami Design District teems with impressive architecture, galleries, and glitzy shops like Hermès and Louis Vuitton. Meanwhile, Miami’s heralded Art Deco District is best discovered via a walking tour ($25), which sets out from 1001 Ocean Drive at 10:30 each morning.
Off-the-beaten-path: Leave an afternoon free for Wynwood Walls, a collection of large-scale murals by some of the world’s best graffiti artists.
Outdoors: Run, walk, bike or rollerblade (you can rent the latter two at Fritz’s Skate, Bike & Surf Shop) along the Miami Beach Boardwalk, a 40-block pathway that unfurls along the beach.
High-end: A newcomer to the South Beach dining scene, Bázi — managed by a Philly native and Starr expat — turns out stellar riffs on Asian cuisine.
Brunch: Go to Wynwood Kitchen & Bar (located within Wynwood Walls), order the cachapa — a traditional sweet and savory Venezuelan dish comprised of cheese sandwiched between corn pancakes — and dream of it long after your tan has faded.
Where the locals go: You can’t leave Miami without eating at least one taco (or five). Your best bets: the unfussy and often jam-packed Coyo Taco, and the unassuming Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, where a walk through the faux bathroom — seriously, open the graffiti-splashed Porta-Potty door and keep walking — rewards you with a nonchalantly cool bar and lounge, plus great happy-hour tacos for $2. — Emily Goulet
Come for the Phillies, Stay for the Culture
A fan’s guide to Clearwater and St. Pete
The Phillies have given us little to cheer for of late, but during spring training, hope is eternal. Enjoy the Gulf Coast beach-town vibe of their springtime HQ, Clearwater, or use cosmopolitan St. Petersburg, with its bustling — and gay-friendly — bayside culture, as home base.
You could spend the entirety of your getaway in the immediate vicinity of the historic, stately Vinoy Renaissance in St. Pete. While your days away in the spa, at the resort’s private golf course, or with a piña colada on the Veranda patio. Or wander around the Yacht Basin just outside the proudly pink hotel’s front door. 501 5th Avenue NE; from $179.
Highbrow: The folks behind the Dalí Museum have turned the artist’s shticky oeuvre (hallucinogenic trompe l’oeil, dude!) into a must-see attraction at their new architecturally adventurous, mustache-forward waterfront digs.
Off-the-beaten-path: Studio@620 is the epicenter of St. Petersburg’s homegrown arts and culture scene. On Friday nights, the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club opens its doors to the public for the St. Pete Shuffle. Cruise through the Spanish architecture of the historic Roser Park neighborhood (founded by Charles Roser, by some reports the inventor of the Fig Newton).
Outdoors: The Carpenter Complex and Bright House Field in Clearwater are the spring home of the Phillies and the summer home of the team’s High A affiliate, the Threshers. No Phillies Clearwater expedition is complete without a stop at Lenny’s diner, a madcap home-team-friendly outpost with sassy waitresses, a famous danish basket, and a guy who’ll make a balloon-animal likeness of you if the mood strikes him.
High-end: Don’t let its location in the downtown Sundial Mall dissuade you: Fabrizio Aielli’s stunning Sea Salt starts with the basics — an expansive raw bar, a (no joke) salt list — and spins it all up into something transcendent. Newcomer Brick and Mortar serves seasonal New American cuisine, with nods to an owner’s Indonesian and Spanish roots, that has the locals buzzing.
Brunch: The Sunday buffet at 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House piles the snow-crab legs and shrimp high, does a killer pork verde, and makes tres leches cake to elbow into line for.
Where the locals go: Florida’s Gulf Coast is becoming a beer hot spot (the upshot of Yuengling’s Tampa satellite brewery?), with stops like Cigar City (Tampa), Green Bench (St. Pete), Saint Somewhere (Tarpon Springs) and Dunedin Brewery making the Bay Area’s Craft Beer Trail a worthwhile endeavor. — Brian Howard
Jimmy Buffett Wasn’t Lying
And other things you need to know about Key West
There’s something called Keys Disease, a mysterious affliction that leads people to quit their jobs, sell their homes, and decamp for this tiny island 150 miles southwest of Miami. Key West is a genuine escape — a place where you can be yourself, or be somebody else.
