A Guide to West Palm Beach, Delray Beach & Fort Lauderdale
By VISIT FLORIDA staff
With stunning Florida beaches and trendy hot spots from West Palm Beach to Delray Beach to Fort Lauderdale, there are plenty of draws in this area of South Florida.
Downtown West Palm Beach is one of the trendiest and hippest places to be and it boasts a significant history as well. Celebrated old buildings display a fascinating journey through South Florida history. Numerous beautifully-restored historic structures house the many fine restaurants, cafes, shops, galleries and clubs. Several blocks of diverse shops and fun eateries provide a taste of downtown hospitality and charm as well as vitality and excitement.
Now from West Palm Beach to Delray Beach. Delray Beach, located directly on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, offers a breathtaking beachfront with incomparable beauty and easy access. The rich patina of more than 100 years, historic preservation and a focus on pedestrian comfort has won Delray Beach numerous awards and recognition. Delray is now heaven for those who take pleasure in strolling the charming streetscape of Atlantic Avenue to discover shopping, galleries, dining and nightlife hot spots.
On from Delray Beach to Fort Lauderdale, for more than 500 years, people have been enjoying Fort Lauderdale's exceptional natural beauty. Fort Lauderdale became known as a resort town extraordinaire as early as the 1920's. However, it wasn't until after World War II, with the return of many servicemen to Fort Lauderdale, that the city experienced unprecedented growth to become the booming, internationally-recognized vacation and resort community of the present.
West Palm Beach
Clematis Street began as the main thoroughfare of West Palm Beach in the early 20th century and connected the train station on the west with the ferry to Palm Beach Island on the east.
Visitors now arrive by water taxi or trolley to tour the downtown West Palm Beach area in a bicycle taxi. There's never a dull moment for anyone while in the Clematis Street District, with abundant live music and sidewalk entertainment. In this diverse district alone, daytime events include the Seasonal Saturday Morning Green Market and the monthly Sundays at the Meyer.
The Clematis Street District, along with the nearby CityPlace, has evolved into West Palm Beach's signature location - downtown West Palm Beach! As full-time residents increase in downtown, the area is busy with around-the-clock activity. The most popular cultural venues include the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, (561) 832-7469, the Norton Museum of Art, (561) 832-5196, and the Armory Art Center, (561) 832-1776.
Delray Beach, a Village by the Sea, has transformed itself over the past century into one of the most vibrant communities and resort areas.
There are so many things to do in Delray Beach. Atlantic Avenue is the heart of its thriving downtown area, featuring over 300 restaurants, galleries and clothing and antique boutiques. Downtown Delray Beach has drawn national acclaim and was awarded the Centennial Medallion Award, which acknowledges the nation's most significant works of landscape architecture. Other award recipients include: New York's Central Park and San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square, putting Delray Beach into a very select group of cities.
The historic Delray Beach Center for the Arts, (561) 243-7922, houses the School of Creative Arts and History, Crest Theatre, a vintage gymnasium, and restored classrooms. The buildings were saved from demolition by local citizens, and are now a National Historic Site and Florida Cultural Institution. A new outdoor Entertainment Pavilion hosts a variety of community events, such as exhibits, theater and learning opportunities.
Delray Beach includes a number of historic districts and a walking tour guide is available at the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, (561) 278-0424. If SCUBA diving is your interest, the 106-year-old wreck of the S. S. Inchulva is only 150 yards off shore from the south end of the municipal beach. The sunken ship is both a state historic site and a premier wreck SCUBA diving spot, with the ship being submerged only 25 feet from the surface of the ocean. At the end of the beach, there is a beautiful park where sunrises and sunsets are observed in their full majesty. This park sports a boardwalk as well as a nature trail for the wildlife enthusiasts.
The city of Fort Lauderdale is named for a second Seminole War fortification built on the banks of the New River in 1838. After the war, the area remained a virtual wilderness, until the 1890's with the building of roads, a ferry service and a railway extension. Fort Lauderdale became known as a resort town in the 1920's, as its population tripled in three years.
Today, Fort Lauderdale and its surrounding towns – known collectively as Greater Fort Lauderdale – have become a favorite destination for families and couples, adding eclectic and ethnic dining and outstanding cultural institutions to its natural beauty. More than 10 million people visit Greater Fort Lauderdale every year to cruise through the area's 300 miles of inland waterways. Relax on its 23 miles of pristine beaches, enjoy the sparkling water and experience its wide variety of family attractions.
Downtown Fort Lauderdale is a diverse cultural setting with the famous riverfront Las Olas Boulevard as THE place to go for eclectic dining, sophisticated nightlife and upscale boutiques. The Riverwalk Park's meandering promenade showcases the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, (954) 462-0222, and the Museum of Discovery and Science, the Fort Lauderdale History Center, as well as the Museum of Art, to name only a few of the entertainment and learning opportunities.
The Museum of Discovery and Science, (954) 467-6637, features over 200 fascinating interactive exhibits. The museum boasts a living animal exhibit and dozens of aquatic species, as well as the largest living Atlantic coral reef in captivity. The Fort Lauderdale History Center, (954) 463-4431, features the largest historical collection in Broward County. This downtown attraction chronicles Fort Lauderdale's history through interactive displays and thousands of artifacts ranging from Seminole folk art to World War II memorabilia, as well as numerous historical manuscripts and photographs.
One of South Florida's premier cultural institutions, the Museum of Art, (954) 525-5500, features a rotating collection of 20th century European and American art as well as traveling exhibits from other museums. The museum also holds educational workshops for families and children of all ages. These attractions are accessible to visitors from various parts of Greater Fort Lauderdale via the Water Taxi, (954) 467-6677 on the area's famous Intracoastal Waterway canal system.