It’s that time of year again. Ohio is dreary, gray, and cold, and you’re wishing for that scorching sun you cursed in July. But there’s an easy escape waiting for you down south. Although St. Petersburg, Florida, was long touted as the old person’s suburb of Tampa, that’s no longer the case. The Sunshine City has undergone an identity transformation similar to our own. And with direct Allegiant flights from CVG to St. Pete’s airport, you can save a boatload of cash getting there and spend more on the fun stuff once you arrive.
Where to Stay
Put that flight savings to good use and stay at the historic Don CeSar. Affectionately referred to as the “Pink Palace” because of its painted facade, you’ll be living the high life in this 90-year-old hotel. (F. Scott Fitzgerald and Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed here. Just saying.) With a prime location on St. Pete Beach, you won’t have to worry about allotting time between breakfast and sunbathing. The best part? Its bright pink exterior is almost impossible to miss, which means you won’t have trouble finding the hotel after taking a long walk on the beach.
Where to Eat
Rejoice, foodies. You’ll run out of appetite before you run out of restaurants to try in St. Petersburg. Head to Rae Rae’s Cafe to get your brunch fix at least once (but I’d recommend every morning of your trip). The portion sizes are ideal for sharing, and the dirt cheap prices are perfect for inflating your dish-to-person ratio. If only the tables were bigger.
Looking for booze? St. Pete doesn’t disappoint there, either. Green Bench Brewing Co. is the city’s first craft microbrewery, and they set a high standard. Offering a wide selection, everything is brewed on site, so Queen City dwellers should feel right at home. There’s even a 6,000-square-foot pet-friendly beer garden that the doggos will love. You can bring your own food to eat while you drink, too. We suggest trying Bodega across the street. It looks like a shack, but the storefront serves some mean Cuban dishes. After all, St. Pete it just a little more than 300 miles from Havana.
If you’re looking for a vacation from breweries, head to Room 901. The self-described “conversation bar” is really more of a speakeasy, with bottles housed on old card catalog drawers and walls lined with books. Grab a craft cocktail and get your Gatsby on.
What to Do
If you want to get out on the water, head to Weedon Island Preserve to rent kayaking gear and be rewarded with open views of beautiful coastline and the opportunity to weave your way through picturesque mangrove forests.
Friday nights mean free shuffleboard at the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club. And if you think this is just for the octogenarian set, think again—you’ll be surprised by how competitive this sport is, despite the congenial atmosphere lent by the string lights and historic building. Plus, it’s BYOB. Who can argue with that?
If you’re looking to sit on a beach and nothing more, there are plenty of options to do that, too. Treasure Island and Pass-A-Grille beaches are popular with tourists and locals alike. But the beach at Fort De Soto Park easily takes the cake. There’s an admission fee of $5 per car, so it costs the same if not less than other beaches. Fort De Soto also offers the largest variety, with a dog beach, a historic fort and museum, paved and natural trails, and sugar-like sand. If you’re looking to walk out to a sandbar or collect sand dollars, head to North Beach. My favorite area, it’s never crowded and peppered with shells and creatures.
Don CeSar doncesar.com
Green Bench Brewing Co. greenbenchbrewing.com
Weedon Island Preserve weedonislandpreserve.org
St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club stpeteshuffle.com