I have also marveled the beautiful St Petersburg, Florida, I witnessed the remarkable transformation of this coastal city, nestled snugly between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Gone are the days when it was merely known as a spring break or retirement destination. St Petersburg has reinvented itself, breathing new life into its once-dull reputation and emerging as a vibrant southern holiday hotspot.
The city has made significant strides in revitalizing its waterfront, which undoubtedly stands out as its finest feature. With renewed interest in the historic district, St Petersburg now boasts a captivating blend of old and new, creating an irresistible charm that draws visitors from far and wide.
One cannot overlook the city’s favorable weather conditions, earning it the well-deserved moniker of the “Sunshine City.” With its award winning beaches,
highly-rated restaurants, and a plethora of state and national parks, St Petersburg offers a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Exploring the city also reveals excellent shopping opportunities, delightful craft breweries, bustling farmer’s markets, and a wealth of cultural experiences that leave a lasting impression.
Notably, St Petersburg holds the prestigious title of the “most consecutive days with sunshine,” a staggering 768 days of continuous sun-kissed skies. Such a feat is a testament to the city’s commitment to providing residents and visitors with an abundance of sunshine-filled days to enjoy.
Let me take you on a wild ride with these 15 best things to do in St. Petersburg for a fun-filled adventure.
1. The Dali Museum
When I went to The Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida, I had the incredible opportunity to immerse myself in the life and artistic journey of Salvador Dali. The museum showcases an extensive collection that spans the entirety of this fascinating artist’s career, offering a comprehensive exploration of his diverse body of work.
With over 2,000 captivating pieces on display, the museum proudly houses the largest collection of Dali’s artwork outside of Europe. What began as a private collection curated by the Morse family in the 1940s eventually found its permanent home in St Petersburg when, in 1982, they generously donated it in its entirety to the community.
As I wandered through the museum’s halls, I was enthralled by the sheer variety of mediums and moments captured in Dali’s artistry. The collection encompasses 96 oil paintings, book works, original drawings, sculptures, prints, manuscripts, photos, and an extensive array of documents. It truly offers a comprehensive glimpse into the vast and imaginative world created by Salvador Dali.
One of the highlights of the museum is the contemplation area, a truly unique and thought-provoking space. A solid white room with a single window, it creates an atmosphere that encourages introspection and deep contemplation. It provides a serene environment where visitors can reflect upon the profound impact of Dali’s art and engage with their own thoughts and emotions.
2. Skyway Fishing Pier State Park
As I strolled along the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, I couldn’t help but notice the joy radiating from the fishermen around me. The convenience of being able to park right next to their preferred fishing spot and spend the entire day in relaxation was a definite highlight. The pier offered ample space for anglers to cast their lines and patiently await their catches. And as the sun began to set, the lights illuminating the pier attracted a multitude of different fish, making the experience even more exciting. This impressive structure came into existence when the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge was constructed, connecting St. Petersburg with Sarasota. Instead of demolishing the old bridge, it was ingeniously transformed into a haven for anglers.
The diversity of fish species that could be found in the waters surrounding the pier was truly impressive. Anglers could expect encounters with tarpon, grouper, cobia, snook, red snapper, pompano, Spanish and king mackerel, sheepshead, and many more. The abundance of marine life made each fishing excursion a unique and rewarding adventure.
To enhance the fishing experience, the park provided a convenient bait and snack shop. It was a welcome resource for anglers to restock their supplies or grab a quick bite during their fishing endeavors. And what made the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park even more appealing was its accessibility—it remained open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, ensuring that fishing enthusiasts could pursue their passion whenever the mood struck.
3. Florida Holocaust Museum
I had the opportunity to explore one of the country’s largest Holocaust museums. The museum’s core exhibit, titled “History, Heritage, and Hope,” occupied the entire first floor and left a profound impact on me. The presentation of events was executed with a simple, direct, and deeply moving flow that made the experience all the more powerful.
As I journeyed through the exhibit, I encountered a collection of original artifacts, poignant photographs, and compelling videos. The narrative began by portraying life before World War II, illustrating the rise of Hitler and the ominous atmosphere that enveloped Europe. The exhibit then delved into the courageous stories of those who endured the Holocaust and the harrowing aftermath they faced.
One particular highlight of the museum was the preservation of a significant historical artifact: a boxcar that had been utilized by the Nazis to transport Jews and other persecuted groups to concentration camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz. The presence of this boxcar served as a haunting reminder of the atrocities committed during that dark period of history.
