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Monday, April 29, 2019

Spotlight on St. Petersburg, The Sunshine City and Experience a Hidden Florida Gem

Forget Miami and Orlando and discover a new place when you visit Florida!  For travelers who’d like to avoid some of the most crowded Florida locales, there are plenty of other locations to visit in Sunshine State! 


Discover St. Petersburg, or St. Pete as it is known to locals, is a city undergoing a transformation.


Located on the west side of Tampa, this Florida city is a popular destination for locals and tourists, thanks to the popular beaches in the surrounding area and the vibrant downtown vibe.

Spotlight on St. Petersburg, The Sunshine City and Experience a Hidden Florida Gem


St. Petersburg is named after the former capital of Russia which LTD has written about, and is also known as the “sunshine city." thanks in part to a Guinness World Record it holds for logging the longest stretch of sunshine in the country. Starting in 1967, St. Petersburg had 768 consecutive days of sun in the sky.




Spotlight on St. Petersburg, The Sunshine City and Experience a Hidden Florida Gem


We have visited St. Pete many times every year for over 30 years and have witnessed the conversion of this old Florida Community.  Formerly a sleepy community just like South Beach in Miami, populated by aging transplants sitting in under banyan trees enjoying the warm weather.  Like like what occurred in Miami Beach during the 1990's St. Pete is undergoing a transformation to a hip, vibrant community and was named one of the top destinations in the USA by New York Times in 2014.  One of our relatives moved to St. Petersburg Florida after the Spanish American War in 1899, and we found his grave in a back corner of an old cemetery there.  Wow, what would he think of his adopted home now?! Check out our recent visit to St. Pete in this video







The sidewalks are lined with cafes and locals enjoying the sunlight and sea breeze off of Tampa Bay.

Spotlight on St. Petersburg, The Sunshine City and Experience a Hidden Florida Gem

Enjoy ? Park where you can stroll, run bike or even swim.  The water complex is available to enjoy and the boardwalk even has areas for a seaside workout.

Museums are a major attraction in the area.  The waterfront is speckled with statues that are donated by the fine arts museum.

Tropicana field, yes the orange juice company has many factories in the vicinity is home to the Tampa Bay rays baseball team.  Take in a game or even see your favorite visiting team at the historic hotel of America, the Vinoy.

Where to Eat


Spotlight on St. Petersburg, The Sunshine City and Experience a Hidden Florida Gem



  • Bella Brava One of our favorite dining options, centrally located on Beach Drive this casual Italian restaurant has more than just typical pasta and red sauce.  Less formal than a ristorante, the service is casual and you can get anything from burgers to a wide variety of pastas and antipasti, entrees flatbreads, pizzas and calzones.  The bar is large and crowded.  Dine inside or outside and be sure to make a reservation.
  • Level 11 Rooftop Bar  An external glass elevator carries you up the side of the cylindrical Grand Plaza Hotel, built in 1974, to its gleaming rooftop bar: Level 11. With stunning 360-degree views, at sunset the sofas and tables fill up fast, so arrive early if you want a seat. Artisanal small plates and a wide range of cocktails, like rosemary lavender lemonade and spiced mango margaritas are on the menu.
  • The Moon Under Water  Based on a traditional British pub, this is actually a fantastic option for vegetarian and Mediterranean meals.  For spirits they specialize in Beer and Scotch!  Sidewalk seating is great with a beautiful view of St. Pete's famous Banyan trees and the bay.
  • Paciugo's Gelato  Don't be discouraged if the lines are long, because you will enjoy your generous serving of gelatos from this downtown destination.  Make sure if you can't make up your mind that you ask for a split flavor cup!


Things to do


Beach Beach and more Beach.

The beach calls in St. Pete and the sand is white and waters calm.  The beach can get crowded in season, so we prefer Pass-A-Grille for a drive to the beach if we aren't staying at the Don Cesar.  You can park using a meter or here are some tips if you decide to drive your own car from downtown St. Pete rather than Uber.

Parking TIPS:

  • Parking is FREE all along 8th Ave
  • Restaurants in the area offer Free Parking for their customers, unless otherwise stated
  • The North and South Ends for Pass-a-Grille Beach are the easiest sections to find parking. Take advantage of this!

Salvador Dali Museum

If you have limited time and are in downtown St. Pete, you must at least visit The Dalí Museum, the most comprehensive collection of Dalí's paintings outside of Europe.  Kids and adults alike love the Dali Museum! LTD recommends taking children to museums! Given the artist's penchant for eye trickery, this museum offers kids a playful introduction to fine art. Ask for the Surreal Family Guide, which directs kids through the museum and points out interesting facts about the art and the artist.



Get a great pair of Salvador Dali Socks "The Persistence of Memory" to inspire your visit to this awesome museum.  These make a great souvenir of your trip and you don't have to pack them. Click the photo below to learn more!




