by Terry Ward | August 27, 2018

Cultural Riches in Vero Beach

In Vero Beach, the true gems lay beyond the coast, in the heart of town


Novelist Carl Hiaasen, country music star Jake Owen and the Florida Highwaymen artists are among the cultural beacons of Florida who call Vero Beach home. And though it’s the shipwreck booty recovered here that earned the region its “Treasure Coast” nickname, equal riches of the cultural variety inspire visitors to explore these golden shores.


For all the fun along Vero’s beachfront, it’s also worth heading inland across the Indian River to the vibrant downtown, anchored by 14th Avenue. Within a revitalized arts district known as Main Street Vero Beach, find shops, galleries and restaurants inside Mediterranean Revival buildings. Don’t miss the historic Vero Theatre, an Instagram darling. The monthly Downtown Friday gathering lures locals and visitors for a street party with live music. Wander into the Florida Highwaymen Landscape Art Gallery, which celebrates the 26 African-American artists who famously sold their work from the trunks of their cars a half-century ago. Some afternoons, second-generation Highwaymen painter Ray McLendon paints in the gallery, detailing his canvases with the flourishes of Florida’s moody landscapes. Cross the street for more Old Florida vibes at Barefoot Cafe, a favorite among locals, who gather at the tiki-themed bar for comfort foods like grilled Cajun chicken wraps and the epic macaroni salad. And if you love murals, you’ll find one of the latest additions to the Indian River Mural Trail along 14th Avenue—the unmissable rendering of a heart being pulled in several directions, surrounded by declarations of love.


The heart of Vero Beach culture beats inside a riverfront neoclassical building housing the Vero Beach Museum of Art, which attracts nearly 80,000 visitors each year as the principal visual arts facility in the Treasure Coast. From October 6, a visiting three-month exhibition called Made in Germany, featuring contemporary art from the Rubell Family Collection, showcases works by Thomas Schutte, Anselm Kiefer and other pioneering 20th- and 21st-century artists. The youngest members of the family can find inspiration at the museum’s Art Zone, a child-friendly space with chalkboard walls and a 25-foot interactive sketch aquarium that scans kids’ drawings and sets them afloat in virtual waters. Make time for lunch in the atrium at the airy Museum Café.


Riverside Park’s other cultural treasure, the Riverside Theatre, is the largest of all small-town professional theaters in the U.S. In addition to the Broadway-quality productions that play out here—West Side Story and Mamma Mia, to name a few—the theater has a dedicated stage for children’s productions and is one of a few playhouses in Florida designated a cultural institution, with the costumes and sets all created on-site.