One of the great things about the St. Pete area, besides its pristine beaches, is the number of things that come free of charge. Whether you are on a fixed budget or just want to be able to squeeze another vacation in this year without breaking the bank, here are some tips that will be helpful while planning, as well as places that are worth your time and free to the public.
Because of Florida’s year-round beach weather, we really don’t have an “off” season. You can enjoy the natural beauty that St. Pete has to offer 365 days a year. We do however have a season of snowbirds who flock to this area from December through April due to the drastic lows in temperature that accompany winter, yet mildly affect our area of the country. So if you plan a trip between May and November air-fairs are cheaper and hotel rates drop accordingly. This will take a big chunk out of your overall expense to enjoy fun in the sun, and you will avoid the heavier traffic and seasonal population of snowbirds who will have flown home for the summer.
Starting with the most obvious, St Pete and Clearwater beaches have been rated the top beaches in the country by TripAdvisor. Pass a Grille Beach, which is part of St Pete beach, is a four-mile stretch of undeveloped exquisite shoreline, a private beach free of charge to the public. This historic area at the southern-most tip of St. Pete beach offers restaurants, ice cream parlors and beaucoup quaint boutiques for you to meander through and window shop.
Another fun attraction to add to your itinerary would be Spongeorama, the world’s largest collection of natural sea sponges. Spongeorama is part of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks and is a popular area for sightseeing, food and fun. Part museum and part factory, Spongeorama has an air-conditioned theater featuring a movie that explores the history of Tarpon Springs, the Sponge Docks and the sponge industry. This unique experience is free of charge and offers a gift shop where you can explore the wonderous flora and fauna of the world under the sea.
For fun in the great outdoors, Tampa bay is filled with wonderous parks, gardens and preserves most of which are free of charge to enjoy. Fort Desoto Park, Florida Botanical Gardens and Weedon Island Preserve are all great options to check out and won’t cost a dime to enter. Fort Desoto Park is the largest park in Pinellas county and provides a complex ecosystem with a wide diversity of plant, sea and wildlife forming a majestic tapestry of natural allure. Finally, Florida Botanical Gardens is a 120-acre site which is being actively restored. The Gardens are dedicated to preserving these natural ecosystems which are quickly vanishing due to human activities. They have carefully laid out a trail loop so visitors can subtly observe this natural habitat in its original state. Check out their website for annual events and programs.
For art enthusiasts you are in luck, The Morean Arts Center is always free to the public with its current rotating exhibits, which feature local artists as well as artists from around the world. The Morean Arts Center also houses master artists like Dave Chihuly for a moderate fee. On the second Saturday of every month The St. Petersburg Art Walk takes place between 5pm-9pm and features over 40 galleries from the five Art Districts. There is also a trolly for your convenience to get around with ease free of charge. To end each night celebrating the sunset head to Sunsets at Pier 60. It takes place two hours before and after the sunset and includes street performers, artisans and crafters. On the weekends there is live music and movie showings all free to the public. A nice central beach location where you can gaze out onto the Gulf of Mexico at your leisure, would be the Double Tree Beach Resort by Hilton at Redington Beach.
You will feel the sense of community that is an inherent part of the City of St. Petersburg when you spend time along the beaches and drifting in and out of shops. From sunrise to sunset you will be able to fill your day with extraordinary experiences without the need to always be swiping your credit card.