Plan Your Next South Florida Staycation With Virgin Trains USA
Here’s a simple truth that you probably haven’t taken advantage of enough: For the price of a decent bottle of wine, you can now afford the travel to one of the country’s finest destinations.
We’re talking All Aboard Florida or Brightline or Virgin Trains USA, as they’re calling it now. And we’re talking about using it for a weekend trip to West Palm, Fort Lauderdale or Miami—a relatively stress-free trip to a place you’ll likely wonder why you don’t explore more often.
What to do once you get there? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this guide on where to stay, what to do and where to eat on your next weekend adventure.
West Palm Beach
Of the three Virgin Trains stations, none are more in the heart of everything than this most northern terminus of the line. Clematis and Rosemary Square are both within walking distance, and a short Uber or Lyft ride gives you access to Palm Beach. While the beaches are undoubtedly stunning—a bit more natural than points south—make this trip about exploring downtown West Palm, where there’s a renaissance happening these days.
10 a.m. Saturday: Go To The GreenMarket
After arriving on the morning train, the first stop is breakfast and shopping at what might be West Palm’s best event. Don’t think of the Saturday West Palm Beach GreenMarket (d) as just another farmer’s market. The event that takes over the waterfront park is a spectacle, full of live music, crafts and prepared foods. And if there’s a line for the just-made cider donuts, the wait is worth it.
Noon Saturday: Uber To Grandview
It’s admittedly a total surprise that one of South Florida’s finest food halls—even with gazillions of them in Miami—happens to be in West Palm. Not only will the selection at the Grandview Public Market (a)—everything from ramen to pizza pies—bring you back, but the vibe will too, especially with the relaxed covered outdoor area that’s perfect for a family gathering or cocktails with pals.
2 p.m. Saturday: Uber To The Norton
Staid and safe used to be the reputation of the Norton Museum of Art (b), but that’s decidedly not true these days, as the art museum in the center of the city has taken strides to define itself as a place where art can be fun. Consider the current exhibition: “The Body Says, I Am a Fiesta,” exploring how the human form is depicted in Latin America. The museum also hosts a regular Art After Dark series, staying open until 10 p.m. for talks, performances, screenings and interactive workshops in the galleries and sculpture garden, which can all be washed down with drinks at the museum restaurant.
4 p.m. Saturday: Check-In To The Ben
The old city hall location was reborn with the arrival of The Ben (c), an Autograph by Marriott hotel with 208 rooms and a goal of becoming the city’s signature boutique hotel. After check-in, head up to the rooftop poolside lounge, Spruzzo, to watch the sky change colors over the city skyline and Intracoastal.
7 p.m. Saturday: Eat Like The French
Pistache (e) feels a lot like you’ve visited an actual neighborhood Parisian restaurant, with its banquette along the mirrored wall, linen-covered tables and a menu of French classics. Regulars know to make a meal out of the white wine steamed mussels.
8 a.m. Sunday: Start With Subculture
Before heading back south, grab a cup of coffee. Serious aficionados want a place that sources small-batch beans and roasts them in-house, as Subculture Coffee does. As a bonus, it also has a super-cool vibe, and being a Clematis Street space in the center of everything, it’s a good spot for one last look of the city before the train ride home.
A few years ago, a weekend trip to Broward’s cultural heart would’ve meant happy hour on Himmarshee and dinner on Las Olas. While those are still fine plans, we’ve come up with an itinerary that spreads out across the happening downtown, including the neoteric art district on the north side, within a short trip from the Virgin station.
10 a.m. Saturday: The Finest Of Breakfasts
After arriving on the train, head to OB House (a) to Fort Lauderdale’s best breakfast spot early, otherwise the line outside will seem daunting. The reason will become clear when choosing between the crab omelet, the baseball-cut sirloin and eggs or a skillet pancake that might make your whole trip worthwhile.
11 a.m. Saturday: A Meander To The Beach
The Las Olas Riverfront offers a downright gorgeous view of the New River and the downtown high-rises that cling along its shores. Start with a riverfront stroll, and the adventurous can continue on foot for the three-mile trek to the beach along the equally beautiful Las Olas Boulevard. Rent a bike or scooter to hurry things along, or better yet, make some stops along the way at places like the historic Stranahan House (c). Once at the Atlantic, there’s a sidewalk along the sandy beach that goes on for miles.
1 p.m. Saturday: Lunch With A View
The location of Park & Ocean (b) is worth it for the view alone, an elevated spot of dune with a view of the ocean crashing up on the sand across the street. The place isn’t fancy, just a slow-down-and-appreciate-the-view collection of picnic tables under the dappled sunlight of sea grape trees. It’s a bonus that the food and drinks are as good as the scenery, including a bacon-y burger paired perfectly with a rosé slushy.
4 p.m. Saturday: A Stay In Flagler
There’s been quite a gap in time since Fort Lauderdale welcomed a new hotel downtown. And then The Dalmar (e) arrived aiming high, creating a hotel trendy enough to feel at home in any major metropolis, with a fine dining restaurant, a giant lounge that looks as if it’s pulled from a design magazine and Sparrow, a rooftop bar that rocks all night.
7 p.m. Saturday: Dinner Downstairs
You won’t have to go far for dinner, as The Terrace Grill is the headliner for The Dalmar. It’s adorned in gold with cushy teal chairs and chandeliers that look straight out of an elegant 1920s dinner club. The menu is as classic as the look of the place, with lobster bearnaise, Dover sole meunière and a burger with spiced tomato jam.
