Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Destination Saint Pete

By Sasha Brown

St. Petersburg: Old World Charm and New Spaces St Petersburg isn’t your grandmother’s sleepy little beach town anymore. There’s still plenty of sand here, but there’s also an established art community, a diverse restaurant scene and a newly gentrified downtown filled with park-side cafes. It’s now the cool sister to the neighboring city of Tampa. During the daytime, visitors dawdle between pristine beaches, art museums, farmers markets and waterfront parks. At night, locals and tourists alike flock to the city’s potpourri of restaurants for elegant seafood dishes orhamburgers in tiki bars dotted along the beach. St. Petersburg has grown up, but remnants of its Old World charm still remain. Graceful art deco buildings line St. Pete’s wide boulevards—a refreshing change from the urban sprawl and mega strip malls that dot Florida’s coast. For those who like a little culture with their sunshine, the impressive Dali Museum has an extensive collection of Salvador Dali works, representing every stage of his career. Considered a jewel on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront is the Museum of Fine Arts which houses a wide range of world art from antiquity to modern times. Art buffs will also appreciate the permanent collection of Dale Chihully's unique glass artwork at the beautiful Morean Arts Center. There are a wide range of museums and galleries along the downtown waterfront parks, including the Children’s Museum and the Museum of History. Nature lovers will appreciate the Boyd Hill Nature Park which boasts walking trails, live exhibits and sneak peaks at alligators who call the park their home. The Weedon Island Preserve is a wonderful place to kayak, find a quiet path to walk or look for birds. For those who insist on spying an alligator, Sawgrass Lake Park delivers on the wildlife. Boardwalks bring you through scenes of swamps and woods, where gators and turtles and other wildlife are camera ready. A nice place to relax sprawled beneath the palm trees is the Gizella Kopsick Arboretum. It’s a quiet place to enjoy a bagged lunch and a book. And whatever you do, don’t miss out on Sunken Garden---a botanical paradise in the midst of the city and a cherished St. Pete icon. And what would a trip to St. Pete’s be without a little sand between your toes? Fort Desoto Park offers picturesque views of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay and clean, pristine beaches. There’s a snack shop there and tours of Fort Desoto are available for those seeking a break from the sun. There are two public beaches in the heart of the bustling downtown area, along with Maximo Beach and Park in South St. Petersburg. St. Pete’s boasts 361 days of sunshine every year with an average temperature of 73 degrees. These statistics, along with an array of activities for every taste and age group makes this lovely Gulf city the perfect destination for families, lovers and snowbirds. You might also be glad to know that Central Florida’s theme parks are a short drive away. Or you might be tempted to stay right where you are.

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