The recently opened Gates Hotel channels the laid-back Key West vibe without sacrificing creature comforts (like cozy Turkish cotton robes and towels) or going overboard on the nautical theme. If you can pull yourself away from the poolside bar, the Gates offers a fleet of chic blue bikes for exploring the rest of the island (a necessity, since the hotel is a few miles from the heart of the city and there’s no guest shuttle service). 3824 North Roosevelt Boulevard; from $249.
Highbrow: The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum is a must-see. Take the 30-minute guided tour of his Key West hideaway, and you’ll probably catch one or two descendants of his famed polydactyl (six-toed) cats lounging in the shade.
Off-the-beaten-path: Drag shows are a mainstay of Key West nightlife. You can catch performances every night at Aqua and 801 Bourbon Bar, located just a few blocks apart on Duval Street.
Outdoors: Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is Key West’s only proper beach. Even though its shores are man-made (Key West is surrounded in part by a coral reef, which means no big waves and few natural dunes), it’s worth a visit just to marvel at the beautiful blue-green water.
High-end: Nine One Five is a welcome respite from the endless succession of raucous bars on Duval Street. The menu is eclectic, with an emphasis on island cuisine: grouper ceviche, smoked ahi tuna with saffron aioli, crispy whole yellowtail. But the fries are also to die for.
Brunch:: Snowbirds and locals alike rave about brunch at Sarabeth’s, a New American spot with a lovely patio for outdoor dining.
Where the locals go:: Sandy’s Cafe is a venerated hole-in-the-wall serving authentic Cuban fare — including probably the best, sloppiest Cuban sandwich in town. Order one with everything on it and grab a seat at the outdoor counter. Mind the
roosters. — Chelsea Edgar
Water, Water Everywhere
Getting back to nature on Captiva Island
This tiny island off the southwest coast of Florida has the charm of Cape May, quiet beaches and all, plus a seemingly endless parade of wildlife to watch from wherever you set your sandals down.
Anyone who makes it out of the gates of the South Seas Island Resort during a stay here deserves a medal. With water everywhere you turn — miles of beaches with dolphin-speckled deep-blue water and a bevy of pools — multiple waterside bars, a golf course, and mouthwatering fish tacos you won’t mind eating over and over again, you’ll need Olympic-level strength to pull yourself away. 5400 Plantation Road; from $219.
Highbrow: Shelling is one of the island’s big draws, but if spending hours hunched in the Captiva Crouch, as locals call it, sounds like the opposite of relaxation, a visit to the quirky Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum gives you a taste of the exotic finds minus the aching back.
Off-the-beaten-path: There’s no shortage of serene nooks that feel like they were plucked right out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, but the Chapel by the Sea, a century-old interfaith outpost right off the beach, is one worth taking a seat in.
Outdoors: J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge offers a change of scenery, with 6,400 acres of mangrove forest and marshes and four miles of walking trails. Just look out for alligators. Captiva Cruises keeps the water in view with trips lasting anywhere from 90 minutes to a half day. Opt for the Out-Island Cruise to check out Cabbage Key, a car-free hundred-acre island that feels about as far from Philly as you can get.
High-end: With walls decorated in everything Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter makes over-the-top obsession look cute. Prepare to walk out stuffed with seafood, and obsessing over something yourself — the unforgettable phyllo-wrapped shrimp.
Brunch: Don’t expect white tablecloths at diner-style spot RC Otter’s. Do expect breakfast potatoes that will wipe away the morning-after pain of one too many piña coladas.
Where the locals go: Head to laid-back Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille for the mojitos; stay for the Yucatan Shrimp and the conversation you’re sure to strike up with a fellow patron who’s been coming to the island every year for half a
century. — Adjua Fisher
The carefree charms of Amelia Island
The barrier island in the northern part of the state feels way more Georgia than it does Florida, thanks to grassy dunes, twisted live oaks and Southern hospitality. If decompression time with the fam sounds like just what you need right now, a few days on this island couldn’t be more ideal.
