If you’re dreaming of a winter cultural destination with ocean breezes, sunshine, and a vibrant arts scene, look no further than The Palm Beaches: a place where visual art, performances, and music take center stage. A place where you can revel in the mastery of a massive outdoor sculpture at Palm Beach County’s largest botanical garden by day and attend a world-class opera performance by night. A place where open air arts festivals abound.
Aptly named Florida’s Cultural Capital, The Palm Beaches offer visitors a dynamic vacation experience that can’t be found anywhere else. We’ve chosen six top picks for stunning cultural thrills this winter. Visit soon and enjoy every minute of fun!
Catch an international artist’s extraordinary outdoor installation
Best known for his immense sculptures built with sticks and saplings, acclaimed environmental artist Patrick Dougherty spent November 2022 working with a team of volunteers at West Palm Beach’s Mounts Botanical Garden on a dazzling new sculpture in his celebrated Stickwork series. One of more than 250 that he’s built worldwide, the sculpture follows a 2019 piece he built at the garden (first named “Twisted,” then “Cutting Corners” during its yearlong run) that became one of the most popular exhibitions in the garden’s history. Assembled by hand with 30,000 pounds of live willow branches, the new work is an interactive and experiential piece that invites visitors of all ages to roam through, admire and become part of the living art experience. A 20-acre tropical oasis, the public garden features 25 distinctive garden areas and more than 6,000 species of tropical and sub-tropical plants. Dougherty has said this will be his final installation at the garden, so don’t miss your chance to see his illustrious work before its gone! The new exhibition is currently on display through the end of 2023. And if you love flowers, get excited for a new large-scale botanical public art installation at the garden in April 2023 by contemporary artist Lisa Waud.
Experience an operatic masterpiece onstage at a renowned performing arts center
Palm Beach Opera will open its 2023 season with Giacomo Puccini’s iconic Madama Butterfly (January 20 – 22), an irresistible drama of unrequited love as well as one of the most enduring and beloved operas of all time. Sung in Italian with projected English supertitles, the story follows the heart-wrenching tale of Cio Cio San, a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval officer with disastrous consequences. Taking place in the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts’ majestic 2,200-seat Dreyfoos Hall in downtown West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Opera’s mainstage productions feature distinguished artists from around the world, immersive set and costume design, and an acclaimed orchestra and chorus. Palm Beach Opera is the oldest professional performing arts organization in Palm Beach County, so mark your calendars for other performances in their 2023 season, too: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s brilliant and sophisticated comedy Così fan tutte (February 24 – 26) and Giuseppe Verdi cherished comic romp Falstaff (March 24 – 26), based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Delight in jazz and gospel music in a picturesque sculpture garden on the Intracoastal Waterway
If you love the feeling of being immersed in nature while musical performances uplift and inspire, prepare for a truly unique concert series as West Palm Beach’s Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens presents Palm Sundays: the Fourth Annual Jazz and Gospel in the Gardens Series. Taking place on the second Sunday of each month through March 2023, the afternoon concert series creates a musical infusion of art and nature. Visitors are treated to jazz and gospel performances surrounded by the monumental works of Ann Weaver Norton and breezy palms on the main lawn. Picnic boxed lunches are available for purchase, with musicians that include Troy Anderson and the Wonderful World Band (December 11), contemporary jazz vocalist Nikki Kid (January 8), acclaimed vocalist Ritah Wilburn (February 12) and contemporary jazz vocalist Biana Rossario (March 12). And you won’t want to miss the chance to explore the spectacular two-acre property; located just south of downtown West Palm Beach along the Intracoastal Waterway, the urban preserve includes 250 species of tropical palms and more than 100 works by the artist, including nine enormous monoliths nestled in the garden’s lush jungle-like setting.
See art brought to life with chalk for a legendary downtown street painting festival
The largest festival of its kind in the country, the Lake Worth Beach Street Painting Festival draws more than 100,000 art lovers each February to walk the seaside municipality’s downtown streets and marvel as more than 600 artists put chalk to asphalt to create expansive temporary works of art. A dazzling display of outdoor living galleries, the works feature everything from replicas of famous paintings to three-dimensional illusions that create spaces and places so real that you’ll find yourself mesmerized. Presented by the City of Lake Worth Beach and slated for the weekend of February 25 and 26, 2023, the 29th annual festival celebrates a tradition that can be traced back to the streets of Italy in the 16th century, when nomadic artists would create stunning works on cobblestone streets. Free and open to the public, the performance art exhibition also features a mainstage with lively music performances, a festival food court, eclectic vendors, family activity areas, and more—in addition to unparalleled access to downtown Lake Worth Beach’s unique walkable restaurants and shops. Get into the artistic spirit and enjoy the immediacy of jaw-dropping work that must be seen before the next rainfall.
Join thousands for an incomparable annual cultural celebration in Boca Raton
A 10-day open air celebration of exciting performances and author events, Festival of the Arts BOCA’s 17th annual gathering at Mizner Park Amphitheater in Boca Raton will open with an unforgettable classic: a screening of Disney’s Fantasia accompanied by a live orchestral performance by Festival Orchestra Boca. Renowned for its diverse cultural offerings and intellectual fare, this year’s festival will take place March 3-12, 2023, with other performances that include the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, acclaimed jazz singer Nicole Henry, three-time Grammy Award winner Sergio Mendes, and the much-anticipated dance performance A Night at the Ballet. The classical favorite Scheherazade will serve as the centerpiece for a concert by Festival Orchestra Boca conducted by Constantine Kitsopoulos, and the annual Future Stars competition (presented with the Rotary Club of Boca Raton) will celebrate the region’s top young vocalists and dancers. Visiting authors include cultural satirist Fran Lebowitz, The New York Times bestselling author Lynne Olson, and business journalist Charles Fishman. Since its inaugural year, the festival has been heralded as an unprecedented cultural arts festival for The Palm Beaches, attracting more than 15,000 attendees each year and drawing world-class artists and speakers to the region. With a commitment to education, the festival also offers an array of master classes, school visits, lectures and open rehearsals for young people. Come experience the magic with this extraordinary South Florida tradition in the heart of Boca Raton.
Mingle with the country’s top plein air painters for a week of outdoor painting and collecting
For fans of glorious landscapes and scenes that have been painted outdoors, or “en plein air,” the Lighthouse ArtCenter’s 10th Annual Plein Air Festival at Palm Beach County’s northern end is a dream come true. This juried event brings 35 of the country’s top professional plein air painters to the destination for a week of outdoor painting, slated for March 5 – 11, 2023. Kicking off with a painting competition at Harbourside Place in Jupiter, attendees can spend the week attending free plein air painting demonstrations at picturesque locations throughout The Palm Beaches. Freshly-painted pieces will also displayed daily at the ArtCenter Gallery. On Friday, March 10, the popular Collectors’ Party and Sale at the center will offer the chance to mix and mingle with the artists and purchase all pieces from the week, while Saturday, March 11, will bring the festival’s exceptional Small Works Sale and Live Painting Event to the ArtCenter Gallery. The competition will be judged by Kenn Erroll Backhaus, the most nationally accredited Impressionist living today. And if you’ve ever wanted to learn from the masters (including Backhaus!), the festival also offers an array of Plein Art Workshops before or after the festival.
Looking to spend your winter relaxing in Florida’s Cultural Capital? Browse through our online events calendar for more fun and exciting arts events today!
Linnea Bailey is a freelance writer based in South Florida. A former award-winning newspaper reporter, she now owns a public relations company in West Palm Beach. Linnea enjoys traveling, spending time with family and experiencing all the arts and cultural offerings The Palm Beaches have to offer.