What are the best things to see and do in St. Petersburg?

Susan Barnes

When you think of the best things to see and do in St. Petersburg, of course you think the beach. But this cosmopolitan Florida city and its surrounding areas of Clearwater and Tampa are home to so much more, from art to music to (this being Florida) amusement parks. Check out our selections for the best activities to keep you occupied when in St. Pete:
 
1. Become a beach bum. When visiting St. Petersburg, a visit to one of the area’s beaches is a must — for a day, a week or (if you’re lucky) even longer. Two of the best are Fort De Soto Park and, to the north, Honeymoon Island State Park, named from a Life Magazine contest for newlyweds in 1939.

2. Dabble in Dalí. For a bit of surrealism, visit the Dalí Museum just outside downtown St. Petersburg. The museum boasts the world’s most comprehensive collection of Salvador Dalí works of art, including 96 oil paintings, more than 100 watercolors and drawings and 1,300 graphics, photos, sculptures and objets d’art.

3. Hear a concert. If luck’s on your side, one of your favorite performers will be at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the performance hall boasts near-perfect acoustics and has received rave reviews from artists, technicians and audiences through the years.

4. Befriend a dolphin. Also in Clearwater, visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Here you’ll find Winter the dolphin, who splashed onto the silver screen — and into our hearts — in A Dolphin Tale. Don’t miss seeing the props used in the movie.

5. Be adventurous. No need to go all the way to Orlando if you’re a thrill-seeker. Instead, check out the African plains at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay; make a splash at Adventure Island; have a roaring good time at Dinosaur World in Plant City, just 45 minutes east of downtown St. Petersburg; or tower over the miniatures at LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven, a little farther away.

  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    What are the best beaches in St. Petersburg?

    With 35 miles of powder-white beaches, there are plenty of spots to choose from in and around St. Petersburg. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have identified five beaches you won’t want to miss:
     
    1. Fort De Soto Park. Recently named America’s best family beach by Parents magazine, this park at the sound end of the coastline is loads of fun. Its beaches are complemented by walking and biking paths — and you can even bring your four-legged friends.

    2. St. Pete Beach. Surprisingly, St. Pete Beach is one of the few spots along the Gulf of Mexico known for surfing, not to mention its popular beaches. In 1957, Pass-a-Grille Beach, Don CeSar Place, Belle Vista Beach and St. Petersburg Beach merged into the City of St. Petersburg Beach — now known simply as St. Pete Beach.

    3. Sunset Beach. At the southern end of Treasure Island lies Sunset Beach, the perfect place to watch the sun set. A sense of bohemia permeates the beach, which is dotted with uniquely decorated houses, tiki huts, white sand and beachfront bars.

    4. Clearwater Beach. Its broad beaches, turquoise water and nearby hotels, shops, restaurants and pier make Clearwater one of the most popular beaches in the area — not to mention that it was recently recognized as having “the Best Sand on the East Coast” by Condé Nast Traveler.

    5. Honeymoon Island State Park and Caledisi Island. This park to the north of Pinellas County was named from a Life Magazine contest for newlyweds in 1939. It’s still a popular destination, and just off its coast is Caledisi Island, accessible only by boat and often named one of America’s best beaches.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    What is the best thing to bring home from St. Petersburg?

    Of course, if you spend any time in the sun in St. Petersburg, it’s nearly certain you’ll be bringing home a tan. But if you’re looking for a souvenir that won’t fade, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend creating your own 3D postcard using fun materials as part of an “art buffet” at the Morean Arts Center, giving a whole new meaning to “Wish You Were Here!” You can mail it (or rather, the center will), or take it home yourself for lasting memories.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    What are the best St. Petersburg food experiences?

    Though thoughts of food in St. Petersburg may bring to mind seafood (which you certainly should eat here), there are plenty of other food experiences to try in this lively Florida city. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have rounded up the best to keep you and your stomach happy during your visit:
     
    1. The Saturday Morning Market.
    Held every week in downtown St. Petersburg, the market is the perfect place to buy fresh produce, pick up a gift or two and listen to live music while sipping a cup of coffee or eating breakfast.

    2. Ribfest. Held each fall, it’s three days of ribs, ribs and more ribs — so if you’re a fan, you’ll want to hightail it to St. Petersburg and eat to your heart’s content. Live music rounds out a day of fun in the sun.

    3. Food trucks. These portable food purveyors are popping up all over St. Petersburg. Though food truck rallies are planned periodically, one food truck has made a name for itself for more than 20 years: Taco Bus. It’s permanently parked on Central Avenue; stop by for authentic Mexican street food.

