10 Socially Distanced Things to Do in West Palm Beach
Editor’s note: In light of COVID-19, please review federal, state and local traveler guidance. Please also check with hotels and attractions before booking to confirm they are open and operating with safety precautions.
Whoever said West Palm Beach was just a retirement town was sorely mistaken. This charming Florida city is brimming history, art, delicious eats and tons to do, all wrapped up in a laid-back vibe. It also happens to be one of the best places in South Florida for a socially distanced staycation.
Unlike the hustle and bustle of South Beach, West Palm offers enough room to comfortably space out from others and enjoy a safe weekend away. Not only that, but most attractions are back open up north, with distance and sanitary protocols in place to keep visitors and staff safe. Pack a mask: Here are the best things to do in West Palm Beach.
1. Check Out West Palm Beach’s Whitehall
Beyond the beach and swoon-worthy designer shopping (hello, Worth Avenue) lies West Palm Beach’s Whitehall, which has reopened with social distancing protocols. The 100,000-square-foot Gilded Age mansion, once owned by oil tycoon Henry Flagler, is like the Versailles of Florida (it’s more than 100 years old). The 75-room palace includes gardens, bedrooms, ballrooms, living areas and dining spaces, which are all open for visitors to explore (just stay six feet away from other guests).
2. Explore Palm Beach Zoo
Another fun attraction is the Palm Beach Zoo, where you can roam the grounds to check out more than 500 animals (including koalas, llamas, sloths, and spider monkeys). Masks are required at both locations, so plan accordingly.
3. Visit Okeeheelee Park
Walk, bike or run around this beautiful park that’s located 7 miles southwest of Palm Beach Zoo and across 90 acres of woods and wetlands. While the nature center is currently closed, the trails are open (while practicing social distancing, of course). Here you’ll find plenty of peaceful spots for relaxation and lots of open space to get your sweat on, all set against the lush backdrop of Mother Nature.
4. Discover Mounts Botanical Garden
Even those without a green thumb will be enthralled by the amazing display of flora and fauna at the Mounts Botanical Garden. Fruit trees, rose bushes and palms are just some of the plants you’ll come across in the 14 acres of gardens, not to mention an ultra-tranquil butterfly garden and reflection pond. (Stress, what stress?) Located near the Palm Beach International airport, admission is a $5 suggested donation.
5. Geek Out at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium
This premiere educational and recreational facility boasts over 50 diverse exhibits, including 8,000-gallon salt water and fresh water aquariums that house both exotic and local marine life (think: stingrays and seahorses). Their ethos is simple: “science is exciting!” And a visit to this fun-filled center will prove exactly that. Now open and operating with social distancing protocols in place.
6. Explore Antique Row
This charming neighborhood along Dixie Highway features an impressive selection of antiques, fine arts, deco period pieces, contemporary and vintage furnishings and more. You can easily while away the afternoon strolling between stores (just don’t forget your mask) and perusing the many treasures at your leisure.
7. Stay at a Boutique Hotel (Away from the Beach)
Listen, we love a beach stay. But in West Palm Beach, accommodations along the sand mean that you’re further away from all the action. Instead, choose a hotel within walking distance of the town’s best restaurants, outdoor hangouts, shops and other attractions. Which is this case is The Ben, a charming 208-room hotel that opened in early 2020 and is the first of its kind on the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront. Because of its prime location, you’ll be able to get everywhere on foot versus taking a cab or ride-sharing service. But don’t worry, you can still hit the beach—it’s less than three miles away. Even cooler, this hotel has a storied past: Inspired by the Ben Trovato Estate, the Ben is modeled off of one of West Palm Beach's original Victorian homes from the late 1800s. (Psst: If you’re a Florida resident, take advantage of discounts up to 30 percent off.)
8. Sip a Cocktail (Or Two)
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: A not-crowded restaurant is actually a good thing during these Covid-19 times. As Palm Beach restaurants have reopened, you can indulge in a socially distanced chef-caliber meal every night of your getaway (or opt for takeout instead). With numerous safety precautions in place, expect single-use menus, disposable tableware, personal protective equipment for diners and staff and even plexiglass shield dividers between tables and dining areas.
First on your list should be The Breakers for a socially distanced cocktail. Created by Flagler, the hotel was modeled after the Villa Medici in Rome, a feat that required bringing in 75 Italian artisans to hand-paint and detail the premises. This swoon-worthy outdoor courtyard is the perfect spot to enjoy an aperitivo before dinner.
9. Eat Outside
After a strong cocktail, you’re going to need some sustenance. Our go-tos include Avocado Grill that’s especially great for lunch (because this sunny spot adds avo to just about everything); Proper Grit for a classic cobb salad and American burger with pepper jam, aged cheddar and wagyu beef; Spruzzo for tapas, raw bar bites, and champagne—all on a rooftop; and French chef Daniel Boulud’s long-standing Café Boulud for dinner, because we all deserve to be fancy every once in a while. If you don’t feel like settling for just one type of cuisine, stop into Palm Beach’s first-ever food hall, Grandview Public Market.
Remember: While you don’t have to wear a face mask in-between bites of oysters and sips of bubbly, you do have to wear it at all times when not seated at your table, including trips to the restroom. So make sure you bring yours with you.
10. Visit a Quiet, Secluded Beach
You can’t come all this way and not spend some time in the sand. After all, West Palm (and the immediate surrounding areas) ranked number two nationwide in the park space category, with 15 percent of its land dedicated to public green space, beaches and landmarks. One of our absolute favorites includes John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, which is considered an environmental treasure. Featuring picturesque (and quiet!) stretches of sand, pack a picnic basket, a floppy hat and a captivating book. Though beachgoers aren’t required to wear a mask at all times—unless social distancing is not possible—officials are requiring everyone to have a mask readily available.