This urban oasis has been the traditional winter home of American aristocracy, with names ranging from the Kennedys, Rockefellers and Trumps, to a number of others, all of whom have come to escape the northern climes for this warm, beachfront paradise. In fact, we rank it at #7 on our list of the Best Luxury Travel Destinations In America. The average cost of a single-family home is higher in Palm Beach than any other city in the country, but just because you’re not in the one percent doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the paradise that is Palm Beach. Hotels, flights, and other travel amenities will be cheapest during the summer, which is Palm Beach’s tourism off-season, but be aware that summertime in Palm Beach is also hurricane season. Whether you’re looking for a day at your five-star resorts elegant spa or looking for a touch of class at the incredible Norton Museum of Art, top-notch amenities go hand in hand with family-friendly fun at this incredible destination. West Palm Beach is about a 50 minute drive from Fort Lauderdale (45 miles), 1½ hours from Miami (74 miles), 2½ hours from Orlando (170 miles) and 5 hours from Key West (230 miles).
Top 10 Attractions
1. A Day At The beach – With all the culture and nightclubs, the beach still stands out as the city’s number one attraction in our book. Palm Beach has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, ranging from scenic Tequestra to Boca Raton, there are 13 lifeguard-supervised and 2 unguarded oceanfront and inlet parks in Palm Beach County. Midtown Beach comes highly recommended among the beaches in West Palm itself. More recently, reclamation of sand here at Midtown Beach has enlarged the beach, adding space for visitors and locals and nesting areas for sea turtles. Admission to most Palm Beach County-operated beach parks is free, though there are parking fees at R. G. Kreusler Park in Palm Beach and South Inlet Park in Boca Raton.
2. Norton Museum of Art -The Norton is world famous for its prestigious permanent collection and top temporary exhibitions. The museum’s major collections are divided geographically. The American galleries contain major works by Hopper, O’Keeffe, and Pollock. The French collection contains Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings by Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Pissarro, and Renoir. The Chinese collection contains more than 200 bronzes, jades, and ceramics, as well as monumental Buddhist sculptures. Allow about 2 hours to see this museum. General admission is $12 for adults, $5 for students, and free for children 12 and under. Admission on Thursdays is half price all day.
3. Mounts Botanical Garden – Spread across this garden’s 14 acres is a wealth of plants that thrive in South Florida’s temperate climes. Specimens from six continents illustrate how diverse the growing conditions are in the region, and visitors can wander among plants that have differing needs and uses. Displays on vegetation native to Florida are available for browsing, and visitors often find inspiration for their own gardens in the living exhibits. Throughout the year, special events are held, and the plant sales, in which visitors can buy nursery plants and decorative garden accessories, are legendary. Admission to the garden is a donation of $5, except during special events.
4. Playmobil Fun Park – Kids adore this place and it is quite easy to see why. The 17,000-square-foot Playmobil Fun Park is housed in a replica castle and comes with themed areas like a medieval village, a Western town, a fantasy dollhouse, and more. Kids can play with the Playmobil boats on two water-filled tables. Video game lovers may get a little bored, but youngsters up to age 5 or so will love this place to no end There’s another Playmobil park in Orlando. They have a nominal admission rate of just $1 per person.
5. Flagler Museum – This luxurious mansion is nothing but opulent at its finest. Whitehall, also known as the Taj Mahal of North America, is a classic Edwardian-style mansion containing 55 rooms, including a Louis XIV music room and art gallery, a Louis XV ballroom, and 14 guest suites outfitted with original antique European furnishings. Out back, you can climb aboard the Rambler, Mr. Flagler’s private restored railroad car. Allow at least 1 1/2 hours to tour the stunning grounds and interior. Admission is $18 for adults, $10 ages 13-18, and $3 children 6-12.
