ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Spring 2013) – Score a home run with the Tampa Bay Rays, hit the beach, browse through world class museums, or stroll along streets lined with graceful Mediterranean-style architecture. Whatever your taste, St. Petersburg offers you everything under the sun. With an average temperature of 73.7 degrees and 361 days a year of recorded sunshine, it’s no wonder St. Petersburg’s moniker is the Sunshine City. Make sure to include a few of our fascinating things to do and see when you’re in St. Pete:
PEER OVER THE PIER ONE MORE TIME: With the city's landmark Pier closing in just a few short weeks, the five-story marketplace features shops and restaurants, The Pier Aquarium, an observation deck, a bait shop and more. The 1970s inverted pyramid is set to close May 31, 2013, to make way for the New St. Pete Pier, to be the eighth in a series of popular over-the-water piers extending into Tampa Bay from downtown's shores since 1889. 727-821-6164 or www.stpetepier.com or www.stpete.org.
STROLL THROUGH THE GARDENS: A hidden gem in the heart of the city, everything is in bloom at Sunken Gardens. The four-acre botanical attraction features an exotic collection of 50,000 tropical plants, a butterfly garden, wedding lawn, a walk-through aviary with exotic species of birds, and an orchid arbor. This garden is open seven days a week. 727-551-3100 or www.stpete.org/sunken.
TAKE THE HIGH WAY: The Sunshine Skyway, the Interstate-275 bridge connecting the southern tip of St. Petersburg with ManateeCounty andSarasota to the south, is one of the largest suspension bridges in the Western Hemisphere, measuring 4.1 miles long and 19 stories high (more than 160 feet above the shipping channel leading intoTampaBay). For breathtaking views of the Gulf, the toll is only $1 each way.
SWING ON THE BOULEVARD: Baseball Boulevard, a series of home-plate plaques, chronicles an interesting 90-year history of St. Petersburg's love affair with baseball's spring training. View the sidewalk plaques, now located on the exterior wall of Al Lang Stadium/Progress Energy Park on the downtown waterfront. Facing north, the plaques are visible above the Box Office, between Al Lang Field Gates 2 and 3.
TAKE A WALK OF FAME: Visit the Tampa Bay Walk of Fame, located at the west side entrance to Tropicana Field. Here, dozens of sports legends who hail from the 11-county Tampa Bay metro area are recognized, including the late Tampa Bay Bucs great Lee Roy Selmon, baseball all-star Wade Boggs, Babe Zaharias, the greatest woman athlete of all time, and Olympic and world champion swimmer Nicole Haislett. Free.
MAKE A SEGWAY: Doo’s Amazing Segway Tours offers historic, scenic and eco tours of the waterfront aboard a personalized Segway vehicle. The tour leaves from North Straub Park’s white gazebo several times daily and navigates around the downtown waterfront. 727-642-5133; 727-278-9799 or www.DoosAmazingSegwayTours.com.
TAKE A RIDE: Wheel Fun Rentals offers two-, four- and six-seater surrey bikes that can be rented across from The Pier Bait House. 727-820-0375 or www.wheelfunrentals.com.
RENT A BOAT: Pontoon boats (18' or 24') as well as Water Bugs, kayaks and day sailboats are available from Boat St. Pete Rentals at the St. Pete Pier (from Vinoy Basin starting in June 2013). Boats hold 8 to 14 people and are available for 1/2 day or full day rental. 727-898-2628.
FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT: St. Petersburg is the birthplace of scheduled aviation. In 1914, pilot Tony Jannus flew the Benoist Airboat from St. Petersburg to Tampa on the world's first scheduled airline flight, transporting St. Petersburg Mayor Abe Pheil and a bag of mail. View a full-scale, operational replica of the historic airboat at the St. Petersburg Museum of History's Flight #1 Pavilion. www.spmoh.org or 727-894-1052.