In addition to its focus on the Holocaust, the museum made commendable efforts to educate visitors about other pressing human rights issues that continue to plague our world today. By shedding light on these contemporary challenges, the museum aimed to inspire dialogue and encourage individuals to actively contribute to a more just and inclusive society.
4. Fort De Soto Beach
I began my exploration by relaxing on the pristine beach, taking in the soothing sounds of the waves and the gentle sea breeze. The crystal-clear waters invited me to jump into a kayak and venture further into the park’s enchanting surroundings. As I paddled along, I marveled at the abundance of wildlife and the vibrant coastal ecosystem that unfolded before me. As the largest park within the county system, Fort De Soto Beach Park, spanning over 1,000 acres and encompassing five interconnected islands, it offered a mesmerizing natural experience.
Fort De Soto Beach Park boasted a remarkable variety of habitats, including wetlands, mangroves, beach plants, and palm hammocks. The trails that wound through the park allowed me to immerse myself in the beauty of the native flora, with countless opportunities to discover unique plant species at every turn.
The park’s avian diversity was truly astounding. Over 300 bird species had been sighted within its boundaries, and the number continued to grow each year. The air was filled with the melodious songs and graceful flights of numerous birds, offering a captivating spectacle for any bird enthusiast or nature lover.
Fort De Soto Beach Park also played a vital role in the conservation efforts for the threatened loggerhead sea turtle. From April to September, the park served as a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures, providing them with a safe haven during their nesting season. Witnessing the efforts dedicated to protecting these majestic sea turtles was both inspiring and heartwarming.
5. The Morean Arts Centre
When I was at the Morean Arts Centre, I was immediately struck by the vibrant and inclusive atmosphere of this community space dedicated to fostering a connection between people and art. It offered a multitude of engaging experiences, from captivating exhibits to studio classes, programs for kids, and a summer art camp.
Originally established in 1917 as the Art Club of St. Petersburg, the Morean Arts Centre had evolved into a hub of artistic expression. Its permanent collection was nothing short of impressive, boasting renowned works such as the Chihuly Collection and captivating international exhibits. One particular highlight was the Glass Studio and Hot Shop, where local artists demonstrated their mastery of the craft by creating breathtaking blown glass pieces right before my eyes. They generously shared their knowledge and passion, providing fascinating insights into the creative process.
Additionally, the Morean Arts Centre housed the Clay Centre, a sprawling working pottery studio that proudly claimed the title of the largest in the southern region. The abundance of creativity was palpable as artists meticulously shaped clay into exquisite forms, infusing each piece with their unique touch. To add to the experience, the Make Space Art Lounge beckoned visitors with its inviting ambiance, complete with Wi-Fi and a cozy café. It proved to be the perfect spot to unwind, immerse oneself in the artistic ambiance, and reflect on the multitude of creative expressions surrounding us.
6. Weedon Island Preserve
When in Weedon Island Preserve, I was captivated by its purposeful design to foster a reconnection between people and the natural environment. Nestled along the shores of Tampa Bay, this expansive coastal system spanned over 3,000 acres and was teeming with a diverse array of native plant species and fascinating wildlife.
Upon arrival, I made my way to the education center, where I had the opportunity to borrow a backpack filled with helpful resources, including engaging activity suggestions and invaluable field guides. The preserve’s reputation as a renowned destination for birding and fishing quickly became evident, making it an ideal setting for a day immersed in nature’s embrace.
As I embarked on the various trails that meandered through the preserve, I found myself surrounded by breathtaking scenery and an abundance of life. One notable highlight was the chance to witness the prehistoric canoe, a remarkable artifact that provided a glimpse into the rich history of this land. I was also drawn to the archaeological sites scattered throughout the preserve, each holding remnants of the indigenous peoples who had called this place home for countless generations.
To deepen my understanding of the area’s cultural significance, I made sure to visit the history center. Here, I delved into the captivating stories of the indigenous communities that had flourished on this land for thousands of years. It was a humbling experience that allowed me to appreciate the profound connection between the land and its original inhabitants.
7. St Petersburg Museum of History
One of the most intriguing exhibits at the St. Petersburg Museum of History was the two-headed calf, a peculiar and rare phenomenon that left me in awe. Alongside this captivating oddity, I discovered a full-size replica of the historic Benoist plane, transporting me back to a time when aviation was in its infancy, and daring pioneers took to the skies. The museum also held an astonishing 3000-year-old mummy, a testament to ancient civilizations and their intriguing rituals.
