17 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in West Palm Beach
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West Palm Beach anchors Palm Beach County in South Florida and is a fast-growing urban area with numerous cultural treasures, countless excellent restaurants, and a bustling city center. It's a place where people congregate to enjoy one-of-a-kind shops, superlative dining, and countless entertainment options.
And, lest we forget, West Palm Beach is just minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean, with easy access to 47 miles of some of the best beaches in the United States.
Just across Lake Worth – named after the same 19th-century General as Fort Worth, Texas – is the tiny island of Palm Beach, one of the wealthiest towns in the USA. This ritzy community was built by industrialist Henry Flagler at the turn of the 20th century.
Where others saw an uninhabited, desolate island, Flagler saw a perfect haven for his rich and famous friends, and a great way to make money by charging them for getting there on his railroad. The industrialist's own home, preserved as the Flagler Museum, provides a fascinating look at the opulence of these early wealthy seasonal residents.
Scattered just outside of West Palm are several colorful towns that are also worth exploring, most situated near the beach. A few of these even boast revived and vibrant downtowns of their own, as well as communities of artists and craftspeople pushing artistic boundaries, many of them displaying their works on the sides of buildings or at local markets.
When you arrive in West Palm Beach, it won't take long before you realize that you'll run out of time before you run out of fun places to visit and things to do. Plan your sightseeing adventures with our list of the top attractions in West Palm Beach.
1. Rosemary Square: Endless Entertainment in "The Square"
Rosemary Square (usually referred to by those in the know as "The Square") is an exciting Mediterranean-themed retail and entertainment center where tourists can literally spend all day and night without experiencing everything there is to do here.
Rated one of the top things to do in South Florida, this revitalized downtown area offers a variety of fun shopping, dining, entertainment, and live music experiences. It's also a great place to simply sit and watch an endless parade of people pass by (and yes, there's free Wi-Fi access throughout).
You can visit clothing, jewelry, or gift shops; chow down on international cuisine ranging from Tuscan to Mexican, Southwestern US, or Japanese; or build your own lunch or dinner at one of the gourmet marketplaces. Follow up your meal with an ice-cream, frozen yogurt, or melt-in-your-mouth chocolate treat.
On weekend evenings, excellent local bands perform in the open-air Plaza. There's also the Improv Comedy Club & Dinner Theatre, as well as the AMC CityPlace 20, which boasts 20 movie screens and technological features such as an impressive IMAX experience. You can also easily access downtown's lively main street, Clematis Street, from here on a trolley bus.
Be sure to check for shows and concerts at the Harriet Himmel Theater, too. Built in 1926 and now fully restored, this architecturally significant, first-rate venue features various events, from concerts to exhibitions.
Address: 700 S. Rosemary Avenue, West Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: www.rosemarysquarewpb.com
2. Hear the Big Cats Roar at Panther Ridge Conservation Center
You're just outside West Palm Beach, but it feels like you're deep in the heart of Africa. At Panther Ridge Conservation Center, some of the world's big cats wander freely in large, open habitats replicating parts of Africa.
The brainchild of Judy Berens, who still runs it, Panther Ridge began back in the 90s, when people started bringing her big cats they no longer wanted or could care for. It wasn't long before she found herself caring for several big cats, so she began searching for land where she could create a refuge for injured or endangered animals and nurse them back to health.
Today, a mix of tigers, rare black panthers, jaguars, mountain lions, cheetahs, and smaller cats such as ocelots roam Panther Ridge, and you can watch Judy enter their cages and cuddle with them. Guided tours are available, including a fun twilight tour, a keeper experience, as well as a thrilling opportunity to interact with one of the park's elusive leopards.
Address: 12143 D Road, Loxahatchee, Florida
Official site: http://pantherridge.org/
3. See Florida's Beloved Sea Cows at Manatee Lagoon
One winter some years back, officials at Florida Power & Light's facility just north of West Palm Beach began noticing that manatees – Florida's beloved "sea cows" – were congregating around the facility's warm-water outflow, and the idea for Manatee Lagoon was born.
