ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – Over the years my family and I have had many enjoyable trips to Florida. In most cases, we stayed in the Miami Beach area. However, working with the Canadian office of Visit Florida (www.visitflorida.com), I was encouraged to consider a trip to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area (www.visitstpeteclearwater.com) and over the Christmas holidays we did just that.

White-sand Florida beaches with crystal-clear water, a foodie and arts scene praised by Travel & Leisure, and glittering nightlife options that range from craft beer bars to New York-style dance clubs in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, the options are endless for whatever kind of vacation you’re yearning for, be it rejuvenating or exhilarating.

Along with award-winning beautiful beaches, St. Petersburg is home to the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum, top-rated restaurants and beautiful Fort De Soto Park. This waterfront escape is a perfect family getaway with so much to explore. The city, which glimmers between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, is known for its warm weather and for holding the title of “most consecutive days with sunshine” at 768.

After making a stop to check out the largest collection of Dali’s work outside of Spain, swing by the Chihuly Collection on picturesque Beach Drive to witness mind-blowing glasswork. Beach Drive anchors downtown shopping, dining and entertainment districts that include outdoor cafes and restaurants, world class museums and a dazzling array of shops, galleries, businesses, hotels and bed and breakfasts that line the city’s pedestrian-friendly streets.

St. Petersburg

The Dali Museum has the world’s largest collection of Salvador Dali art works

We went to the Dali Museum (thedali.org) on a Thursday evening. Located in the heart of   downtown St. Petersburg, this is home to an unparalleled collection of Salvador Dali art. It features more than 2,000 works, comprising nearly 100 oil paintings, over 100 watercolors and drawings and 1,300 prints, photographs, sculptures and art objects. The building is itself a work of art, featuring 1,062 triangular-shaped glass panels – the only structure of its kind in North America. Nicknamed The Enigma, it provides an unprecedented view of St. Petersburg’s picturesque waterfront. The Museum has attracted the world’s attention, and was listed by AOL Travel News as “one of the top buildings to see in your lifetime.”

Through April 17, 2017, The Dali is presenting the work of one of the most celebrated female artists of all time, Frida Kahlo. Her works have achieved significant importance in art, popular culture and the politics of personal identity. The exhibition features more than 60 pieces, including 15 original paintings – many of them among Kahlo’s own favorites – seven drawings, and more than 45 of her personal photographs.

Downtown St. Petersburg is known for its urban art scene, where you can see dozens of painted murals on a stroll down Central Ave. The St. Pete Mural Tour takes you on a guided journey through the colorful streets of the city with tours led by local artists who uncover the vibrant stories of the creators behind the murals. You might also want to check out the Museum of Fine Arts or the Florida Holocaust Museum or some live theatre options. Visit the Sunken Gardens, a botanical paradise in the midst of the city.

We met some people with young kids who really enjoyed the Great Explorations Children’s Museum. Designed for children 10 and under, the 24,000 square foot museum is filled with exhibits and activities to stimulate learning through creativity, play and exploration.

During our stay we were steered towards Pass-A-Grille Beach. Located at the southernmost end of St. Pete Beach, historic Pass-A-Grille is a quaint, laid back beach town where you can park your car and walk to the beach, boutiques, ice cream shop, outdoor art market, restaurants, tennis courts and fishing piers. There were many road repairs going on when we visited.

What I liked most about St. Pete was that even though we visited during a very busy period, tourist stops, shopping malls, restaurants and even the highways were not overly congested like we have seen too many times in the South Florida area. We only had nine days to explore, so a second trip to St. Pete/Clearwater is definitely on our wish list.

Now that we have had a taste for the Gulf Coast, we want to go back!

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca.  Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com/travel and on Twitter and Instagram @mikecohencsl.

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