Disclosure: I received complimentary accommodations in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed here are 100% my own.
They don’t call St. Petersburg the “Sunshine City” for nothing. In fact, the average number of days of sunshine this illustrious metropolis experiences per year is 361. Boasting one of the region’s most vibrant art scenes, a plethora of gourmet restaurants, world-class shopping, the renowned Tropicana Field (Go Rays!), and miles upon miles of white-sand beaches, St. Petersburg offers a little piece of magic for everyone. I had the most incredible weekend frolicking around the city with my boyfriend, and although our time was limited, we did our best to take in everything there was to see. Whether this is your first time visiting St. Pete or you’re a seasoned local, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions (where to stay, what to do, and what to eat) to help you navigate your way around the city.
Where to Stay
If you’re on a quest for panoramic views of Tampa Bay, luxurious 1920’s inspired guest rooms with a modern touch, and impeccable hospitality, look no further than The Birchwood. What was once a century-old home at risk of demolition, is now a posh, hip hotel located right in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg. I had the pleasure of spending the weekend at this gorgeous boutique hotel, which is conveniently situated directly on the bay, and the accommodations were truly spectacular. The walkway leading up to the lobby had a red-carpet feel, and my initial impression of the grounds were that of elegance and charm.
Once we made it up to our room, which was larger than my one bedroom apartment(!), I immediately felt at home. The bedroom and bathroom were fit for a queen, and I couldn’t wait to lounge around and do absolutely nothing. Some of the amenities included a snack bar, a coffee-maker (this is very important), free wi-Fi (also very important), and flat-screen TVs. Between the ultra plush bed, eclectic decor, complimentary champagne, and breathtaking views of Tampa Bay, I found myself debating whether or not there was anything worth leaving the room for at any point during my vacation.
I eventually dragged myself out of this dreamy oasis so that I could unearth all of the hidden gems in and around St. Petersburg. In addition to the wow-factor, the resort’s prime location in the heart of the waterfront district makes it convenient to all of the shopping, dining, art, and nightlife.
What to Do
Although I would have happily lounged around the resort all day long, there were quite a few attractions in the area that I had been dying to check out. With a plethora of options and a limited amount of time, it took some serious planning ahead to accomplish everything that we wanted to do on this vacation. Miraculously, we managed to hit every spot on our bucket list. Without further ado, how to successfully spend 36 hours in St. Petersburg:
Immerse yourself in the local art scene
Stop by the Salvador Dali Museum for an entertaining and informative showcase of Dali’s greatest works of art. While many of the collections are permanent, they are consistently adding new, alluring exhibits that feature whimsical images and breathtaking sculptures. Pictures are forbidden inside of the museum, so you’ll have to travel to this highly coveted destination to see them for yourself. Not to be overlooked, the Museum of the Fine Arts also displays an abundance of fine art and creative collections. One could easily spend hours inside of here. If you’re vacationing on a budget, no worries! On the second Saturday of each month, studios and galleries all over St. Pete open their doors for a fun (and free!) evening art walk. The downtown area also boasts miles of local street murals. Make your boyfriend take a couple (hundred) pictures of you in front of them to post on Instagram later on.
Explore the Saturday Morning Market
Drag yourself out bed bright and early and make your way over the Saturday Morning Market. Seriously, you don’t want to miss out on this one. The good news is, they literally have anything a person could possibly need: fresh produce, beautiful artwork, unique clothing and jewelry, and delicious food. They are even dog-friendly, which is a major plus in my book. The bad news is, well, they are only open on Saturdays. You’ll just have to decide whether the Ginger Beer, live music, and once in a lifetime experience are worth it; and my opinion, they most definitely are.
Enjoy the Local Beaches
Grab the SPF and get ready for some fun and the sun, ya’ll. We decided to spend the day at Treasure Island, partially because it was the closest beach to our resort, but also because the name reminded me of the 1934 Walt Disney film. For a small price, you can rent a beach chair to relax and unwind in, but we opted for some good old fashioned beach towels. Summers in Florida equate to scorching temperatures, so make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day. Also located in the near vicinity are Pass-A-Grille Beach, Sunset Beach, and Madeira Beach, and I can assure you these are equally beautiful.