You know all those appealing things about big resorts? Beachside pool, sprawling spa, lounge-chair service, outdoor restaurants? The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island has all of that, but without the loud music, bikini-clad tarts or snooty staff. 4750 Amelia Island Parkway, Amelia Island; from $399.
Highbrow: Part of this island’s appeal is its lack of fancy anything — a trip here feels blissfully more Castaway than The Hangover. But for some culture, head to Fort Clinch in Clinch State Park, to tour the Civil War garrison and chat with the reenactors. For more history, Saint Augustine, and Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth, is about a 75-minute car ride, though you might have better luck de-aging at the spa.
Off-the-beaten-path: Yes, there are still wild horses running around in America. See them on Cumberland Island, a national park in Georgia that’s accessible only by boat (private or ferry).
Relaxing: Do not miss the spa at the Ritz. Treatments are first-rate, but the facilities are the real appeal.
High-end: Salt, at the Ritz, is the fancy place to eat on the island. Enjoy foie gras, lobster, or the thoughtful vegetarian menu. Timoti’s Seafood Shak in nearby Fernandina Beach has baskets of fresh seafood and a covered outdoor seating area.
Brunch: T-Rays Burger Station serves hash browns, biscuits with eggs and free-form burgers, in a converted gas station.
Where the locals go: DeNucci’s twists up soft-serve and cult favorite Dole Whip in a candy-colored shop the kids will love. —Ashley Primis
A Taste of the Tropics
The beauty of Boca Raton
Boca has long had a rep as the place where everyone’s Jewish grandmother lives, but in fact, its historical vibe, Southern charm and hint of the tropics make it a great spot for a relaxing vacation even if you never see Bubbe. (Still, you really should give her a call.)
Recently redesigned and right off the famous A1A, the Waterstone Resort instantly shows its bona fides as a seaside getaway with its tropical color palette. Stay on the intercoastal side of the hotel for views of the turquoise waves, palm trees and tons of boats (as long as you don’t mind the party music you’ll be hearing off in the distance). There are beachside rooms as well, and if the shore is more your cup of tea, luckily you’re only a quick walk away. 999 East Camino Real; from $169.
Highbrow: If you’re a history junkie, take an Uber to the Brazilian Court Hotel in West Palm. The homey hotel was built in the 1920s, and many of the original aspects remain. There’s the Frédéric Fekkai Salon and Spa if you’re looking to do some
pampering — beat the heat with complimentary lemon water while stylists attend to your hair. In Boca, check out Mizner Park, which houses the Boca Raton Museum of Art and plenty of upscale shops.
Off-the-beaten-path: Take the 20-minute ride down to Delray’s Pineapple Grove Arts District and search out the hidden-
gem art galleries. There’s less foot traffic than in other parts of the popular Delray area, and when you’re finished seeing quirky sculptures and other creations, have a drink at Beer Trade Co. — it’s honor system here, so just grab what you want right out of the cooler.
Outdoors: In Boca, exercise is almost inevitable. Rent bikes at Boca Bike Shop, then ride along A1A and sightsee some beautiful beachside mansions.
High-end: City Oyster & Sushi Bar in downtown Delray is a good choice for an upscale atmosphere. There’s an extensive menu of seafood-centric classics, but it’s the sushi and sashimi that set this place apart.
Brunch: Farm-to-table Max’s Harvest in downtown Delray serves everything from fresh salads to an unlimited Bloody Mary/champagne cocktail bar (with any garnish you could possibly imagine, including gumballs from a gumball machine). Sundy House is more low-key, situated in a lush botanical garden filled with ponds and beautiful white decks.
Where the locals go: Don’t miss J&J Seafood Bar and Grill — a tiny joint with the freshest of seafood. — Rachel Chernaskey
The Luxe Life Lives
Or at least it does in Naples
Come to this opulent beach town on the Gulf and soak up the life of the one percent. It has great seafood, upscale shops, beloved golf courses, and one of the most dazzling (and tranquil) beaches in the country.
The rooms at the Naples Grande Beach Resort are just plain sexy, with hip sheets and rugs, oversize tubs, and balconies with views that will immediately put you at ease. Speaking of ease: The hotel spa’s 50-minute Swedish massage will make your back pain melt away. 475 Seagate Drive; from $439.
