From Fine Art to Fishing - All on Call in St. Petersburg, Florida

Caroline de Braganza
Downtown St Petersburg from the MarinaJohn O'Neill/wikimedia commons

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St Petersburg was once known as “God’s Waiting Room” in the twentieth century because of its popularity as a retirement destination. But this moniker no longer applies as the population of around 271,000 (2020 census) now has a median age of 39.3 years.

The city on the Gulf Coast is often called St Pete for short, and forms part of the Tampa Bay area. It boasts an average of 361 days of sunshine a year, hence its nickname of “Sunshine City”.

The summer months June through August, are fairly slow for tourism, so you may find cheaper accommodation rates. If cost is an issue, and you have your own transport, an alternative is to stay at St Pete Beach, a small town on the barrier island of Long Key, only 10 miles away.

Apart from St Pete being popular for golfing, boating, fishing, beach going, and dining, it’s famous for promoting arts and culture.

Museums and galleries

St Petersburg has been ranked the No. 1 Arts Destination for three consecutive years. These are worth exploring.

St Pete is home to nearly 500 murals created by local and international artists.

The St Pete Walking Mural Tours are back, every Friday through December 2021; only 10 people and you must book online by 4 p.m. the day before. The tour begins at Florida CraftArt, 501 Central Avenue, with prices from $11. Or you can book a mural tour by bicycle!

A part of the proceeds goes toward funding future murals. Click here for bookings.

The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art opened in April 2018. Tom and Mary James founded the museum as a gift to the St. Petersburg community, and it features over 500 pieces from their vast personal collection of Western and wildlife art. Click here for details.

The Dali Museum has the largest collection of artworks by Salvador Dali outside of Spain.
Dali Museum, St Petersburginspirexpressmiami/Pixabay

Check out the Chihuly Collection of mind-boggling unique glasswork by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly, presented by The Morean Arts Center located across the road at 719 Central Ave.

The Museum of Fine Arts is the first and largest museum in St Pete. The Ancient Antioch exhibition is now on and runs through August 21, featuring recently cleaned and conserved mosaics, which date from the 2nd to the 5th centuries AD, together with other major works excavated at Antioch.

You can check the full calendar of events here.

Great Explorations Children’s Museum opened in 1987. Designed for children 10 and under, it features exhibits and activities designed to stimulate learning and creativity. Because of closure during Covid, they will open in stages, starting June 29 for members only, then open to the public on July 6.

Great Explorations is the first mid-size children’s museum in the country to achieve AAM (American Alliance of Museums) accreditation. It joins the ranks of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Salvador Dali Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, and Indianapolis Children’s Museum.

(That makes three museums in St Pete with AAM accreditation!)

Beaches, parks, and trails

St Pete boasts over 100 public parks and four beach parks, including:

  • Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
  • Treasure Island Beach
  • Vinoy Park
  • Spa Beach Park
  • Sunken Gardens

St Pete Pier

This new pier opened in 2020—26 acres that seamlessly combines the waters of Tampa Bay with the downtown parks.

The old pier, a popular tourist attraction, closed in 2013. A replica of HMS Bounty used in the 1962 remake of Mutiny on the Bounty, The Bounty, docked there for many years until sold to Ted Turner in 1986. The Bounty occasionally visited St Pete in the winter before it sank in a storm off North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

In November 2020, the new St. Pete Pier finished second in USA Today’s 10 Best nationwide competition for “Best New Attraction 2020”.

There are so many things to enjoy here, including shopping, dining, walking, playing and fishing, that cannot fit into one article.

Please go here to see what’s on offer where at the Pier.

The Bending Arc deserves a special mention. Internationally renowned artist, Janet Echelman, who was born and grew up on the shores of Tampa Bay, created this aerial sculpture. She titled it "Bending Arc" in reference to Martin Luther King’s words:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Composed of 1,662,528 knots and 180 miles of twine, it spans 424 feet and measures 72 feet at its tallest point, the sculpture billows above the Pier District, with the wind forever changing shape in an endless dance of movement and colors which change as day moves into night.
Sunset in St PeteCaro Rotter/Pixabay

Other significant facts

The St. Petersburg Marina is the largest city marina in the southeast with 610 boat slips and there are nine boat ramp locations, open year round.

Tropicana Field is an enclosed baseball stadium - home to the Tampa Bay Rays.

St. Pete is the birthplace of scheduled aviation with the flight of the Benoist Airboat and the birthplace of Major League Baseball Spring Training, both in 1914.

Ray Charles (1930-2004) was born in Albany, Georgia, but when he lost his sight at age seven, he attended the Saint Augustine School for the Blind in Florida, where he learned Braille and started music lessons for piano, clarinet and saxophone. After school, he moved to Jacksonville in 1945, followed by Orlando, then to Tampa. In 1948 he moved out of state to Seattle, Washington to further his musical career.

I leave you with his composition "St Pete Florida Blues". RIP Tampa Bay Ray!

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Published essayist. Follow me for local news that impacts our lives, plus stories on public and mental health. Through writing, I also share my passion for music, politics, our environment and social justice, and hope you find value in my words.


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