Vero Beach Delivers Resort Ambience
Yet Retains Its Friendly Feel
Disney's Vero Beach Resort is a low-rise hotel that helps preserve the character and environment of laid-back Vero Beach, FL.*
By Georgina Cruz
Recovered from a string of unwelcome visitors -- Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma in 2004-05 -- Vero Beach, a laid-back town of 18,000 along central Florida’s Atlantic coastline, is in the midst of a renaissance. New hotels, restaurants and attractions are again drawing travelers.
Vero (the "Beach" was added in 1925) was built on golden oranges and other citrus products, but tourism also is a prime product. Vero Beach is actually two areas divided by the Indian River, a part of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Travelers visit Vero’s west side for the historic town center and antique shops. To the east, visitors will find chic boutiques, luxury homes and the ocean.
Upscale Resort Ambience
What’s neat about Vero? The seaside town boasts an upscale resort ambiance. It’s a great spot for a stroll and lunch at a café. Good waves attract surfers. And anglers enjoy great fishing, thanks to the nearby Gulf Stream.
Enjoying nature's bounty is one of the hallmarks of a Vero visit.*
Few people seem stressed. Courteous drivers let you pass when exiting parking lots. And Vero's small town feel is evident in signs along the roadways announcing fairs, baseball games and local events.
Visiting Vero Beach, you’ll likely encounter a diverse mix of visitors, farmers, retirees, local residents and snowbirds (those who live in Florida during the wintertime – fleeing the coldness up north).
If you come, what’s new to see and do? Lots, according to Lori Burns, tourism/marketing director, Indian River Chamber of Commerce, who says: "We are thrilled with the new venues we can now offer our potential visitors."
The Riverside Theatre
One of Vero's cultural gems, this theater at 3250 Riverside Park Dr., is undergoing an $18-million-dollar expansion and renovation. Upgrades are being completed this month.
The theater’s 30-year-old auditorium was demolished. And, the building will soon boast a renovated 700-seat theater, with 100 more seats than the previous venue.
Also new are two center aisles for easier access to seats; a larger, curved balcony; an expanded lobby; a new second stage with seating for up to 250 people; state-of-the-art light and sound technology; and a garden. Call 772-231-6990 or visit www.riversidetheatre.com.
The Vero Beach Museum of Art
This museum at 3001 Riverside Park Dr., broke ground on a new $500,000 Alice and Jim Beckwith Sculpture Park, back in November. The 1.12 acre park is now welcoming visitors on the south lawn. It hosts rotating exhibits from around the world.
The Vero Beach Museum of Art offers a new outdoor sculpture garden.*
The venue's first exhibit, “George Rickey Kinetic Sculpture: A Retrospective," runs through May 20. Contact 772-231-0707 or www.vbmuseum.org.
Hotel and Resort Update
New Vero Beach lodging choices include the Vero Beach Hotel & Club, a condominium-hotel at 3500 Ocean Dr. After a multimillion dollar redevelopment project, the property now boasts 58 one-bedroom units, a pool, gymnasium, pool bar and grill. It’s a re-build of the former seaside inn that existed before the hurricanes.
In a second phase, the hotel plans to add a new building to house a spa, pool/waterfall, whirlpool, restaurant and 25 two- and three-bedroom units. Completion is expected this spring. Nightly rates start at $415. Contact 772-231-5666 or visit www.verobeachhotelandclub.com.
An upscale boutique hotel, The Caribbean Court, 1601 Ocean Drive, opens this winter with 18 rooms and a restaurant and piano bar. It’s across the street from the ocean, on the former Chez Yannick property. Expect Caribbean décor and antiques. The average nightly rate is $250. Call 772-231-7211 or visit www.thecaribbeancourt.com.
Opening in January 2008 is the Costa D'Este Beach Resort, at 3244 Ocean Drive. The hotel – before damage by several hurricanes -- was formerly known to visitors as the Palm Court. This four-star, Personal Luxury Hotel oceanfront property will feature 94 accommodations including five suites.
On-site perks include a spa, gymnasium, infinity-edge pool and restaurant. Rates are expected to range from $180 to $280 nightly. Contact Benchmark Hospitality at 281-367-5757 or visit www.costadeste.com (this Web site is expected to launch this month).
Places to Chow Down
You won't go hungry in Vero with such establishments as the Ocean Grill with its divine seafood and roasted duck. Arrive early as tables by the window are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 772-231-5409
If you like grilled Black Angus filet and roasted garlic mashed potatoes, then Tango's Seafood & Steakhouse is the place to dine. Call 772-231-1550.
Black Angus filet is a signature entree at Tango's.*
New restaurants include the French Quarter, 1920 14th Ave., serving Creole specialties. Gumbo, anyone? Call 772-770-4870.
Another new dining venue is the Polo Grill, 2855 Ocean Drive, offering fresh seafood and juicy steaks. Call 772-231-4665.
Disney's Vero Beach Resort, a 112-room inn with 60 villas overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, has a new executive chef, Michael Rosen. A seafood expert, Rosen has introduced new dishes in Sonya's (fine dining) and Shutters (oceanfront family dining).
New character breakfasts with Donald Duck and Goofy delight youngsters at Shutters. And the beachfront Green Cabin Room lounge has an expanded food/beverage menu and multi-night jazz performances.
Very Vero Pastimes
The Los Angeles Dodgers have come to Vero Beach for spring training since 1948. But this spring will be the team’s last year at Holman Stadium. The team plans to relocate its training facilities to Arizona. Contact 772-569-6858.
To see Dodger players off the field head for Bobby's Restaurant & Lounge, 3450 Ocean Dr. "They're usually here having dinner and socializing just about every night during spring training," said Doug Craner, bartender. "All our clientele love being around these guys -- it is very special." Call 772-231-6996.
Prefer the beach? Pastimes include summer guided turtle walks to see loggerheads nesting. Call 321-984-4852.
Some visitors enjoy renting a metal detector and look for doubloons from a Spanish fleet that went down off the coast in 1715; treasures still surface. One operator for metal detector rentals is Orchid Island Rentals. The cost is $6 an hour or $20 a day. Call 772-234-3436.
Even if you don't find coins, sometimes visitors find themselves with the beach all to themselves – a treasure unto itself these days in the Sunshine State.
For More Information
Contact the Indian River Chamber of Commerce at www.indianriverchamber.com. Another community resource site is www.verobeach.com
Georgina Cruz writes, along with her husband, Humberto Cruz, a weekly nationally-syndicated column, Retire Smart, often dealing with touring and cruising topics. Her travel articles have appeared in more than four dozen regional, national and international publications and she is the author of a guidebook on cruises.
*Photos are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of Disney's Vero Beach Resort and the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.