The cosmopolitan city of St. Petersburg has long been known for its scenic bayfront and renowned art museums. In recent years, lively downtown St. Pete has also emerged as a hot spot for shopping, museums, dining, nightlife and entertainment. With 361 days of sun a year and a full spectrum of things to see and do, the Sunshine City (as it’s nicknamed) is one of Florida’s most exciting destinations.
A hub for art and culture, downtown St. Pete is home to many notable fine art museums and galleries. The iconic Dali Museum displays Salvador Dali’s work in a stunning, surreal new building with a flowing geodesic dome known as the “Enigma.” Just down the street, the Chihuly Collection presented by Morean Arts Center features some of the most brilliant and intricate creations of famous glass artist Dale Chihuly. The Museum of Fine Arts showcases works by Monet, Gauguin, Renoir, O’Keeffe and others. Galleries lining the Central Avenue corridor include the Craftsman House Gallery, Crislip Arcade, ARTpool and the Morean Arts Center.
The Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts - Mahaffey Theater hosts major shows and entertainers. Built in 1925, the Palladium Theater is a performing arts venue that is, at once, intimate and majestic. The theater’s 880-seat Hough Concert Hall boasts a full-sized Skinner pipe organ. In addition, the American Stage Theatre Company, Freefall Theatre Company and Florida Orchestra are all located in downtown St. Pete. The St. Pete area is brimming with culture of all sorts. To read more, click here.
Downtown St. Pete offers a diverse range of restaurants, from the upscale, award-winning Marchand's Bar and Grill to the casually trendy and innovative Red Mesa Cantina. Dine outside on the scenic Beach Drive promenade at Cassis American Brasserie, Bella Brava New World Trattoria, Moon Under Water or 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House. For intimate settings, try tapas at Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant, Mediterranean fare at The Garden Restaurant or brunch at Café Alma.
For nightlife, kick back in eclectic bars, swanky lounges and posh nightclubs. Hot spots for dancing include Push Ultra Lounge and Vintage Ultra Lounge. Bar Milo mixes crafty cocktails, while The Independent stocks a huge selection of craft beers. MacDinton's Irish Pub is popular with fun-loving crowds, and Jannus Live is a great venue for intimate outdoor concerts.
Shop and stroll along Beach Drive, which features a string of boutiques and sidewalk cafes with a faintly European feel. For stylish boutiques, head west on Central Avenue and hit the hip, young artist enclave of the 600 block. Head farther west to the Grand Central District to find smart vintage boutiques and antique stores.
Thanks to the city's charter, the bayfront can’t be developed so it’s perfect for walking or bicycling. Rent a bike and ride along the ribbon of green that hugs the bay, also known as Straub Park and Vinoy Park. You can take in views of swaying palms, waterfront mansions, sailboats and dolphins. In fact, the city is so bicycle friendly that it was named one of the country's "Top 10 Cities for Cycling" in 2012 by ShermansTravel.com.
Just north of downtown St. Pete, visit Great Explorations Children's Museum, a favorite for families, and Sunken Gardens, one of Florida’s first roadside attractions. The century-old gardens feature lush tropical plants, ponds and waterfalls, plus a touch of nostalgia.
Up for some big league action? Head to air-conditioned Tropicana Field for some Major League Baseball, Florida style and watch the Tampa Bay Rays play. Afterward, head to Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill for a cold one and a lively game recap.
There's always something happening in downtown St. Pete. Ongoing events include the monthly First Friday celebration and the Saturday Morning Market. Many annual events and festivals take place along the downtown waterfront, including Mainsail Arts Festival and the action-packed Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which features IndyCars racing through the city streets. Sample the great eats and live music of the annual Taste of Pinellas or Ribfest, or tune up for the Tampa Bay Blues Festival.
Award-winning beaches Fort De Soto Park and St. Pete Beach are a short drive away. St. Pete Beach was recently voted TripAdvisor's No. 1 beach in the U.S. and No. 5 in the world for 2012. Nearby, explore Treasure Island, Madeira Beach and Clearwater Beach.
See the St. Pete sights through the windows of the Looper, which takes makes its rounds of downtown every half-hour. It stops at major attractions, including the 1920s-era, Mediterranean-style Vinoy Renaissance Resort, one of the area’s famous historic hotels. The driver will acquaint you with the history and location of many downtown favorites, and you can get on or off at any of the stops. The trolley also connects to St. Pete Beach.