Boca Raton is a city in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The population was 97,422 in the 2020 census and it ranked as the 344th largest city in the United States in 2021. However, many people with a Boca Raton postal address live outside of municipal boundaries, such as in West Boca Raton. As a business center, the city also experiences significant daytime population increases. A part of South Florida, Boca Raton is 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami and is a principal city of the Miami metropolitan area, which had a population of 6,012,331 as of 2015.
Still centered around luxury beach culture, the city today is dotted by many malls and shopping centers, including the Town Center at Boca Raton. The ODP Corporation, which operates Office Depot and OfficeMax, is headquartered here. Boca Raton is also home to the main campus of Florida Atlantic University and the Evert Tennis Academy, owned by former professional tennis player Chris Evert. The city has a strict development code for the size and types of commercial buildings, building signs, and advertisements that may be erected within the city limit, which has led to major thoroughfares without billboards and large advertisements, as well as increased green spaces on roads.
The area where Boca Raton is now located was originally occupied by the Glades culture, a Native American tribe of hunter-gatherers who relocated seasonally and between shellfish sources, distinct from the Tequesta to the south and the Jaega to the north.
What Spanish voyagers called “Boca de Ratones” was originally to the south, in present-day Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County. The area of Boca Raton was labeled “Rio Seco”, meaning “Dry River”, during this time. By mistake during the 19th century, mapmakers moved this location to the north and began referring to the city’s lake, today known as Lake Boca Raton, as “Boca Ratone Lagoon” and later “Boca Ratone Sounde.” An inland stream near the lake was later renamed Spanish River, and eventually became part of the Intracoastal Waterway.
When Spain surrendered Florida to Britain in 1763, the remaining Tequestas, along with other Indians who had taken refuge in the Florida Keys, were evacuated to Cuba. In the 1770s, Bernard Romans reported seeing abandoned villages in the area, but no inhabitants.
The area remained largely uninhabited for long afterwards, during the early years of Florida’s incorporation in the United States. The first significant European settler to this area was Captain Thomas Moore Rickards in 1895, who resided in a house made of driftwood on the east side of the East Coast Canal, south of what is now the Palmetto Park Road bridge. He surveyed and sold land from the canal to beyond the railroad north of what is now Palmetto Park Road. Early settlement in the area increased shortly after Henry Flagler’s expansion of the Florida East Coast Railway, connecting West Palm Beach to Miami.
Festivals and events
The Boca Raton Bowl is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sanctioned Division I college football bowl game that features the Mid-American Conference (MAC) facing off against an opponent from the American Athletic Conference (AAC) or Conference USA (C-USA) in alternating years. Each conference participates four times during the six-year agreement, which began with the 2014 season. The Bowl is held at the FAU Stadium.
St. Mark Greek Orthodox Church in Boca Raton hosts a popular Greek festival during the last weekend of January. An estimated 15,000 people attended the festival in 2018.
Additionally, the town hosts the “Festival of the Arts BOCA” annually during the spring, and the Brazilian Beat Festival in the fall.