Set on a narrow barrier island with the eastward-bound Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Worth, a lagoon of the Intracoastal Waterway, to the west, West Palm Beach is bridged to Palm Beach, about 65 miles (105 km) north of Miami. It is one of three main South Florida cities, becoming a city two years before Miami, and therefore, being Miami’s metropolitan area’s oldest municipality. Given a city status on November 5, 1894, West Palm Beach’s population was recorded at some 111,398 in 2018, inhabiting the 57.69 square-mile area, minus the 2.56 square miles that is water. Set south of the North Palm Beach and the Palm Beach Gardens, east of the Royal Palm Beach, southwest of the Palm Beach Shores, the Intracoastal Waterway also divides West Palm Beach from Palm Beach, while the region altogether is known as the ‘Palm Beaches.’
The neighborhoods of West Palm Beach are the Bel Air Historic District, Central Park, El Cid, Flamingo Park, Grandview Heights, Mango Promenade, Northboro Park, Northwest, Old Northwood Historic District, Northwood Hills Historic District, Prospect Park, and West Northwood Historic District. West Palm Beach also has three sister cities worldwide: Budva, Tzahar, and Mersin.
Early History Of The West Palm Beach
While a settler from North Carolina, Irving R. Henry, homesteaded the area of Palm Beach in 1880, it was developed further by Henry M. Flagler’s with an establishment of the Florida East Coast Railway in 1894, as well as a winter resort across the lagoon. Built the same year as the town’s incorporation, the railroad extended to Palm Beach and ran onto the 1,000-foot long pier in the Atlantic for easy ship access to deliver cargo and passengers. The West Palm Beach Canal construction, west of the Lake Okeechobee, as one of the region’s transportation services, helped the city serve as a transfer point and a base for workers.
Later, it would help propel the major tourist center, commercial, and financial hub statuses that the West Palm Beach area is known for today. An interesting historical event is that the second municipality of Palm Beach County and the island resort, the Town of Palm Beach, was incorporated later, on April 17, 1911. Upon facing possible annexation in January that year, by the “first-born” West Palm Beach that decided to do so during that year’s legislative session, it hurried to obtain a city status.
West Palm Beach through the Years
Having started with the settlement of the Palm Beach town, the City of West Palm Beach, Florida, was established later as a resort destination across the waters to the west. The history of the former is short and sweet, with a ship-wrecked cargo ship full of coconuts having brought early settlers to the barren, sandy beach.
Developing as a resort destination upon the extension of the Florida East Coast Railway to West Palm Beach in 1894, today, Palm Beach is frequented by the wealthy and the famous. It is known as one of the most luxurious winter resorts in the continental United States, where construction is strictly regulated, and no manufacturing is allowed. Today, West Palm Beach is a growing central city of Palm Beach County, known for its refined and relaxed living and working conditions, where businesses thrive, and a major tourist mecca of the nation. This waterfront heaven is the ultimate destination with a vibrant downtown and endless beaches.
Landscape And Climate Of The West Palm Beach
West Palm City sits at an average elevation of 13 feet above sea level. The Gulf Stream provides for pleasantly mild wintertime. The wet season runs from May to October, and the dry season is from November to April. The tropical rainforest climate of the West Palm Beach area ensures that many different types of tropical plants can be found in and around the city, predominantly palm trees. The area is known for hurricanes, one of which has destroyed the railroad established by Henry M. Flagler. Thus, it has a well-developed and extensive plan to face these natural disasters.
Tourism At The West Palm Beach
With tourism as the pillar of its economy, there is a wide range of well-developed cultural and recreational attractions in West Palm Beach, including many hiking trails and visitor centers.
Okeeheelee Nature Center And Okeeheelee Park
This center, located at 7715 Forest Hill Boulevard, just west of the city with the trails open for the active from sunrise to sunset, features 2.5 miles of winding pathways that run through 90 acres of native pine flat-woods and wetlands. These free-to-trek trails are stroller and wheelchair-accessible, but there are also soft-surface pathways that lead to the wilder areas of the sanctuary.
Those seeking a more relaxed visit are welcome to engage in the center’s hands-on exhibits, connecting with nature through animal encounters and stocking up at its gift shop. Families with kids will especially enjoy watching the birds of prey and prowling for owls offered in one of the many scheduled programs, while the brave ones can also interact with live snakes.
