New playground, lab space coming to the South Florida Science Center

The South Florida Science Center this week will unveil a new playground and recently renovated classroom and lab space that will be used for workshops and other programs.

Photo by Peter W. Cross
Above, Andrew Nieves of Lake Worth pretends to hold his breath for the camera while inside the pop-up aquarium at the South Florida Science Center.

The non-profit plans to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony this week for the new Discovery Playground and redesigned Multipurpose Center. As many as 100,000 children a year are expected to use the new playground, the science center said.

The science center said the Multipurpose Center, a gift from the City of West Palm Beach, has  been converted into a classroom environment suitable for workshops and creative spaces with 3D printers, robotics labs and computer programming spaces.

The playground and multipurpose space mark the science center’s latest expansion efforts.

The center recently unveiled its new mini golf course. The Conservation Course was designed by Gary Nicklaus and Jim Fazio, sons of two local icons of the golf course industry.

State tourism officials to hold signature trade show in West Palm Beach

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing organization, plans to hold one of its signature trade shows at the Palm Beach County Convention Center and neighboring Hilton West Palm Beach.

The event, dubbed Florida Encounter 2017, is designed to showcase the state as a destination for business groups, meetings and conventions. It will be held Dec. 13-15.

RELATED: Hilton West Palm Beach boon for county convention center 

“We are honored to have West Palm Beach as the host city for Florida Encounter in December,” said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO for Discover The Palm Beaches, the tourism marketing corporation for Palm Beach County. “The event will shine a spotlight on our thriving groups and meetings sector, and showcase why The Palm Beaches are building a strong reputation as ‘the best way to meet in Florida.’”

Event bookings at Palm Beach County Convention Center have surged since the long-awaited Hilton West Palm Beach opened next to the meeting space earlier this year. Groups and meetings accounted for roughly 130,600 nightly hotel bookings in 2015, tourism officials have said.

Airbnb sees spike in bookings during spring training season

Airbnb said Wednesday that it saw a surge in bookings in 12 Florida cities with baseball complexes, including Jupiter and West Palm Beach, during this year’s spring training season.

In the area around Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium, which is the spring training home to the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, Airbnb said it saw a 68 percent spike in travelers between February 23 and March 31, when compared to the previous six-week period.

Final construction preparations are made before Tuesday’s opening game at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 27, 2017. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

RELATED: New beer bus offers tours of Palm Beach County’s local breweries

Many of those travelers were from Missouri, the company said.

In West Palm Beach, where The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches opened this year, Airbnb said it saw a 39 percent increase in guests visiting the area during the spring training season.

The ballpark is home to the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, and Airbnb said it saw a significant rise in the number of travelers coming from Texas, Virginia and Maryland.

Here’s Airbnb’s breakdown of impacts across the rest of the state:

JUPITER

Home to Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 778 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 68% spike in guests compared to previous 6 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Missouri was #1 origin state to Jupiter, Florida was #2 origin state, Illinois (just across border from St. Louis) was #4 state
  • Home State Spike: 3,400% spike in Missouri guests and 53% spike in Florida guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Jupiter hosts earned $245,000 in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 100 Airbnb hosts in Jupiter

 

WEST PALM BEACH

Home to Houston Astros and Washington Nationals

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 3,858 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 39% spike in guests compared to previous 6 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Virginia was #2 origin state to West Palm Beach, Texas was #3 origin state, Maryland was #8 origin state
  • Home State Spike: 383% spike in Virginia guests, 125% spike in Texas guests, 227% in Maryland guests, and 211% spike in Washington D.C. guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: West Palm Beach hosts earned $1.18 million in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 400 Airbnb hosts in West Palm Beach

 

PORT ST. LUCIE

Home to New York Mets

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 953 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 95% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: New York was #1 origin state to Port St. Lucie
  • Home State Spike: 163% spike in New York guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Port St. Lucie hosts earned $228,000 in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 100 Airbnb hosts in Port St. Lucie

