Summer Florida Road Trip: St. Petersburg

Road trippers are sure to encounter friendly, unpretentious, interesting people and no shortage of activities suited to the solo traveler

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Cruise into The Don CeSar via its newly restored palm-lined entrance. Courtesy of The Don CeSar
Cruise into The Don CeSar via its newly restored palm-lined entrance. Courtesy of The Don CeSar

Miles from Jupiter: 190, Driving Time: 3.5 hours

Road-trippers going it alone will find the best of both worlds in St. Petersburg: the easygoing attitude of St. Pete Beach on the Gulf and the cultured and hip sensibility of downtown and the Central Arts District. Expect to encounter friendly, unpretentious, interesting people and no shortage of activities suited to the solo traveler.

The Don CeSar recently introduced the new Beacon Pool Bar and Rooftop Lookout. Courtesy of The Don CeSar

The area’s two most historic hotels—The Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach and The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club located downtown along Tampa Bay—present great vantage points to explore all the city has to offer. The Don, a pastel beachfront Mediterranean castle that originally opened in 1928, recently revealed the last phase of renovations that began in 2018. Guests of the self-proclaimed “Pink Palace” will bask in the restoration of its palm-lined entrance, the redesign of the main property’s 277 rooms with more contemporary furnishings, and the introduction of the new Beacon Pool Bar and Rooftop Lookout and Society Table restaurant. The Vinoy, a pink Mediterranean château circa 1925, shines with its iconic lobby adorned with whitewashed arches, sleek suites, a quaint tea garden, and above all, proximity to St. Pete’s top cultural attractions.

The iconic lobby at The Vinoy. Courtesy of The Vinoy
The iconic lobby at The Vinoy. Courtesy of The Vinoy

Just four blocks from The Vinoy, the new St. Pete Pier, an architectural masterpiece nearly seven years in the making, extends out into the bay offering breathtaking views and  public art while providing a community gathering place for the city’s inhabitants. It’s a sight to behold, so make a point to grab a cocktail at Pier Teaki, an open-air modern tiki bar, or Teak, the pier’s fine-dining hot spot, to take it all in. Walking an additional four blocks south brings you to The Dalí Museum, an architectural gem in its own right and a must-visit for fans of Salvador Dalí’s Surrealism. Another great artist holds court less than a mile away at the Morean Arts Center: Dale Chihuly. The Chihuly Collection showcases an enormous repertoire of the artist’s iconic glassworks that beg for some pensive solo admiration.

The Hallucinogenic Toreador (1969-70), Salvador Dali. ©Salvador Dalí. Fundación Gala-Salvador Dalí (Artist Rights Society), 2021 : Collection of the Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL, 2021
The Hallucinogenic Toreador (1969-70), Salvador Dali. ©Salvador Dalí. Fundación Gala-Salvador Dalí (Artist Rights Society), 2021 : Collection of the Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL, 2021

Nearby, the Central Arts District, which starts downtown on Central Avenue and extends through the heart of the city, is experiencing a bit of a renaissance and bursts with trendy shops and restaurants. Make a day of it and start off on a high note with a morning pick-me-up at Black Crow Coffee, a quirky eco-conscious coffee lounge. Next, hit up Misred Outfitters for playful women’s fashions, Ashe Couture for the perfect swimsuit for lounging on the beach or by the pool, and Bohemian Rêves for herbal beauty products and boho-chic accessories. After all that shopping, you’ll need some refreshments, so stop at Green Bench Brewing Co. for unique craft beers best enjoyed outside on the sunny and vibrant lawn.

Green Bench Brewing Co. offers unique craft beers. Photo by Valerie Niager
Green Bench Brewing Co. offers unique craft beers. Photo by Valerie Niager

On the food front, the Central Arts District can’t be beat with its wide variety of cuisines and atmospheres. Seafood lovers should try Trophy Fish for fresh catches like spiny lobster and creative cocktails in a playful outdoor setting. If Asian cuisine is more your style, check out the moody aesthetic at Būya Izakaya and Ramen, renowned for its Japanese small bites, tasty bao buns, and ramen so delicious you won’t even question slurping up soup in the Florida heat. Once the sun begins to set, end the night at Ruby’s Elixir for live music and a spirited scene. Or head toward the beach, about 30 minutes from downtown, and visit 360 Rooftop at Hotel Zamora for panoramic views of the Gulf in all of its glory.

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