St. Petersburg, Florida is known for its amazing arts and culture, while St. Pete Beach is famous for its beautiful white-sand beaches, giving visitors the best of both worlds for a fun-filled weekend getaway. Don't worry if you're short on time. We have the perfect itinerary to hit the area's highlights in under 48 hours.
Check into the Don CeSar Hotel right in the heart of St. Pete Beach on the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. Built in 1928, the hotel exudes the elegance and grandeur of the Gatsby era (F. Scott Fitzgerald actually stayed here). The hotel that once hosted the rich and famous like Al Capone and FDR became a military hospital during World War II. Then, in 1973, the magnificent property reopened as a resort and became a Loews-branded hotel in 2003. The property is among the best Historic Hotels of America.
The property offers an array of shops and restaurants, two temperature-controlled beachside pools, a full-service spa and family-friendly amenities like Uncle Andy's Ice Cream Parlor, a kids' club and a variety of poolside games.
Speaking of kids—if your family is in tow, you may consider the sister property, Beach House Suites, which recently underwent major interior renovations and features a stylish living room, two bathrooms and a well-equipped kitchenette. Outside on the sugary sands, you'll find a play area with lots of beach toys.
Guests of the Beach House Suites are also granted access to the amenities at the Don CeSar, and a free shuttle service is available back and forth, though it's just a half-mile walk down the beach.
After getting settled, head to the Rowe Bar at the Don CeSar to take in the sunset on the Gulf of Mexico while enjoying a welcome cocktail and dinner al fresco.
Spend the morning exploring Fort De Soto Park, consistently recognized as one of the best beaches in the country by TripAdvisor and Dr. Beach, aka Stephen Leatherman, author, ecologist and coastal expert.
The park encompasses 1,100 acres, a haven for some 328 species of birds. Fort De Soto Park hosts one of the only dog beaches in the area, where dogs can frolic and swim without a leash. (The Loews properties are also pet friendly.)
The 19th-century fort itself is worth checking out and affords spectacular views of the surrounding islands. If you seek more outdoor adventure, rent kayaks by the hour to explore the calm inland waters and mangrove forests on the two-mile paddling trail. You may even spot dolphins and manatees.
Spend a leisurely afternoon back on St. Pete Beach, either swimming in the Gulf of Mexico or relaxing at the hotel spa or pools.
For fine dining, you can stay put at the hotel's Maritana Grille, with accolades from USA Today and Florida Trend.
For some low-key local flavor, take a short drive to the Pass-A-Grille Historic District on the southern tip of the island. The Hurricane is a family tradition for many vacationers and has been serving its famous grouper sandwich for over 30 years. Order a Category 5 Hurricane Martini and enjoy the sunset.
On your way out of town, a stop at The Dali Museum is an absolute must, featuring the largest Salvador Dalí collection outside of Spain. The city of St. Petersburg acquired the collection from Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, who donated their private pieces in the 1970s.
The first museum opened in 1982 with a grand new facility opening in 2011. The architecture itself is a showpiece on the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg. A glass bubble, "The Enigma," dominates the exterior with its 1,062 triangular pieces of glass that pays homage to The Dalí Museum in Figueres, Spain, while affording stunning views of the marina. Inside, the jaw-dropping helical staircase gives a nod to Dali's obsession with spirals and DNA.
The permanent Dalí exhibit includes 2,000 works, including nearly 100 oil paintings, photographs, illustrations and manuscripts. Eight of Dali's 18 masterworks are part of the American exhibit including "The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus," "The Ecumenical Council" and "The Hallucinogenic Toreador." The latter is a stunning 13-foot-tall canvas filled with fascinating hidden messages, rich symbolism and spectacular color. "Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea" is another amazing portrait that stands at more than 8-feet-tall. Up close, you see a nude portrait of his wife, Gala, gazing out a window. But when you stand back 65 feet, the painting becomes a pixelated portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
While the museum is kid-friendly with a family activity room and a guided audio tour for children, those under 10 may prefer a visit to The Albert Whitted Park, within walking distance of The Dalí. As they climb and play, they'll be in awe of the planes landing at the airport on one side and the sailboats gliding in-and-out of the marina on the other.
If time allows, dine out at a lively sidewalk cafe on the nearby Beach Drive, visit the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center and check out the city's fabulous collection of street art. You're sure to be inspired with enough conversation topics to last the trip home.