Fabulous and Fun Things to Do in West Palm Beach, Florida

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Downtown West Palm Beach’s waterfront, things to do in West Palm Beach

It’s a vacation destination that has it all. Located in sunny South Florida, the waterfront city of West Palm Beach offers beautiful weather, a vibrant downtown, easy access to gorgeous beaches, incredible dining options and world-class arts and cultural amenities.

This buzzing city is also the place I call home. While I’ve lived in other cities across the world, this one is my favorite — and I’m going to tell you why it’s a perfect spot to visit.

Here are just a few of the best things to do in West Palm Beach Florida that can be found within five miles of its city center.

Explore West Palm Beach’s Ultra-Walkable Downtown

West Palm Beach’s downtown is spectacular. The city’s famed Clematis Street stretches west from the waterfront, featuring blocks of funky restaurants, nightlife and cultural amenities like the Palm Beach Photographic Centre and Mandel Public Library.

Also notable is The Square, a mixed-use shopping and dining destination that offers restaurants, shops, a colossal light sculpture known as “The Wishing Tree” and a water sculpture for children to play in. The Square’s laid-back live music performances on the lawn each weekend are fantastic and family-friendly, as well as the city’s popular Clematis By Night concert series on its waterfront each Thursday.

The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, things to do in West Palm Beach
The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. Photo credit: Linnea Bailey

Attend a Show

For fans of the stage, the city boasts two sizzling theatrical venues in the heart of its downtown. Just west of The Square, the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts offers a nonstop schedule of popular Broadway tours, large-scale concerts, dance performances and more. This year, I’ve enjoyed attending the new “Live & Social” performances on the Kravis Family Plaza, which are free outdoor music concerts prior to the center’s ticketed shows. Each of these concerts makes for an excellent pre-show party or standalone event.

On Clematis Street, theater lovers will adore Palm Beach Dramaworks, a regional theater that offers dazzling dramatic fare in its intimate 218-seat Don & Ann Brown Theatre. Every seat in the house is outstanding, and my favorite night to attend is opening night (the first Friday of each run). That’s the night that each show’s phenomenally talented creative team is in the audience, and it’s a celebratory, unforgettable evening to see a show.

Richard and Pat Johnson History Museum

Located in the historic 1916 courthouse just north of Clematis Street, the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum offers visitors a step back in time. With free year-round admission, the museum houses a permanent collection of millions of artifacts and images spanning more than 12,000 years, as well as an ongoing schedule of rotating exhibits and events.

Our family loves the museum’s “barefoot mailman,” a lifelike sculpture whose display tells the story of legendary local mail carriers in the 19th century who would walk barefoot along the sand and row boats from Palm Beach County to Miami to deliver mail.

Norton Museum of Art

Several blocks south of downtown, the Norton Museum of Art is home to one of the region’s leading collections of art. Fresh from a $100 million renovation designed by acclaimed architect Lord Norman Foster, the museum maintains a permanent collection of more than 8,200 works, including masterpieces by American painters Stuart Davis and Jackson Pollock.

A favorite Friday evening date night is the Norton’s Art After Dark, featuring a lively lineup of live performances, film screenings, workshops and tours. We also appreciate the Norton’s kid-friendly Project Room, which offers families the chance to color and create in a second-floor space.

Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens

If you love being immersed in nature and monumental works of art, make sure to put the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens on your list. Located south of The Norton Museum of Art along the Intracoastal Waterway, the urban preserve includes 250 species of tropical palms and more than 100 large-scale works by Ann Weaver Norton, including nine gigantic monoliths nestled in the garden’s lush foliage.

Check the Gardens’ website for special events; we’ve attended some wonderful family-friendly events in the garden, and the annual “Jazz and Gospel in the Gardens” series (held once a month from December through March) is incredible.

Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society

Located on 23 tropical acres southwest of downtown, the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society offers the chance to see hundreds of exotic animals, with interactive animal experiences, nature and water play areas for kids, a lakeside café and pleasant paved paths to stroll along.

Perfect for all ages, our family loves the Palm Beach Zoo’s walkability and abundant shade; we have a family pass and visit often. There’s no better way to spend a breezy Florida afternoon than visiting our flamingo friends or watching the otters play.

The mangrove exhibition at the Cox Science Center and Aquarium, things to do in West Palm Beach
The mangrove exhibition at the Cox Science Center and Aquarium. Photo credit: Linnea Bailey

Cox Science Center and Aquarium

Adjacent to the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society is another gem: the Cox Science Center and Aquarium. The center includes more than 100 hands-on educational activities, a 10,000-gallon “Aquariums of the Atlantic” exhibition (featuring the chance to learn about alligators and ecosystems, including the eight distinct habitats of the Everglades), planetarium, traveling exhibitions and a discovery center for young children.

