Vintage Vacationing: Americana in St. Pete

 

For more than a century, visitors have flocked to Sunken Gardens to gaze at exotic plants and pink flamingos. For decades, a vacation to Clearwater Beach hasn't been complete without a stop at Dairy Kurl, and the Gulfport Casino Ballroom has seen its fair share of dancing since opening its doors in 1934. For a tour of the area's classic attractions, don't miss these historic landmarks, old-school hangouts and slices of vintage Americana. 

 

1 Sunken Gardens

For more than a century, visitors have flocked to this sanctuary just outside downtown St. Pete. This 4-acre attraction features exotic plants, pink flamingos and more. City streets bustle just outside, but inside it's a tropical paradise. Don't forget to snap a pic of the iconic sign out front. 

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2 Coney Island Grill

This mom-and-pop restaurant has been serving Coney Island-style hot dogs in downtown St. Pete since 1926. Sit on a stool at the old-school lunch counter and watch speedy short-order cooks prepare your burger, fries and milkshake. 

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3 St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club

This club has a revitalization story that makes local preservationists proud. Neglected for years, the world's oldest shuffleboard club was founded in 1924 and nurtured back to life a decade ago. 

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4 The Coliseum Ballroom

This Mediterranean revival-style building was built in 1924 and still maintains its Jazz Age grandeur with its arched ceiling and shimmering oak floors. 

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5 Munch's Restaurant and Sundries

A beloved neighborhood dining spot since 1952, it was showcased on the Food Network's popular Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives. The vintage lunch counter and '50s-era soda fountain take visitors on a tasty trip back in time. 

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6 El Cap Restaurant

This family-owned restaurant keeps folks coming back for more because the food is great, the beer is cheap and the ambience is friendly. 

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7 Biff-Burger

Step back in timeat this 1950s landmark that's the last in a fast food chain that once dotted the southeast U.S. Regulars flock to theme nights showcasing vintage cars and motorcycles. Not a burger fan? Try Biff's onsite sister restaurant, Buffy's BBQ. 

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8 Derby Lane Greyhound Racing

This is the oldest greyhound track in the country and it's still owned by the same family that opened it in 1925. Although the crowds are smaller these days, and the bar and gift shop are closed, the track endures as a reminder of days gone by (and the setting for several scenes in Oceans Eleven). 

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9 Gulfport Casino Ballroom

Located in Gulfport's artsy waterfront district, this art deco treasure has overlooked the shallow waters of Boca Ciega Bay since 1934. Enjoy dancing and entertainment all week long, but no gampling happens here. 

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10 Thunderbird Hotel

The enormous sign has lit the Treasure Island skyline in vibrant neon since 1957. Though the amenities have been modernized, the hotel retains much of its mid-century appeal. Be sure to stop by the poolside tiki bar. 

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11 Candy Kitchen

Generations of locals and Madeira Beach visitors know a trip to "Mad Beach" always ends with a scoop of ice cream from this mom-and-pop shop, which is easily spotted by its red-and-white peppermint striped awnings. 

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12 Polynesian Putter

Those exploring St. Pete Beach have enjoyed the kitschy charm of this 18-hole mini golf course since the late 1960s. It's  filled with madcap statues, making it completely photo-ready. 

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13 Angie's Restaurant

Folks who are extra hungry head to this family-friendly restaurant in Clearwater. An enduring local favorite since 1965, Angie's home-cooked grub and low prices keep customers coming back for more. 

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14 Dairy Kurl

This sweet Clearwater landmark has been enticing folks on their way to and from Clearwater Beach for several decades. Nothing better than a delicious milkshake, malt or ice cream cone on a hot day. 

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15 Frenchy's Oasis Motel

Step back in time to another era at this Clearwater Beach motel that features a completely mid-century modern décor. 

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16 Express Cafe

Formerly known as the Orange Crate Café, Old World meets new in this adorable cafe set inside a boxcar. Perfectly positioned next to the Pinellas Trail in downtown Dunedin, people watching goes hand-in-hand with a sipping fancy coffee and nibbling a healthy wrap or salad.

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17 Sponge-O-Rama Vintage Museum

This quirky spot in Tarpon Springs is a slice of roadside America. Since 1968, the museum - using vintage dioramas - has educated visitors about the local Greek tradition of sponge diving. 

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1Sunken Gardens

City: St. Petersburg
Category: Attractions

Address
1825 4th St. N.
FL

Phone: 727-551-3102

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2Coney Island Hot Dogs

City: St. Petersburg
Category: Dining

Address
250 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.
FL

Phone: 727-822-4493

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3St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club

City: St. Petersburg
Category: Sports

Address
559 Mirror Lake Drive North
FL

Phone: 727-822-2083

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4The Coliseum

City: St. Petersburg

Address
535 4th Ave. N.
FL

Phone: 727-892-5202

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5Munch's Restaurant

City: St. Petersburg
Category: Dining

Address
3920 6th St. S.
FL

Phone: 727-896-5972

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6El Cap

City: St. Petersburg
Category: Dining

Address
3500 4th St. N.
FL

Phone: 727-521-1314

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7Biff Burger

City: St. Petersburg
Category: Dining

Address
3939 49th St N
FL

Phone: 727-527-5297

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8Derby Lane Greyhound Racing

City: St. Petersburg
Category: Sports

Address
10490 Gandy Blvd. N.
FL

Phone: 727-812-3339

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9Historic Waterfront Gulfport Casino Ballroom

City: Gulfport

Address
5500 Shore Blvd. S.
FL

Phone: 727-893-1070

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10Thunderbird Beach Resort

City: Treasure Island

Address
10700 Gulf Blvd.
FL

Phone: 727-367-1961
Toll Free: 800-367-2473

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11Candy Kitchen

City: Madeira Beach
Category: Dining

Address
13711 Gulf Blvd
FL

Phone: 727-392-6803

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12Polynesian Putter

City: St. Petersburg

Address
4999 Gulf Blvd.
FL

Phone: 727-360-9678

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13Angie's Restaurant

City: Clearwater
Category: Dining

Address
725 Cleveland St
FL

Phone: 727-461-2880

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14Dairy Kurl

City: Clearwater
Category: Dining

Address
1555 Gulf To Bay Blvd.
FL

Phone: 727-446-1549

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15Frenchy's Oasis Motel

City: Clearwater Beach

Address
423 East Shore Dr.
FL

Phone: 727-446-6835

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16Express Cafe

City: Dunedin
Category: Dining

Address
349 Main St.
FL

Phone: 727-734-0549

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17Spongeorama's Sponge Factory

City: Tarpon Springs
Category: Shopping

Address
510 Dodecanese Blvd.
FL

Phone: 727-943-2164

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