6. Rapids Water Park – While it’s not quite as lavishly themed as Disney’s Blizzard Beach of Aquatica in nearby Orlando, Rapids is still quite impressive in its own right. There are 12 acres of water rides, including a children’s area and miniature golf course. A few new attractions opened in 2007, including the Black Thunder, involving a huge dark funnel and water; a Raging Rapids ride; and an aquatic obstacle course. Check out the Superbowl, a tubeless water ride that spins and swirls before dumping you into the pool below, and the Big Thunder, a giant funnel that plunges you down 50 feet in a four-person tube. General admission Monday-Friday is $39.99 and $43.99 on Saturdays and Sundays. Budget seekers should consider coming after 4pm for half price admission!
7. Jonathan Dickinson State Park – If outdoor activities get your blood pumping, this expansive park provides more than enough diversions to occupy your time. Over 11,000 acres of land guarantee plenty of space for the multitude of visitors who come to hike, camp, bike, and picnic in the rugged surroundings. Since the Loxahatchee River flows through the park, there’s also ample opportunity for water sports, namely canoeing along the river banks and fishing in both fresh and salt water venues. Nature trails, boat rentals, and tours of the Loxahatchee are also available. Admission costs up to $10.
8. Lion Country Safari – More than 1,300 animals on this 500-acre preserve, which holds the title of being the nation’s first cageless drive-through safari. It is divided into distinctive regions, ranging from the East African preserve of the Serengeti to the American West. Elephants, lions, wildebeest, ostriches, American bison, buffalo, watusi, pink flamingos, and many other unusual species roam the preserve and have the ability to come right up to your vehicle and start licking you. Driving the loop takes slightly more than an hour, though you could make a day of just watching the chimpanzees play on their secluded islands. Included in the admission is Safari World, an amusement park with paddle boats, a carousel, miniature golf, and a baby animal nursery. The best time to go is late afternoon, right before the park closes because it’s much cooler then, therefore meaning that more animals are likely to be active. Admission is $26 for adults, $23 seniors, $19 children 3-9. Van rental $10 per hour.
9. Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park – The mission of Palm Beach Zoo is to responsibly demonstrate its commitment to excellence in wildlife research and conservation by rescue, rehabilitation and propagation. The Zoo is a 23-acre facility with more than 500 animals, including some of the world’s most endangered. The Palm Beach Zoo is proud to be one of the few zoos in America which can provide their animals with outdoor housing year-round. General admission is $18.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors, and $12.95 for children.
10. South Florida Science Museum – Experience hands-on fun and enjoy amenities like a planetarium, aquarium, interactive galleries, and traveling exhibitions. The true star of this attraction is the Marvin Dekelboum Planetarium, which showcases a state-of-the-art, full-dome digital projection capability that allows visitors to take a virtual space walk or to explore the realms of the sea. Upgrades also include a new, programmable laser system to continue the popular laser concerts, LED lighting, and Blu-ray high-definition video technology. For those so inclined there’s also a mini-golf course, Galaxy Golf, where, for $2 you can putt around the planets. Admission $9 adults, $7.50 seniors, $6 children. Planetarium shows $4 adults, $2 children in addition to museum admission. Laser shows $5 per person
Marcello’s La Sirena – Subtlety and grace characterize this established restaurant, well known in the area for its attentive, unobtrusive service and impeccable cuisine. The Northern Italian menu focuses on al dente-perfect pastas, light as air and accompanied by sauces crafted of pungent cheeses, fresh herbs, tomatoes, cream and mushrooms. Just-caught seafood, especially salmon and snapper, benefit from the kitchen’s skill, and veal in its variety of incarnations is impossibly tender and satisfying. Salads, crisp and refreshing, are just as you’d hope, and the French onion soup is a house classic.
Morton’s The Steakhouse – Tuxedo-clad waiters set the tone for a Midwest classic that’s staked a claim on the Atlantic coast. Known for tableside presentations (yes, that’s a live lobster on the cart), this steakhouse is famous for its 24-ounce porterhouse and its hearty portions. Sides must be ordered separately at additional cost, and the menu offers seafood, chicken, and veal for those who don’t relish red meat. The menu provides wine recommendations to complement entrees. The atmosphere is super plush and simply divine in all respects.
