Situated in South Florida, between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and just an hour's drive north of Miami, Delray Beach is probably the coolest place you've never heard of in the Sunshine State. But don't just take our word for it: Rand McNally, together with USA Today recently voted the coastal spot as the 'Most Fun Small Town in America' as part of their 'Best of the Road Competition'. With its mix of art, culture, (surprisingly good) dining, shopping and, of course, year-round good weather, spending some time in Delray during your holiday in Florida really is a no-brainer. People of all ages come here, from students on Spring Break to golden oldies looking for love (Delray was recently voted as one of the top five places in the States for retired singles looking for romance!). Although less catered to families, the town does have parks and playgrounds, surveyed beaches and various child-friendly events throughout the year.
The bulk of activity is centered on Atlantic Avenue (Florida's longest main road) which runs perpendicular from the ocean and through the town. All along are restaurants, clothes shops, galleries and wellbeing boutiques, while only other significantly sized area is the Pineapple Grove Arts District which is off of Atlantic Avenue at NE 1st and 2nd Streets (see below). What's nice about the architecture of the place, making it different from say, Miami, is that it is low-rise, with no building higher than five storeys. That said, it does share an unfortunate characteristic with its southern neighbour, although to a lesser extent, in that it is somewhat superficial and fake and you get the impression that you are being judged. This should be no means stop you from enjoying your break in what is otherwise a charming and well-developed vacation destination.
While you may not associate coastal resorts with culture, Delray does offer several museums although some are not within walking distance from the town centre. For a look at life back when Delray was a fledgling community at the start of the 20th century head to Cason Cottage House Museum while for a full history the Ethel Sterling Williams History Learning Center & Archives Annex is the place to go. For Black history there is the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum and for nature lovers the two best spots are the Sandoway House Nature Center and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. If art and design is more your scene then where better than to head into the Pineapple Grove Arts District where you'll find galleries and furnishing shops. There are also many a gallery along the main drag, including that of famed American artist William DeBilzan, whose wafer thin figures are a trademark of his work (examples of which can also be seen in the open air in the from of sculptures along Atlantic Avenue). If you don't mind getting up early then the sunrise is also worth seeing from the beach!
Being award-winningly fun, Delray obviously has its fair share of restaurants (see below), bars and clubs for those wishing to let their hair down. Every night of the week crowds can be seen gathered in and outside of these establishments enjoying the spoils of coastal living. However, almost every resort down the coast has similar facilities. What makes Delray different is the array of events that go on throughout the year. For example, all through the winter is a series of free concerts every Friday while Artists in the Park gives the opportunity for local artists to exhibit and sell their works. Book festivals, food festivals, handicraft shows, music nights, sports events, parades, plays and more fill the rest of the year meaning whenever you decide to visit they will be something going on. Two of the biggest events of the year are the Delray Affair, the Southeast United States' biggest arts and crafts gathering (taking place between 5th and 7th April 2013) and the Delray Beach Garlic Fest which celebrates the health benefits and culinary possibilities of the stinky bulb. If, however, you prefer something a little sportier, then Delray has a lot to offer. As well as an 18-hole golf course and top class tennis facilities, the town offers some great diving with one of the highlights being a 100-year old ship wreckage.
Delray Beach doesn't have an airport of its own, however the two closest airports are West Palm Beach International to the north (just under 20 miles away) and Fort Lauderdale International to the south (around 33 miles away). To get around within Delray one of the best options is to use the Delray Downtowner, a free electric buggy service which takes you anywhere within the downtown area. If you see one in the street just flag it down or alternatively give them a call on +1 561 702 8519 and they will come and pick you up. Visitors can also book a ride and a table at one of a selection of Delray restaurants on the Delray Downtowner website. For the moment, the drivers, who are all lovely, make their money from tips, so be generous!
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Visitors thinking of going to Delray Beach during the summer months shoudl know that there's always the chance of a tropical storm or worse. In 2012 Isaac hit the coast and although there was no real damage or danger, it meant that you certainly couldn't go outside.
While there's no particular dish to be savoured in Delray Beach, the quality of the restaurants we found to be surprisingly high. Along the main drag and over at Pineapple Grove you'll find a wide selection of restaurants, although the range of cuisines is not huge. There's a fair share of Italian joints as well as French and American, plus a few Asian, South American and seafood options. If you are that way inclined you can also opt for fast food or snacky type places, although this would be a huge shame. We recommend Max's Harvest and Tryst for great food, while the burgers at Burgerfi are pretty damn good! There are several British style bars too in the area if you're feeling homesick!
To bring back
Again, there is nothing particularly idiosyncratic to bring back from Delray Beach aside from a nice tan! Probably the most original thing you could purchase is a piece of local artwork from one of the many galleries of from the many arts and crafts events that take place during the year. Otherwise the memory of a great Florida holiday should be enough!