5 Days in the Sunshine City

St Petersburg Florida is a destination with more to do than you can fit into a long weekend.  So, here are suggestions for a five-day get-away to one of Florida’s finest cities.

Skyline of St. Petersburg, Florida from the Pier

Day One – Shop Till You Drop

Beach Drive may have be the best shopping street in town.  Stop at Hooker Tea Company for a pick-me-up. For a taste treat don’t miss top-rated Paciugo for gelato and other tempting desserts.  For the best antiquing, try Patty and Friends Antique Mall, the oldest antique mall in Florida, with over seventy stalls.  Both sides of Central Avenue in downtown and the Grand Central District are antiques havens.  St. Pete Beach’s Corey Avenue district has antiques and boutiques.  Best art galleries include the Florida Craftsmen Gallery and Restaurant, ArtPool on Central, or Duncan McCellan for glass.  John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk is a shopping center in nearby Madeira Beach, for seaside shopping along the water.  End your shopping day at The Pier, a wonderful multi-tiered shopping complex.  The Columbia Restaurant on The Pier, for Florida’s most famous Cuban family owned restaurant with a view of the Bay.  Or dine at The Canopy Roof Lounge, with a hip atmosphere, for an aperitif, excellent small plates and a fantastic view of downtown St. Pete and its beautiful waterfront.

Day Two – Your Beach Day

Yes, you can have all five days be beach days if you wish, and you will want to move this day around depending on the weather.   Some of the best beaches in the world are in St. Petersburg and the locals have their favorites: Pass-A-Grille beach is low key and a St Pete favorite, and you can see the Eighth Street Historic District there, too.  Fort DeSoto Park is a great place for a family beach day  For a real beach get away, go to Caladesi Island State Park, both are accessible only by public ferry or private boat. At Caladeisi, there is a convenient marina and concession near the white sands and maritime hammocks. Depending on where you are staying, the best beach may just be steps from your room.  Lucky you!  Waterside supper dining is the order of the evening, at Hurricane Seafood on Pass-a-Grille Beach, Woody’s Waterfront, the Columbia Restaurant on Sand Key, Billy’s Stone Crab.

Exterior of  Salvador Dali Museum in St. Pete

Day Three – Museums and More

The Dali Museum with surreal art for you to enjoy; or see the Museum of Fine Arts with permanent exhibits covering all ages and types of art, including French impressionists ( Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Gauguin), and traveling exhibits. The museum had a lovely waterfront cafe for your lunch or refreshments while pausing between galleries. This year they are featuring “My Generation: Young Artists from China” and photography: “Aaron Siskin’s Harlem Document”.  Check out their live concert series as well.  Be bedazzled by the Chihuly Collection, a permanent collection of Dale Chihully’s unique glassmaking artist’s works are on display.  Be sure to walk up the street to the Morean Art Hot Shop for a live glass blowing demonstration. Or for a very different experience visit the Florida Holocaust Museum, where artifacts including a train wagon that carried people to the extermination camp of Treblinka are displayed.  We suggest that you end the evening with dinner at Harold Seltzer’s Steakhouse or Gateway to India for the Chicken Madras (white meat coconut and with spices) or the Navratan Korma (fresh vegetables with cashew nuts).

St. Petersburg, FL at Night

Day Four – The Play’s the Thing

Spend a day playing and then see a play or theater performance.  What better place to play than a park, in this case the Vinoy Park, St. Pete’s best kept secret.  horse-drawn carriage rides are available most of the year.  It is a tree-filled park, downtown by the Bay, overlooking the boat basin, with seating plus lush grass. The performance shell hosts live music during the summer months, and the Trolley drives the route in front of the Vinoy every day. Or visit the Weeden Island Preserve for canoeing, kayaking, and hiking , or the Boyd Nature Park, where you can take a tram or stroll down the pathways and walkways to see native birds, plants, frogs and even alligators.  Go fishing with Captain Ted Nesti, out in the Bay among the dolphins.  Dinner plans?  400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, where you can savor the buffalo popcorn shrimp  or the artichoke, manchego cheese fondue appetizer, or go for Moon Under Water, offering a pub atmosphere with an outdoor Florida twist. Choose from three levels of seating and an extensive menu, including sidewalk and porch.  In the evening, take in a performance at the Freefall Theatre, a little theater in the round, where the room is arranged differently for every production. Sometimes the audience is right in the middle of the play!  Or catch a performance of the Florida Orchestra at the Mahaffey Theater.

Day Five – Off the Beaten Track

Dolphins playing in wake of boat off Saint Petersburg FloridaGo to Clearwater Beach Aquarium to see Winter. No matter what the weather is like, Winter is the famous dolphin who is the star of the feature film Dolphin Tale.  St. Petersburg Museum of History’s Flight Number One pavilion celebrates the fact that the first commercial aviation flight ever happened here.  Or visit the famous Sunken Gardens, a botanical wonderland in the middle of  this vibrant city.  Rent a boat and take to the water yourself, with pontoon boats, Water Bugs, kayaks, schooners and day sailboats, from Boat St. Pete Rentals at the Vinoy Yacht Basin. Enjoy dinner at the Britannia Arms, for a little bit of England, sausages and mash, shepherd’s pie, and of course, fish and chips.  Or try the Red Mesa, for grilled mahi-mahi, steaks, chicken burritos, and their famous chicken tortilla soup.

Where to Stay in St. Pete

Lodging choices in St Petersburg and St Pete Beach are varied and enticing.  Among our suggestions for St Petersburg: Hotel Indigo,  or Staybridge Suites.  On St. Pete Beach: Postcard Inn on the Beach, The Beachcomber Resort, and the Grand Plaza Hotel.

What?  Are there too many things to do and is there too little time?  Yes, you are right!  Why not plan a longer stay than five days in St. Pete, as you Drive the Nation.