Beyond these captivating artifacts, the museum also offered a wealth of knowledge on the local bay ecology, providing insights into the delicate balance of the surrounding environment. And being in the heart of St. Petersburg, the museum boasted a prime location next to The Pier, offering a breathtaking view of the marina and the vibrant downtown area.
With over 30,000 artifacts proudly displayed, the St. Petersburg Museum of History was a treasure trove of knowledge, offering a captivating journey through the city’s past, the state’s heritage, and the nation’s history. Each exhibit told a unique story, weaving together the diverse threads of our collective past and providing a deeper understanding of the world we inhabit.
8. The Chihuly Collection
I had the extraordinary opportunity to witness the magnificent works of Dale Chihuly, an internationally acclaimed artist whose creations grace prestigious institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and even the iconic Louvre in Paris. However, it was here in St. Petersburg that I discovered his remarkable permanent collection, housed within the captivating confines of the Morean Arts Centre.
As I entered the unassuming wood and marble building, I could sense the anticipation building within me. The exhibit space was thoughtfully designed to showcase Chihuly’s awe-inspiring artworks in all their splendor. The moment I laid my eyes upon the collection, I was captivated by its sheer beauty and creativity.
One of the highlights of the exhibition was the Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier, a dazzling masterpiece that suspended from the ceiling, casting a radiant glow throughout the room. Its intricate glasswork and vibrant hues created an otherworldly atmosphere, evoking a sense of wonder and enchantment. Additionally, I was enthralled by the grand entrance adorned with a magnificent display of cerise ‘rocks,’ stretching an impressive 20 feet. This larger-than-life installation served as a captivating introduction to the artistic journey that awaited me.
9. Historic Kenwood
I stumbled upon the enchanting Kenwood neighborhood, a place that truly embodied charm and character. As I ventured into its historic streets, I was immediately captivated by the tree-lined brick roads and the beautifully preserved bungalows that adorned the area.
The homes in Kenwood showcased a rich architectural tapestry, reflecting the diverse styles prevalent between 1912 and 1945. From the elegant Tudor Revival and the classic Ranch to the distinctive Mission and the captivating Dutch Colonial Revival, each house exuded its own unique charm, contributing to the neighborhood’s visual allure.
What struck me most about Kenwood was the palpable sense of community and engagement that permeated the air. The residents of this neighborhood had come together to foster a warm and welcoming culture, one that embraced the arts and celebrated the city’s vibrant heritage. It was evident that the locals took great pride in their neighborhood, working tirelessly to maintain its charm and promote a sense of belonging among its inhabitants.
10. Sunken Gardens
In the bustling heart of the city, I discovered a hidden gem: the Sunken Gardens, a botanical paradise that beckoned me to explore its captivating beauty. As I stepped into the gardens, I couldn’t help but appreciate the rich history surrounding this place, known as St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum, boasting a remarkable century-long legacy.
The Sunken Gardens were truly a testament to time, nurturing some of the oldest tropical plants in existence. It was as if I had stepped into a living tapestry of botanical wonders, where each corner revealed a new marvel waiting to be discovered.
Eager to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, I embarked on a leisurely stroll along the meticulously crafted paths that wound their way through the gardens. The air was filled with the fragrant aromas of countless flowers, and the vibrant hues of the demonstration gardens painted a picturesque backdrop to my tranquil journey. As I wandered, I was captivated by the sight of cascading waterfalls, their gentle melodies providing a soothing soundtrack to my exploration.
With over 50,000 plants and flowers gracing the four-acre complex, the Sunken Gardens offered a breathtaking display of nature’s diversity. I marveled at the vibrant array of colors and shapes, each specimen reflecting the meticulous care and dedication of those who tended to this living sanctuary.
The city of St. Petersburg took great pride in preserving and showcasing the Sunken Gardens. They went above and beyond by offering daily tours, educational programs, and hosting special events. It was clear that this place was not only a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts like myself, but also a hub for community engagement and cultural appreciation.
11. St Pete Beach
I was astounded by the abundance of pristine beaches that adorned the coastline. The list of top-ranked beaches in this city seemed endless, each offering its own unique charm and allure. One beach, in particular, had garnered significant recognition. St Pete Beach had claimed the prestigious title of being ranked number one in the United States and fifth in the world by Trip Advisor back in 2012.