    4. Waterfront dining. If you want to dine with your toes in the sand — or almost — there are a few waterfront options you’ll want to check out. Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, the Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill and Bar and Tate Island Grill at the Sandpearl Resort are mere inches away from the white sands of Clearwater Beach — perfect places to toast the sunset each night.
     
    5. Seafood. Last but not least, if you have something special to celebrate or just want a romantic night out, make reservations at Caretta on the Gulf at the Sandpearl Resort or The Maritana Grille at Loews Don CeSar Hotel. Both menus feature impeccably prepared seafood — plus dishes for land lovers, too.
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  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    Where is the best nightlife in St. Petersburg?

    If you’re looking for the best nightlife scene in St. Petersburg, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend heading downtown — along Central Avenue and 3rd Street South is where you’ll find most of the action. Exactly where you end up will depend on your tastes: Live concerts reign supreme at Jannus Live; see and be seen at Push Ultra Lounge; or sip a glass of sangria on the porch at Ceviche Tapas Bar.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    What are the best things to do with kids in St. Petersburg?

    Kids of all ages have loads of fun in St. Petersburg, from more sedentary activities like the beach to learning about science, dinosaurs and other subjects. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have narrowed down the best things to do with kids during your Florida visit:
     
    1. Hit the beach. Whatever time of year you visit St. Petersburg, the beach beckons. Head west of downtown, and in no time you’re building sandcastles and running into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. With 35 miles of powder-white beaches, there are plenty of spots to choose from. Be sure you and your kids keep your eyes peeled when searching for shells — some of the best shark tooth finds have been unearthed on these very beaches.

    2. Meet a famous dolphin. Make a splash when you take your kids to see Winter, the star of Dolphin Tale. The dolphin with the prosthetic tail makes her home at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, along with other dolphins, sea turtles and more marine life. The aquarium also offers a boat tour of the Intracoastal — a wonderful way to spend an afternoon on the water.

    3. Learn and explore. If your kids tire of the beach or a rainy day sets in, make your way to Great Explorations, The Children's Museum. Fun, hands-on and interactive things to do abound; check the museum’s website for daily planned activities for all age levels.

    4. Get scientific. If your kids aren’t afraid of heights, they’ll love the Sky Trail Ropes Course at the largest science museum in the Southeast — the Museum of Science and Industry. Staying grounded more their thing? Check out any of the more than 450 exhibits, lots of them hands-on, or take a seat in the IMAX dome theater.

    5. Dig the dinosaurs. Looking for larger-than-life fun? Dinosaur World, the world’s largest dinosaur attraction, is about 45 minutes east of St. Petersburg and has 150 life-size dinosaurs — replicas, that is — that make their home in the wooded park.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    What are the best things to see and do in St. Petersburg?

    When you think of the best things to see and do in St. Petersburg, of course you think the beach. But this cosmopolitan Florida city and its surrounding areas of Clearwater and Tampa are home to so much more, from art to music to (this being Florida) amusement parks. Check out our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ selections for the best activities to keep you occupied when in St. Pete:
     
    1. Become a beach bum. When visiting St. Petersburg, a visit to one of the area’s beaches is a must — for a day, a week or (if you’re lucky) even longer. Two of the best are Fort De Soto Park and, to the north, Honeymoon Island State Park, named from a Life Magazine contest for newlyweds in 1939.

    2. Dabble in Dalí. For a bit of surrealism, visit the Dalí Museum just outside downtown St. Petersburg. The museum boasts the world’s most comprehensive collection of Salvador Dalí works of art, including 96 oil paintings, more than 100 watercolors and drawings and 1,300 graphics, photos, sculptures and objets d’art.

    3. Hear a concert. If luck’s on your side, one of your favorite performers will be at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the performance hall boasts near-perfect acoustics and has received rave reviews from artists, technicians and audiences through the years.

    4. Befriend a dolphin. Also in Clearwater, visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Here you’ll find Winter the dolphin, who splashed onto the silver screen — and into our hearts — in A Dolphin Tale. Don’t miss seeing the props used in the movie.

    5. Be adventurous. No need to go all the way to Orlando if you’re a thrill-seeker. Instead, check out the African plains at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay; make a splash at Adventure Island; have a roaring good time at Dinosaur World in Plant City, just 45 minutes east of downtown St. Petersburg; or tower over the miniatures at LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven, a little farther away.