Attend a Tampa Bay Rays Game
I can officially check attending a MLB game off of my bucket list. Even if you’re not an avid sports fan, I guarantee you’ll have a blast at this family-friendly event. If all else fails, you can always pound beers until you’re having fun. Totally kidding (or am I?). The Tropicana Field is entirely indoors, so this makes for a wonderful activity on a rainy afternoon. But alas, the coolest part of this entire experience was probably the fact that THEY SELL DIPPIN’ DOTS. Holy childhood nostalgia. Save 5% on each ticket by using this link to buy them. Go Rays!
Shop until you drop
This picture was taken inside of the Landing Company, where I purchased a snazzy new pair of sterling silver earrings. Saunter down Central Avenue to discover an assortment of unique shops, art galleries, and cafes. For waterfront views to help accentuate your shopping experience, Beach Drive offers a collection of fabulous stores. If you’re looking for a sassy date night outfit, Bella Moda is your spot. Cerulean Blu carries all of the hottest summer styles, so if you’re in the market for a new bikini, they’ve got you covered (literally – ha, my puns are out of control). My boyfriend’s favorite part of the trip (this is definitely sarcasm) was finally capped after I had hit up every shop in the 10-mile radius.
Watch the sunset from The Canopy
There’s nothing quite like enjoying a St. Pete sunset from a rooftop, glass of wine in tow. The Canopy is located right in the heart of downtown, atop The Birchwood hotel, and offers up some of the finest views in town. Cuddle up with your sweetheart on one of the many cozy couches provided for an intimate setting, or dance the night away with your closest friends. If you’re hungry, feel free to grab a bite to eat, as the kitchen stays open as long as the drinks keep flowing. They even rent out cabanas for those looking to celebrate a special occasion or simply just want privacy, but you’d better reserve one relatively early in the day, because they’ve been known to go rather quickly. Overall, this was probably my favorite experience from the trip. The atmosphere of this rooftop lounge is truly like no other.
Where to Eat
Next up – the cuisine! Since we were only in town for a little less than 36 hours, we only had the opportunity to try out a couple of restaurants. However, I would highly recommend the following places:
Rae Rae’s Cafe
Don’t let the bland exterior of this mom and pop cafe fool you; this local breakfast joint is everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Rae Rae’s Cafe serves up fresh, home-cooked breakfasts (as well as lunch) from 7AM to 3PM daily and boasts phenomenal food AND service. They also bake and offer fresh donuts as part of the menu, and if that alone isn’t a reason for you stop in and check this place out, then I don’t know what is. Andrew and I had to wait a bit before we were seated, as this place was very popular, but it was well worth it. We both ordered the traditional breakfast, consisting of eggs, bacon, french toast, and a giant buttermilk pancake. YUM!
Birch & Vine
Classy. Delicious. Exotic. World-class. These are just a few adjectives that help summarize our fabulous dining experience at the Birch & Vine. I borrowed a picture from their website because my photography skills are not quite up to par with theirs, and I may or may not have dug into my dish before the thought to snap a picture even crossed my mind. Oops. I ordered the Mixed Green Salad because by this point I had consumed large quantities of wine, iced coffee, and an array of other sweet treats that did not fit into my diet plan. It was definitely one of a kind. If I was a local, I’d probably eat here every single day.
Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro
Come dinnertime, we stumbled upon this adorable dockside bistro a few blocks away from our hotel. My pulled pork sandwich with homemade BBQ sauce was an 11/10, and Andrew raved about his pasta dish for days. Oh, and for all of you Pokemon Go fanatics out there (not sure how many of you are reading a fashion and lifestyle blog, but just in case), this location also happens to be a “Pokespot”. I’m still not entirely sure what that means, but I thought it was cool, nonetheless. We found this place to be highly impressive and offered good vibes all around. The endless amount of yachts in our view wasn’t bad, either.
Until next time, St. Pete! Although we didn’t have time to rent a speedboat, partake in a ghost tour, or ride into the ocean via a horse, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip. For even more local recommendations, you can check out the city’s website.