Today, Manatee Lagoon is one of the best places to visit in Florida to see these gentle 1,500- to 2,000-pound creatures. Manatees love people. If they see you on a dock, they'll swim right up and have even been known to roll over in the water, so people can pat their bellies.
On the endangered list for many years – mostly because of irresponsible boaters – they're now making a comeback, and today some 6,000 manatees are known to inhabit the waters around the state, more than almost any other place in the world (there's even talk of removing them from the endangered species list).
Manatee Lagoon's Discovery Center features imaginative hands-on exhibits, observation areas, a manatee webcam, and an outdoor deck at which the manatees congregate, especially in winter. The star of the show is Mia, whose travels and interactions with other sea cows you can track.
Admission to this fun attraction for the whole family is free, as is the parking. But be sure to arrive early, as the parking area does fill up quickly.
Address: 6000 N Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: www.visitmanateelagoon.com
4. Enjoy a Stroll along Ritzy Worth Avenue
On Worth Avenue, on the enchanting island of Palm Beach, local residents say that if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it. But the great thing about this street is that you don't have to buy anything to enjoy it.
Here, you'll find some of the most fashionable clothing and accessories shops anywhere, including top luxury brands such as Brioni and Louis Vuitton, alongside fascinating antique and decor shops. You'll also find the world's greatest jewelers and perfumeries, as well as unusual treasures, like the wonderful Raptis Rare Books.
Also in the mix are art galleries and department stores, along with the landmark Ta-Boo Restaurant, where the Kennedys used to gather. Set back in leafy courtyards are artists' studios, large bronze statues of children playing, and gourmet food shops. For a great coffee and a breakfast (or lunch) to-go, pop into Cafe Delamar located on Peruvian Avenue (go early and grab an outside table).
In winter, local historian Rick Rose runs Palm Beach Walking Tours, which take you into the hidden places along Worth Avenue. On these tours you'll see the home of Addison Mizner, the visionary who created Worth Avenue a century ago. Behind the home is the gravesite of Johnny Brown, the monkey who always perched on Mizner's shoulder and who once ran for Mayor of Palm Beach (and actually got some votes).
Address: Worth Avenue, Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: http://worth-avenue.com/
5. Immerse Yourself in the Gilded Age at the Flagler Museum
Henry Flagler not only created Palm Beach but many other important Florida landmarks as well, such as the Overseas Railroad to Key West (which was, alas, wiped out in a long-ago hurricane).
As you drive up to the 1902 Georgian/Mediterranean mansion he called Whitehall, you'll know instantly that this is no ordinary museum. Upon completion of Whitehall, the New York Herald promptly called it the grandest mansion in the world. Indeed, with a telephone system, electric lighting, and central heating – and 22 bathrooms – it was possibly the most technologically advanced home anywhere at the time.
Today, you can wander through the grand hall, kitchens, parlors, and studies that Henry Flagler wandered through, as well as the hallways where the art he collected on his travels is still displayed. His splendid home also became the first museum in Florida.
In addition to Flagler's own art collection, important revolving exhibits feature renowned painters, sculptors, craftspeople, and photographers. The Flagler Museum is truly a home – and a museum – for the ages. Guided tours are available, and afterwards, be sure to pay a visit to the museum's delightful café. Better still, opt for their wonderful afternoon tea experience in the garden, available in the winter months.
Address: 1 Whitehall Way, Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: http://flaglermuseum.us/
6. Visit the Norton Museum of Art
In the mood for even more culture? Then pay a visit to the Norton Museum of Art. Established in 1941 by Ralph Hubbard Norton, this excellent art gallery houses the industrialist's vast collection of artworks from around the globe.
Be prepared to take your time when you visit. The largest art gallery of its kind in Florida, the Norton Museum is home to some 7,000 works from Europe, China, and the US. In addition to its many galleries, there's also a lovely courtyard to explore, as well as a sculpture garden.
A variety of free tours are available, including fun after-hour tours on Friday evenings. The museum also offers a regular roster of lectures and educational programming. A restaurant and gift shop are also located on the premises.
