It’s 20 minutes before sunrise and the sky over the Atlantic Ocean is fading from black to purple to orange to red, a visual symphony heralding the arrival of a new day. It’s too breathtaking for words and I have a front row seat in the sand just north of the Lake Worth pier.

Sunrises are beautiful anywhere, but there’s something special about seeing them over the ocean at a beach I can reach 10 minutes by bike.

Lake Worth Beach Pier

Growing up in Pittsburgh, I did not like the winters. I moved to South Florida in 1988 after graduating from journalism school and taking a newspaper job. Eventually, I found my way to Lake Worth Beach, a funky little town with a whimsical motto that spoke to me: “Keep Lake Worth Weird.’’ I fit right in.

And it wasn’t long before I discovered and embraced its many wonderful and quirky treasures, from the natural to the cultural to the culinary.

After watching the sun rise at the Lake Worth Beach Casino Complex, I’m ready for coffee and eggs at a table above the ocean — literally — at Benny’s on the Beach, a popular eatery on the Lake Worth Pier.

If the waves are big, I’ll pay $1 to walk out on the 1,000-foot pier east of Benny’s and watch the surfers. There’s action on the pier, too, where large pelicans gather on the railings in hopes of stealing the catches from morning anglers.

Nothing beats the scenery at the pier, but my two favorite breakfast spots are across the Lake Worth Bridge: The Pelican Restaurant on Lake Avenue, known for Indian fusion, and Farmer Girl Restaurant, an old-school eatery on U.S. 1 in my College Park neighborhood.

Snook Islands Natural Area

After breakfast, I explore the Snook Islands Natural Area, with its boardwalk winding around mangroves and wading birds at the northwest end of the Lake Worth Bridge. If the wind is calm, I’ll head north to the Lake Worth Beach Golf Club to rent a kayak and paddle south in the Lake Worth Lagoon.

For an added treat, I paddle under the bridge for an up-close view of a breathtaking mural, on the wall of the bridge’s main support, of a woman rising from the Intracoastal Waterway. Painted in 2017 by the artist Hula during Canvas Art Festival, the lady in the mural always turns heads whether you’re on water or on land strolling the walkways to the southeast in Bryant Park.

Lake Worth Beach is known around South Florida for hosting large annual events – the Street Painting Festival each February; the Palm Beach Pride festival and parade in March; the Midnight Sun Festival paying homage to the town’s century-old Finnish heritage with music, food and the amusing Wife Carrying Contest; and Dia de Los Muertos in October.

Benzaiten Center for Creative Arts

But there are plenty of year-round options, like the city’s vibrant arts offerings. I always enjoy the galleries on the ground floor of the beautiful art deco Cultural Council of Palm Beach County building, which spotlights the work of local artists like painter Serge Strosberg and ceramic artist Heather Couch. Admission is free. Be sure to walk outside and check out the larger-than-life Martin Luther King Jr. mural on the building’s south wall.

I always find something inspiring on the walls of mtn space gallery on Lake Avenue and at the funky Flamingo Clay Studio artists’ coop on South J Street.

An even more eclectic treat can be found just west of U.S. 1 at the Benzaiten Center for Creative Arts. The transformed historic FEC train depot houses working spaces for emerging and established artists and offers workshops in glassblowing, welding and jewelry.

Café Tecun

By now, I’m ready for lunch. If it’s Wednesday, I’ll stop by L-Dub Subs (slang for the city’s initials) on South J Street for their weekly special — the Mama Gizza Meatball Sub, made by a local gourmet pasta maker. Other days, I’ll grab a burrito and a cold Corona at Cafe Tecun, where the only thing better than the food is the friendly staff.

In the afternoon, I’ll take Lucy and Ginger, my friendly dogs, to Bryant Park or Spillway Park on the city’s north end and watch them chase squirrels.

During football season, there’s no better place for transplanted Pittsburghers to watch their Steelers than Dave’s Last Resort and Raw Bar in the heart of downtown. If the place is too packed, I’ll walk across the street to the roomier Irish Brigade with its multiple screens.

Lake Worth Playhouse

Lake Worth Playhouse

One recent Saturday afternoon I caught a matinee of “Oklahoma!” at the Lake Worth Playhouse, celebrating its 100th birthday this year in the heart of downtown. A few weeks before that, my wife and I stopped at the playhouse’s Stonzek Theater, home to great independent movies, and watched a music documentary called “The Stones and Brian Jones.’’

By the time the movie ended, we were primed for live music. But first, dinner at our favorite restaurant, Lilo’s Streetfood and Bar. The sidewalk tables were all taken — a testament to the great food — so we sidled up to the bar and ordered our usual yummy shrimp tacos.

Harry’s Banana Farm

By 8 p.m., we grabbed a table at Rudy’s Pub on South J Street and watched the Cedric Talton Experience. “No grouchy people allowed,’’ says the sign inside Rudy’s, where great live music can be seen all week, often with no cover charge.

On certain Friday nights during the year, weather permitting, we head back to the beach to meet up with friends and neighbors at the city-sponsored beach bonfires, featuring live music from bands like The Killbillies and The People Upstairs.

My day isn’t complete without a nightcap at Harry’s Banana Farm, a bar known for cheap cold beer and a rich sense of humor: Whimsical messages on the bar’s marquee – such as “Retirement: it’s like high school but your parents r never home”  – have been stopping traffic on U.S. 1 for years.

Finally, I’m off to bed, dreaming of another beach sunrise.


For more to do and see in Lake Worth Beach and across Florida’s Cultural Capital, visit our events calendar.