Curiosity piqued, I made my way to Upham Beach, situated at the tip of St Pete. It held a special appeal for surf enthusiasts, as it was one of the few spots along the Gulf of Mexico where the exhilarating sport could be enjoyed. The crashing waves beckoned daredevils to test their skills and ride the thrilling swells. However, Upham Beach wasn’t just about surfing. It offered a delightful array of activities for everyone to enjoy. I spent an enjoyable day exploring the historic Corey Avenue, indulging in some shopping and browsing through the charming boutiques. As the sun began to set, I couldn’t resist the allure of dining at one of the waterfront restaurants, where I savored delicious cuisine while being treated to picturesque views.
For those seeking water sports and adventure, St Petersburg had much to offer. Skimboarding and jet skiing were among the thrilling options available to satiate the appetite for excitement. I eagerly took on the challenge of skimboarding, gliding across the water’s edge with an adrenaline-fueled rush. The thrill of the sport and the joy it brought were truly unforgettable.
12. The Manhattan Casino
Stepping into the Manhattan Casino felt like stepping back in time. The walls echoed with the soulful melodies and vibrant rhythms of legendary musicians who had graced its stage. The names of James Brown, Fats Waller, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, and Nat King Cole resonated with a sense of awe and reverence. These iconic figures had shared their extraordinary talents with the Casino’s patrons, leaving an indelible mark on its history. The Casino, which was erected in 1925, held great significance within the African American community for over four decades.
While the musical performances had faded into memories, the Manhattan Casino continued to thrive, adapting to the changing times. It now housed Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant, offering a delectable culinary experience that paid homage to the soulful essence of its roots. The tantalizing aromas that wafted through the air enticed both locals and visitors alike, drawing them in to savor the flavors of traditional soul food.
One of the highlights of my visit was the Gospel Sunday brunches hosted at the casino. Each Sunday, the air would be filled with uplifting melodies and joyous harmonies as the sounds of gospel music resonated through the halls. It was a captivating experience, a celebration of faith, community, and the power of music to uplift the spirit.
13. Clearwater Beach
I also couldn’t resist the temptation to embark on a day trip to Clearwater Beach, a renowned coastal destination that had garnered accolades, including being declared the ‘Best Beach Town in America’ by USA Today in 2013.
As I set foot on Clearwater Beach, I was instantly captivated by its sheer beauty. The glistening white sand stretched out before me, inviting me to sink my toes into its soft embrace. The crystal-clear waters shimmered under the radiant sun, creating a mesmerizing sight that was truly postcard-perfect.
Clearwater Beach was not just a feast for the eyes, but also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and water sports enthusiasts. Families frolicked along the shoreline, engaging in a myriad of exciting water activities. Laughter filled the air as children built sandcastles and splashed in the gentle waves, while others tried their hand at thrilling water sports, embracing the thrill of jet skiing and parasailing.
As the sun began to set, casting a warm golden glow over the beach, the vibrant atmosphere transitioned into a lively nightlife scene. Nightclubs came to life, offering an array of entertainment options for those seeking a fun-filled evening.
While in Clearwater, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, located nearby. This remarkable marine sanctuary provided a unique opportunity to learn about marine life and conservation efforts. It was a place where I could witness the incredible work being done to rehabilitate and protect marine animals.
14. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a remarkable facility that offered an experience far beyond the ordinary. Driven by their mission of ‘Rescue, Rehab, Release,’ the Clearwater Marine Aquarium was dedicated to the preservation and conservation of marine life, providing a haven for these magnificent creatures.
As I stepped inside the aquarium, I was immediately struck by the passion and dedication exhibited by the staff. Their commitment to preserving the marine environment and ensuring a bright future for marine mammals was truly inspiring. Through their efforts, they aimed to educate and raise awareness about the importance of conservation.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium offered a wealth of activities and experiences to engage visitors. Daily presentations shed light on the incredible work being done behind the scenes, giving us a glimpse into the efforts to rescue and rehabilitate marine animals. The aquarium also offered behind-the-scenes tours, allowing us to gain a deeper understanding of the intricate workings of the facility.
One of the highlights of my visit was the in-house theater, where educational and entertaining movies were screened, providing valuable insights into marine life and conservation. The aquarium also offered interactive encounters with the animals, allowing us to get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures. From touching a stingray to meeting a sea turtle, the experience was truly unforgettable.
Of course, the star of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium was none other than Winter the dolphin. Known worldwide as the star of the popular Dolphin Tale movies, Winter had captured the hearts of many with her incredible story of resilience. Getting the chance to meet Winter was an absolute delight, and witnessing firsthand the bond between the staff and this remarkable creature was truly heartwarming.