St Petersburg (Florida) sits snuggly between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s done a lot in recent years to revitalize its once dull reputation as both a spring break and retirement destination.
By redeveloping the waterfront, arguably the city’s best feature, and renewing interest in the historic district, the city is transforming itself into a bonafide southern holiday destination.
With weather so beautiful it earned the nickname “Sunshine City,” St Petersburg has award winning beaches, highly rated restaurants, great state and national parks, excellent shopping, craft breweries, farmer’s markets, and remarkable cultural experiences. It holds the title for ‘most consecutive days with sunshine,’ at 768 days and you’ll love discovering it for yourself.
Here’s the best things to do in St Petersburg, Florida:
1. The Dali Museum
Celebrating the life and work of Salvador Dali, The Dali Museum features pieces that span this fascinating artists entire career.
With well over 2,000 works, showcasing every medium and moment of his artistry, it’s the largest Dali collection outside of Europe. It began as a private collection of the Morse family in the 1940’s and in 1982 they donated it, in its entirety to the St Petersburg community.
You’ll see 96 oil paintings, book works, original drawings, sculpture, prints, manuscripts, photos, and a large collection of documents. It’s a unique museum, complete with a contemplation area which is nothing more than a solid white room with a window.
2. Skyway Fishing Pier State Park
The world’s longest fishing pier is in St Petersburg. Created when the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge was built connecting St Petersburg with Sarasota, the existing bridge was turned into a pier.
Anglers couldn’t be happier. The best feature is that you can park right next to your favourite fishing spot and relax all day. Once the sun goes down, the lights on the pier attract a ton of different fish.
You can expect tarpon, grouper, cobia, snook, red snapper, pompano, Spanish and king mackerel, sheepshead, and more. The park has a bait and snack shop and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
3. Florida Holocaust Museum
One of the country’s largest Holocaust museums is in St Petersburg. The core exhibit is entitled History, Heritage, and Hope, and covers the entire first floor. Events are presented with a simple, direct, and moving flow that is powerful to experience.
There are original artefacts, photographs, and video beginning with life before World War II, following the rise of Hitler, and the courageous aftermath. The museum houses one of the few remaining boxcars used by the Nazis in order to transfer Jews and other groups to concentration camps like Treblinka and Auschwitz.
The museum also makes great effort to educate visitors about other human rights issues facing the world today.
4. Fort De Soto Beach
Right away, you’ll notice the rich ecology of Fort De Soto Beach Park. It’s the largest park within the county system, with over 1,000 acres and five interconnected islands (or keys).
Relax on the beach, jump in a kayak, or stroll along the shore. No matter what you do, you’ll be absolutely entranced by the natural beauty of the place.
The park has wetlands, mangroves, beach plants, palm hammocks, and tons of native plants to discover. More than 300 bird species have been sighted here with more being added every year. And between April and September Fort De Soto provides a refuge for the threatened loggerhead sea turtle.
Named the top beach in American in 2009 by Trip Advisor, you’ll want to come back again and again.
5. The Morean Arts Centre
The Morean Arts Centre is a community space aimed at connecting people to art in a variety of ways. Not only do the host interesting and dynamic exhibits, they also conduct studio classes, kid programs, and summer art camp.
Founded in 1917 as the Art Club of St Petersburg, the centre now has an impressive permanent collection including the Chihuly Collection, and impressive international exhibits. Be sure to check out the Glass Studio and Hot Shop to watch local artists create blown glass masterpieces.
The artists will even describe the process to you while you watch. There’s also the Clay Centre, the largest working pottery studio in the south, and the Make Space Art Lounge, complete with Wi-Fi and café – perfect for relaxing and soaking up the vibe.
6. Weedon Island Preserve
The Weedon Island Preserve was created with the hope of reconnecting people to the larger environment. Located on Tampa Bay, the 3,000+ acre land is a coastal system that is home to a variety of native plant species and animals.
