When Travel+Leisure published an article in their April issue titled “Why West Palm Beach is Suddenly Worth a Weekend,” I couldn’t pass up the chance to chime in with my two cents. I’m a local (and maybe the city’s biggest fan), and while I feel West Palm Beach has always been “worth a weekend,” I admit that the city has seen a major uptick in visibility and popularity in recent years, and I’m here to ride the wave—and help interested visitors do the same.
There are beaches, culture and tons of unique activities in West Palm Beach, and all of it comes with a dreamy tropical backdrop and a sprawling waterfront that’s never far away. I’ll share some of my favorite activities and restaurants, focused mainly on the downtown area, but keep in mind that this article barely scratches the surface of all there is to discover in West Palm Beach. Come see for yourself and find what jives with you.
Things to Do in West Palm Beach
Hit the beach
So, technically there’s no beach in West Palm Beach. That’s because the beach is across the bridge on the island of Palm Beach, separated from West Palm by the idyllic Intracoastal Waterway. But you can head straight over the bridge and go to the beach there (it’s less than a mile) or head to nearby beaches, like Lake Worth Beach or the resort-heavy Singer Island to the north. In the Jupiter and Juno Beach area, there’s a dog beach (perfect for those who love pups!) and super-photogenic, mangrove-covered walkways down to the beach.
Another option is a little local gem called Peanut Island, located in the Palm Beach Inlet. You can boat, kayak, paddleboard or take a ferry over and then spend the day exploring the island, grilling out, snorkeling and soaking up the sun. Near Peanut Island, there’s also a great snorkel and dive spot under the Blue Heron Bridge.
Attend a play
Add a little culture to your trip and attend a play at Palm Beach Dramaworks (kind of a small indie theatre that stages productions of “overlooked” plays) or the Kravis Center, where you can catch Broadway hits like Les Misérables, Lion King and even Hamilton (coming in 2020!). Both are located in the heart of downtown.
Check out Grandview Public Market
This New York-style food hall is one of the most popular attractions in recent years and has a lively calendar of events every week. The cast of food vendors rotates frequently, but some of the mainstays include a coffee bar, tacos, pizza, ramen and sushi burritos, Thai rolled ice cream and a fun indoor-outdoor bar.
Around the corner, Elizabeth Ave Station is a beautifully decorated space where local artisans gather to present and sell their wares. You can find everything from pottery to plants to vintage clothing—and don’t miss Bohemian Groove on the Move, an Airstream boutique outside that calls the Station home.
Ride a Bike & Go Mural-Hopping
West Palm Beach is covered in public art installations and murals, perfect for staging a killer Instagram shot. Rent a SkyBike and explore the area, from the West Palm Beach waterfront to the beauty of privacy-hungry Palm Beach Island. When you’ve seen all the murals, the Lake Trail on Palm Beach is a popular scenic biking route along the Intracoastal Waterway with unbeatable views.
Go to SunFest
If you visit West Palm Beach in early May, you’re in for a treat. SunFest is an annual multi-day music festival that takes place right on the West Palm Beach waterfront in the heart of downtown. For music lovers and those who can party all night long, SunFest is a great time to see some of your favorite artists up close and spend a fun-filled few days in the city.
Spend a Day Shopping at Rosemary Square
Rosemary Square, as CityPlace was recently rebranded, is a super-walkable urban oasis with shops, restaurants, bowling and more. It’s under construction through fall 2019 but all of the stores are open and accessible. Once you’ve shopped and dropped, go to the three-story, Classical-style movie theater for some air-conditioned downtime. (Psst: There’s a bar upstairs across from the Concessions stand.)
Take the Brightline
Sure, this is an article about West Palm Beach, but take the train to Miami or Fort Lauderdale for the day—you can enjoy their highlights without their headaches (bumper-to-bumper traffic, anyone?), and the advent of this new high-speed train is one of the most fun developments to hit the city in recent years.
Right now, Brightline has stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, but expansion is underway to connect the train to Orlando (with a hopeful Disney stop!) and even Tampa on Florida’s west coast. It’s also in the middle of rebranding to Virgin Trains USA under the tutelage of Sir Richard Branson.
Where to Eat in West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach and its neighboring cities have an overabundance of world-class restaurants, and which ones to visit during your stay should really depend on your tastes. A few of the most popular downtown West Palm Beach restaurants include:
Grato: Great pizzas and cocktails, and the perfect spot for a long Saturday or Sunday afternoon brunch.
Rocco’s Tacos: A West Palm staple! This is where most out-of-towners head for lunch or dinner. It’s upscale Mexican and the vibe is really lively.
Jimmychanga’s: One of our favorite spots to hang out on the weekends or after work. During happy hour, margaritas are $5 and the food is super fresh and delicious. I always get the chicken tostadas.
Batch: Probably my favorite restaurant on Clematis Street at the moment. The cuisine is New Southern and every dish I’ve tried here is delicious (but so filling you’ll need to take home leftovers).
Lost Weekend: This is where you’ll often find my husband and I on Friday nights. It’s a fun hangout with old arcade games and pool tables, and they have a great happy hour (50% off all drinks) and probably the best nachos of all time. Get them topped with beef brisket—you won’t regret it.
The Regional: A modern take on gourmet Southern comfort food with an award-winning (woman!) chef at the helm.
Loic Bakery: My favorite spot for coffee and pastries. There’s a friendly, whimsical vibe and it’s owned by a French chef who makes the best croissants, foccacia and quiches this side of the Atlantic.
Table 26: My favorite place for a special night out. Fresh seafood, steaks, classy American fare and you feel like you’re dining in a nice yacht!
Rhythm Cafe: West Palm Beach’s best-kept secret and a playful take on upscale neighborhood eatery. I always say it’s like going to dinner at your rich, eclectic aunt’s house. Bring a prom photo to hang on their wall and you’ll get a free dessert.
Galley at Hilton West Palm Beach: Not your average hotel restaurant. This is one of my favorite places to eat in all of West Palm (fresh fish! wood-fired pizzas! COOKIE SKILLETS!) and the signature cocktails prepared tableside are always a hit. The smoky old-fashioned is my go-to.
Pro tip: September is Flavor Palm Beach, the restaurant month of the Palm Beaches. Plan a visit during that month if you’re a foodie whose main goal is to eat when traveling!
Where to Stay in West Palm Beach
Hilton West Palm Beach: Built in recent years, this conveniently located hotel not only offers easy access to the best of West Palm Beach, but it’s also a destination in and of itself. There’s a gorgeous pool with a fun outdoor bar, cabanas and a great restaurant, and the rooms are modern and clean.
The hotel also hosts regular events for guests and locals alike including yoga, brunch, fitness classes and even a weekend of wellness titled District Fit, usually held in March and October. Visit during a District Fit weekend if you love to stay active when you travel.
Residence Inn by Marriott: Great if you’re traveling with a group or staying a while. This hotel also provides easy walking access to most of downtown and there’s free breakfast!
Hyatt Place West Palm Beach: There’s live music at the downstairs bar every night and an indoor pool and hot tub. Need I say more? This hotel is great for business travelers as it’s located right downtown, just a block or so from the waterfront.
Hotel Biba: A fun and funky bed and breakfast located in a quieter side of town that’s super close to the airport. Great for art lovers and those who love to learn a bit of history with their hotel stay.
Later this year, a new Canopy by Hilton as well as The Ben, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, will open, so visitors have even more options for laying their head after an action-packed day of West Palm Beach fun.