Spoto’s Oyster Bar – Its doors thrown open to the breezes, Spoto’s enjoys the scent of the ocean, both from the water and the fresh seafood it serves. Brick floors, mirrored walls, and a ceiling adorned with copper squiggles on a teal background give the place immediate character. The cuisine makes it eminently worthy of notice. The raw bar features several varieties of oysters and clams, and the rest of the menu follows their inarguable excellence. Pan-seared sea scallops, bahamian conch chowder, Thai shrimp, trout pecan meuniere, and dolphin with a macadamia nut crust illustrate the range of dishes, and all fish can be poached, sauteed, broiled, blackened, or grilled to your specification.
You can’t visit West Palm without strolling down Worth Avenue, which is often dubbed as the “Rodeo Drive of the South.” Between South Ocean Boulevard and Cocoanut Row, there are more than 200 boutiques, posh shops, art galleries, and upscale restaurants. Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Hermès, and Louis Vuitton are just a few of the shops to be found on this side of town.
City Place – This $550-million, upscale Mediterranean-style shopping, dining, and entertainment complex can be found in downtown West Palm Beach. Among the 78 mostly chain stores are Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, Banana Republic, Armani Exchange, and Restoration Hardware. Restaurants include a Ghirardelli ice-cream shop, Legal Seafoods, the legendary Tampa-based Cuban restaurant Columbia, Taverna Opa, City Cellar Wine Bar and Grill, BB King’s Blues Club, and the Cheesecake Factory. The Muvico Parisian is a 20-screen movie theater where you can wine and dine while watching a feature.
The Gardens Mall – Those with a little bit bigger of a budget will want to head to the Gardens, the areas premiere shopping destination, with stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Nordstrom, yet also more affordable places like Sears and Macy’s. From Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci and Jimmy Choo to stores like the Gap and Abercrombie, there truly is something for everyone!
3 Star- Hotel Biba – Located in the historic El Cid district, this hotel offers 43 guest rooms with custom mahogany furnishings and burlap-covered headboards. Bathrooms are supplied with Aveda bath amenities. The Hotel Biba is a historic, boutique-hotel with ‘Bermuda Vernacular’ architecture. This property provides an outdoor swimming pool, a slate sun deck, a business center, a multilingual staff, a 24-hour front desk, wedding services and a wine bar. Complimentary treats include vehicle parking and high-speed Internet access.
4 Star- Jupiter Beach Resort – The Jupiter Beach Resort is located on the largest stretch of secluded beach in Jupiter and features 168 beautifully decorated guest rooms and suites. All units offer with free Internet connections, LCD televisions, clock radios, safe-deposit boxes, ironing equipment, coffee makers and private balconies. Bathrooms come with hair dryers, pedestal sinks and complimentary toiletries. Wet bars and other additional amenities are provided with select units. Wellness activities include 1,000 feet of private beach, an oceanfront pool, a waterfall spa and a 7,500-square-foot spa and salon. This resort also provides a 12,000-square-foot meeting/banquet space, a restaurant, a lounge, wedding services and a 24-hour front desk.
5 Star- The Breakers – This circa-1926 Palm Beach landmark is a tribute to Henry Morrison Flagler, the man who helped develop much of Palm Beach. Constructed in Italian Renaissance style, the hotel features handpainted ceilings, Flemish tapestries, Venetian chandeliers and a king’s ransom of artwork and furnishings. Enjoy an abundance of well kept pools, tennis courts, golf courses, a health club and spa. A concierge, children’s programs and business center are also available. Air-conditioned rooms are beautifully appointed and include cable TV, minibar, hair dryer, safe, Internet access and modem connection. It has 572 rooms, including 57 suites.