Why West Palm Beach is the "place" to be!
The best 10 things to do in West Palm Beach
Once the home of Palm Beach residents’ servants and oil and railroad tycoon Henry Flagler’s workers, West Palm now acts as one of South Florida’s premier cultural hubs. All sorts of museums and arts venues can be found here, including the Norton Museum of Art and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. And with stunning Intracoastal views and constant sunshine, it’s hardly surprising that West Palm residents also enjoy being one with nature. Sites like Lion Country Safari, the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society and McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary offer visitors a chance to see various animals, while tranquil settings like Mounts Botanical Garden and Okeeheelee Park connect travelers to West Palm’s beautiful surroundings. West Palm boasts a buzzing nightlife and high-end retail scene, too, thanks to popular areas like Clematis Street and CityPlace.
Featuring more than 170 animals, including lions, tigers, panthers and lemurs, McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary is an ideal attraction for animal lovers. Unlike Lion Country Safari and the Palm Beach Zoo, McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary affords visitors an up close view of various animals, as well as interactive opportunities with many of the property’s smaller species. In fact, travelers can hold everything from baby alligators to pythons during each tour.
Frequently cited as the historic heart of downtown West Palm, Clematis Street epitomizes the fun-loving atmosphere of the city. Beginning at the street’s intersection with Flagler Drive near the Intracoastal Waterway, all sorts of bars, shops and restaurants await visitors. And on Thursday nights, the street’s Centennial Square comes alive for Clematis By Night, which offers free live music from 6 to 9 p.m.
Just 21 miles inland from downtown West Palm Beach sits Lion Country Safari, the first cageless drive-thru zoo in the country. Although it’s a bit of a drive, it’s well worth the trip to see more than 900 animals walk freely around your car. All sorts of animals can be seen here, including white rhinos, zebras, ostriches and lions. There’s also a walk-thru portion of the park called Safari World, where travelers can feed giraffes, birds and fish; play miniature golf; and enjoy paddle boats and water park rides.
With roughly 4,200 seats spread throughout four venues (including an outdoor amphitheater), the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is the spot in West Palm for the performing arts. The venue puts on approximately 550 gospel, jazz, classical and dance performances each year, including a variety of musicals and outdoor concerts. Notable past guests and performances include “Cats,” William Shatner, the Miami City Ballet and Michael Bublé.
When businessman Ralph H. Norton retired from the steel industry, he created the Norton Museum of Art to hold his impressive art collection. Since its opening in 1941, the museum has been renovated and expanded so that it now houses more than 7,000 pieces. The museum’s art is mostly separated by geography, with exhibits dedicated to European, American and Chinese art. There are two additional exhibits for photography and contemporary art as well. Noteworthy pieces in the museum’s collection include paintings by Picasso, Monet and Gauguin and sculptures by Theodore Roszak and William Zorach.
Located 7 miles southwest of the Palm Beach Zoo is Okeeheelee Park, where you’ll find several miles of trails (on which you can walk, bike or run) across 90 acres of woods and wetlands. Trails aside, the park, which can be reached by car or the No. 46 Palm Tran bus, offers a variety of other outdoor activities, including fishing, golf, tennis, volleyball and baseball.
Like Clematis Street, CityPlace is a hub of nighttime activity in downtown West Palm Beach. But while the former has a boutique-like personality, this mega-commercial complex hosts a well-known assortment of shops – Macy’s, Banana Republic and Sephora, to name a few. Taking the Cheesecake Factory approach (of course, there’s one of those here, too), CityPlace is a one-stop shop for visitors. You’ll also find numerous eateries to satisfy even the pickiest diners.
Home to more than 160 courses, including approximately 40 public greens, Palm Beach County boasts some of South Florida’s best golf. In fact, according to Golf Digest, 11 of South Florida’s top 35 courses are located here, many of which overlook the Atlantic Ocean, Clear Lake, the Intracoastal Waterway or Everglades wetlands. Plus, West Palm ranks as the world’s No. 9 Best Golf Destination. The Palm Beaches are also home to some of Florida’s Historic Golf Trail courses, or courses that were created in the early to mid-1900s by legendary golf course architects like Dick Wilson, Addison Mizner and William Langford. Notable championship courses in West Palm Beach include Emerald Dunes, Trump International Golf Club and the PGA National Resort & Spa, where The Honda Classic is played every February.
With 18 gardens and landscaped spaces that include everything from jacaranda trees and rose bushes to various herb plants and fruit trees, Mounts Botanical Garden of Palm Beach County offers all sorts of flora to explore. Themed areas include a butterfly garden, a Mediterranean garden and a tropical forest. There’s even a trial garden, where plants are grown to see how well they’ll perform for the average gardener. A nursery that sells various herbs, butterfly plants and unusual shrubs is also located on the property grounds.
It may not be as big and fancy as other zoos, but you’ll still see plenty at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society. Located within Dreher Park (about 4 miles southwest of downtown West Palm), the Palm Beach Zoo offers various animal exhibits, including multiple interactive experiences with koalas, sloths and tigers. Special kid and adult-centric events, such as a breakfast with the Easter bunny, a craft beer festival and a 5K tiger awareness run, are also hosted throughout the year.