Engaging outdoor activities at the center include its 18-hole mini-golf course, splash pad and a quarter mile-long science trail. The center hosts daily live science shows, frequent laser light shows and special event programming, and I could spend hours in the center’s amazing permanent exhibition “Journey Through the Human Brain.”

Go Shopping

One of the most interesting things about West Palm Beach is its locally owned shops and unique shopping districts. Two miles south of downtown is the West Palm Beach Antique Row Art and Design District (known as “Antique Row”), a stylish collection of more than 40 antique, vintage, and modern shops and art galleries.

At The Square downtown, make sure to stop into Rohi’s Readery, a dynamic and inclusive children’s bookstore. And just north of downtown is Northwood Village, a charming historic neighborhood with its own main street filled with boutiques and cafes.

Outdoor sculpture ‘Stickwork’ by Patrick Dougherty at Mounts Botanical Garden, things to do in West Palm Beach
The monumental outdoor sculpture ‘Stickwork’ by Patrick Dougherty at Mounts Botanical Garden. Photo credit: Linnea Bailey

Mounts Botanical Garden

A 20-acre tropical paradise awaits at Mounts Botanical Garden, the county’s largest and oldest public garden. With more than 7,000 species of tropical and sub-tropical plants, this nationally acclaimed attraction offers visitors the chance to experience the wonders of nature. A living plant museum with 25 unique garden areas, each garden contains plants chosen specifically to tell a story and educate visitors.

Our family loves visiting the garden’s permanent installation of three enormous moai statues — replicas by artist Dennis MacDonald of the iconic and mysterious figures located on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile.

Walk or Bike Across the Royal Park Bridge to Palm Beach

This walk has long been a favorite of mine. From downtown, walk or bike east across the Royal Park Bridge to explore the elegant, prosperous town of Palm Beach.

Visitors will find The Society of the Four Arts and its lovely (and free!) Four Arts Botanical Gardens, as well as the opulent Henry Morrison Flagler Museum at Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age estate built in 1902.

For an upscale shopping experience, visit the chic shops of Worth Avenue. A favorite weekend activity of mine is walking east to the famed Clock Tower to enjoy the beach, swaying palm trees and views of the Atlantic Ocean.

More Fun Things to Do in West Palm Beach

There are so many other area attractions that are extraordinary, too. Animal fans will love feeding giraffes at Lion Country Safari, viewing rescued animals at McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary, visiting the nature center at Okeeheelee Park (featuring animal encounters and a nature-related gift shop) and seeing manatees at Manatee Lagoon (located along Flagler Drive near Riviera Beach).

Fans of water activities will love the water slides, lazy river and wave pool at Rapids Water Park, or kayaking and snorkeling at Peanut Island, a 79-acre island at the mouth of the Lake Worth Inlet. Marine life and sea creatures abound at this popular weekend spot.

The nearby beachside cities of Delray Beach, Juno Beach and Jupiter also make terrific day trips for ocean lovers.

Foodies will love the extraordinary West Palm Beach GreenMarket (Saturday mornings from October through April) and West Palm Beach Food Tours, exploring local eateries and fine dining options across the city.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in Delray Beach

Where to Eat in West Palm Beach

For a meal with an amazing view, visit the glass-enclosed RH Rooftop Restaurant, located on the fourth floor of RH West Palm and directly between The Square and the Hilton West Palm Beach. The Sunday brunch is delicious (tip: get there early to avoid a wait during the winter months!).

Elisabetta’s Ristorante at the eastern edge of downtown (across from The Ben, Autograph Collection) offers refined Italian cuisine, and Queen of Sheeba in the city’s Historic Northwest neighborhood brings the rich flavors of Ethiopian cuisine to South Florida.

In a charming 1920s cottage just south of the Norton Museum of Art, Serenity Garden Tea House & Café awaits for a traditional high tea. This is the perfect setting to mark special occasions: birthdays, holidays and milestones. And there are dozens of other superb restaurants in neighborhoods across the city; grand feasts await here.

The Brightline station, things to do in West Palm Beach
The Brightline station in downtown West Palm Beach. Photo credit: Linnea Bailey

Take the Brightline to Explore Nearby Cities

Downtown West Palm Beach offers a plethora of convenient transportation options, including planes (less than 4 miles from Palm Beach International Airport) and trains (a train station with frequent Amtrak and Tri-Rail options).

But its newest option is also its most exciting: the high-speed Brightline train, which takes passengers north to Orlando or south to Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Aventura or Miami. We love riding the Brightline! With a sleek downtown station, Brightline offers the option for quick day trips from the city without ever having to drive.

Linnea Bailey is an award-winning journalist based in South Florida. Her recent freelance work can be found in Southern Living, The Palm Beach Post, Florida Weekly, art&culture magazine, The Palm Beaches Blog and more. A former newspaper reporter, she now owns a communications company in West Palm Beach. Linnea is an active member of The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the North American Travel Journalists Association and the International Travel Writers Alliance.
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