Address: 1450 S Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: https://www.norton.org
7. Take the Kids to Lion Country Safari
Another first-rate animal attraction that's sure to please is the Lion Country Safari. Set on 600-plus acres in Loxahatchee and just a short drive from Panther Ridge, this family friendly attraction is really two experiences in one: a fun drive-through safari (guests use their own cars), as well as a theme park.
Since its establishment in 1967, Lion Country Safari has welcomed countless visitors to view its collection of 1,000 animals, most of them in a cageless environment in which they can wander around relatively freely. Along the way, you'll hear commentary on your audio guide and get a chance to view a wide variety of species close up (except the lions, who for safety reasons are behind a fence).
The theme park area, Safari World, includes a number of fun rides, waterslides, a petting zoo, and giraffe feeding experiences. Themed guided tours are also available.
Address: 1301 Summit Blvd, West Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: www.lioncountrysafari.com
8. Enjoy a Day at Palm Beach Zoo
Although smaller than Lion Country Safari, Palm Beach Zoo is also worth visiting, especially if you're traveling with youngsters. Officially known as the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, it's home to some 550 animals from 190 species set amid 23 acres and makes for a fun day out.
Popular features include strolling through collections of native plants and learning about native animal species. The zoo features numerous exotic creatures from distant lands, too, including koalas, monkeys, and tigers.
Guided tours are available, along with animal feeding experiences and fun overnight stays.
Address: 1301 Summit Blvd, West Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: www.palmbeachzoo.org
9. Cox Science Center and Aquarium
If after visiting Palm Beach Zoo you've got a hankering to take the kids to another great critter-centered attraction, head to the Cox Science Center and Aquarium. The two properties literally back onto one another, and it's no more than a couple of minutes' drive through a pretty park area.
In addition to its huge central aquarium, this family attraction features plenty of fun hands-on displays of both native and exotic marine life. There's also a planetarium, a mini-golf course, and splash pads.
Address: 4801 Dreher Trail N, West Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: www.coxsciencecenter.org
10. Ragtops Automobile Museum
A must-see attraction in West Palm Beach for car enthusiasts is the recently renovated Ragtops Motorcars Palm Beach attraction. It's a monument to America's love affair with the automobile. Here, you can purchase (or simply ogle) classics that might include vintage Chevrolet Corvettes; a Deluxe Woody Wagon; or an even older 1933 Essex Terraplane Cabriolet, a beauty that comes complete with raised stand-alone headlights and a rear jump-seat.
Explore the vast warehouse-like spacewalks, and you'll also see all sorts of roadsters, street racers, convertibles, luxury cars, and movie cars. There are also models that haven't been made since the early days of the automobile.
You'll also see classic memorabilia from the Golden Age of automobiles, such as roadside signs, oil company emblems, and antique toy cars. Owner Ty Houck likes to say that if there was room in the trunk, he brought it home. (Note that you should contact the museum ahead of time for opening hours.)
Address: 2025 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: http://ragtopsmotorcars.com
11. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Drive about 10 miles south of the urban excitement of West Palm Beach, and you can experience primeval Florida. At the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, you'll see hundreds of species of animals and plants that exist only in the Florida Everglades ecosystem.
Here, on the northern fringe of the Everglades, you can see endangered species such as the snail kite and the wood stork, as well as the king of Florida wildlife, the American alligator. You can walk on elevated boardwalks through tropical landscapes such as marshes, mangroves, and hammocks (small islands in the Everglades).
There are numerous trails for walking or biking, along with watery "highways" where you can paddle in a canoe, such as the Marsh Trail or the Everglades Canoe Trail. And you can do all of this in a vast expanse of 147,392 acres. If your sightseeing wish list includes a place where the sights are animals and plants and exotic colors and landscapes native to Florida, and the only sounds you'll hear are the breezes rushing through the trees, this is it.
If the opportunity to visit Peanut Island arises, go for it. Home to the famous Kennedy Bunker (currently closed for renovations), you'll be rewarded with safe swimming at the beaches, water sports such as kayaking and canoeing, camping and picnic spots, fishing off the pier, and pleasant walking trails.
