Gorgeous manicured lawns, flowing palm trees in the wind, luxurious villas with unimaginative names like Casa Del Sun. Just crossing the bridge into Palm Beach is like being transported “to another world,” as local tourism officer Ashley Svarney puts it, one of pristine beauty and architecture. Already a playground for the rich and famous, there is one object of everyone’s fascination, of course: Mar-a-Lago, dubbed the Winter White House.
For some, power corrupts, while others have to settle for merely getting drunk on proximity to power (if you question this, ask anyone who has watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians). But it’s not just about Trump, as it turns out: Both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon boasted similar escapes here in Palm Beach.
Ready to start feeling presidential?
Visit the Gardens Fit for a (First) Lady
Start your day just south, around 10 a.m., when Delray’s Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens opens for the day. Originally a farming colony abandoned by Japanese settlers in the Roaring ’20s, the 16-acre museum plot boasts a bonsai collection, koi ponds and strolling paths fit for royalty — or a first lady: Melania Trump hosted Japan’s Akie Abe here in early February. If you’re tired of getting sand between your toes, the 200-acre park has nature trails galore.
Build Castles in the Sand
The beach: No more solemn reminder of how quickly legacies can be washed away (not saying names). If you can’t find a public spot for the same sand and surf as presidents along North Ocean Boulevard — more on that later — the next best thing is to head to Benny’s on the Beach, a sprawling beach restaurant in Lake Worth. Dipping and dining is encouraged, and on the weekends, celebrity chef Jeremy Hanlon ships seafood and Spanish rice from Valencia to cook up delicious paellas. If you’re lucky, you may even get a thank-you tweet from the president himself.
A Jaunt With Jack — and a Nod to Nixon
It’s now almost six decades ago when Jack and Jacqueline stepped onto Palm Beach’s North Ocean Boulevard as newly electeds, turning his parents’ two-story mansion at 1095 into what would informally become the area’s first Winter White House. It’s a beautiful sight for a drive, unless you were Richard Nixon, who lost to Kennedy in 1960 and often summered just a couple of houses down, at 1055.
Aficionados can get more from their power trip by visiting JFK’s Cold War Bunker on Peanut Island — never used, but created as a nuclear escape in the lead-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis — and charter the Honey Fitz, a yacht that carried not just JFK, but Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. Finish the afternoon sipping a Jackie O at Camelot, a semi-exclusive bar (there’s a cover charge if you’re not a card carrier) that celebrates all the glamour of the Kennedys without any of their infidelities — and yes, it’s right off Narcissus Avenue.
Drive the A1A Along Mar-a-Lago
It’s finally time to see firsthand the pleasures your tax dollars can bring: $ 3 million, so far, in added security for Trump, who has spent roughly half his weekends at Mar-a-Lago in his first 100 days. But don’t worry, the money seems well spent — at least from what you’ll be able to see from outside the purple-flowered hedges that guard the retreat from the wandering eyes of plebes (if you’re desperate to get in without the $ 200,000 membership, try snagging an invite to a charity gala held at the estate). Getting sentimental? Think about how just a few weeks ago, Trump ordered the first direct U.S. missile strike in the Syrian civil war from behind these very hedges.
As the sunlight fades, finish with what really is a magnificent drive, filled with terraces that spill out onto private beaches. It’s like when your working-class parents used to take you to gawk at the rich-person neighborhood down the street, only this neighborhood is built of Spanish-style architecture wrapped in all the haute of a Roman villa. Just like that.