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Experience St. Pete-Clearwater

White sand and sunshine await you on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Neighbor to the bustling city of Tampa, the St.Petersburg-Clearwater area presents a more relaxed atmosphere with sandy white beaches and glistening ocean views. But these lazy beach towns are much more than just sand and sun.

Known as Sunshine City, St. Pete has a bevy of family-friendly arts and culture institutions and a robust microbrewery scene. Meanwhile, Clearwater boasts one of Florida’s most famous beaches and outdoor activities galore—a boon in a time where people are looking to social distance because of the coronavirus pandemic. With about a two-hour drive time from Orlando, these two cities are ideal for a weekend getaway. So, pack your bags because outdoor adventure, exquisite dining and hazy beach days are waiting for you on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

No matter your preference, St. Pete-Clearwater has a place for you to stay for the duration of your vacation. Whether that be a hotel with ocean views, a quaint bed and breakfast in the city, or a cottage on the beach.

With its signature pink palace exterior, The Don CeSar is one of the most iconic hotels in St. Pete. Marrying old-world glamour with modern sophistication, this gorgeous property is steeped in history, having opened in 1928 and played host to stars of the silver screen, renowned authors and even U.S. presidents. Recently, The Don underwent a number of major renovations including a redesign of its lobby and updates to the Don Lobby Bar, Uncle Andy’s, Maritana and The Don Boutique experience.

Beach-chic and nestled right on Clearwater Beach, the 230-room Opal Sands Resort features panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico. The contemporary designed hotel has upscale waterfront dining, a zero-entry outdoor pool and a full-service spa.

For a more boutique experience, The Kenwood Gables B&B is an option. The Tudor Revival inspired home is situated near downtown St. Pete and the beach. Built in the 1930s, the inn has meticulously appointed rooms, a continental breakfast and a heated pool.

With the coronavirus pandemic still a health threat, lodging facilities in St. Pete and Clearwater are taking extra precautions including adopting enhanced sanitation protocols and temperature checking associates when they arrive at work. But be sure to call before you book a room to see how your hotel or bed and breakfast is keeping you safe.

Dining & Drinks
The craft beer scene in St. Pete and Clearwater has exploded in recent years so a brewery tour is a must. Start your beer crawl at Clearwater Brewing Company, then head down to Big Storm Brewing for award-winning lagers and finish the day at Green Bench Brewing Co. with a pint of ale or cider.

There is no shortage of al fresco dining in the St. Pete-Clearwater area and Bon Appétit Restaurant offers just that along with stunning waterfront views. In fact, OpenTable diners voted it one of the most scenic restaurants in America. Casual but with a sophisticated setting, this restaurant serves up classical European and American cuisines made with fresh ingredients.

For lunch, head to The Palm Pavilion, a Clearwater Beach landmark that’s been around since 1926. Serving seafood, steak, handhelds and more, this laidback beach spot is first come, first served.

For brunch, Cassis in St. Pete delivers all the classics—omelets, French toast, pancakes—in a European brasserie setting. The restaurant also has a bakery headed up by pastry chef Katherine Williams so you’ll want to stop in to grab a few cakes and breads to go.

And for after dinner, St. Pete’s Beans & Barlour will satisfy any dessert cravings you may have with its boozy ice creams and cakes. The parlor is also ideal for a digestif with a selection of signature coffee blends and clever cocktails.

Select Attractions
Attractions in the St. Pete-Clearwater area are taking extra precautions to keep your family healthy. Local museums and activity centers expect patrons to mask up and social distancing is enforced. However, you should check with each attraction to learn their COVID-19 related measures before you visit.

Displaying the works of one of the most celebrated painters of all time, The Dalí Museum in St. Pete has a collection of more than 2,400 art pieces by Salvador Dalí. While at the museum, step outside to take a stroll through the Avant-Garden for some quiet contemplation and then stop in at the Café Gala for a bite.

For some fun with the kids, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has plenty of educational exhibits where the family can learn all about the importance of conservation and view sea creatures such as sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays, sharks and more. For an extra fee, families can get up close to feed a stingray or Thelma, the resident nurse shark.

Thrill-seekers will want to book a seaplane discovery flight with Air Adventures Clearwater. Get a bird’s-eye view of Clearwater and St. Pete’s beaches and learn to maneuver in the sky with a Federal Aviation Administration-certified flight instructor by your side.

After reaching new heights, slip down below at the Sunken Gardens, a botanical paradise and St. Pete’s oldest living museum. Here you’ll find cascading waterfalls and more than 50,000 tropical plants.

For some more outdoor activity, Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach provides recreation for the whole family including a 1,080-foot fishing pier where you can cast off and a well-equipped playground for the kids. Stay until the evening to be front row for a spectacular sunset.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s September 2020 issue.