Next to St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport, Pinellas Park is a city with a mix of residential and industrial areas.
Automobiles are a big part of the city’s identity. As well as numerous exclusive car dealerships here, there’s a high-profile automobile museum, and a short-track oval for stock car racing.
You can also do some of your own racing at an indoor karting facility with Italian-made electric karts.
What impresses me most about Pinellas Park is its public events, the biggest of which is a free country festival every March next to the City Hall.
Nowhere in the Tampa Bay area is far away. For instance, within a few minutes you can visit St. Pete’s museums, stroll the boardwalk at John’s Pass, or explore the mangroves on the coast.
1. Tampa Bay Automobile Museum
Pinellas Park’s prime attraction is a car museum with more than 50 vehicles on display.
These come from the private collection of the French immigrant Alain A. Cerf. The museum’s exhibits reflect his interest in the innovations of the Vintage era, in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s.
Some examples from this period include a 1916 Owen Magnetic-O Touring, a 1929 Ford Model A, a 1936 Adler Trumpf, and a 1930 Tracta.
A recurring brand is the Czech-made Tatra, which broke the mold with their streamlined designs in the 1930s and 1940s.
Still, my standout exhibit is a faithful reproduction of the Fardier de Cugnot. Built in the 18th century this steam-powered machine is considered the world’s first self-propelled vehicle.
2. Sawgrass Lake Park
Touching Pinellas Park’s eastern boundary is a 400-acre park, encompassing Sawgrass Lake and an area of maple swamp.
The park is loaded with wildlife. I spent a relaxing hour wandering along the elevated boardwalk here, checking out the gators, armadillos, and gopher tortoises.
You can scale an observation tower, which is in great shape and has a 360° view of the landscape. If you’re pushed for time, I’d make this a priority.
For a longer stay, there’s also a trail through a stand of oak hammock, taking you deep into the park.
3. Showtime Speedway
I’m a sucker for short-track stock car racing, and can’t stay away from this track in the north of Pinellas Park near the airport.
Showtime has several decades of motorsports heritage, going back to 1960. This is a ⅜-mile asphalt oval, with roaring action every Saturday night.
There’s a ton of event classes, from Super Late Models to Winged Outlaw Sprint Cars, Sportsmen, Open Wheel Modifieds, Pro Trucks, Street Stocks, Mini Stocks, and much more.
For guaranteed thrills and spill, I’d check the schedule for Figure 8 races. These get crazy when the school buses are racing.
4. England Brothers Park
Pinellas Park knows how to have fun, and the proof is in the packed calendar of annual events at this park by the City Hall.
You’ve got the Firefighters’ ChiliBlaze in March, the Pinellas Pepper Fest in April, and the BBQ Cookoff & Rodeo in November. I’ve also saved an entry to talk about Country in the Park, later in my list.
Until recently, the England Brothers Park was also the venue for the Pinellas Farmers and Flea Market. This has since moved to 13600 Icot Blvd in Clearwater.
If you come on the rare occasion when there’s nothing happening, you’ll find ten acres of grassy space, with a walking track and picnic tables.
5. Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been charmed by live entertainment in smaller towns. So without a doubt, I’d urge you to see what’s going on at this venue by the City Hall.
The Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center can hold audiences of up to 500, and has a busy season.
Think tribute acts galore, for the likes of Barbra Streisand, Prince, Celine Dion, Elton John, Billy Joel, the Rolling Stones.
I went to see the tribute to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, and had a great time. There’s a full bar, which helped, and the staff were friendly as can be.
6. Freedom Lake Park
Opening out to the north of Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure is a passive park, on the shores of two lakes.
What caught my eye driving into Freedom Lake Park was the F-16 fighter jet on display by the entrance. When I was here the jet had a brand new canopy, donated by Lockheed Martin.
Close by there’s also a memorial dedicated to those killed and missing in the Korean War (1950-1953).
The larger lake has little groves around the shore, with docks, a playground, picnic pavilions, and a set of exercise equipment under a shelter.
People like to launch their RC sailboats here, while there’s a fenced dog park near the water.
7. Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure
One of the premier outdoor sporting goods stores in Florida can be found in Pinellas Park. Family owned and operated, Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure goes back to 1946.
At that time Bill Jackson was running a humble garage operation, selling bleach and rat poison. From day one, the store got a reputation for hands-on customer service, which is vital when you’re dealing with equipment for the outdoors.
Everything here, from backpacking equipment to fishing gear, has been tried and tested by the team at Bill Jackson’s. They have a passion for hiking, camping, paddling, diving, and fishing, and will give you honest advice that comes from experience.
To try before you buy, there’s a host of facilities inside, including a dry ski slope, pool, and shooting range.
8. Tampa Bay Grand Prix
After immersing yourself in Pinellas Park’s automotive culture you may be raring to get behind the wheel.