TAMPA

Home to New York Yankees

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 9,605 guest arrivals
  • Guest Origin: New York was #1 origin state to Tampa
  • Overall Spike: 32% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Home State Spike: 33% spike in New York guests compared to previous 6 week stretch
  • Host Income: Tampa hosts earned $1.53 million in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 800 Airbnb hosts in Tampa

 

CLEARWATER

Home to Philadelphia Phillies

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 3,447 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 62% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Pennsylvania was #1 origin state to Clearwater
  • Home State Spike: 153% spike in Pennsylvania guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Clearwater hosts earned $820,000 in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 300 Airbnb hosts in Clearwater

 

BRADENTON

Home to Pittsburgh Pirates

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 1,694 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 45% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Pennsylvania was #1 origin state to Bradenton
  • Home State Spike: 194% spike in Pennsylvania guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Bradenton hosts earned $380,000 in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 300 Airbnb hosts in Bradenton

 

LAKELAND

Home to Detroit Tigers

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 482 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 82% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Michigan was #1 origin state to Lakeland
  • Home State Spike: 575% spike in Michigan guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Lakeland hosts earned $79,000 in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 70 Airbnb hosts in Lakeland

SARASOTA

Home to Baltimore Orioles

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 6,664 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 91% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Maryland was #5 origin state to Sarasota
  • Home State Spike: 247% spike in Maryland guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Sarasota hosts earned $1.86 million in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 700 Airbnb hosts in Sarasota

 

DUNEDIN

Home to Toronto Blue Jays

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 800 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 105% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Ontario was #1 origin state/province (American or Canadian) to Dunedin
  • Home State Spike: 1,860% spike in Ontario guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Dunedin hosts earned $263,000 in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 100 Airbnb hosts in Dunedin

 

FORT MYERS

Home to Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 2,485 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 67% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Minnesota was #1 origin state to Fort Myers, Massachusetts was #6 origin state
  • Home State Spike: 113% spike in Minnesota guests and 109% spike in Massachusetts guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Fort Myers hosts earned $566,000 in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 400 Airbnb hosts in Fort Myers

 

PORT CHARLOTTE

Home to Tampa Rays

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 382 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 78% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Florida was #1 origin state to Port Charlotte
  • Home State Spike: 79% spike in Florida guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Port Charlotte hosts earned $138,000 in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 100 Airbnb hosts in Port Charlotte

 

 

 

KISSIMMEE

Home to Atlanta Braves

 

During Spring Training:

  • Airbnb Guests: 37,447 guest arrivals
  • Overall Spike: 46% spike in guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Guest Origin: Georgia was #1 origin state to Kissimmee
  • Home State Spike: 148% spike in Georgia guests compared to previous 5 week stretch
  • Host Income: Kissimmee hosts earned $5.25 million in supplemental income by sharing their homes
  • Active Hosts: About 2,200 Airbnb hosts in Kissimmee

 

 

As countywide numbers fall, this local hotel sees surge in international travelers

Although the number of international tourists who traveled to Palm Beach County fell by 4.5 percent in 2016, one local hotel says its has seen a recent surge in the number of bookings from guests living outside of the country.

During the first three months of the year, the Best Western Palm Beach Lakes Inn located across the street from the Palm Beach Outlets in West Palm Beach welcomed guests from across the world — some living as far away as New Zealand, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

Roughly 15 percent of the inn’s bookings between January and March were made by travelers living outside of the United States, according to the hotel.

RELATED: Palm Beach County breaks tourism record in 2016

Rick Netzel, the inn’s director of sales and marketing, said he started noticing an uptick in the number of international travelers staying at the hotel during the last quarter of 2016. He attributes the rise to the inn’s location across the street from the outlet mall, rising room rates in the county and Best Western’s name recognition across the world.

“The outlets, that was a game changer,” Netzel said.

RELATED: Trump in Palm Beach —  U.S.-Chinese summit a boon for Palm Beach hotels

Palm Beach Outlets opened in 2014, replacing the 45-year-old Palm Beach Mall, which had become a sign of blight along Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Interstate 95. During its first six months of operation, the outdoor shopping mall drew roughly 4 million visitors, mall officials have said.

