Nothing prepared me for Brightline, the train that travels between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. And I’ve been on my share of trains from Singapore and India to Europe and of course the USA. It was an important part of a perfect day trip from Miami (or from Fort Lauderdale) to Palm Beach that included a fascinating new discovery, an exhibit by famed photographer Edward Steichen, gourmet lunch in an elegant outdoor courtyard, a beautiful “winter” day, great friends, and all with comfort, convenience, and totally hassle free.
First, the Brightline experience. Let’s start with the spacious, sparkling terminal with splashes of tropical color and a column with alternating digital images of flamingos and South Beach’s art deco buildings.
It’s all well marked and organized, and lest you can’t find your way, there’s friendly staff at every step of the way to guide you. Everyone we came in contact with, from those directing passengers and security, to on board attendants was friendly. You feel like they are proud to work there.
Want a beverage, Acai juice perhaps or a top notch coffee and pastry? There are several well chosen places to accommodate. On the way is a food court with many more options to come.
Choose from three classes of service — Smart, Smart Plus or Select. The seats in all three are very comfortable and equipped with phone charger, handbag hook and high speed WiFi. Smart Plus comes with a free beverage — wine, prosecco, beer, juice or water — and a snack including a choice of gourmet chips, Kind bars, cookies or candy. They also offer bike racks and pets are allowed.
Select offers unlimited beverages and an attendant, plus the use of a special Select lounge in each destination with food and a small business center.
Ticket prices vary by day of the week and time. They start at $15 one-way for Smart from Miami to Fort Lauderdale or Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach (short) and $20 one-way for the longer leg Miami to WPB or WPB to Miami. Smart Plus is on average $5 More and Select starts at $30 one-way . Trains run every 60 minutes from early morning to late evening depending on the day and special events going on. There are savings on a purchase of a 10 pack, weekend pass, 7 day and monthly pass. My roundtrip ticket in Smart Plus, leaving at 9:40 a.m. and arriving at 5:45 pm. cost $54 .
Once you arrive in West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale, it’s easy to call an Uber or Lyft. Brightline’s official rideshare partner is Lyft and they offer promotions for Brightline users (see here) and there are taxis at the stations as well. Major cultural spots, attractions, business and shopping destinations are almost all under 2 miles away from the stations; in other words, a short ride.
We went to the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, a palatial National Historic Landmark that served as the home of Flagler who is considered the earliest and most important developer of Florida. He built the railway and hotels from Jacksonville to Key West. Known as “Whitehall”, the press of the day called the home “more wonderful than any palace in Europe,” boasting 75 rooms and 100,000 square feet of space.The Museum showcases the opulent way of life, in period styles such as Louis XIV, Louis XV and the Italian Renaissance.
Here, Flagler entertained the greatest industrialists and thinkers of the Gilded Age. An excellent hour long docent tour described the highlights of the architecture, art and antiques as well as Flaglers history which was so intertwined with the history of Florida. While there we took in the exhibit of one of America’s more renowned photographers, Edward Steichen, who captured the essence of the movers and shakers of the 20th century for Vogue and Vanity Fair.
From there it was on to Cafe Boulud of star chef Daniel Boulud at the historic Brazilian Court Hotel. It’s a favorite in Palm Beach for lunch thanks to its lovely garden setting, attractive people watching and gourmet French cuisine.
We enjoyed a three course prix fixe lunch for $36 which, considering the quality and setting, was well worth it. We leisurely made our way back to the station for the 4:30 p.m. train, arriving in Miami at 5:45. Perfect, wouldn’t you say so?