As a native of Palm Beach County and a resident of Wellington since I was in high school I thought I might post a few tips for the new to Wellington, Florida folks that start appearing about this time of year with a horse or two, a bikini and a Jack Russell. I am not going to tell you horse stuff because the people at your barn can handle that I am going to help you with the everyday stuff that you may want to know about beyond the horse show.
There are TWO Malls in Wellington….
Don’t get excited you are not coming to a shopping AND horse Mecca. The Mall at Wellington Green is the big shiny one up front on 441 (AKA State Road 7) the “Original” Wellington Mall is behind the Checkers on the corner Forest Hill and Wellington trace. Yes as the name implies it’s a little older than the new one. But don’t overlook its value. It has at least three businesses that most everyone uses at some time. First, Nut-n-Fits the tailor shop that has been in Wellington forever. They are as capable fitting a formal gown as repairing your shadbelly. Next the great little walk up US Post Office kiosk in the middle of the mall. Best time to stop in is early morning, but no matter what time you go the ladies that run the Post Office are models of kindness and efficiency. Last is Woody’s, your barn friends will even know about this place. Woody was the guy putting zippers in boots when everyone else was still using a plastic bag and boot pulls to tug them on. He and his guys can fix riding boots but will also give your Jimmy Choo’s a refresh, be warned that during season there can be a long wait for repairs, and so ask before you leave your boots.
The Pony Kids are Driving us Crazy
Things to do with the kids in Wellington can be hard to find. There are only so many hours of entertainment at the mall or in the swimming pool at the rental house. But have no fear there are some pretty cool options to entertain those children’s hunters when the show is over. A few of these are a little bit of a drive outside of the Wellington safety zone but don’t be discouraged, your GPS will get you there no problem.
First and closest is Lion Country Safari (located right by White Fences), yes it sounds silly but I promise even the adults will enjoy the drive through safari. The park that you can walk through after the safari is a little old fashion but the younger kids will love it. If the weather is warm bring swim suits and towels there is a splash park near where you feed the giraffes. Check on line for a discount ticket coupon.
If your pony kids fancy themselves little princesses why not take them to high tea at the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum. This is a very special treat for little and big girls alike. The entire experience is like traveling back in time with Gilded Age touches that include a special tea blended just for the museum. Don’t forget reservations. The museum is located in Palm Beach so it’s only about a 30 minute drive to the east, and I highly recommend you tour the museum before you leave, the home is beautiful.
Loggerhead Marine Center is worth the drive to Juno Beach. If the weather is nice plan to spend some time on the sand as well as visiting the turtles. The facility is a working sea turtle rescue center and they specialize in kids programs about turtles and preserving the oceans. They have fun theme days and turtle releases throughout the year; check their Facebook page for updates. Juno Beach is one of the nicest public beaches in the county with a large pier, wide white sandy beaches, lots of kite surfers to watch and the far north end is the Jupiter dog beach.
We Gotta Get Out of this Place
I live here year round and can tell you that it’s very easy to develop a Wellington rut. Going to the same handful of restaurants and seeing all the same people every night. While a quick trip to Miami or Orlando can cure what ails you that is a long way to go. Most of the seasonals will head to Palm Beach, City Palace in West Palm and the Clematis Waterfront when they leave the bubble. All good options but they get dull quick. I try and hit a few places that are a little farther afield to keep from feeling board, and here are a few favorites.
Best 30 minutes you can spend in a car is the drive to Delray. There are two options for entertainment areas in Delray, on the west side of town is the new Delray Marketplace, just off 441. It has a great movie theater where you can select your seats online before you go, a lux bowling alley, and tons of restaurants. It’s a very family friendly location. If you are looking for a bit more adult fun with top notch restaurants, people watching and more bars than are good for your liver keep heading east on Atlantic Avenue toward the beach. East Atlantic Avenue has grown up in the last 20+ years to be a walkable night spot that attracts people from all over looking for an alternative to the regular Florida fare. Early in the evening the crowd may be kind of gray haired but as the night goes you will notice younger hipper people flock to the area. Be on the lookout for fun festivals and events that happen on “The Avenue” all season long, the green market or brunch at a beach side restaurant is also a fun option during the daytime.
Not feeling the make-up and high heels? No worries. Grab you flip-flops and head for downtown Lake Worth. It’s a little crusty, very laid back and totally non-pretentious. The area has a random collection of open air bars and restaurants many with live music and a pretty happening weekly bike night. The Street Painting festival is a fun reason to check out the neighborhood but don’t forget about it if you are in search of a super casual night out. Located west of the Intercostal on the few blocks of Lake and Lucerne between the bridge and Dixie are smattering of hole in the wall places that can be fun, some of the locals are real characters. Also if you are adventuring in this area keep an eye out for a few restaurants that are popping up along Federal/Dixie in the SoSo (South of Southern) area, they open and close pretty often but the elegant and fabulous Cafe Sapori has been a stalwart of the area for years.
If you have not ventured north to Palm Beach Gardens or PGA (because the golf association is located here) there is no time like the present. It’s got the beautiful Gardens Mall, The PGA Commons Shops and Downtown at the Gardens all conveniently located right off the PGA Turnpike exit just 30 minutes north of Wellington. Catering to ladies who lunch and flocks of snow birds there is just about every major upscale store and restaurant a resident or tourist to Florida could want. All the areas are really lovely, well maintained with lots of parking and easy access. Many restaurants have patio dining and if you keep heading east on PGA Boulevard there are two restaurant that have dining along the Intercostal Waterway, Seasons 52 and Waterway Café.
Here’s to your wonderful winter in Florida with you horses, and even if you never leave the friendly confines of Welly World you can still make all your friends up North jealous by posting lots of selfies with palm trees while at the Winter Equestrian Festival. Please comment below with your recommendations for restaurants, attractions and everything else in the Wellington and Palm Beach County area, we horse people need to stick together.