If, like many of us, you’re one of those who tends to gravitate towards the big “M” on maps, you’ll love this guide to Palm Beach’s best museums. Filled with countless portals on to the past; enough art to fill a hundred galleries; and a deep sense of providence, these repositories of history will keep families entertained for hours upon end. And only a short drive from the palm-lined boulevards of The Chesterfield, they form the perfect cultural hot-spots for those seeking a retreat from all the sun, sea and sand that Florida’s famous for.
Built in 1902 for Henry Flagler, co-founder of Standard Oil, as a bit of architectural competition to the giant mansions of Rhode Island, the Flagler Museum is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece. Consisting of 75 rooms that remind one more of Europe’s grandest palaces than America’s swishest mansions, there are enough varieties of marble, furnishings, wallpaper, paintings and stucco to make even the nattiest grow giddy.
Forever linked to Ralph Norton, an industrialist who headed the Acme Steel Company, when Ralph and his wife moved south to Palm Beach in 1940 they decided to make their art collection public and host an art school, too. Later, Ann became Ralph’s second wife and when he died she started on her life’s work, the nine monumental garden sculptures that stand in memory of her husband. Still (despite lots of hurricanes) holding a host of wonderful and rare plants, people visit as much for the horticultural marvels as the art.
Making sure each generation remembers that science isn’t all about tidy laws and fusty textbooks, the Science Centre provides visitors with a giant Hall of Discovery, 30 hands-on exhibits, a digital planetarium, an education room, a theatre, a 10,000-gallon aquarium, and a science lab. Now visited by over 215,000 students annually, the new Conservation Research Station ensures sustainability isn’t just a buzzword, but something we can all aspire to.
A centre for Japanese arts and culture, Morikami hosts rotating exhibitions, monthly tea ceremonies and traditional Japanese festivals in order to provide authentic Japanese experiences in the USA. Built in 1993 and modelled on a typical Japanese villa, it features three exhibition galleries, a 225-seat theatre, a research-library, 7,000 objects and artefacts, a tranquil 16-acre garden and more than 200 textiles. Visit if you want to see a slice of the Land of the Rising Sun in America’s “Sunshine State”.
Internationally renowned for its collection of American, Chinese, European, contemporary and photography collections, the Norton Museum of Art is a real cultural heavyweight. Built in 1941 to house the art collection of the industrialist, Ralph Norton, its masterpieces include Gauguin, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Hopper, O’Keeffe, Pollock and Sheeler. Don’t rush in without admiring the exterior, however. Built in an elegant Art Deco style, its courtyard, sub-tropical garden setting and iron doors encourage a sense of wonder before visitors even enter.
If any of these museums sound like the perfect place to while away an afternoon, why not book a few nights at The Chesterfield, where the suites are stylish and peaceful.