Palm Beach with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

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Palm Beach, Fla. -- surf, sand, palm trees, expensive hotels, upscale shops, reservations-only restaurants, and mega-mansions. Yes, it's all still there.

However, the vision of Palm Beach as a haven only for the rich and old is disappearing. Palm Beach and the surrounding areas have much to offer families with kids, and it's not just about going to the beach all day. Parks, zoos, libraries, markets, dining options and kid-friendly hotels make the area attractive year-round, whether you are a local looking for a day out or you're a visitor searching for the ideal destination for a family vacation. Here is our suggested itinerary for the perfect family vacation day in Palm Beach with kids.
Insider tip: While hotel prices during "the season" (roughly November through April) can be high, bargains can be found during the later spring, summer and early fall months.

The Breakers (One S. County Rd.,1.888.BREAKERS), the grand and historic luxury hotel built by railroad magnate Henry Morrison Flagler, is a wonderful place to stay while on a family vacation with kids in Palm Beach. The hotel, first built in 1903 (and rebuilt in 1904 and 1926), is a true island grande dame. A $250 million renovation was recently completed and the hotel now offers new spa facilities, rooms, golf, and a complete list of things for kids to do, including an arcade, movie room, game room, outdoor play area, teen lounge, and multi-week summer camp. There's even a special bonus for parents -- one of the hotel's restaurants has an observation window looking into the child care center, so you can dine with and without the kids -- at the same time!


Morning

When it's time to venture away from the hotel, you'll find an endless variety of things to do in Palm Beach, with prices ranging from free to surprisingly affordable. Go across the Royal Palm Way Bridge into downtown West Palm Beach to the Nancy Graham Plaza (named for a former city mayor), located at Clematis Street and Narcissus Avenue. The fountains feature a computer-controlled series of water jets that are fun to watch and even more fun to use as an aquatic playground. If it's a Saturday and you are in town between mid-October and mid-April, walk two blocks north to the West Palm Beach Greenmarket (561.822.1515). The market is open Saturdays 8AM to 1PM , and you'll meet the locals selling fresh produce, flowers, breads, pastries, pet treats, cheese, seafood, and prepared foods (think about grabbing a few items for later). You can also enjoy an outdoor, sit-down breakfast.

If you need a break from the great outdoors, walk or drive a few blocks west to the brand-new West Palm Beach Library (411 Clematis St.; 561.868.7700). Opened in 2009 as part of City Centre (which includes the new city hall), the library has floors of books and magazines for kids, music programs and a small cafe. While a library card is needed to take out books and use the computers, the facility provides a cool, free respite from the heat outside. The library is open Monday-Thursday 9:30AM-8:30PM, Friday-Saturday 9:30AM-5PM, and Sunday 1PM-5PM.

When you are recharged, head west to Wellington -- and a polo match. It's one of the best things to do with kids in Palm Beach, and the young ones will love watching the horses while parents enjoy the game and celebrity sightings. The Palm Beaches attract the well-known and well-to-do, and many have homes in Wellington's equestrian community, including Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The International Polo Club at Wellington (3667 120th Ave. S.; 561.204.5687) offers matches from January through April, and a Sunday brunch is available. The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, also located in Wellington (3401 Equestrian Club Rd.; 561.793.5867), features horse jumping and dressage on the same January-April schedule. Ticket prices for International Polo Club events vary with the level of seating and dining selection (cocktails and hors d'oeuvres versus a full brunch). The Equestrian Center has free admission for certain events and a flat entrance fee per carload for others.


Afternoon

What youngster doesn't like the zoo? Or perhaps a safari? Palm Beach has both. Take your pick or do both if you're adventurous -- and energetic. Kids of all ages will love the Lion Country Safari (2003 Lion Country Safari Rd., Loxahatchee, FL; 561.793.1084). This attraction, located 20 miles west of downtown West Palm Beach, is home to 900 animals and features a drive-through or walk-through tour, a "sprayground" (that's a playground with water), food stands and shopping. While admission prices are not at Disney® levels, they can seem a little steep. Go onto Lion Country Safari's website, and you will find plenty of discount coupons to make the trip affordable. Tickets are $25.50 for ages 10-64 and $18.50 for ages 3-9. Parking is $6/vehicle. Hours are seasonal, so please check the website before your visit.

If you're not up for a safari, there's the Palm Beach Zoo (1301 Summit Blvd; 561.547.9453). Located at Dreher Park off Southern Boulevard, it features a walkable, kid-friendly layout that is perfect for observing animals in a natural, open habitat. Even the smallest child will have no problem viewing the displays, thanks to good design and a lack of barriers. There are educational shows and exhibits, a cafe, water park and carousel. If the kids are getting a bit tired, strollers and safari wagons are available for rent. The zoo is open daily from 9AM-5PM, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tickets are $14.95 for adults, $9.95 for children 3-12, and $10.95 for seniors 60+. Discount coupons can usually be found online on many travel sites.

And now, mom and dad, if the kids have been really good all day, how about you keep your promise and give them that treat? Sloan's Ice Cream (112 Clematis St. or 700 S. Rosemary Ave.; Clematis – 561.833.3335, S. Rosemary – 561.833.4303) is on your way back to The Breakers. The decor is Victorian-era-meets-Barbie-doll, but the ice cream is high-fat and the flavors include unique creations like circus box (cotton candy and gummy bears), Almond Joy, coffee and doughnuts, as well as the usual favorites like double and triple chocolates, intense vanillas, espresso coffee, bubble gum and birthday cake.


Evening

And finally, back to the hotel for a cool beverage and a swim in the pool or on the private beach. After your swim, eat dinner in one of the island's many restaurants. Several feature outdoor seating, so you and the kids can watch the Palm Beach world stroll by. And finally, head off to bed in your beautiful suite, tired from the day, but wishing for another just like it tomorrow because there is so much to see and do in Palm Beach with kids.

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