If you are like me and looking to escape the rain, winter, or find a white sand beach to stretch out on, your search might quite naturally lead you to the warm climes of Florida, the Sunshine State. I was looking for a sunny, warm slice of heaven, with a great mix of outdoor recreation, culture, dining and shopping and I think I have found it in St. Petersburg. Here’s what I've found out about this great city.
With on average 361 sunshine days per year, St. Petersburg is not called “The Sunshine City” for nothing. Situated on the west side of Tampa Bay, a trip to St Pete could not be complete without a day on the beach. And with over 240 miles of shoreline including a number of keys, islands, bayous and some of the best beaches in the country (including Fort De Soto beach, twice ranked number one in the country in 2005 and 2008) you are spoiled for choice in St. Pete. I think a day on the beach, lazing under the palms or swimming in the crystal waters of the Gulf of Mexico on the beaches of Treasure Island is the first order of business for any visitor to the city. However, if it is action you are after, diving, snorkeling, fishing and canoeing are just some of the choices available to you in, on and around the waters of the city.
When you are sick of the beaches, it’s time to head across town and Beach Dr and the waterfront where you can find amazing dining, overlooking the marina and the gorgeous Tampa Bay. I think I’ll start with drinks at the famous Fresco’s and head down Central Ave and the surrounding streets to find some great food, live music and dance spots to enjoy the long, hot nights of St. Pete. The city is also home to over 2 dozen art galleries, and if you time your visit right, on the second Saturday of each month, the Downtown Arts Association hosts a Gallery Walk around a number of downtown galleries and studios. St. Pete also plays host to a series of festivals and cultural celebrations all year round, for everyone from the foodies at the “A Taste of Pinellas” festival in May, to the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in April and every March, downtown is transformed into an Indy Car track for the Honda Grad Prix! And of course, if you are looking for sport, Tropicana field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, is also within easy reach of downtown.
Shopping in St. Pete, like the rest of the city’s activities, is also all about choice. Check out the Saturday Morning Market, down by the Marina, for fresh local produce and goods. Or, if you are looking for something a little more up market, the BayWalk shopping complex is located downtown, along with a host of artisan shops and studios.
Now where to stay… Well. Let’s be honest, there are so many choices from the 5-star resorts of Clearwater and downtown to the hostels and camping grounds at Fort De Soto Park, there is something for every budget. And one of the best things about St Pete is that it is compact, making travel around it easy either through the public system, or by cab, where your friendly cabbie can suggest more things for you to do in the Sunshine City. I’m looking forward to my trip to St. Petersburg, time to stop dreaming about it!