St. Petersburg, Florida
It’s amazing what an amped-up, blue-sky, sun-drenched getaway on top Florida beaches like Treasure Island and Clearwater Beach can do for you. Mix in world-class arts, like the acclaimed Dalí Museum, and St. Pete’s pulsing downtown nightlife, and every single moment is amplified. 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 days! Downtown St. Petersburg is the city’s heart, home to great shopping, restaurants, bars and attractions. Want to grab a bite to eat? Discover Locale Market, a one-of-a-kind 20,000 sq-foot marketplace offering the region’s freshest and finest artisanal foods. Whether you’re having some down time on America’s Best Beaches or admiring beautiful Tampa Bay from downtown St. Pete, you’re in for some major fun in the sun. Fort Desoto Park This beach was named "Best Beach for Families" by USA Today in 2014. You can call it a beach, but Fort De Soto Park is much more than a beach. This much-praised county park - part of the boating community of Tierra Verde - covers five islands and 1,136 acres on the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, and offers activities and amenities to entertain you for a day or more (campsites and abundant hotels nearby enable extended stays). With so many possibilities, set an agenda that’s full or freewheeling: Rent a canoe, kayak or bike to explore the park’s trails; fish from a pier; visit the historic fort; or simply lounge on the beach Parents magazine called the best for families in 2011.
(Ft. Desoto Beach, photo courtesy of floridaunique.blogspot.com)
At the heart of the park where the Gulf meets Tampa Bay, you’ll find the historic fort and Fort De Soto Batteries that give the park its name. At ground level, enter old artillery holds and firing galleys that make up the base of the coquina shell fort. You can also view mortar battery cannons aimed over the top of the fort and pointed at Tampa Bay, where invaders would have approached. Climb the steep stairs to the fort overlook to see the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the world's longest cable-stayed concrete bridge. Before leaving the fort area, stop in at the Quartermaster Museum. Housed in a reconstruction of the fort's old postal building, the museum tells the story of the fort through historic photographs, military documents and Spanish-American War artifacts.
(Ft. Desoto, photo courtesy of healthygirladventures.wordpress.com)
Downtown St. Petersburg It's not hard to believe that the New York Times named St. Petersburg, Florida one of 52 Places to Go in 2014! The city of St. Petersburg is something truly special—it has every amenity you can imagine, still with a quaint sense of community and fantastically Floridian appeal. Downtown St. Petersburg is the city’s heart, replete with shops, restaurants, bars and attractions. Boyd Hill Nature Park is a glimpse of what St. Petersburg looked like before modern development; the observation tower at Weedon Island Preserve offers an expansive view of St. Pete’s surroundings. If you really want to wrap your brain around all that St. Petersburg, Florida has to offer, try a guided tour of the city. There are Segway tours, boat tours (including dolphin watching), ghost tours, photo tours and historic tours that will make you an almost-instant expert on this jewel of Tampa Bay.
(Sailboats at sunrise, photo courtesy of thousandwonders.net)
Skyway Bridge Completed in 1987, the Sunshine Skyway is the world's longest cable-stayed concrete bridge. It is probably the best known of the several dozen cable-stayed bridges that have been built in the United States since the late 1970s. Its popularity may be due to its unique color -- its cables are painted a bright taxicab yellow -- but the bridge also boasts an interesting history. The Sunshine Skyway isn't the first bridge to span the broad mouth of the Tampa Bay. In fact, a four-mile steel cantilever bridge used to live where the new Sunshine Skyway now stands. But during a violent thunderstorm on the morning of May 9, 1980, the freighter Summit Venture plowed into the cantilever bridge. More than 1,000 feet of the bridge fell into the bay, killing 35 motorists and bus passengers instantly. Since it opened to traffic in 1987, the sleek, new Sunshine Skyway has won dozens of engineering and design awards.
(Sunshine over the Skyway, photo courtesy of hdwallpaperfx.com)