Highbrow: The Waterside Shops feature an array of high-end stores including Gucci, Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren. At the Baker Museum, you can spend an afternoon gazing at contemporary art and a night listening to chamber music, all under the same roof.
Outdoors: There are plenty of options, from a private manatee safari to deep-sea fishing to paddleboarding. Ask the concierge at the Naples Grande to hook you up.
Relaxing: There’s no better way to chill out than to go to the beach and people-
watch. The water is warm and translucent, the sands are soft and white, and the beachgoers are tanned and beautiful. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy Barefoot Beach Preserve Park, where you’ll find sea turtles, a tropical tree hammock and a dazzling sunset.
High-end: The Catch of the Pelican is the place to go to get local seafood. The grilled octopus tastes like it was caught that morning, and the fennel-crusted ahi tuna is barely cooked, just as it should be.
Brunch: The Naples Grande offers a great one. Or check out the original Tommy Bahama restaurant, a short walk from Naples Pier, and enjoy the burgers, awesome outdoor space and live music.
Where the locals go: If they’re in the mood for a cheesesteak — seriously — they head to Old 41 Restaurant. Owner Tony Backos is a Philly native, and he makes his cheesesteaks with rib eye and Amoroso rolls. The Philly Breakfast, with two eggs, home fries and scrapple or Taylor pork roll, is just as good. — Holly Otterbein
Published as “Sunshine State of Mind” in the March 2016 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
The best way to top off stunning swimwear with with a killer cover-up. And while it’s tempting to throw on an old tank and cotton shorts for a beach day, everyone should have one stop-traffic cover-up in her arsenal. Here are eight throw-on-and-go options. A bonus: Some are worthy of wearing off the beach, too (see: #7, which would look divine with a pair of lace-up sandals for a breezy weekend look). Read more »
If you plan on avoiding Instagram all weekend because you don’t think your heart can handle the steady stream of beach photos that are sure to pour in while you’re stuck in this very grey city, where the closest body of water is nothing you’d want to dip your toes into, not to worry, friends! I feel your pain, which is why, for this week’s playlist, I’ve put together a bunch of songs that will surely transport you (and me!) to the beach. At least for the course of your weekend workout. Enjoy!
Read more »
The weekend has finally arrived, friends! I’m betting a large chunk of us will be flocking to sandier sidewalks for a few days away from the city. And while you’re there, maybe, just maaaaybe, you’ll find some time to squeeze in a workout. Here are seven fun reasons why a beach workout is so worth it.
G Philly will be down in Atlantic City this weekend to soak up all the beach, booze and boys at the annual Sand Blast Weekend. In anticipation of the party’s first go-round in Atlantic City, we’ve put together this field guide to help you get the most out of your gay (and lesbian!) down-the-shore frolics.
Remember waaay back when you were a kid and summertime meant three months of nonstop adventures? Well, who says your summers can’t still be filled with sun-on-your-face, wind-in-your-hair fun times? (On the weekends, at least.) Here, we’ve chosen eight must-do summer activities, plus a couple of spots around Philly where you can try each one. So what are you waiting for? Read up, grab some friends and get going!
I have been going down the shore, Ocean City to be exact, since before I can remember. On the beach, an instant community is formed of all types — including outcasts. The outcasts are the ones who engage in some perverse, imposing and inconsiderate activity that breaks the serenity of the day for everyone else. I call these selfish bastards the “beach idiots” — blunt, not very clever, but appropriate.
A day at the beach should be void of confrontation and the stress it brings, so most tag-wearing, well mannered folk put up with the beach idiots without saying a word, knowing their annoying behavior can usually only last so long.
As a public service, I am here to call out the beach idiots in the desperate hope that they will see the error of their obnoxious ways.
The FDA released an announcement in June that they were investigating the health risks of spray sunscreens. For now, Consumer Reports is urging parents to steer clear of spray sunscreens completely, if possible. One spray sunscreen in particular, Ocean Potion Kids Instant Dry Mist SPF 50, was even removed from their list of recommended sunscreens due to the fact that it is marketed specifically for children.