Shopping ranks among the top activities for tourists who come to Palm Beach County. A 2012 tourism study found 30 percent of tourists said shopping was one of the reasons for their visit.

According to Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing arm, 739,000 international tourists visited the county last year, down from 774,000 in 2015.

Despite the drop, the county welcomed a record-breaking 7.35 million visitors in 2016, an increase of 5.8 percent over the previous year. The jump was driven largely by an increase in domestic travelers, Discover said.

Cracking an egg over your head could win you a shopping spree at this local mall

Palm Beach Outlets is teaming up with radio station WRMF this Saturday, giving away a $1,000 shopping spree as part of a contest that dares participants to crack an egg over their head.

WRMF will bring 100 colored eggs to Palm Beach Outlets on Saturday. One of them will be hardboiled; the rest will be raw.

Participants will be asked to crack an egg over their head. If they get the one that is hard boiled, they win the $1,000 shopping spree. Consolation prizes will be given out.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to noon. To sign up, click here.

For more information, call Palm Beach Outlets at (561) 515-4400 or go online to www.palmbeachoutlets.com.

 

Need a job? Check out this job fair in West Palm Beach

Job seekers will get a chance to meet with over 30 employers at a career fair planned April 4 at the Marriott in West Palm Beach.

application from Roxanna Rosales, right, of the Check Cashing Store, at a job fair sponsored by JOB News at the Marriott in West Palm Beach in 2012. The event was attended by around 2,500 people looking for employment. (File photo/The Palm Beach Post)

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Marriott at 1001 Okeechobee Boulevard, located just east of Interstate 95. According to organizer jobnewsusa.com, more than 1,500 positions will be available.

To see a list of companies attending click here. To pre-register for the fair, visit jobnewsusa.com/southflorida.

Butterfly exhibit coming to South Florida Science Center

The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium plans to unveil an interactive exhibit on butterflies just in time for the long summer break.

The “Amazing Butterflies” exhibit will be on display from May 6 through Sept. 29.

According to the science center the exhibit features the entire lifecycle of the butterfly.

“Visitors will experience the challenges of being a caterpillar as it transforms into a beautiful butterfly, discovering how the caterpillars eat, move and live through a hands-on maze filled with activities the whole family will enjoy,” the science center said. “Guests of all ages can learn what it’s like to fly like a butterfly, walk like a caterpillar and avoid getting stuck in a spider web. After learning about the lifecycle of the butterfly, guests can explore the butterfly gardens throughout the Science Center’s new Conservation Course, an 18-hole miniature golf course, to get an up-close look at the beautiful insects.”

Tickets to “Amazing Butterflies” are included in the general admission, which is $15 for adults, $11 for children 3-12 and free to members and children under 3.

Macy’s at CityPlace offers deep discounts in advance of store closing

The Macy’s at CityPlace in West Palm Beach has slashed prices in an attempt to clear out merchandise before the store closes this spring.

Signs near the front entrance Thursday advertised discounts of up to 60 percent off.

Macy's at CityPlace
Macy’s at CityPlace

RELATED: Macy’s in CityPlace to close

Macy’s announced last month that the CityPlace store is one of 68 locations it plans to close this year as part of a streamlining measure. The CityPlace location opened in 2000.

The announcement followed disappointing holiday sales for the retailer. Macy’s said comparable sales fell by 2.1 percent in November and December from 2015’s levels.

The CityPlace store was busy on Thursday with lunchtime shoppers looking for deals. Discounts included:

  • 40 percent off handbags; women’s shoes; men’s active wear; men’s dress shirts; women’s active wear; watches
  • 50 percent off luggage
  • 60 percent off men’s tailored clothing
  • 70 percent off fine jewelry

 

 

Another convention center hotel looks likely

Hilton West Palm Beach
Hilton West Palm Beach

A top Related Cos. executive confirmed last week that the New York-based company is increasingly likely to build another hotel next to its new Hilton West Palm Beach at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Ken Himmel said Related has been happily surprised by the success of the Hilton, which celebrated its first anniversary last month. The Hilton is at 600 Okeechobee Blvd.

