West Palm Beach Introduction Walking Tour, West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), West Palm Beach

Nicknamed “Orchid City”, “West Palm”, or simply “WPB”, West Palm Beach in South Florida owes its name to its location – immediately to the west of the adjacent Palm Beach.

The history of the region unfolds as a tale of encounters, conflicts, and transformations spanning centuries. The arrival of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León in 1513 marked the dawn of the historic period, revealing a land inhabited by thriving native populations. The Spanish conquest and subsequent European colonization brought some development while also largely decimating the native peoples by 1763.

The late 19th century witnessed the inception of West Palm Beach, a fledgling community nestled around Lake Worth, where diverse settlers cultivated tropical fruits and vegetables for trade. Railroad tycoon Henry Flagler's vision for a railway terminus and a community for hotel workers materialized in 1893, leading to the town's incorporation a year later.

West Palm Beach flourished amidst the Florida land boom of the 1920s, only to face devastation from the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane and economic downturn during the Depression era. World War II brought renewed vitality with the establishment of Palm Beach Air Force Base.

The post-war years ushered in another population boom, fueled by returning veterans and the advent of air conditioning. However, urban segregation and suburban sprawl posed challenges, exacerbating issues of crime and blight in the downtown area.

Since the 1990s, West Palm Beach has undergone a revitalization, marked by upscale commercial developments like CityPlace and the restoration of historic districts. Efforts to combat blight and promote economic growth have reshaped the cityscape.

Today, West Palm Beach has no shortage of attractions, especially when it comes to the downtown areas, such as Clematis Street, packed with an eclectic blend of boutiques, galleries, and alfresco dining spots. Just a stone's throw away, a picturesque oasis of Centennial Square Fountains beckons locals and visitors alike to admire the mesmerizing dance of water and light.

Culture-wise, the city is just as rich. The Norton Museum of Art showcases American, European and Chinese art, including Impressionist paintings.

The dynamic mixed-use development known as The Square is a vital community cornerstone that revitalized the downtown area.

As a city embracing its heritage and charting a course toward the future, West Palm Beach promises an unforgettable experience that embodies the essence of coastal living at its finest. So, come to enjoy for yourself this captivating place by the sea, where the echoes of the past harmonize with the pulse of progress!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

West Palm Beach Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: West Palm Beach Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » West Palm Beach (See other walking tours in West Palm Beach)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Author: Dan
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Centennial Square Fountains
  • Clematis Street
  • West Palm Beach City Center
  • The Square
  • CityPlace
  • Harriet Himmel Theater
  • Norton Museum of Art
  • The Royal Park Bridge
  • South Cove Natural Area
Centennial Square Fountains

1) Centennial Square Fountains

If you are looking for a place to cool down after a day of shopping and other activities, the Centennial Square Fountain is the place to be. Located at the end of Clematis Street, the fountain, features spouts that spray water at different levels. Part of the fun is trying to figure out where the water will come from next.

For those who wish to enjoy this beautiful backdrop without getting wet, the nearby benches will allow you to stay dry. The lunchtime and nighttime concerts in the courtyard are popular with the locals as are the free concerts at the nearby library. The fountains are the perfect way to relax after a long day of shopping. In addition to being very beautiful, the fountains are a favorite of local children.

After enjoying the fountains, you can visit Cabana, Sloan’s, Maison Carlos, E.R. Bradley’s Saloon, Umo Fashion, Blind Monk, the Meyer Amphitheater, the Kravis Center for Performing Arts, several historical churches, or one of other many nearby venues. Nearby hotels include the Hyatt Place West Palm Beach, Bradley Park Hotel, Chesterfield Hotel, and the Brazilian Court. The square is within walking distance of the West Palm Beach Waterfront and is open 24 hours a day.
Clematis Street

2) Clematis Street (must see)

Clematis Street stands as the vibrant heart of downtown West Palm Beach, offering a dynamic blend of culture, history, and entertainment. Spanning 8 blocks from Flagler Drive to the Intracoastal Waterway, this iconic street is a bustling hub of activity, drawing locals and visitors alike to its array of shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. Steeped in history, Clematis Street boasts prominent structures such as the Comeau Building and Harvey Building, dating back to the 1920s, which add to its timeless charm.