Address: 10216 Lee Road, Boynton Beach, Florida
Official site: www.fws.gov/refuge/arm_loxahatchee
12. DivaDuck Amphibious Tour
If you're looking for a fun family experience, there's nothing better than a DivaDuck sightseeing tour. You'll board a colorful amphibious vehicle – the "Diva Duck," of course – for a 75-minute narrated tour of West Palm Beach. And you'll go from paved street to picturesque waterway, and back again, several times, because this open-air bus with wheels is also a boat.
Your adventure starts downtown at Rosemary Square and then travels through beautifully transformed neighborhoods of classic Spanish and Tudor-style homes from the early-1900s, along with the shops, restaurants, and galleries of Clematis Street. Then, suddenly, you'll find yourself in the middle of Lake Worth (the Intracoastal Waterway), heading for the magical isle of Palm Beach.
Once you get there, you'll chug past The Breakers, a magnificent luxury resort that has symbolized Palm Beach elegance and style since 1896, along with the world-class Flagler Museum. Then, you'll enjoy a relaxing cruise along the Intracoastal, with an urban cityscape on one side and the enormous mansions of Palm Beach on the other.
Address: 1751 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd, West Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: https://divaduck.com/
13. Get Back to Nature at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
Since it opened in 1989, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park has made the flora and fauna that can be found in this part of the "Sunshine State" accessible to all visitors. Covering an area of 438 acres just a short drive away in North Palm Beach, it's criss-crossed by a superb network of wheelchair accessible boardwalks, along with well-maintained nature trails.
A highlight of a visit is crossing the 1600-foot-long pedestrian bridge over the estuary (it's connected to Lake Worth) to the beach habitat. Along the way, you'll see and hear an abundance of birdlife (bird-watchers, bring your binoculars!). If you're lucky, you may possibly even spot a manatee or two. Feel free to dwell on the bridge awhile; there's plenty of bench seating along the way, as well as shaded pavilions and picnic tables.
The beach itself is magnificent. Unspoiled and quiet, it stretches off into the distance in both directions. Take a stroll along the northernmost section, and you can easily forget you're just a mile or two away from luxury resorts and condos, at least until you turn around.
Those wanting to get out on the water have three choices: canoes, kayaks, or paddleboards, all of them available for rent from the on-site outfitters. Lifejackets are provided, and the craft are easy to climb aboard from the sandy launch area. Free nature walks are also available.
Address: 10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive, North Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: https://macarthurbeach.org
14. Take a Drive Down Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach
About 15 miles south of West Palm Beach, in the town of Delray Beach, is one of America's greatest examples of downtown renewal. As late as the 1990s, the dominant feature on Atlantic Avenue were darkened storefronts with "For Lease" signs in the windows.
Today, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated citizenry and city officials, this is one of the most bustling streets in Florida. It's lined with one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques; dozens of interesting eateries, from Greek to gourmet and seafood to sushi; sidewalk cafés (Over the Bridge Café does a great breakfast); cozy shops with hand-dipped ice-cream or chocolates; and art galleries.
Atlantic Avenue also boasts one of Florida's best people parades, especially on weekend evenings and Sunday afternoons. At the bright-yellow Colony Hotel and Cabana Club, a Mediterranean-style building with towers and turrets that has anchored this street since 1926, you half-expect Humphrey Bogart to be holding court in the lounge.
A block down, the Atlantic Avenue Bridge crosses the Intracoastal Waterway, and you'll walk past all types of watercraft, from built-for-speed jet-boats to luxurious yachts. Among them are the sleek boats of Delray Yacht Cruises, which will take you on a cruise along the Intracoastal in style. There's also a very pleasant promenade that's perfect for people watching.
In addition, Delray Beach is known for some of Florida's best outdoor art festivals. Bring your bathing suit and flip-flops, too, because Atlantic Avenue ends right at the beach.
Address: Atlantic Avenue, Downtown Delray Beach, Florida
15. Splash About at Rapids Water Park
Just north of West Palm, in the town of Riviera Beach, is an attraction that has been a South Florida landmark since 1979. Rapids Water Park is truly a place for kids of all ages, so prepare to get soaked!
