When I first moved down to Florida three years ago, I was staying with my grandparent's in St. Lucie County. Because it was primarily a retirement community, there was absolutely nothing to do other than go to the beach (which was great, I'm not gonna lie). After a few months there, I became convinced that all of Florida was the same way: beautiful, but ultimately kind of boring. When life and love moved me further south to Palm Beach County, I was pleasantly surprised by the world of activity that was suddenly available to me. I have been taken on dates to many of the places discussed below, so I can personally vouch for each one of these locations! Combine a great spot with some good chemistry and killer conversation, and you've got yourself an incredible first date. Guaranteed.
Grande's Bella Cucina
Growing up in an Italian family that spawned from north Jersey, I was surrounded by delicious Italian food my entire life--penne alla vodka, baked ziti, lasagna, and spaghetti and meatballs were meals I never went more than a week without eating. So when I moved to Florida, I was traumatized; no matter how hard I looked, I could not find a decent Italian restaurant or delicatessan. After three long years, I was thankfully introduced to Grande's Bella Cucina in Palm Beach Gardens. Not only did they have a delicious bakery that made their own canolis (finally!) but their food is to die for. Located in a beautiful plaza, they offer gorgeous outdoor seating as well as romantic indoor seating.
Peanut Island is a beautiful, scenic little island in West Palm Beach. The waters are crystal clear, the reefs make for fantastic snorkeling, and nature trails allow you to explore the island to your heart's content. And you can never lose by bringing a blanket and two rafts and relaxing at the beach!
City Place is a classy shopping, dining and entertainment district in Palm Beach County. Situated at the center of Downtown West Palm Beach, they offer free live entertainment on the plaza every Friday and Saturday from 7pm-11pm. If your first date is taking place around the holidays, then this place is a must see! In addition to the nightly Christmas music and enormous tree, you can experience snow flurries every night through December 31st. They begin on the hour and continue for about ten minutes. It's a memorable evening to say the least!
Palm Beach Improv
Also nestled in amongst the shops and restaurants at City Place is the Palm Beach Improv comedy club. Tracy Morgan (from Saturday Night Live) is a frequent guest, along with Norm MacDonald, Pauly Shore, and many other professional and amateur comedians. Here's what impressed me most about this place when I first found it: you can get in for free. All you have to do is sign up for their mailing list and, believe it or not, you'll get emails offering up to 4 free tickets to an upcoming show for the first 80 people that respond. There is a two drink minimum caveat with this generous offer, but the drinks do not necessarily have to be alcoholic.
Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
Again, growing up in north Jersey, I was spoiled with Broadway and off-Broadway shows in NYC over the years. When I moved to Florida, I was sure I'd never find anything that could compare to the performances I'd seen up north...but that was before I discovered the Kravis Center. A state-of-the-art theater that seats 300 on the perimeter of City Place, the Kravis Center's upcoming plays include "Fiddler on the Roof", "Les Miserables", "South Pacific" and many more.
If your date is the active, outdoorsy type, a fun daytime date would kick off with lunch at Guanabana's in Jupiter. It's an authentic tiki bar and restaurant situated on the Jupiter River, with outdoor seating only and incredible food. What makes it interesting, however, is that after a light meal you can walk ten feet and be at the Jupiter Outdoor Center. From there, you can rent a kayak or paddleboards and have some fun on the water! If you're feeling adventurous, why not try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding?
Morikami Japanese Gardens
This horticultural extravaganza in Delray Beach will truly make you feel as though you've been transported to Japan. Morikami Gardens is a cultural center and botanical display that spans an enormous lake, and it includes a bamboo grove, bonsai collections, rock gardens, waterfalls, and a museum at the end. And there are plenty of private little areas to sneak off to along your path!
Clematis Street has a more down to earth vibe than the sophistication of City Place. My favorite hot spots include Lost Weekend (upstairs on top of Dr. Feelgood), with it's cozy couches, billiards, and air hockey tables; the eastern end of the street, which boasts a huge park with a fountain to play in; and Off the Hookah, brand new, red carpet style hookah lounge which is always a neat experience. Thursday nights are the hottest night in downtown West Palm because they feature Clematis by Night, a fountainside concert series that goes from 6pm-9pm and doesn't cost a penny!
Norton Museum of Art
Although it's admittedly not on the same level as the MoMA or the Philadelphia Art Museum, the local Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach has some pretty decent exhibits. If you're going to go on a date there, however, the one place inside that you absolutely must visit is the contemporary Chihuly glass ceiling room on the 1st floor, not far from the gift shop. It will take your breath away. I'm a dreamer, and ever since I first encountered this room, I've imagined how romantic it would be to get locked in the museum and spend an entire night beneath this under-the-sea montage.
Palm Beach Zoo
I walked around the Miami Metro Zoo in the middle of August a few years ago and wished I was dead. It was huge, and brutal, and suffocating in the Florida heat. Luckily for Palm Beach residents, the Palm Beach Zoo is comfortably smaller. Of course there's all the cute little animals you could imagine, but you can also check out the Tropics Cafe, the interactive fountain, or even the carousel if you're feeling playful (which you should.)