GET SURREAL: Where can you see the world's most comprehensive collection of Salvador Dali's surrealistic art works, a spiral staircase resembling a strand of DNA, and a flowing glass dome rising 75 feet in the air? In St. Petersburg's newest museum –- the 66,450 square foot tribute to Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali. The new museum, more than twice the size of the previous, opened January 11, 2011, at One Dali Boulevard (Bayshore Dr. S.E. and 5th Ave N.E.). www.thedali.org or 727-823-3767.
C’EST LA VIE: Six original Monets, along with works by Fragonard, Vigee-Lebrun, Morisot, Renoir, Cezanne and Gauguin, comprise an impressive body of French Impressionism at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts. One of the best museums in the Southeast, the collection also includes a wealth of European, American, pre-Columbian and Far Eastern art, and an exquisite Steuben crystal gallery. www.fine-arts.org or 727-896-2667.
REMEMBERING THE HOLOCAUST: This downtown St. Petersburg museum leaves visitors with vivid reflections of history, heritage and hope stemming from a tragic period in time. The fourth largest museum in the country dedicated to remembering the Holocaust, the Florida Holocaust Museum's centerpiece is a Polish Boxcar used to transport victims to the death camps during World War II. The museum also features an extensive gallery for visiting exhibitions, authors and lecturers and art exhibits including an acclaimed outdoor sculpture entitled "Endless Column." www.flholocaustmuseum.org or 727-820-0100.
KEEP IN TOUCH: At Great Explorations Children’s Museum, you don't just look at the exhibits. You touch them. Move them. Explore them. And, in some cases, you actually become part of them. It is located next to Sunken Gardens. And a lot of fun! www.greatex.org or 727-821-8992.
EXPERIMENT WITH SCIENCE: The Science and Technology Education Innovation Center, formerly the Science Center of Pinellas County, offers an observatory, theater and planetarium, an animal room with over 30 species of animals, a 600-gallon marine touch tank, future plans for a Sustainability Village, and exhibits about scientists, inventors and astronauts, all for your learning pleasure. www.sciencecenterofpinellas.org or 727-384-0027.
VISIT OUTER SPACE: From September to May, gaze at the night sky in any season or from any location on Earth during special presentations and viewings at the St. Petersburg College Planetarium, a star-theater under a 7.3-meter domed ceiling projection screen. www.spcollege.edu/spg/planetarium.htm or 727-341-4320.
ARTS, EVENTS and CULTURE
GET FESTIVE: A big part of St. Petersburg's premier springtime celebration for decades, the Suncoasters’ Festival of States Illuminated Night Parade with floats, krewes, marching bands and race car drivers signals the official start of the Honda Grand Prix race weekend. All year long, St. Petersburg hosts 1,000 events in its downtown facilities and waterfront parks, ranging from food festivals to jazz concerts and sporting events to American Stage in the Park. www.festivalofstates.com or www.suncoasters-stpete.com or 727-821-9888.
HOP FROM GALLERY TO GALLERY: In addition to St. Petersburg's world class museums, the visual arts are vibrant in the Sunshine City. More than two dozen galleries open their doors on the second Saturday evening each month for a downtown gallery hop. Among stops on the hop -- the Warehouse Arts District, Florida Craftsmen Guild's statewide gallery and the Morean Art Center Galleries and Hot Shop, which allows the audience to actively participate in the glass-blowing process, from first gather to the finished creation, through demonstrations or a hands-on contribution. www.stpetearts.org or 727-323-2787, 727-821-7391 or 727-822-7872.
TAKE A BOW: World-renowned theatrical and national performing artists promise to entertain at St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theater, a part of the Progress Energy Center for the Arts. Each season the curtain rises on a wide variety of nationally-recognized artists, musical performers, and Broadway shows in this beautiful European-style theater on the waterfront. www.themahaffey.com or 727-893-7832.