As you stroll along Clematis Street, you'll encounter a diverse tapestry of South Florida's culture and lifestyle. Colorful boutiques, art galleries, and antique shops line the thoroughfare, offering unique finds and treasures to explore. The street comes alive at night with vibrant nightlife, including live music venues and chic nightclubs where you can dance the night away. Culinary delights await at the street's array of restaurants, offering everything from international cuisine to local favorites, ensuring there's something to tantalize every palate.

Throughout the year, Clematis Street plays host to a variety of events and festivities, adding to its allure as a must-visit destination. From the lively farmers' market in the winter season to the renowned SunFest in the spring, there's always something happening along this bustling thoroughfare.
West Palm Beach City Center

3) West Palm Beach City Center

The West Palm Beach City Center is a 270,000 square foot five-story facility that houses City Hall, the West Palm Beach Library, and the Palm Beach Photographic Center. It is located on Clematis Street and is bordered by the North Banyan Boulevard. The cultural, civic, and artistic center opened in 2009. The hub is designed to be a one-stop facility for West Palm Beach residents.

The origins of the center began in 1995 when city officials realized that the previous City Hall was inadequate. In 1997, consultants determined that the existing City Hall was too small and did not meet hurricane code requirements. The City Hall building also had major issues with heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and the elevators.

The benefit of the West Palm Beach City Center is that it saves money by consolidating city employees and functions. There is also the added advantage of the revenue that the library and photographic center generate. Also, the library moving into the center has given the street waterfront access. The city also plans to create a City Commons and waterfront park in the location of the former library. In addition, the Palm Beach Photographic Center is host to the annual FotoFusion Festival.
The Square

4) The Square (must see)

In the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, you'll find The Square - an urban oasis that epitomizes urban renewal and modern architectural excellence. This upscale lifestyle center, formerly known as Rosemary Square and CityPlace, seamlessly blends Mediterranean and Venetian design elements across 600,000 square feet of prime real estate along South Rosemary Avenue.

The Square isn't just a shopping destination; it's a dynamic mixed-use development that has revitalized West Palm Beach. Boasting over 60 restaurants and stores, it offers diverse shopping and dining experiences, alongside rental apartments, condos, and offices, fostering a vibrant community.

Since its grand opening in October 2000, The Square has spearheaded West Palm Beach's urban renaissance, breathing new life into an area previously marred by crime and neglect. Today, it stands as a symbol of progress and urban planning's transformative power.

Anchored by LA Fitness and Publix, The Square remains a vital community cornerstone, despite Macy's closure in 2017 and the departure of AMC Parisian 20 and IMAX theaters. Renowned spots like Cheesecake Factory, Sloan's Ice Cream, and Starbucks keep the energy alive.

Beyond shopping and dining, The Square is a cultural and entertainment hub, enhancing Clematis Street's nearby attractions. With the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, and the Palm Beach County Convention Center within walking distance, it offers a rich cultural experience.

Getting around downtown is a breeze, thanks to an early-century trolleybus connecting The Square to Clematis Street. Whether you seek shopping, dining, culture, or a vibrant urban atmosphere, The Square is a cornerstone of West Palm Beach's thriving landscape.

5) CityPlace

The City Place is a mixed-used commercial development shopping center that caters to upscale clients. The 600,000 square foot facility consists of retail businesses, restaurants, a 20-screen theater, an open-air plaza, a cultural arts theater, and 570 private residences. Opened in 2000, the complex was architected by Elkus/Manfredi Architects, Ltd.

The design of the shopping center resembles a European theater. Macy’s, Banana Republic, Bath and Body Works, Imax, Publix, and Barnes and Nobles are just some of the 100 stores that visitors will enjoy here. The Harriet Himmel Theater, one of the most significant buildings in the center, hosts performing arts, receptions, exhibitions, fashion shows, seminars, and community meetings. The theater can host 275 people for dinner, 400 for a theater performance, or 600 for a reception.

One event to not miss is the dancing water fountain that performs each hour. In addition, there is the famous B.B. King’s Blues Club located in the shopping complex. The center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm and from Noon to 6 pm on Sunday.

One should also visit the nearby CityPlace Tower, located at the south entrance of City Place on Okeechobee Boulevard. CityPlace Tower is an 18-story building that offers office space in a variety of configurations. Each floor has 26,000 square feet of available space. Current tenants include Barry and Company, Cleveland Clinic Florida, INTECH, and the Comvest Group.
Harriet Himmel Theater

6) Harriet Himmel Theater

The Harriet Himmel Theater is an 11,000 square foot cultural arts center that is the centerpiece of City Place, an upscale lifestyle center located in West Palm Beach. Located on Rosemary Avenue, it was built in 1926 and was originally a Methodist church. The building was converted into an event venue and theater in 2000. The building reflects a Spanish Colonial influence.

