When you are planning a beach vacation, you look for places that have the most beautiful beaches. When you want to getaway to the hustle and bustle of the city, you look for excitement and a cool vibe. More often than not, you can’t combine the two in one vacation, but Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater in Florida gives you both city vibes and sunny, top ranked, world class beaches.
From beautiful beaches to vibrant city nightlife and everything in between, it’s time to plan your two in one vacation to Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater.
That Beach Life
With some of the top beaches in the world, it’s no wonder the locals in St. Petersburg and Clearwater have a more laidback approach to life. It’s that beach vibe that lets you enjoy maximum sunshine and a slower pace with everyone around you. It doesn’t hurt that the area has a welcoming small-town feel. While there is so much to do in the area, you will be tempted to spend most of your time at any of the beautiful, sunny beaches.
St. Pete beach has the longest undeveloped stretch of public beach in the area. Spend your vacation relaxing on the shore or playing in the water, doing any number of watersports that are available such as parasailing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and so much more. If you are looking to soak up some sunshine, this is the place to be as St. Pete’s holds the title of “most consecutive days with sunshine” at 768 days!
Another top beach, there are multiple reasons why Clearwater Beach on Caladesi Island has been named number 1 in the US for multiple years. Two of the biggest reasons are the pristine white sands and the shallow, clear waters. Tucked away in the area, you can find a paradise within paradise in Sand Key Park. Claim one of the beach cabanas, let the kids play on the playground, even rent a beach wheelchair free of charge for added accessibility. And when you are ready to take a break from sitting on the beach, take a walk down the Beach Walk beachside promenade to grab a snack and take it all in.
If you are looking for a classic beach party, be sure to check out Pier 60. While it’s bustling during the day, the nightly Sunsets at Pier 60 has local performers and musicians, good local eats, and a variety of vendors selling their crafts. If you want to take in the nightly Sunsets at Pier 60 or just soak up some sun on the beach during the day, you’re in luck because the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa is right on the beach beside it!
Artsy Cool Vibes
From beautiful street art to unique, independent shops to a variety of museums, this region in Florida has the artsy cool vibe down. And if the beach isn’t really your thing, there is enough to do to keep you busy for days while you are on vacation.
St. Petersburg is often regarded as having some of the best street art in the world. Take the time to explore the city to discover any number of the hundreds of street art murals that transform the city into its own kind of art gallery. Downtown St. Petersburg also has some incredible locally owned shops and museums. With over 2,400 Salvador Dalí works, the Dalí Museum has the largest collection of his work outside of Spain and it is housed in a unique bubble building made up of 1,062 glass triangles. For something really colourful, the Chihuly Collection is a permanent glass exhibit. Get inspired by his work and create your own at the Morean Arts Center. With local historic landmarks like the Sunken Gardens, an exotic, botanical paradise below sea level that was created by a local plumber in 1903 when he drained a lake to access the rich soil underneath it so he could use it for gardening, there really is nowhere else like it. And at night, the city comes alive with underground lounges, cool patios, and rooftop bars so you can enjoy the city 24 hours a day. And the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront is right in the heart of the action, steps away from all of the attractions with a trolly stop right outside to get you to the beach even faster.
For that artsy cool vibe in a big city, Tampa also has a lot to offer. The Henry B. Plant Museum is a National Historic Landmark that opened in 1933. Dedicated to preserving the history of the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel and the opulence of America’s Gilded Age, this museum has the actual furnishings and artifacts from when the hotel first opened. For a more vintage, city cool vibe in Tampa, check out Ybor City. Designated as a National Historic Landmark District, this neighbourhood has over 100 years of history and culture that is celebrated in every eclectic boutique and vintage shop, independent restaurants and bars, and even at the Ybor City State Museum. You can even take a guided tour so you don’t miss anything! For an impossibly stylish, city cool vibe, be sure to check out Hotel Alba Tampa. With its on-site gallery featuring work from local artists, open air dining with a menu that celebrates the local tastes, and a poolside bar and cabanas, it’s the perfect location for a perfect vacation.
Adventure For Days
It’s no secret that the local ecosystem makes for some great outdoor activities in Florida. St. Pete, Clearwater, and Tampa have some incredible opportunities to discover what makes the region so unique. You could go on a new adventure every day and head back to your hotel at night, often steps away from where you started.
St. Pete has a couple of can’t-miss experiences and one of them is Weedon Island Preserve. This adventure escape is 3,190 acres of natural ecosystems ready to be explored via land on guided hikes and on water using the paddling trails. Whether you want to go bird watching, fishing, or just marvel at your surroundings, there is no shortage of places to explore and things to discover. For something a little more man-made, but steeped in history, Fort De Soto Park is 1,136 acres of beaches, land and water trails, and the historic Fort and Fort De Soto Batteries. Any history buff would love the stories behind the Spanish-American War artifacts and structures that define the park, but they are also simply exciting to explore.
In Clearwater, a boat tour is the perfect way to experience the beauty of the beaches and the city. From dolphin encounters, to a view of the bustling shoreline, to party boats, to luxury yachts, to sail boats, there are so many different options and types of experiences. You can even go see a celebrity at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium! Winter the Dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movies calls the facility home. Learn about the different marine species that live in Florida and the efforts that the aquarium is doing when it comes to animal rescue and conservation.
City life doesn’t have to mean traditional city adventures. A lot of the conservation work that local organizations do in Tampa is important to the local ecosystem – and a big part of that is educating visitors. Big Cat Rescue and Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center are two places where you can learn about conservation of beloved animal species in Florida. Both with mandates to prevent extinction in the wild, learn and observe these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats. For something a little more active, check out Lettuce Lake Regional Park in Hillsborough County. Trails, a 3,500-foot boardwalk along the river, and guided nature tours – both on land and on water in canoes and kayaks are available. Lots of different aquatic birds and wildlife to discover.
That City Life
There is a time for beach vibes and there is a time for cool city vibes. Close enough to the beach, Tampa has a lot of unique, local aspects that you will love. A great way to take in the shores of downtown Tampa is the 2.6-mile Tampa Riverwalk that follows along the shores of the Hillsborough River and Garrison Channel. It shows you how walkable and connected the city really is. A quicker way to get around – and part of the rich history of the city – is the TECO Line Streetcar System. Built in 1892, Tampa’s first electric streetcar system connects three of the major areas in Tampa: Downtown, Channelside, and Ybor City District. You can also travel by water using the hop on hop off Pirate Water Taxi!
Along with big cities comes great food. Opened over a century ago, Columbia Restaurant has been family owned since 1905. The Ybor City location is the oldest of the seven locations and also happens to be the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. Ulele (pronounced You-lay-lee) offers a local connection through its Native American influences – celebrating local history and flavours. There is also an on-site brewery providing local, seasonal craft brews. More than just a restaurant and brewery, Ulele has a large private collection of art on display.
Speaking of breweries, Cigar City Brewing is newer on the scene in Tampa, but they are working to uphold the history of how the city was built. With unique citrus and tropical-inspired flavours and inspiration taken from the local cigar industry history, it’s no wonder their handcrafted brews have been winning awards since 2009. Another great, new addition to the city is Sparkman Wharf.
The Hilton Tampa Downtown adds to the experience you are looking for with a rooftop pool and close proximity to some of the best entertainment Tampa has to offer.
This only scratches the surface of what the area has to offer. World-class golf courses, professional sports entertainment, countless local restaurants, shopping, and so many local attractions. The only question you should be asking is “when do we leave?”