GET IN THE ACT: Florida's top-ranked resident professional theater, American Stage, performs highly acclaimed works each spring during its outdoor festival, American Stage in the Park, and from its intimate theater downtown, now part of at the St. Petersburg College downtown campus, www.americanstage.org or 727-823-PLAY. The Palladium, once a church sanctuary now also under the auspices of SPC, offers the community a more intimate, 850-seat setting for eclectic performing arts, orchestra and opera, drama and dance, concerts and more, www.spcollege.edu/palladium/index.php or 727-822-3590. A newcomer on the St. Petersburg stage, FreeFall Theatre presents a variety of bold, daring and diverse classical productions and new works from its theater complex in west St. Petersburg, www.freefalltheatre.com . And, the St. Petersburg City Theater (formerly St. Pete Little Theater) presents an entertaining line-up of diverse theatrical offerings (www.spcitytheatre.org or 727-866-1973).
WALK THROUGH HISTORY: St. Petersburg's downtown streets are lined with hexagon block sidewalks, some of Florida's best examples of Mediterranean-Revival style architecture, and two dozen properties located on the National Historic Register. Pick up a list of historic sites from the city's Planning Department (online at http://www.stpete.org/historic_preservation/ or One Fourth Street N). Guided walking tours, bringing history to life, are offered on Saturdays by St. Petersburg Preservation, www.stpetepreservation.org or 727-824-7802.
DATELINE: ST. PETERSBURG: Reminisce with early citrus growers or recall the Pass-a-Grille hurricane of 1921. Remember the Amazing Mets who wintered here or read of the 1980 Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapse as Tampa Bay Times presents A WALK THROUGH TIME. The free display of 20 replica front pages from the former St. Petersburg Times depicts significant events throughout our city's past. It is located in the first floor promenade of the BayWalk Parking garage, between the Millennium Gateway sculpture and First Avenue N. (near Second Street).
DUST OFF SOME ANTIQUES: A thriving antique district lines both sides of Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg and the Grand Central District. Collectors will find nearly a hundred antique shops in the city and many within this eclectic five-block stretch of Central between Fifth and Tenth streets and between 19th and 31st Streets.
DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY: The Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg was featured in the motion picture "Cocoon." Now restored, it boasts one of America's largest dance floors -- 13,000 square feet of polished maple -- and vintage 1924 architecture. Its event calendar includes regularly scheduled ballroom dancing, a Big Band series, swing dances, sock hops, country-western dancing, high school proms, gala events and more. www.stpete.org/coliseum or 727-892-5202.
TAKE AN ART TOUR: Have you seen St. Petersburg's two-ton lizard observing drivers along I-275's North from its rooftop perch or the dancing dolphins adorning the city’s southernmost water resources tower? With over 30 public art projects throughout the city, experience this and much more on a customized public art tour. www.stpete.org/arts or 727-551-3250.
MAKE A NIGHT OF IT: Whether it’s sports bars by Tropicana Field, Central Avenue jazz clubs, or people-watching along Beach Drive’s café row, St. Petersburg lights up after dark. Be seen at one of St. Petersburg’s many fine downtown restaurants, followed by live music and entertainment at a number of venues or view the latest release at Muvico 20 and IMAX, offering movies on 20 screens with plush stadium seating. Muvico’s Gallery also offers viewers a departure from the mainstream with selections from the best independent and cultural releases. www.muvico.com or 727-502-9573.
GET A LECTURE: Outstanding educational institutions in St. Petersburg offer enriching lecture series all year long, including the University of South Florida - St. Petersburg, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg College, and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Past offerings have included John Seigenthaler, Arun Ghandi, Corey Flintoff, Paul Rusesabagina, and the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
PARK IT: Pop a picnic basket under bright sunshine and palm trees in one of St. Petersburg's 150 city parks covering approximately 2,400 acres. Along the downtown waterfront, there are seven miles of lushly landscaped waterfront parks open to the public from sunrise to sundown. www.stpeteparksrec.org or 727-893-7335.
GO WILD: Visit Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, a city-owned 245-acre park along the shores of Lake Maggiore. This award-winning oasis features nature trails, an environmental studies area, an outdoor classroom, a conference center, a pioneer settlement/living history park, and the Lake Maggiore Environmental Education Center featuring “The Ripple Effect” exhibit. 727-893-7326 or www.stpete.org/boyd or www.stpeteparksrec.org/boyd-hill-nature-preserve.html.