There is an education centre where you can check out a back pack filled with tons of suggestions for activities as well as valuable field guides. Known far and wide for birding and fishing, the preserve is the perfect place to spend a day.
Hike the trails, visit the prehistoric canoe, learn about the archaeological sites, and don’t forget to check out the history centre to learn more about the indigenous people who lived on the land for thousands of years.
7. St Petersburg Museum of History
This museum has such an odd assortment of exhibits that it’s sure to earn a place on your favourites list.
They’ve got a two-headed calf, a full size replica of a Benoist plane, a 3000-year-old mummy, information on bay ecology, and of course, a Tampa Bay Rays baseball exhibit.
Conveniently located next to The Pier, they’ve got an awesome view of the marina and downtown St Petersburg.
With over 30,000 artefacts on display there’s something to learn about the city, the state, and the nation.
8. The Chihuly Collection
You’ll find Dale Chihuly’s work in places like the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and even the Louvre in Paris.
But if you want to see his permanent collection, you have to go to St Petersburg. Located in a simply wood and marble building that is part of the Morean Arts Centre, the exhibit was designed specifically to display this impressive collection.
You’ll find the Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier and the grand entrance made out of a 20-foot display of cerise ‘rocks.’
9. Historic Kenwood
When looking for charm in St Petersburg, look no further than the historic Kenwood neighbourhood. It’s filled with trees that line the brick roads and historic bungalows.
Most of the homes were constructed between 1912 and 1945 and there’s a variety of architectural styles like Minimal Traditional, Tudor Revival, Ranch, Prairie, Mission, Dutch Colonial Revival, and more.
The community is incredibly engaged and locals work hard to create a friendly culture that embraces the arts and the culture of the city.
10. Sunken Gardens
Right in the heart of this busy city are the Sunken Gardens, a botanical paradise just waiting to be explored. Considered to be St Petersburg’s oldest living museum, the gardens are one hundred years old and some of the oldest tropical plants can be found here.
Take a break from rushing around and enjoy a stroll on the many paths that come complete with gorgeous demonstration gardens, cascading waterfalls, and over 50,000 plants and flowers.
The city runs the four-acre complex and they host daily tours, educational programs, and special events.
11. St Pete Beach
The list of top ranked beaches in St Petersburg is long indeed. St Pete Beach was ranked number one in the United States and number five in the world by Trip Advisor in 2012.
One of the only spots for surfing in the Gulf of Mexico is Upham Beach – at the tip of St Pete. Enjoy a day of shopping on historic Corey Avenue or dinner on the waterfront.
If you like water sports, try skim boarding or jet skiing. The Don CeSar Beach Resort is the not to be missed destination – built during the Jazz Age, the Don has been the heartbeat of the community for decades.
12. The Manhattan Casino
For a little St Petersburg history, visit the Manhattan Casino. It was built in 1925 and has contributed significantly to the African American culture and community for the past 40 years.
James Brown, Fats Waller, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, and Nat King Cole are just some of the greats who’ve played here.
Now you can have a meal in Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant and every Sunday the casino hosts Gospel Sunday brunches.
13. Clearwater Beach
USA Today declared Clearwater the ‘Best Beach Town in America’ in 2013, so why not go for a daytrip to Clearwater?
Famous for the fabulous white sand, crystal clear water, family friendly water sports, dinner cruises, and night clubs.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is nearby and for fifty cents you can enjoy a walk out to the end of Pier 60.
14. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Nearby Clearwater has one aquarium that will take you far beyond the typical experience. With a mission of ‘Rescue, Rehab, Release,’ the Clearwater Marine Aquarium allows you to immerse yourself in the important conservation work being done there.
Staff work to preserve the environment and provide marine mammals with a strong future. The aquarium has daily presentations, behind the scenes tours, an in-house theatre, opportunities to visit with the animals, fun and educational movies, camps, a café, kayak excursions, and more.
The highlight is the change to meet Winter the dolphin. He’s the most famous resident and the star in the popular Dolphin Tale movies.