The state-of-the-art facility frequently hosts plays, concerts, dance receptions, banquets, exhibitions, weddings, and other events. The facility can accommodate 275 for a seated dinner, 400 for theater, and 600 for receptions. Catering is provided by Ovations Catering.

From Happy Hour at McCormick & Schmick's to the Piano Bar at Lucille’s, or shopping at Macy’s, there are many shopping and entertainment venues one can appreciate when taking a break from the Himmel Theater. The facility is also near the CityPlace Towers, an 18-story skyscraper that offers office space to corporate clients.

Visitors should make sure to visit the nearby CityPlace Fountains to see a choreographed show that features lights and music every half hour.
Norton Museum of Art

7) Norton Museum of Art (must see)

Located on South Olive Avenue, the Norton Museum of Art was created in 1941 by businessman Ralph H. Norton to house his art collection. The mission of the exhibition hall is “to preserve for the future the beautiful things of the past." Marion Sims Wyeth designed the neoclassical style building.

The museum’s collection contains European and Chinese art from the 19th and 20th century to the present, and contemporary art and photography. Visitors will enjoy works from greats such as Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Monet, and Pollack. Current and past exhibits have displayed the works of Van Gogh, Jenny Saville, George O’Keefe, Mary Cassatt, and Andrew Wyeth.

The exhibition hall contains 14 galleries and an enclosed courtyard for special exhibitions. Outdoor sculptures, bronze vessels, and carved jade, are just a few of the items you will see when you visit. Chinese artifacts, such as the ritual wine pouring vessel, are simple yet beautiful.

In addition, the museum presents lectures, concerts, and programs that children and adults will enjoy. The onsite Café 1451 offers tasty meals and the museum shop sells a variety of gifts.
The Royal Park Bridge

8) The Royal Park Bridge

The Royal Park Bridge stands as a historic landmark connecting Palm Beach with West Palm Beach over the picturesque Intracoastal Waterway in Florida. As the second of the three bridges linking these two vibrant communities, the Royal Park Bridge has played a crucial role in facilitating transportation and connectivity in the region for nearly nine decades. Originally constructed in the early 20th century, the bridge underwent recent renovations to address significant damage caused by marine borers to its timber pilings.

Following the discovery of severe damage to the timber pilings in the arch bridge, the Royal Park Bridge underwent a comprehensive renovation project to ensure its structural integrity and longevity. Despite being nearly 90 years old, the bridge now stands as a testament to enduring engineering and craftsmanship, serving as a vital artery for residents and visitors traveling between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. As the oldest bridge in West Palm Beach, the Royal Park Bridge holds significant historical and cultural significance, symbolizing the evolution of transportation infrastructure in the region.

Today, the Royal Park Bridge continues to serve as a vital lifeline, offering convenient access for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists traversing between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. With its timeless architecture and scenic views of the Intracoastal Waterway, the bridge remains a beloved icon in the local community.
South Cove Natural Area

9) South Cove Natural Area

As one of three natural areas on Lake Worth, South Cove Natural Area covers six acres and serves as a vital sanctuary for local wildlife while providing visitors with an opportunity to connect with nature. Built by Palm Beach County in collaboration with other agencies, the natural area aims to restore some of the estuary's lost habitats and features due to decades of development.

A highlight of South Cove Natural Area is its three small man-made islands nestled on Lake Worth, just north of the Royal Palm Bridge along North Flagler. These islands, adorned with mangroves, reds, blacks, and whites, along with grasses, create a picturesque landscape that invites exploration and discovery. Visitors can stroll along a 556-foot boardwalk leading to the first and largest island, offering panoramic views of the surrounding estuary and shoreline.

As the mangroves mature, South Cove Natural Area is poised to become a haven for shorebirds, attracting species such as snowy egrets, little blue herons, grackles, and cormorants. The islands provide essential nesting and foraging grounds for these avian inhabitants, contributing to the region's biodiversity and ecological health. Additionally, the area offers a glimpse into the intricate workings of coastal ecosystems, with fiddler crabs bustling along the shoreline and ibis and brown pelicans soaring overhead.