St. Petersburg is finding itself on top destination lists these days, including the New York Times. Once sleepy, this west coast Florida city is a vibrant study in contrasts: citified yet laid back, refined yet bohemian. Close to the beach and steeped in the arts, it’s a sure draw for families traveling with teenagers.
Staying In the City
Beach Drive and Central Avenue are in full renaissance mode. These intersecting thoroughfares teem
with bold new restaurants, unique shops, art galleries and concert venues. It’s a real eclectic mix of age groups and interests. Your entire family will enjoy the outdoor street party along Central between 2nd and 3rd streets South on the first Friday evening of each month. Teens are drawn to the growing collection of murals going up along Central Avenue. And the Saturday Morning Market is a huge draw for all ages each week.
Book a hotel or B&B near the waterfront and start the day strolling along the waterfront. Or take a Segway tour. Teens can pick up a Frisbee game in lush Vinoy Park and check out The Pier, an iconic upside down pyramid that’s now closed for business but still selfie-worthy.
Art is becoming a big draw for the city. A lot of teens are drawn to the quirky works of Salvador Dali. The futuristic museum bearing his name is at the southern end of Beach Drive. See nearly 100 oil paintings, original drawings, documents and manuscripts. More than 1,000 triangles of glass create a bubble dome window overlooking the waterfront, and a helical staircase symbolizes Dali’s fascination with the DNA molecule. Teens will also enjoy the Mathematical Garden gracing the grounds.
Soak in the ambiance of Beach Drive, catch a movie and upscale dining in Sundial, with its new Locale Market, and meander down to the Chihuly Collection. There’s nothing quite like Dale Chihuly’s colorful, freeform glass sculptures to expand a young mind. After that, take a stroll up Central Avenue to the Morean Glass Studio and Hot Shop and watch as artisans transform molten glass into unique works of art.
Parks and Rec
Millions of visitors come to St. Petersburg and Pinellas County for its world class beaches. One of the closest and most eclectic is Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde. Check out the fishing pier, bike trails with rentals, kayaking, and three miles of beaches that consistently make top destination lists. There are also some old cannons and the shell of an old seafront fort to explore.
Fishing and water activities abound all around: jet ski rentals, kayaking and boat rentals.
Nature-loving teens will also appreciate a side trip to the unspoiled habitat at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, or Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE. You might see alligators, raccoons, tortoises, and elegant waterfowl like egrets, heron, roseate spoonbills and ibis. Closer to the heart of the city is the 100-year-old Sunken Gardens, 1825 4th Street N. Your teenager will enjoy meandering through lush tropical paths featuring 50,000 plants, koi ponds, parrots and waterfalls.
Baseball fans can always catch a game at Tropicana Field. “The Trop” is air-conditioned and covered, and features a 10,000-gallon touch-tank of stingrays beyond right-center field. Your young MLB fan probably knows the team might be moving, but for now enjoy the unique atmosphere and AC.
Close to the Action
St. Petersburg is south of Clearwater, north of Bradenton/Sarasota, and across the bay from Tampa. Rent a car and take the short drives to other famous attractions including Busch Gardens and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the Dolphin. Save money by using online coupons to most attractions.
St. Pete is a perfect home base for your Central Florida travels: not too wild, not too laid back. Its artistic energy and youthful vibe will leave your teen wanting to come back.
About the Author: Marie Hickman is a former expat, world traveler, and blogger for Valpak.com and other websites. When she isn’t hopping a plane, she and her son, Will, make their home in Palm Harbor, Florida.