You can do this at Tampa Bay Grand Prix, a professionally-designed karting facility next to Showtime speedway.
Set inside, this track has electric karts imported from Italy, capable of 50 mph. I came with some friends a few months back, and was shocked at how much pull these little rockets have.
There are ten karts per race, and you can test your skills against your companions, or other competitive racing fanatics.
My favorite touch was the projector screen, updating me on my lap times, so I could work on my strategy mid-race.
9. Weedon Island Preserve
Facing Tampa Bay on the east side of the Pinellas Peninsula is more than 3,000 acres of nature, with a patchwork of ecosystems.
At Weedon Island Preserve you’ll encounter mangroves, coastal hammocks, and pine flatwoods, dotted with middens left behind by prehistoric Native Americans.
There are almost five miles of trails here, two of which are boardwalks. For me, the best way to see Weedon Island is on the water, and there are a few outfitters with all the necessary gear.
One, ECOmersion Kayak & SUP Rentals has a retail space within the preserve. Following the South Paddling Trail, I went on a wonderful journey through a system of narrow mangrove tunnels.
The whole time there was wildlife at every turn, including dolphins, manatees, stingrays and tons of crabs.
10. Salvador Dali Museum
As far as I’m concerned, one of the greatest cultural attractions in Florida is a few minutes away from Pinellas Park in St. Pete’s.
This is the Salvador Dalí Museum, home to more masterpieces by the Spanish Surrealist than any other museum in the world.
Some of the show-stoppers are The Hallucinogenic Toreador (1969-1970), The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (1952-1954), and Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man (1943).
There are almost 100 oil paintings by Dalí in the holdings, along with a wealth of sculpture, drawings, graphics and photographs.
The museum’s building is a work of art in its own right, opened in 2011 and evoking Dalí’s work with a monumental, bulging glass entryway and skylight.
11. John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk
A few minutes to the southwest, John’s Pass is a shopping and entertainment hub for the city of Madeira Beach.
The ‘pass’ here is a gap in the shoreline, ripped open by a hurricane in the mid-19th century. It got its name from one John Levique—claimed to be a pirate—who was the first to sail through.
Since the 1970s this waterfront community has been developed as a quaint boardwalk, with more than 100 shops, restaurants and maritime businesses.
Swing by for the coastal scenery, to enjoy some seafood, or to set sail on a dolphin cruise or fishing charter.
Strolling here I could see dolphins from the boardwalk, and had a blast watching the pelicans swarming when the fishing boats came in.
12. Sunken Gardens
St. Petersburg’s lush Sunken Gardens are more than 100 years old, and are home to tens of thousands of species of plants, trees, and flowers.
Growing some of the oldest tropical plants in Florida, these distinct spaces are all connected with a system of well-marked paths. Meanwhile, informational plaques to let you know what it is you’re seeing.
I’m always blown away by how much life there is at Sunken Gardens, from a flock of flamingos to tortoises, butterflies, cockatoos, macaws, and koi in the ponds.
Guided tours and instructional programs are offered as well, so check out their website for a complete list of options.
13. Pinellas Trail
Stretching from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, Pinellas Trail is nearly 50 miles long and is open to hikers, bikers, and runners.
This is a rail trail, on the right-of-way of two historic railroads, the Orange Belt Railway, and the Tampa and Gulf Railroad.
There are a variety of trailheads at public parks on the route. The nearest of these is about ten minutes west in Seminole City Park.
For a lot of users, the Pinellas Trail is a convenient commuter route, linking St. Petersburg with other communities on the Pinellas Peninsula.
You can also use it to get to attractions like the Chihuly Collection, Tropicana Field, Tyone Square Mall, and Florida Botanical Gardens.
14. Mainlands Golf Course
This public course in the heart of Pinellas Park has been owned and operated by the same family for more than half a century.
Mainlands Golf Course is a par-67, with an open, links-style layout. While this is a short-ish course, with only two par 5s, there are several opportunities to drive for the green on the par-4s.
Still, if power isn’t a big part of your game, you’ve got a great chance of posting a low score.
The course is already affordable to play, but there’s dynamic pricing here. So, it can be even cheaper if you choose a low-traffic time, like weekday mornings.
Before starting your round, I’d recommend signing up for the hole-in-one contest on the 16th for a chance to win a cash prize.
15. Country in the Park
Pinellas Park’s biggest free annual event is a day-long country shindig at England Brothers Park. This is Country in the Park, normally happening on the third Sunday of March.
In the last few years, acts like Lanco, Sammy Kershaw, Tracy Lawrence, Diamond Rio, and John Conlee have all headlined.
There’s non-stop music throughout the day, although it’s well worth checking out some of the side events. For a few, you’ve got a vendors’ market, professional rodeo, and car shows.
With everything on offer, I’m amazed that this event still has free admission. Proceeds from food and drink sales go to local charities.