The practice of leaf-peeping is popular for good reason, but heading north for crisp air and warm tones isn’t the only way to embrace the arrival of the year’s coziest season. A trip to the Palm Beaches, a tropical region of South Florida stretching from Tequesta to Boca Raton, will greet you with palms instead of pines—but squeezing in one last beach vacation may be just what you need to prepare for the cool temps and cloudy days ahead.
This year, the autumnal equinox arrives on Monday, Sept. 23, and with the change of season comes an excuse to get away before turning your attention toward pumpkins and presents. As summer fades into memory, head south instead of north for a fall getaway that will grant you rest, rejuvenation, and sun-kissed skin before the hectic hit of the holiday season.
You’ll still soak up gorgeous golden hues with your time off—but Florida’s come from the sun rather than trees in transition.
Fall in The Palm Beaches
Florida’s often accused of having no seasons, or rather, one sole season (summer) with merely occasional breaks from the state-wide sweat-sesh. While the Sunshine State is indeed warmer than most others all year long, there are periods when you can walk outside without being accosted by humidity and high heat indexes. Fall is one of them.
As summer softens to autumn in South Florida, the sunshine remains ever-present, but the temperature lessens its intensity, and the area comes alive, kept cooler than inland spots by a constant sea breeze. Calendars fill with activities—most of them outdoor—and snowbirds begin their trek south as temperatures plummet up north but remain balmy near the equator. Florida may not warrant the boots-and-bonfire culture of colder states, but that doesn’t mean its fall traditions are naught: You’ll just be wearing a sunhat instead of a sweater.
The renowned West Palm Beach Green Market returns in early October, packed with 90 local vendors offering everything from sizzling arepas to fresh-cracked coconuts to exotic orchids; it’s immensely popular with locals and visitors alike (even Martha Stewart and Dr. Oz have paid the market a visit). Lake Worth Beach’s annual Oktoberfest, hosted by the American German Club of the Palm Beaches, takes place the second and third weekend of the month; and in true fall form, pumpkin patches pop up in every church parking lot you see. Swank Farms, located out west in rural Loxahatchee, hosts farm-to-table dinners and brunches with seasonal menus and all-local ingredients. Each of these is a natural addition to a fall Florida vacation itinerary.
Weather and Floridian takes on fall fun aside, autumn is a perfect time to visit for another reason, too: it’s chock-full of promotions that make for a pampered, well-fed getaway at a fraction of the usual price.
Many resorts and hotels in the area extend their free-night summer specials into September or even through November, so you get more bang for your buck during this time of year. For example, through Nov. 20, you can stay three nights for the standard rate at the recently refreshed Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach and receive the fourth night free.
In addition to hotel savings, you can eat well for less: Flavor Palm Beach, the restaurant month of the Palm Beaches, takes place every September. It’s the ideal time to sample food on prix-fixe menus ($20 for lunch; $30–45 for dinner) at 50 of the area’s best restaurants.
Lastly, October is Spa & Wellness Month, with offers from pink smoothies to a fully pink room at the Hilton West Palm Beach; a portion of the proceeds from the month-long promotion supports breast cancer awareness month. Fitness classes and facials are also on the docket, making October an ideal month to visit if you’re envisioning a stay that returns you home feeling brand new.
Things to Do in The Palm Beaches
All year round, there are activities and attractions to appeal to every type of traveler (even those who want nothing on the agenda but beach days and books).
Stroll the recently renovated Rosemary Square, formerly CityPlace, to enjoy a hub of retail, dining, and entertainment; or take the free trolley over to restaurant-filled Clematis Street, which spent the summer receiving a facelift that’s set to be finished in the fall. The Warehouse District, complete with a bustling food hall called Grandview Public Market, is another recent addition—and a worthy stop.
Those who appreciate the finer things in life will love getting a taste of the high-class history of Palm Beach. Tour the Gilded-Age Flagler Museum, shop high-fashion boutiques on Worth Avenue, take a drive past Mar-a-Lago (Trump’s “Winter White House”) or bike the Lake Trail, and end the day over an upscale meal at Ta-boo or Palm Beach Grill.
The more adventurous can fill their time with water sports like snorkeling, diving, boating, and kayaking or take a day trip to Fort Lauderdale or Miami on the Brightline. Packing a picnic for Peanut Island is another must; ferrying to this spot is like taking a vacation from your vacation.
To make your retreat complete, don’t forget to set aside some “me” time. Award-winning Eau Spa is a favorite for its decadent wonderland feel and thoughtful touches: think endless champagne and mini cupcakes plus a wishing well at check-in to prompt you to mindfully set an intention for the hours of bliss ahead.
Getting to the Palm Beaches
A transportive but accessible getaway, the Palm Beaches has three major airports located within its bounds or nearby: PBI, FLL, and MIA. Two major highways, I-95 and the Florida Turnpike, run the length of Florida, so it’s also pretty painless to road trip.
For a fun transportation alternative, there’s also the modern and sleek Brightline train, soon to be renamed Virgin Trains USA, thanks to Richard Branson’s involvement, which stretches from Miami to West Palm Beach. Taking the train gives visitors extra time to pack as much Florida sun as possible into their stay.
Skye Sherman is a freelance travel writer based (enthusiastically) in West Palm Beach, Fla. She covers news, transit, and international destinations for a variety of outlets but still gets giddy upon every return home to South Florida. You can follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter @skyesherman.