One can explore the rich cultural scene at West Palm Beach to connect with the region’s art, culture, and history. The Norton Gallery of Art presents a collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures by American, Chinese, and French artists. There are various productions throughout the year for the theater fanatics at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and the West Palm Beach Auditorium stage. For the museum fans, The South Florida Science Museum, inclusive with a planetarium that features one of Florida’s largest telescopes and an aquarium, hosts various scientific exhibits.
There is a whole range of activities to partake in for the animal lovers as well, starting with paying a visit to the Dreher Park Zoo with some 400 animals. To the west of the city, the Lion Country Safari is a 500-acre (200-hectare) preserve where African animals roam freely throughout the established wildlife habitat, featuring naturalistic settings and inclusive with an animal nursery and a petting zoo. The Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is set in the northern Everglades, about 15 miles (25 km) southwest of the city. There is also greyhound races held at the Palm Beach Kennel Club
The five major hiking trails to take advantage of are the Hog Hammock Trail, the Eagle Trail, the Cypress Boardwalk Trail, the Oahee Trail, and the Apoxee Trail. Also, 150 courses are available in the city and its vicinity for the active. Last but not least, the Palm Beach International Boat Show happens just south of the city, in Fort Lauderdale, known as the yachting capital of the world. Some even go as far as calling it the Venice of the United States, when the two cities host massive annual boat shows featuring some of the largest yachts in the world.
Festivals Of The West Palm Beach
Numerous festivals occur in West Palm Beach throughout the year. Sunfest, a celebration of the sun, warmth, and the upcoming summer months is celebrated through jazz concerts, an art show, and food booths in early May. This largest waterfront music and arts festival has been held annually since 1982, with festivities often starting a month earlier and with some 275,000 people attending each year.
In the opposing time of the year to the Sunfest is the Moonfest, which is a fun Halloween celebration taking place through the night of October 31 into November 1. Another notable festival is The Palm Beach International Film Festival, also held annually.
Many of the most notable buildings compose educational institutions. The first school of the city, the Little Red Schoolhouse, was built in 1886 and can be seen today at the Phipps Ocean Park. The construction of the cultural institutions, including the opera house, art museum, and the individual ballet companies are architecturally magnificent. The Northwood University’s secondary campus and the Palm Beach Atlantic College (built in 1968) offer both undergraduate- and graduate-level courses today. The first junior college in Florida was the Palm Beach Jr. College that opened back in 1933, while the TA branch of the business College commenced its classes in 1982.
The West Palm Beach airport has seen thousands of servicemen through its doors during the Second World War, while today, new enterprises pop up everywhere weekly. Many shopping and entertainment districts such as the CityPlace, the Antique Row, The Clematis Street, and the Northwood Village, among many others, are considered world-class and are visited annually by hundreds of thousands of tourists and residents alike. The Clematis Street is a particularly popular hangout spot for young professionals, composed of four blocks with restaurants and bars, known for the drinks, fun, and exquisite food.
The aforementioned Kravis Center is renowned for its beautiful indoor amphitheater, holding almost every play and major show happening in the city, while for those who love the outdoors, the city’s waterfront offers a free “full-screen” viewing of its own. Inclusive with countless walkways and fantastic scenery from almost all 360 degrees around the city, its western edge is also developed for hiking and biking with the up-close view of the Florida Everglades from the Grassy Waters Everglades Preserve.
The Modern West Palm Beach
Although tourism brings the most profit to West Palm Beach, commercial fishing and diversified industry also play integral roles in the city’s economy. Other significant industries involve manufacturing jet and rocket engines, high-technology, and citrus shipping, while its port is one of the busiest ports and places in the state.
Through a positive approach, the government of West Palm Beach promotes a united citizenry and a progressive business environment that is supportive of and cooperative with the community. Altogether, this works out to make an outstanding lifestyle and easy workability, attracting tourists and newcomers, while the residents tend to thrive both professionally and in personal perspectives. Having a notably large retiree population also shows that West Palm Beach is a place where people want to be, for an affordable, comfortable, and interesting life and as a retirement option.
As a big city with a relatively sparse population, West Palm Beach makes for a perfect tourist getaway. While there are several amenities in place for the wealthy residents, with the average prices elsewhere, it offers first-class recreational opportunities of all kinds imaginable. All-in-all, the atmospheric and completely “toll-free” sun-lit, palm-lined streets and waterfront views of West Palm City will leave one breathless. In addition, the vibrant downtown, the quaint shopping districts, and the historic and social neighborhoods will attend to any taste or group of people.