RELAX BENEATH A PALM TREE: A wide variety of native palm trees grow at the Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum, part of downtown's North Shore Park. The unique arboretum features a variety of more than 500 palms, benches and brick walkways and strolling is encouraged. 727-893-7335 or www.stpete.org/parks/palm.asp or www.stpeteparksrec.org/gizella-kopsick-arboretum.html.
SUN and FUN
BEACH IT: Three of the Top 20 beaches in the United States are in Pinellas County. From St. Petersburg, the closest and most pristine is also the No. 3 Beach in the continental U.S., Fort DeSoto, a 900-acre county preserve consisting of five islands, seven miles of undeveloped beaches, a camp ground, boat ramps, fishing piers, paved fitness trails and a historic fort. The sugary-white sands of St. Petersburg's 500-foot Gulf-front municipal beach on Treasure Island are certified annually by the National Clean Beaches Council as an outstanding environmentally-friendly "Blue Wave" beach.
DIVE IN: Swimming enthusiasts will enjoy all of St. Petersburg's nine public pools, and especially the North Shore Aquatic Complex downtown. This Olympic-sized swimming pool, heated and open year round, is the training home of Olympic champions and one of the largest Masters Swim Clubs in the United States. www.stpeteparksrec.org or 727-893-7727.
GO FISH: Waters along St. Petersburg's 260 miles of shoreline are abundant with great fishing haunts that yield delicious catches of grouper, mullet and sheepshead. In addition to deep sea fishing charters, popular fishing piers are located at and around The Pier (open through May 2013), old Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Fort DeSoto Park.
FLOAT YOUR BOAT: More recreational boaters call Tampa Bay home than any other port in Florida. Within an easy stroll of downtown museums, shops and restaurants is St. Petersburg's Municipal Marina - the largest in Florida - with 652 wet slips and dockage for visiting vessels. Downtown, there are 22 boater-based businesses and a total of 1,500 dockages, and daily rentals of everything from a pontoon boat to a luxury yacht with crew. There are also sightseeing excursions along the St. Petersburg coast. www.stpete.org/marina or 727-893-7329.
HOIST A SAIL: The calm waters of Tampa Bay are ideal for learning to sail. The St. Petersburg Sailing Center at downtown's municipal marina offers sailing lessons and boasts some award-winning alumni including avid sailor and resident Jennifer French. The silver medalist in the two-person keelboat at the London 2012 Paralympics was also named US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. And, St. Petersburg native Ed Baird, who got his start with the St. Petersburg Sailing Center, served as helmsman of the 2007 America’s Cup champion, the Swiss team’s Alinghi yacht. Several private companies can also teach you the tacks of sailing. 727-822-3113.
FEED A PELICAN: St. Petersburg's proud symbol is the endangered brown pelican. This marine bird normally feeds on bait fish that swim near the surface of the water. During cooler months, though, the fish swim deeper than the birds can dive, threatening the pelicans' food supply. Try your hand with daily feedings of the prehistoric-looking creatures at The Pier’s Bait House. www.stpetepier.com or 727-821-6164. (Note: The Pier is open through May 31, 2013)
HIT THE TRAIL: The Pinellas Trail is a 47-mile fitness trail built on abandoned railways. One of the longest linear parks in the United States, it runs from Tarpon Springs to the north to its terminus in south St. Petersburg, now extended to the downtown waterfront. 727-549-6099.
MAKE A RACQUET: St. Petersburg Tennis Center is the site where Chris Evert won her first professional tennis match. Opened in 1928, the historic center offers public play on 15 Har-Tru Clay Courts, day or night. Elsewhere in St. Petersburg, there are 66 free, lighted public tennis courts ready for match play. www.stpeteparksrec.org; 727-893-7755 or 727-823-2225.
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL: Hop on a pair of in-line skates and explore the downtown waterfront and Mediterranean-Revival style neighborhoods of Snell Isle and Granada Terrace or roll along Beach Drive for a breathtaking waterfront perspective.
