Situated on Florida's radiant Gulf Coast, St. Petersburg caters to both beach lovers and culture vultures. With its seaside vibes and lively arts scene, the area has long been a draw for a weekend getaway, or a sunny vacation week or two. A fun mix of hip, urban and retro, old-Florida neighborhoods and attractions, visitors are never lost for fun things to do in this town. Additionally, the greater St. Petersburg area enjoys an average of 361 days of sunshine per year—Sunshine City, indeed.
A world-class destination for fans of surrealism and modern art, the Dali Museum is dedicated to showcasing more than 2400 works by the Catalan master. The largest assembly of Dali paintings outside Europe started with a modest family bequest by American collectors A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse but has since taken on a life of its own. From its prime location on the waterfront of Tampa Bay, the architecturally striking museum hosts Dali-themed special events, seminars and community gatherings, as well as popular weekly yoga classes in its glass dome.
Nature is never far when you stay in St. Petersburg. To completely escape and unwind in nature, consider camping for a day or two at this 245-acre park built around the shores of Lake Maggiore. Criss-crossed with hiking trails that meander through diverse eco-systems, it's a great place to reconnect with the natural regional landscape as it was pre-development. Watch for butterflies and egrets from strategically placed sheltered areas.
Cool off in air-conditioned comfort and catch the resident Tampa Rays in action at Tropicana Field. The dome covered stadium also hosts occasional concerts and conventions. But that's not all, as there are a number of activities for non-game days at the venue. The most unusual has got to be the Touch Tank exhibit of cow nose rays that encourages interaction with visitors. There's also the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame for baseball fans to explore.
Old Florida lives on in the many retro motels and attractions scattered around St. Petersburg. One of the loveliest is The Sunken Gardens, a century-old botanical garden filled with more than 50,000 specimens of tropical plant and flower. The Gardens are also home to a flock of pink Chilean flamingos who wander freely over the 4 acres of walkways, pools, and courtyards.
Cultural South Florida prides itself on beautiful venues like the Mahaffey Theater, which is part of the Duke Energy Center for the Arts complex in downtown St. Pete's. Here, guests can soak up Broadway hits, Pink Floyd, Beatles, and Queen tribute shows, or classical concerts by the beloved in-house orchestra TFO. Splash out for a full evening experience that includes dinner at the Theater's own Bayside Bistro overlooking the marina.
Dale Chihuly is probably the best-known glass artist in the world for good reason. His ginormous surreal and brightly colored creations are nothing short of spectacular. The permanent Chihuly Collection, located adjacent to the Morean Art Center in the downtown arts district, features several ornate site-specific works and large-scale installations that may cause your jaw to drop. Check out the technique behind the magic at the Studio Glass and Hot Shop demonstration included in your ticket price.
Old Florida architecture is preserved to great effect in the historic residential district of Kenwood. Pleasant for strolling, with large shade trees and wide brick sidewalks, the neighborhood is full of ranch and mission style bungalows built between 1920 and 1950. Strictly adhering to historical conservation codes, the homes and other buildings dating from 1926 are a coherent tribute to simpler, human-scale design times.
A handful of excellent markets are testament to St. Petersburg newly hip reputation. Most residents and travelers will know about the Saturday Farmers Market, a long-standing tradition for those seeking quality ingredients and foodie items from over 200 vendors. The St. Pete Indie Market is a newer tradition for shopping one of kind craft and flea items. Held indoors at the State Theater during the summer heat and outdoors on the Green Bench Brewery patio during the winter, this is the place to pick up designer duds and hand-made jewelry while noshing on artisanal snacks. For vintage lovers, there's a huge monthly Brocante Market on the first Saturday of each month.
Well, you are in Florida after all. For a throwback vibe of Old Florida, you can't beat Passe-a-Grille Beach where they still ring a bell to celebrate each glorious successful sunset. St. Pete's Beach is located slightly away from the mainland on a barrier island. Here you'll find tranquil seas, soft white sand, and relics from Florida's golden era like the kitschy pink palace of the Don Cesar Hotel. Nearby Clearwater Beach is consistently voted one of the most beautiful on the Gulf Coast and can be a bit quieter during high season.
Just south of downtown St. Pete's, Fort de Soto Park comprises five of the southernmost barrier islands at the mouth of Tampa Bay. With pristine beaches, trails, and facilities for kayaking and paddleboarding, the park is a natural wonderland of tidal pools and dunes. Oh yes, and there is a fort you can explore and a small museum describing what's left of this key fortification from the Spanish-American War of 1898.