Tampa Bay Rays

Home of the Rays is Tropicana Field, located about 1 mile from the Vinoy.  Frequently in the race for the AL pennant and a modern rival of the Red Sox and Yankees alike, a visit to Tropicana Field can be a great air-condition-filled afternoon of fun and family activities, especially on a rainy day since the "Trop" is a dome.


Museum of Fine Arts

Designed to reflect the Frick Collection in Manhattan, and with art spanning over 5000 years, this is Florida's only encyclopedic art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg explores human expression across all time periods and cultures.  Look for the temporary exhibitions in the Hazel Hough Wing,  wing added in 2008.  Among many of there visits, LTD visited the Power of Costume exhibit by LucasFilm about Star Wars' Costumes through the years which was a treat!

Spotlight on St. Petersburg, The Sunshine City and Experience a Hidden Florida Gem


Chihuly Collection

The CHIHULY COLLECTION is a stunning, permanent collection of world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly’s unique artwork at the Morean Arts Center in Downtown St. Pete. This presentation is unique as it is the first installation of Chihuly art in a building designed specifically for that purpose. Designed so that the art and architecture work together to create a visitor experience unlike any other exhibition of Chihuly’s art. The Collection is marked at the entrance by an iconic 20-foot sculpture created especially for the site.


Where to Stay


The Vinoy Renaissance

A member of The Historic Hotels of America, The Vinoy is well-located to explore downtown St. Pete and Museums. iconic and historic.  Built in 1925, it overlooks the bay and has its own marina, 18-hole golf course, tennis complex, spa, and five restaurants.  If you must swim in the sea there is a beach located on Tampa Bay steps from the hotel.

Spotlight on St. Petersburg, The Sunshine City and Experience a Hidden Florida Gem




The Don CeSar

Some travelers have to stay directly on the beach! This flamingo-pink, 277-room, 40-suite resort sits high above it all at the southern end of St. Pete Beach and is on the National Register of Historic American Places. With two pools, two restaurants, a wonderful spa, on-site shops (including a great ice cream shop), and activities for kids, it's got something for everyone. A short walk down the beach takes you back in time to the quiet, still funky old Florida community Pass-A-Grille.

Spotlight on St. Petersburg, The Sunshine City and Experience a Hidden Florida Gem


Avalon Hotel

This is the perfect updated Art Deco Hotel for that Florida Art Deco vibe.  This is another perfect location for exploring downtown St. Pete.

The Birchwood

A smaller downtown option, this elegant boutique hotel on North Straub Park is decorated with four-poster beds and claw-footed bathtubs, and has a lovely rooftop bar and restaurant.

Healthy Activities



  • Swim  You can swim at the shore, your hotel, many public pools (seasonal) or at North Shore Aquatic Complex, located on the St. Petersburg waterfront. It's open year round and features a 50 meter pool with diving board, 25 yard training pool with zero depth entry, a play pool with a giant flume slide, splash pad, and accessible zero depth entry.
  • Waterfront Park  If you're staying downtown, walk outside of your hotel to enjoy, St. Pete's Waterfront Park a seven mile stretch preserved downtown waterfront area filled with cyclists, walkers, and runners.
  • Pinellas Trail  The Pinellas Trail is a 37-mile hiking/biking trail, connecting St. Petersburg with Central and North Pinellas County, and is the longest urban linear trail in the Eastern USA.
  • Tennis  Tennis courts abound in all of St. Petersburg, including  near the beach and downtown.  If your hotel doesn't have sufficient courts for you, look for public courts nearby that are available during your stay.  If you plan to use the tennis courts, complete the required application at least 7 days before you're stay.


Races


The Sunshine city has many races and sporting events that are fun as a participant or spectator.  LTD always recommends finding a local race to enjoy at your destination to support local causes.  Here are some examples of races in St. Pete but of course you can google the dates you will be there to see what is going on!



St. Anthony's Triathlon

A premier Olympic distance race where athletes compete in downtown St. Pete on the last Sunday of April every year.  Call a local bike or run store to see if any teams need a relay participant or get a lead on charity teams looking for members.  Plan early because this race sells out quickly!  You may even see someone propose to their girlfriend at the finish line!  That's meaningful!



St. Pete Run Fest

St. Pete Run Fest is three days of festival fun every fall, including running events, food, music and craft beer. With distances for kids, beginners and seasoned runners, there’s plenty to entertain the entire family in the Sunshine City, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Gasparilla Distance Classic

A pirate-themed running event in Tampa that is a must if you are in the area.  Elite athletes run this every Winter and if you are traveling with children the pirates they encounter will make their visit to this rate and the surrounding festivals a great experience!

Spotlight on St. Petersburg, The Sunshine City and Experience a Hidden Florida Gem


Bottom Line:

Step back into an Old Florida Time but be immersed into a modern city all at the same time.  Take tome to visit St. Petersburg, Florida and witness the transformation of this beautiful area into an international destination, just like occurred with Miami Beach in the last two decades.  Whether you stay on the beach or in the quaint downtown area, there is plenty to keep you entertained and fulfilled for at least a weekend but consider staying longer to experience true vacation bliss!

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