DRIVE YOURSELF CRAZY: St. Petersburg is home to three acclaimed municipal golf courses, Mangrove Bay, Cypress Links, and Twin Brooks. In addition, there are numerous privately-operated championship golf courses in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area ready for play. 727-893-7800 or www.stpete.org/golf.
GET FIT, OUTDOORS! Climb aboard any number of free, outdoor exercise stations at one of the city’s “Fitness Zones.” Outdoor gym equipment is available at Lake Vista, Gladden, Campbell and Azalea Parks, with additional stations planned for the future. www.stpeteparksrec.org.
SAY “HI” TO JAI-ALAI: The city has a public Jai-Alai Cancha at Jack Puryear Park in northeast St. Petersburg. A first of its kind in the United States, the outdoor court is free for those slinging a pelota and enjoying the fastest sport on earth. www.stpeteparksrec.org.
WALK INTO WEEDON: Take a walk along three miles of boardwalk and paved trails at Weedon Island, a pristine and natural resource once home to Seminole Indians. The 3,190-acre park features a 50-foot-high lookout site over Tampa Bay waters showcasing a panoramic view of downtown St. Petersburg, Tropicana Field, and Tampa. An ideal park for biking, ‘blading, canoeing or birdwatching. www.weedonislandpreserve.org or 727-453-6500.
SPORTS & FITNESS
SPEED THROUGH THE STREETS: Feel the rumble when the “World’s Fastest Spring Break Party,” a.k.a., the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, roars through downtown St. Petersburg each spring. Feed the need for speed as world-class IndyCar Series drivers take control in a demanding 14-turn, 1.8 mile race course, guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat. www.gpstpete.com or 727-898-4639 or 727-824-RACE(7223).
GET INTO THE SWING OF THINGS: St. Petersburg has been crazy for baseball since its former Mayor Al Lang became known as the “father of spring training” in Florida. Currently, more than half of the 15 Major League teams that train each spring in Florida’s Grapefruit League play in the Tampa Bay area. St. Petersburg’s home team, the Tampa Bay Rays, play through the regular season at Tropicana Field, www.raysbaseball.com or 727-825-3250 or 888-FAN-RAYS.
BESLAG OP! (BATTER UP!): Can’t get enough baseball? Teams including Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team and the 2011 World Cup Champion Netherlands National Team call St. Petersburg home when the spring season of international baseball warms up at historic Al Lang
Stadium (formerly Progress Energy Park). The visiting teams face each other, MLB prospect players and spring training squads including the Tampa Bay Rays, and visiting collegiate teams. www.stpeteinternationalbaseball.com or 727-551-3000.
SEE THE PROS: In addition to Major League Baseball with the Rays, the St. Petersburg area is also home to other professional sports, including three world-champion franchises: NHL - Tampa Bay Lightning, NFL - Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Storm arena football league. And now, April through September, Al Lang Stadium converts into a regulation professional soccer field hosting home games for the North American Soccer League’s 2012 Soccer Bowl Champions, Tampa Bay Rowdies. www.rowdiessoccer.com or 813-287-1539.
KICKOFF AT THE TROP: During winter months, Tropicana Field transforms into a gridiron to host high school and college football – including ESPN’s Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg in December, the Under Armour All America High School All-Star game and the East West Shrine Game showcasing the best college seniors – both played in January. www.stpetersburgbowl.com or www.shrinegame.com
TRI SOMETHING NEW: St. Anthony's Triathlon, part of the World Triathlon Corporation's 5150 Triathlon Series and ranked the fourth largest triathlon in the country by USA Triathlon, attracts some of the sport's biggest names and 3,500 competitors from more than 45 states and 17 countries with a $65,000 purse. Athletes converge on the downtown waterfront each April for this Olympic-distance event -- a 1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run. www.SATriathlon.com or 727-953-9005.
RUN LIKE CRAZY! St. Petersburg’s year-round sunshine and unparalleled beauty drives amateur and professional athletes to the streets to compete in running and walking events, such as the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon, the Women’s Running Magazine’s Half Marathon/5K, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness Three Day event, and the Jingle Bell Run.