Last Updated on February 17, 2023
West Palm Beach, Florida is home to sunny skies, palm tree-lined streets, quaint (high-end) shopping districts, historic neighborhoods, and exciting year-round outdoor festivals. Although “Beach” is in its name, there is no actual beach in West Palm Beach, the beach is in Palm Beach. But there is plenty of water. The Intracoastal waterfront offers green spaces with walkways on the east side. On the city’s western edge, you can hike, bike, and get a view of the Florida Everglades up close at Grassy Waters Everglades Preserve.
West Palm Beach spells fun: Segway tours, downtown trolley tours, sunset boat tours, food tours, antique shopping, exquisite shops, fine dining, Broadway-quality shows, a world-renowned art museum, pro golf, pro baseball, world-class fishing, and more.
I used to think that visiting West Palm Beach was only for the rich and famous. After visiting and exploring all the area has to offer, I’m sure you’ll agree that West Palm Beach has an adventure waiting for everyone. You’ll find history, culture, sports, and shopping, plus great food and drink.
Some say that spring and fall are the best times to visit South Florida. With all the water activities available, I’d say that any time is the right time. West Palm Beach is less than 60-miles north of Ft. Lauderdale, 70 from Miami, and 160-miles south of Orlando. Getting there is easy. Leaving is the hard part.
Norton Museum of Art
What began as the private art collection of industrialist steel magnate Ralph Norton and his wife Elizabeth is now the Norton Museum of Art, the largest art museum in Florida. It boasts over 8,200 works in its permanent collection. The museum opened to the public in 1941 and was the first of its kind in South Florida.
The five permanent collections—European, American, Chinese, Contemporary, and Photographic—were Norton’s favorites. His impressive Chinese collection contains over 700 pieces spanning 5,000 years. There are also rotating exhibits throughout the year. There is a museum store, coffee bar, and restaurant open during museum hours.
Florida-based art website SeeGreatArt.art considers the Norton Museum to have the finest collection of Modern art in the southeast.
Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
Just down the street from the Norton Museum of Art in the El Sid Historic Neighborhood is Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens. After the death of his wife Elizabeth, Norton married world-renowned sculptor, Ann Weaver.
The expansive tropical garden was designed by famous botanist Sir Peter Smithers and is comprised of over 250 rare palm species. Ann Norton’s art studio and historic residence are also on the property. Ann began placing her sculptures throughout the palm forest as “surprises” to be discovered. There are 100 pieces of her art displayed throughout the home, studio, and gardens.
There are rotating art exhibits, concerts, programs, and other events held in the Gardens throughout the year (Open October – June).
Clematis Street, full of culture and charm, is located in West Palm Beach’s vibrant and historic heart of downtown. One of the city’s most historic districts, it is now a thriving business and entertainment district that boasts many galleries, boutiques, nightclubs, and sidewalk cafes.
The east end of the street opens to Flagler Park and Centennial Square, an open and lively area on the waterfront and overlooking the marina. This area is host to dozens of special events, from street fairs to live performances and concerts. When we visited at Christmastime, we were pleased to find the Greenmarket and a sand-sculpture contest in full swing. There were dozens of vendor booths and sand sculptures up and down the waterfront, as well as one giant 35-foot-tall Christmas tree in the heart of the park.
If you’re looking for fun and perhaps rowdy nightlife, Clematis is the spot to visit, with its lively bars and nightclubs. One such place is Roxy’s Irish Pub (c.1933), with its roof-top bar has long been a late-night favorite of locals and visitors alike.
Created in 2000, Rosemary Square is a vibrant shopping, dining, and entertainment destination. There are tons of shops, spas, and eateries. Some of these establishments tend to be what you’d expect for the area – high-end and a bit pricey, but the square is still a great place to feel the West Palm Beach vibe even if you just window shop and people watch.
At Rosemary Square, you can see a movie, laugh at a comedy club, visit the arts district where works by local and international artists are on display, watch live entertainment under the palm trees or head to the Water Pavilion and immerse yourself in the H2O show.
Palm Beach Zoo
Visitors can “go wild” in this 23-acre tropical wonderland, otherwise known as the Palm Beach Zoo. Over 1,400 animals are housed in four major exhibits, including those native to south Florida and its wetlands. The other major exhibits are Asia, The Islands, and The Tropics of North and South America.
Yes, there are alligators, flamingos, bears, and panthers, too. There are also big cats, monkeys, exotic birds, and a butterfly garden. The zoo even offers up-close-and-personal experiences with some animals, including everyone’s favorites – sloths, koalas, and giant tortoises.
