Best 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.
Updated March 25, 2016
- #1View all Photos#1 in West Palm BeachTours, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDTours, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
Overall, past visitors appreciated McCarthy's mission to rehabilitate injured or abandoned wild animals. Not only are the grounds well-maintained, but the tour guides are also informative, polite and engaging, according to reviewers. Remember, though, to make arrangements for this attraction well in advance since appointments are required. Another note: Children younger than 5 are not permitted.
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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.
Travelers praise Clematis Street's abundance of dining and shopping options, plus its waterfront views near Flagler. The Flagler end of Clematis Street also hosts the seasonal West Palm Beach Green Market, which features more than 70 food and plant vendors on select Saturdays and comes highly recommended by previous visitors.
- #3View all Photos#3 in West Palm BeachAmusement Parks, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDAmusement Parks, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
Though some visitors caution that this attraction is a bit expensive, most agree a visit here is a must. Past travelers especially appreciated the friendly staff and well maintained grounds. To cut costs, pass on park food and bring packed lunches instead. And for additional savings, check out the park's website, which sometimes offers printable coupons to apply toward park admission.
- #4View all Photos#4 in West Palm BeachEntertainment and NightlifeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and NightlifeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
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.
Though some former guests said audio quality and sight lines were hit or miss depending on your seat, overall, visitors rave about the diversity of performances offered. Many also praise the venue's friendly staff and convenient free parking.
- #5View all Photos#5 in West Palm BeachMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
Art lovers will likely appreciate the variety of artists represented in the small yet impressive Norton Museum of Art. While the permanent collections consistently wow guests, many praise the museum's temporary exhibits, which focus on everything from photographs of the Black Panthers to iconic toys. Others rave about the property's expansion (which was unveiled in February 2019), though a few caution that the museum is so spacious that it's easy to get lost in.
- #6View all PhotosfreeOkeeheelee Park#6 in West Palm BeachGolf, Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sports, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDGolf, Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sports, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
According to recent visitors, Okeeheelee Park is an ideal spot for those looking to relax or be active. For animal-lovers, the park's quiet grounds house butterflies and birds, and at the attraction's dog park, travelers can watch dogs run around with their owners. There's also an equestrian center, where jumping competitions are regularly held.
- #7View all Photos#7 in West Palm BeachGolfTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDGolfTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
Though most of West Palm's courses receive high praise from recent travelers, Okeeheelee Park's golf course has won over many visitors, thanks in part to its challenging 27 holes and affordable prices. Prime wildlife spotting make Ironhorse Country Club another crowd favorite.
- #8View all PhotosfreeCityPlace#8 in West Palm BeachEntertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
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.
Though some visitors bemoan long restaurant wait times and overpriced goods, overall, many found CityPlace to be worth exploring, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when there's free live entertainment. A free choreographed water show is also held every half-hour daily. Try stopping by for dinner before a show at the on-site Harriet Himmel Theater or the nearby Kravis Center, which sits just two blocks away.
- #9View all Photos#9 in West Palm BeachParks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
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.
While many previous visitors praised the garden's variety of flora and special events like a Lego exhibit and a tropical fruit tasting, several caution that airplane traffic from the nearby Palm Beach International Airport can be a bit noisy and unpleasant. Mounts' gardening and photography classes are also recommended, though keep in mind that each class costs extra to attend.
- #10View all Photos#10 in West Palm BeachZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
To fully enjoy your time at this South Florida zoo, previous travelers recommend visiting during a weekday. Walkways are a bit tight throughout the attraction, so when the zoo fills up on the weekends, it can feel a bit cramped and difficult to get around. Another tip: Plan your visit on a cooler day when the animals are more likely to roam their exhibits instead of lounging in the shade. Also, make sure to explore the grounds, which feature a variety of plants and impressive replica Mayan ruins.
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