8:30 p.m. Saturday: A Flagler Village Adventure
If it’s the last Saturday of the month, the Flagler Village and FAT Village (d) neighborhoods north of downtown host a raucous art walk, perfect for a stroll between galleries, craft vendors and a pop-up bar that benefits non-profits called Cocktails for Humanity. Even if it’s not the night of the art walk, there’s always the local social scene, like outdoor party spot Rhythm & Vine; the video-game-hangout-meets-night-club Glitch Bar; and drinks paired with ax-throwing at Chops + Hops.
8 a.m. Sunday: A Reviver At Wells
The bean-roasting machine sits right by the door as you walk into Wells Coffee. Get your morning started right with a pour-over of single-source coffee and sip a piping hot cup o’ joe from a window seat where you can watch bustling Flagler Village wake up.
Look, we’re not going to advocate for an overnight stay in the Virgin station neighborhood, which still has some work to do to earn an up-and-coming status. But the station is a short walk to the Metromover monorail, which gives you access to the city and a weekend of Magic City exploring.
10 a.m. Saturday: Eating on Arrival
The Miami station for Virgin Trains features Central Fare food hall, with eight spots open and more to come, including the Michelin-starred concept Kuenko. For the bleary-eyed coming off the train, head to Parliament Coffee and grab something sweet from Rosetta Bakery.
11 a.m. Saturday: A City Of Museums
Not far from the Miami station, either by Metromover or a quick jaunt in a Lyft, are world-class museums that any South Floridian should visit. In Museum Park, you’ll find the Pérez Art Museum (a) and Frost Museum of Science (b), two stunners. In Allapattah, the Rubell Museum just moved into a sprawling campus. Or head up into the Freedom Tower, a Miami Dade College history museum in a place that used to welcome Cuban refugees to their new home.
1 p.m. Saturday: Hit A Food Hall
Yes, this city has seen an explosion of food halls in recent years, but the good news is that there are many worth visiting. Brickell has a gleaming collection of Italian stalls at Luna Park (formerly La Centrale), and in the Miami Design District there’s the much-acclaimed Politan Row Miami (formerly St. Roch). The beach features a lineup of superstar chefs at Time Out Miami, and Wynwood showcases the decidedly more hipster 1-800-Lucky.
3 p.m. Saturday: All Of Wnywood
A collection of dilapidated warehouses just a decade ago, Miami’s art district has seen many changes in the past few years, and its latest incarnation is an area that’s hot from morning to night. An afternoon stroll down its graffiti-covered streets must include a stop at the mural-covered Wynwood Walls (c) and maybe a wee maple bacon-covered snack at The Salty Donut.
4 p.m. Saturday: A Stay In The Center
If you’ve done the weekend trip to Miami before, likely you made your base on the beach or Brickell. But boutique hotel The Gabriel (d) offers a central spot to explore the city just across from Museum Park, steps from the Metromover, and not far from every neighborhood you need to see. There’s a spa that specializes in detox treatments, a pets-welcome policy and a style that feels just as chic as the city.
7 p.m. Saturday: Dinner At A New Mainstay
Miami is a city undergoing a restaurant revolution, and there’s a long list of restaurants you need to try (to name one, the excellent Boia De). But KYU is a place worthy of continually ending up on lists of the best restaurants in town. Employing a simple strategy of serving tasty food, KYU kills it, especially thanks to the sweet-salty crab hot pot and a towering slice of coconut cake that you’ll surprise yourself by finishing.
9 p.m. Saturday: Neighborhood Drinks
The space occupied by Lost Boy Dry Goods used to be a men’s clothing store, which explains the dark wood and relaxed vibe. Or, more specifically, the place describes itself as an English pub crossed with “an old captain’s tavern in a Colorado miner’s saloon.” Either way, the drinks are crafted by ingredients made in-house, and the neighborhood feel is far more laid back than the pretension you might expect in Miami.
11 a.m. Sunday: Recharge In Wynwood
Figuring Lost Boy wasn’t your last stop—hey, it’s Miami after all—a late start to the morning can be corrected with a trip over to Wynwood. There, score a cortadito at Panther Coffee before a stroll over to Zak the Baker where you can grab a loaf of naturally leavened bread for the train ride home.
How To Get There
Virgin Trains USA
The privately owned train line stopping in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach runs about every hour during days and evenings, with tickets between $10 and $25. The company is currently adding an expansion to Orlando and plans to add new South Florida stops along the route. Virgin Trains (gobrightline.com) also has regular discounts and deals, especially for first-time users, so be sure to Google for discount codes before booking.
For The Train Averse
There are those among us who relish trains, soaking up the smooth ride and nostalgia for a mode of travel from yesteryear. However, most of us will need to take a car to the Virgin station, wait for a train and then maybe rideshare when we get to our destination, perhaps doubling the time and expense of the trip. For those who want more convenience, Uber and Lyft offer competitive, sometimes far better, rates to soak up our weekend getaway itinerary on these pages.
An Adventure In Getting There
Yes, there are a couple highways connecting South Florida. But if you have the means, start your weekend away with any other possible option to get there: Virgin, ride share, limo or heck, charter a seaplane with Tropic Ocean Airways (flytropic.com) and start your getaway on an adventurous note.