Fun for children (of all ages) is the Nature Play Pavilion and Kid Zone, where visitors can take a ride on the Safari Train and Wildlife Carousel. Other on-site amenities include the Tropics Cafe, Amazon Marketplace, and Wild Things Gift Shop.
Pro Tip: If the zoo wasn’t “wild” enough for you, check out the exotic animals at McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary. Tours are by reservation only by calling 561.790.2166.
Is golf your cup of “tee?” West Palm Beach is known for its incredible golf opportunities and there are a lot of them – more than 100 located in “The Beaches” area. You’ll walk in the footsteps of golf legends on these sun-soaked courses designed by the greatest architects in the sport.
West Palm Beach courses include everything from fun municipal courses to exclusive-private courses like Banyan Cay Resort & Golf, a unique luxury resort.
The Breakers Rees Jones Course at Breakers West in West Palm Beach is a favorite of golfers at every level. Its famous sister course, The Breakers, is Florida’s oldest and one of the state’s best known; it is just 10-minutes away on the shores of Palm Beach. An Arthur Hills design, The Preserve at Ironhorse offers a one-day membership so visitors can check out their stunning course.
Meet the “Boys of Summer!” The Palm Beaches are the Spring Training location for the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, and Miami Marlins. Spring training baseball is a fan-friendly atmosphere everyone should experience at least once.
The stadiums are smaller, more intimate, have better access than the pro stadiums, and tickets are generally cheaper. Another plus is the players, fresh from their winter breaks, eagerly look forward to greeting their fans during the preseason.
The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals are thrilled to welcome fans to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches right in West Palm Beach. Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, just minutes away in Jupiter (14-miles), is the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins’ Spring Training home.
A Gilded Age must-see for any history buff is the Flagler Museum. One of my favorite places to visit, this museum is located just over the Flagler Memorial Bridge in Palm Beach. Once a magnificent, grand mansion, “Whitehall” was built by business tycoon Henry Flagler in 1902 as a “winter retreat” and wedding present for his new wife, Mary.
This historic 100,000-square-foot home has been preserved and restored by Flagler’s granddaughter and opened to the public to enjoy. Today, Whitehall is a National Historic Landmark and Museum, offering self-guided tours, changing exhibitions, and special programs.
After touring the museum, be sure to walk the immaculately groomed grounds. Enjoy the view looking over Lake Worth. Notice the cocoanut grove, the only remaining grove in Palm Beach. The impressive glass Pavilion houses Flagler’s equally impressive private railcar.
On a historical side note, the city of West Palm Beach was platted in 1893 by Henry Flagler as a community to house the people working in the two grand hotels on the neighboring island of Palm Beach across Lake Worth.
Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
Presenting a diverse schedule of national and international artists and companies of the highest quality, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is the premier location to spend an evening.
After a day of shopping or a scrumptious dinner at nearby Rosemary Square (0.3-miles) or Clematis Street (0.8-miles), you can relax and enjoy one of many ongoing performances at the Kravis Center. Over 800 events per year include ongoing performances by the Palm Beach Symphony and Miami City Ballet and guest performances by globally renowned musicians, artists, and singers.
The Palm Beach International Jazz Festival calls the Kravis Center home as well as the Annual Recital Showcase of the West Palm Beach Fred Astaire Dance Studios and Regional Arts Classical Concert Series. See award-winning Broadway shows such as CATS and My Fair Lady. With three fantastic stages, there is always something for everyone’s taste in entertainment at the Kravis Center.
Even though West Palm Beach does not actually have a beach, there is plenty of water, and water activities abound. In the water, on the water, or over the water, West Palm Beach has it all. Parasailing, kayaking, and paddleboarding on Lake Worth, through the mangroves along the Intercoastal Waterway, and even out in the ocean.
Diving and snorkeling are the best around Peanut Island and the Underwater Snorkel Trail near Phil Foster Park. Boats of all kinds, including jet skis, can be rented, and there are several boat tours and dinner cruises. Deep-sea fishing off the South Florida coast is some of the best in the world.
If you still want to curl your toes in the sand, there are several public beaches within a few minutes drive. A couple of my favorite South Florida Beaches are on Singer Island. Riviera Beach in Palm Beach Shores (6.7-miles) and a little further north is Juno Beach (12.7-miles) with its great fishing pier. And, of course, Palm Beach is just over the bridge.
Where to Stay in West Palm Beach
Hotels in West Palm Beach are expensive. Use the map below to look for a deal.