Don't Miss

Delray Beach, Florida

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By Russ Heaps

Drive Time: More than 5 hours
Fly: Delta 3 hours – Greenville/Spartanburg to Atlanta and Atlanta to West Palm Beach

http://mydelraybeach.com/

As Florida beach communities go, Delray Beach isn’t particularly well known. In terms of name recognition, it’s no Daytona Beach, Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Tampa; but it has plenty to offer including a gorgeous beach and warm Atlantic surf.

Located between Fort Lauderdale (about 25 miles south) and West Palm Beach (about 20 miles north), Delray Beach is part of Palm Beach County.

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On Stage at Boston’s on the Beach.

Not unlike Greenville, its main drag was once a wasteland of closed storefronts. Not until the state threatened to step in and widen the two-lane Atlantic Avenue, running from I-95 to the ocean into a four-lane express route to the beach did the city fathers, car dealers and special interest groups band together to turn this unattractive thoroughfare into the trendy boulevard it is today. And that beach traffic? It’s been rerouted onto a downtown bypass.

This is no sleepy little village. Its primary streets are crammed with traffic from morning rush hour until well into the night. You won’t find a livelier street than Atlantic Avenue, Delray’s main drag. Lined with boutiques, restaurants and night spots, it teems with people 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Some of the area’s most popular restaurants are scattered along its banks on the three miles from the freeway to A-1-A. Look for high-end restaurants, such as City Oyster, 32 East and Cut 432. They are surrounded by more affordable joints, like Bru’s Room, Blue Anchor and Deck 84. There are a few quirky joints scattered about, like Dada.

The bar at El Camino.

The bar at El Camino.

Some of our favorite downtown eating/drinking sites include Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza for a casual dinner and the Green Owl Restaurant – a Delray landmark – for breakfast. Want a touch of history with your burger or dog? Head to Doc’s All American Grill & Dairy. How about a craft beer from scores of brewers in a serve-yourself place brimming with atmosphere? Then it’s the Beer Trade Company. A relatively new downtown Mexican eatery that’s a blast, and has won our hearts, is El Camino.

Then there is the Saltwater Brewery. Pouring its own terrific craft brews in a comfortable setting. It doesn’t get much better for beer lovers.

Laid out in primarily a grid pattern, Delray is fairly easy to navigate even for first-time visitors. To experience “Old Delray,” consider a stay at the Colony Hotel just a few blocks from the beach. It may not be on the ocean, but it has a beach club with shuttles that make regular runs between it and the hotel. There is also the Delray Beach Marriott just across A-1-A from the beach. It’s also just a half-block walk to some terrific beachfront restaurants like Bostons on the Beach, Cafe Luna Rosa and BurgerFi.

Avoiding the surge of sidewalk traffic is as easy as hailing a ride from the Delray Downtowner providing free golf-cart rides around town.

Although there are art galleries, live theater, museums and other high-brow diversions, Delray is, at its heart, a resort city. Specializing in recreation, pampering and a wide-range of other self-indulgent pursuits, it targets visitors who simply want to get away from it all.

Delray features a myriad of golf courses (public and private), a tennis center and a beach with a variety of water activities. Or,

A little full-contact Jenga at the Saltwater Brewery.

A little full-contact Jenga at the Saltwater Brewery.

you can head to the Delray Boat Club where there are charter fishing boats, as well as boats for rent.

Delray is roughly a 20-minute drive from Palm Beach International Airport and about 35 minutes from the Ft. Lauderdale Airport on I-95 in off-rush-hour traffic. Whether driving along I-95, or traveling one of the other north/south arteries, such as A-1-A or US-1, first-time visitors will have trouble distinguishing one South Florida city from the next. Basically, it is one huge sprawl for the 100 miles from the northern reaches of West Palm Beach to Florida City – the last stop before hitting the Keys. So doing a bit of exploring by car will probably eventually mean accidentally meandering into Boynton Beach to the north or Boca Raton to the south.

If what you are looking for is a combination of high-energy nightlife, a variety of good restaurants, well-kept beaches and loads of sunshine, you won’t do better than Delray Beach.

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The Office on Atlantic Ave: great burgers and huge selection of craft beers.

The Office on Atlantic Ave: great burgers and huge selection of craft beers.