Here, you can experience rides such as Big Thunder, with sharp turns through a dark tunnel and a heart-pounding 45-degree drop, or the thrilling Brain Drain, with two 70-foot enclosed water slides where you drop at 35 miles per hour.
In Pirates Plunge, you can choose from two high-speed enclosed body slides, each of which drops seven stories, if you dare. At Barefootin Bay, the kids can frolic in a watery playground filled with interactive experiences, while at Big Surf, the family can play in a 25,000-square-foot wave pool, with waves up to six feet. Be prepared for a great family day with plenty of screaming.
Address: 6566 North Military Trail, Riviera Beach, Florida
Official site: www.rapidswaterpark.com
16. International Polo Club Palm Beach
While you may not be a king or queen, you can certainly feel like one at the International Polo Club Palm Beach as you watch some of the best players in the world perform in this thrilling equestrian sport. A place of elegance and time-honored tradition, these lush grounds in "horse country" to the west of West Palm Beach host some of the most prestigious tournaments in the US, as well as the most stars.
If you've never seen the sport of polo, you'll enjoy it. The horsemanship is excellent, the teamwork precise, the goals thrilling, and the pageantry colorful.
Polo season starts around New Year's and continues to the last week of April. It's great fun (and a truly out-of-the-ordinary tourist experience) to enjoy traditional touches such as the grandstand seating or the champagne brunch, or not-so-traditional polo touches such as tailgating.
Address: 3667 120th Avenue South, Wellington, Florida
Official site: http://internationalpoloclub.com/
17. Antique Row Art & Design District
Hoping to go back home with a timeless treasure from your West Palm Beach trip? Then head for the Antique Row Art & Design District. Antique Row has more than 40 purveyors of quality antiques from the 17th to 20th centuries, as well as fine arts and decorative period pieces, furnishings ranging from Art Deco to vintage and modern, and a variety of other hard-to-find items. It will be hard to bypass any of these shops when you look through the windows.
The district also has several notable restaurants, such as the classic American eatery called City Diner and a converted 1950s drugstore called Rhythm Café. One of the best things about the district is that it's walkable, and most of the shops are near each other.
Address: South Dixie Highway (and nearby streets), West Palm Beach, Florida
Official site: www.westpalmbeachantiques.com
Where to Stay in West Palm Beach for Sightseeing
When it comes to top-rated accommodations for sightseeing in West Palm Beach, visitors are spoiled for choice. Whether you're looking for a beach resort or a cheap hotel, here are our top recommendations of the best places to stay to suit your budget.
- The Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach is a great choice of luxury hotel, featuring the same great ocean views from its swimming pool and restaurant as it does from its chic rooms and suites (pet-friendly accommodations are available).
- Another option to consider is The Breakers, an historic hotel that offers guests a choice of family- and adult-only pools, a full-service spa, private beachside bungalows, and beautifully decorated rooms.
- Finally, a stay at the ritzy Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa is well worth considering for its pampering spa experiences, five restaurants, beachfront cabanas, plus spacious rooms and suites with ample living areas.
- A favorite for those in the mid-price range, the Hampton Inn West Palm Beach Florida Turnpike offers clean, quality rooms; free breakfasts; parking; plus a great outdoor pool, all an easy drive from the beach and attractions.
- Popular for its handy airport location (it's just a few minutes' drive away), Hilton Garden Inn West Palm Beach Airport features great amenities including an outdoor swimming pool, fitness and business centers, plus clean, comfortable rooms offering free Wi-Fi.
- Those seeking a smaller, more intimate experience (great for couples) should consider Palm Beach Hibiscus. Located steps away from the downtown area, this boutique-style B&B offers guests cozy rooms, a backyard lounge area, plus great staff.
- The Best Western Palm Beach Lakes Inn is a solid brand-name offering in the budget category and features affordable, bright rooms close to grocery stores and with easy highway access.
- Just steps away from Palm Beach Outlets, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham West Palm Beach features clean, comfortable rooms with kitchens, a fitness center, plus a great bike-sharing program.
- The Red Roof PLUS+ West Palm Beach is another good choice of cheap hotel, and comes with a good central location, 24-hour front desk, an outdoor swimming pool, and free parking.
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