A Family-Friendly Visit to West Palm Beach

May 7, 2018

Local mom and blogger Alyson Seligman offers some of her family’s favorite things to do in West Palm Beach, from attractions and fun photo opps to eateries and water sports.

Pack your bags for West Palm Beach! Whether you’re a local looking to explore your gorgeous city or a family looking to spend time in paradise with your loved ones, I can wholeheartedly vouch that this gorgeous, palm tree-lined city offers the perfect balance of relaxation and entertainment. And that comes from a mom of two who knows that the words “relaxation” and “family vacation” rarely go together. 

What I love about West Palm Beach is that there are so many things see, eat and do—it’s where you get the benefit of plentiful experiences of a big city, with the charm of a smaller town. Plus, if you’re flying in, Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) is the best; it’s quick and easy and about six minutes from Downtown West Palm Beach.

I also must share my favorite (and little-known) tip for navigating downtown West Palm Beach: the streets are named after flowers or plants—and they’re alphabetical: Banyan, Clematis, Datura, Evernia, Fern, Gardenia, Hibiscus…

Free Things to Do for Families

So, you’ve made it here. What should you do first? Take advantage of FREE fun! 

The city hosts plentiful free activities right along the waterfront, including a monthly Friday movie night under the stars, weekly live music, and one of the largest Greenmarkets in the state (open October through May). It’s all in the heart of Downtown West Palm Beach at the intersection of Clematis Street and Flagler Drive, next to Centennial Fountain (bring a bathing suit or just a towel—kids love to run through it!). 
 

For more free entertainment, each summer the city hosts Summer in Paradise; 2018 activities run June 7 through July 26. This year, they’re debuting an art installation called Fairy Tale Playhouses, where little ones can explore 15 outdoor, child-size houses themed from fairytales like Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Little Mermaid, and more. A croquet area, giant selfie opportunities (a fun family photo opp), and more are also in the works. 

While downtown, we also love the Mandel Public Library, because the children’s floor is not a quiet space (i.e., they enjoy kids exploring, talking and playing) and, well, my kids are not upset that there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts outside. We also often pop across the street for lunch at Field of Greens or Chick Pea; both are delicious (and pretty healthy, too).

Sweet Treats & Casual Eats

Now, want to really cool off and indulge in a sweet treat? Be sure to visit the yummiest ice-cream shop: Sloan’s! The iconic—and very colorful—spot has the most creative and delicious ice cream flavors. Though they rotate flavors, some favorites include Coffee and Doughnuts, which is made with creamy coffee ice cream and chunks of glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts; Carrot Cake, which is a wonderful combination of ice cream, pieces of actual carrot cake, cream cheese frosting and walnuts; and S’Mores, exactly what you’d expect over a crackling fire—graham crackers, Hershey’s milk chocolate bars and toasted marshmallows—but swirled into s’mores ice cream.
 

 
If you’re inclined to have a meal first, grab a bite at the super-casual longtime favorite E.R. Bradley's on Flagler that overlooks the Instracoastal Waterway. The restaurant and bar recently enhanced its waterfront "yard," too, with hammocks, swings and giant Adirondack chair.

Want to make your kids’ day? Definitely hop aboard the bright red trolley. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my son happier. Talk about easy entertainment, all with the breeze (it’s free, too!). The trolley navigates throughout downtown, so it’s a cool way to get a glimpse of the area and see buildings adorned with giant art murals, plus it can take you right over to CityPlace—an outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment destination. There’s a Revolutions bowling alley and restaurant (yup, all in one), a Cobb movie theater, and family-friendly eateries, including Mellow Mushroom for pizza and Saito’s for hibachi.
 

Local Favorites for Kids

Just south of downtown, you can easily spend a day enjoying the Palm Beach Zoo and the South Florida Science Center. The zoo keeps growing, with a newer flamingo encounter that’s at the top of my list. Be sure to bring a bathing suit, so your little ones can splash in the interactive fountains. The South Florida Science Center is another worthy family stop—and just down the street from the zoo—with a new LEGO exhibit. (Be sure to visit their website to see what other exhibits they have coming up.)

If you’re looking to spend time in the water, get ready: Visit Palm Beach offers daily excursions, kayak and paddleboard tours, Jet Ski rentals, bike tours, catamaran cruises, Segway tours and even a special summertime Fairy Tale Character Tea Cruise. 

Other worthy activities include visiting Mounts Botanical Garden. There’s a butterfly garden and a children’s maze, and if you’re a family that loves exploring new eats, you must visit Grandview Public Market, the city’s new food hall. It’s a really cool industrial space complete with family programming, live music and more. 

If you have older children, definitely check out the Northwood Village area, which features a monthly event called Art Night Out. The areas boasts art galleries, shops and restaurants, including the Grilled Cheese Galleria (incredible!) and Relish, known for its milkshakes.

What to Wear in West Palm Beach

Wondering what to pack for your stay in this little corner of paradise? It’s all about feeling comfortable, beating the heat, and enjoying the casual vibe. I live in day dresses, breezy shorts and tanks, the lightest crossbody purse that also accommodates a few snacks, wipes, sunscreen and oversized sunglasses.
 


Credit: Erica Dunhill

For your little ones, pack plenty of shorts, tees, polos, sundresses, bathing suits and rash guards, and keep the footwear simple: sandals or lightweight and waterproof sneakers that they can wear in the fountains and through any puddles from an afternoon rain shower are all you need.

Want more insider tips on life in The Palm Beaches? Follow Alyson’s blog at TheModernSavvy.com or her Instagram, @themodernsavvy.

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Alyson Seligman in The Palm Beaches
Alyson Seligman
Local lifestyle blogger Alyson Seligman at The Modern Savvy writes about family, home, style and wellness from her home in Palm Beach Gardens. For The Palm Beaches Blog, she's covered everything from what to pack for a visit to The Palm Beaches to the top things local families love to do here.