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Best Things To Do in Palm Beach

AOL PICK from our Editors
Palm Beach is a wealthy, historic town, where residents cherish the legacies of the island’s native sons and daughters. Because of that, there are galleries, museums and landmarks devoted to pioneering Palm Beachers. They’re all pretty interesting, even if you’re not into “tombstone” buildings for Gilded Age robber barons. On the other hand, if pure fun and sun are what you’re looking for, Palm Beach and its surrounding areas have that, as well, from zoos to water parks to beaches and shopping.

Norton Museum of Art

Neighborhood: West Palm Beach
One of the major museums in Florida, the Norton is home to a permanent collection of more than 5,000 works of art, among them American, Chinese, Contemporary and European art and photography. Within its walls, you’ll find 19th- and 20th-century paintings and sculpture by artists including Gauguin, Matisse, Monet and Picasso, among others, as well as American artists like O’Keeffe and Pollock. Events take place throughout the year here, including lecture series and youth programs. Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for visitors ages 13-21.

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Henry Morrison Flagler Museum

Neighborhood: Palm Beach
Whitehall was originally the home of Henry Flagler and his third wife, Mary. The 75-room Beaux Arts mansion has an eclectic décor, encompassing an array of styles from Louis XIV to Italian Renaissance, while its architecture was inspired by the palaces of Italy and Spain. It was designed by Carrere and Hastings, who also designed Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine and the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. You can check out Flagler’s private Railcar #91 in the Flagler Kenan Pavilion on the museum’s South Lawn or sip tea and nibble cucumber sandwiches in the Café Des Beaux Arts (open during the winter/spring season only). Inside, experience the changing exhibits of art related to Florida history and America’s Gilded Age one of three ways: through a narrated audio tour, a self-guided tour with a brochure for your guide, or a docent-led tour that’s given twice daily. Admission is $18 for adults; $10 for ages 13-18; $3 for children 6-12; free for kids 5 and under.

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Lion Country Safari

Neighborhood: Loxahatchee
Long before Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, there was Lion Country Safari. More than 900 animals—not just lions—live in this 43-year-old park, a drive-through adventure designed to simulate a visit to the Serengeti. Today, it’s home to numerous displays, animal-feeding experiences, rides, gift shops and restaurants. There are hundreds of campsites where visitors can stay overnight, a demonstration theater, VIP Tours and “Insider Tours.” You can also take guided walking tours of Safari World, where there’s putt-putt golf, a water park, a petting zoo and a feeding area. Tip: The camel rides make for a great photo op. Admission is $25.50 for adults, $22.50 for seniors, and $18.50 for kids 3-9. If you didn’t bring your car or don’t want to drive it through the animal park, van rentals run $10 to $18 per hour-and-a-half.

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Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park

Neighborhood: Palm Beach Gardens
There’s a lot to learn while you mingle with the more than 1,400 animals that live here. But it’s more than just animal-watching. There are daily schedules of events, such as interactive shows with trained birds and singing dogs, and Safari Nights, with nature workshops, live entertainment, food and rides. In addition, this zoo sponsors conservation projects in countries throughout the world. If you’ve never seen a Laughing Kookaburra, a West Indian whistling duck, a Chilean pudu (a dog-sized deer) or a Binturong (bearcat for all of you University of Cincinnati fans)—and you’ve always wanted to—this is where you’ll find them. Admission for adults is $14.95; seniors (60+) pay $10.95; children 3-12 get in for $9.95.

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Rapids Water Park

Neighborhood: West Palm Beach
When you want a break from strolling around looking at Old Masters paintings and Balenciaga shoes, you can go for some let-loose-and-scream-with-abandon adrenaline at Rapids Water Park. There are more than two dozen rides of varying levels of wildness, classified as Wild and Thrilling, Mild Attractions and Kids’ Attractions. We like the Wild and Thrilling ones the best. The Pirate’s Plunge twists, dips and goes over a seven-story drop; Black Thunder puts you in the pitch darkness until you go flying out the bottom of the enclosed slide into the plunge pool. Once you’ve had your share of thrills, float in the lazy river and let your blood pressure return to normal. Admission Monday-Friday is $32.95 per person; Saturday-Sunday, $35.95; children 2 and under get in free.

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The Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden and the Four Arts Gardens

Neighborhood: Palm Beach
The garden is named for the prominent couturier and Palm Beach resident who restored a number of homes on the island. Impeccably maintained, it also features walkways and plantings, fountains and seating areas, an elegant plaza and fountain, and a garden pavilion. It has been characterized as an urban park, a botanical garden and a gathering place for social occasions, concerts and events. Admission is free, and there are maps to help you get the most from your self-guided tour.

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The Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden and the Four Arts Gardens  

Pineapple Grove Arts District

Neighborhood: Downtown Delray Beach
The contrast between the polished facades of the island of Palm Beach and the rustic feel of this little community of local artists is striking. The low blocks of buildings house galleries filled with the works of local and national artists, small cafés host sidewalk tables, and outdoor murals and sculptures dot the landscape. Even the bicycle racks are works of art. 

Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens

Neighborhood: West Palm Beach
This lush, verdant canvas for the magnificent sculptures of Ann Weaver Norton has served as the setting for many photo shoots over the years. We recommend a guided tour, because as breathtaking as the massive bronze and stone monoliths are, the stories behind them and the woman who created them are even more interesting. The Artist Studio on the property is evocative of the 40 years Ann spent there researching, sketching and creating, and you get the feeling that she may step inside to greet you any moment. If you do decide on the guided tour, call at least three weeks ahead to reserve a space. Hours are 10AM to 4PM Wednesday to Sunday; admission is $5 and children under 5 get in free.

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