The hotel logged room rates of $270 per night in January, higher than an expected rate of $230. “We made six months worth of profits in January. It’s unbelievable,”  said Himmel, president of Related Urban, the mixed-use unit of Related Cos., which developed CityPlace and the Hilton hotel.

Hotel occupancy was 88 percent in January, Himmel added. The hotel “beat every one of our budgets, both occupancy and rates the first year,” Himmel said.

In addition, the convention center is enjoying an unprecedented surge in business thanks to finally having a hotel next door for conventiongoers.

“The convention center has tripled its bookings going forward,” Himmel said.

Those numbers are leading Himmel and other top Related executives to consider adding another 200 rooms on an adjacent parking lot.

It’s a big commitment, but Related is feeling upbeat about the city.

“We have every reason to believe that keeping our investment profile high (in West Palm Beach) is going to make a lot of sense,” Himmel said.

That hotel, which could be a boutique Hilton brand such as the Curio Collection, would share the Hilton’s amenities, including the pool and facilities.

A final decision is expected to be made by year’s end, with a new hotel possible built by the end of 2019, he said.

Himmel said the Hilton has experienced an unexpected boost to its business: Bookings by the media in town to cover President Donald Trump when he visits his part-time Palm Beach home, Mar-a-Lago.

But having Trump in town hasn’t just been good for Hilton and Related. Himmel said reporters are spending money around Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, too.

Guided bicycle tours coming to downtown West Palm Beach, Palm Beach

A Palm Beach County-based tourism company is adding guided bicycle tours to the list of excursions it offers from its base on the West Palm Beach waterfront.

Visit Palm Beach, which operates the visitor information center in downtown West Palm Beach, will launch two new bicycle tours beginning on Valentine’s Day. The company has partnered with SkyBike, a bike sharing system in downtown West Palm Beach. The trips will tour the downtown area and Palm Beach.

People participate in the inaugural ride of West Palm Beach's bike share program SkyBike, Saturday morning, June 6, 2015. One hundred and fifty bikes will be situated at 15 stations throughout downtown West Palm Beach that people can rent to traverse the city in 30 minute spans up to a full day. Steven Aitkenhead of P3 Global Management said West Palm Beach seems like the ideal place for a bike share program because of its medium size and good weather conditions. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
People participate in the inaugural ride of West Palm Beach’s bike share program SkyBike, Saturday morning, June 6, 2015. One hundred and fifty bikes will be situated at 15 stations throughout downtown West Palm Beach that people can rent to traverse the city in 30 minute spans up to a full day. Steven Aitkenhead of P3 Global Management said West Palm Beach seems like the ideal place for a bike share program because of its medium size and good weather conditions. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Visit Palm Beach also offers kayak and paddle board rentals and cruises aboard its 50-foot catamaran Hakuna Matata from the West Palm Beach waterfront.

“We are excited to partner with SkyBike to bring back guided bike tours of the Palm Beaches,” Visit Palm Beach Founder Brian Marozzi said. “These bike tours are actually a fresh new twist on some of the tours that helped launch Visit Palm Beach’s excursions 21 years ago. Bicycle tours are the perfect way to showcase the Palm Beaches to our ever more sophisticated visitors to the area.”

One of the bicycle tours will explore downtown West Palm Beach, including the waterfront, South Cove natural area and nearby historic neighborhoods.

The second tour will explore Palm Beach, including the famed Lake Trail.

Each tour will last about 2 hours, and will begin and end on the downtown waterfront. They will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

“Our guided tours offer visitors a unique opportunity to discover the Art, Culture and History that Palm Beach harbors, and provides residents with a perspective that can only be experienced on two wheels,” said Chris Hall, Marketing Coordinator for SkyBike. “We are thrilled to launch this partnership with Visit Palm Beach, as it really strengthens our status as a community-driven bike share program and shows our commitment to bringing a bona fide bike culture to the area.”