With sugar sand beaches to the west of downtown and glistening Tampa Bay lining its urban east, St. Pete (hardly anybody calls it St. Petersburg anymore) strikes the perfect balance between cool and coastal.
This Gulf Coast Florida city is no longer the once-jokingly called “God’s Waiting Room.” And St. Pete’s appeal to the young, single, and vibrant is as strong as its allure as one of Florida’s rising tech capitals. Here, it’s all about the outdoor lifestyle, with no shortage of cool hangouts for maximizing it.
Point of Pride
The rainbow flag flies high and proud all over the Tampa Bay area, with St. Pete the region’s de facto epicenter of inclusivity. In 2022, the city received a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign's annual Municipal Equality Index for the ninth year in a row. Since the city’s inaugural St. Pete Pride event in 2003, the month-long celebration’s annual parade has grown to be Florida’s largest and also one of the biggest pride parades in the country, taking over the streets of downtown each June. More than 300,000 people were estimated to have attended in 2022.
West of downtown in the Grand Central District, the METRO LGBTQ Welcome Center has an onsite coffee shop and greets visitors to the community. If nightlife is your speed, COCKtail is a favorite neighborhood bar in Grand Central for Sunday evening drag shows and karaoke Tuesdays. The region’s best LGBTQ-friendly beach is Sunset Beach on Treasure Island.
Museums worth traveling for
Miami may have Art Basel, but St. Pete is its own museum town, too. Its most notable gallery, The Dalí Museum, houses the largest collection of works by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí outside of his native Spain. And while the artist never lived in St. Pete himself, a friendship between him and two American philanthropists who did live in the city—Albert Reynolds Morse and Eleanor Morse—led to the founding of the museum here in 1982 with a core collection of their personal Dalí works.
Melting clocks and jaunty mustaches notwithstanding, other interesting museums pack the town, too. A 20-foot high glass sculpture welcomes you into the Chihuly Collection, with spectacular large-scale installations by Dale Chihuly. New on the scene, the Museum of the American Arts & Crafts Movement, founded by a local philanthropist and collector, is the only museum of its kind in the world dedicated to the late-19th and early-20th- century arts and crafts movement. Come to see sublime decorative items like art nouveau jewelry, Tiffany lamps, and rare woodblock prints.
A mural on every street corner
Art spills onto the streets of St. Pete, too, where you’ll hardly spot a boring old unadorned wall. Some of the world’s most renowned mural artists descend each fall for the internationally recognized SHINE® St. Petersburg Mural Festival, which started in 2015 and now brings upwards of 15 new murals each year to the streets of St. Pete’s seven arts districts, including the Central Arts District.
Regular Saturday Walking Mural Tours ($19 per adult, $11 children 6-18) visit over 30 murals in a four-block area and gain the inside scoop on their inspo along the way. You’ll bump into tons of art around town on your own, too, including a mural dedicated to the complex relationship between the US and Cuba and another featuring a massive shark adorning the Beaux Arts-style State Theatre.
Meet you at the market
Ready your reusable bags. One of Florida’s best weekend markets and the largest weekly fresh market in the Southeastern United States, the Saturday Morning Market spills out in a riot of color, scents, and sounds onto the streets just back from the bay in downtown St. Pete. Vendors sell everything from diver-harvested Tarpon Springs sponges to local honey and seasonal citrus, with live music usually on tap, too.
On the first Sunday of the month from October through April, browse over 100 vendors selling handmade objects, vintage goods, and sustainable crafts at the St. Pete Indie Downtown Flea. And seasonal weekend markets held during the cooler winter and spring months take place at Treasure Island and Indian Shores, among other local spots.
Get your grouper sandwich
Visitors to Florida’s Gulf Coast tend to come hungry in search of state staples, like grouper sandwiches and key lime pie. Pinellas County is known as the Grouper Capital of the World thanks to the abundance of fish caught nearby, and you can get a very tasty bite here.
From the cult-favorite grouper reuben at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, fronting the Gulf of Mexico in nearby Clearwater, to the simple and less-messy blackened sammy at the St. Pete Pier’s rooftop bar, Pier Teaki (enjoyed with a mai tai and bay views), there is no shortage of great spots to grab a grouper.
If you’re feeling more turf than surf, downtown St. Pete’s favorite spot for Latin vibes and meat-centric Cuban sandwiches is Bodega, right along Central Avenue in the city’s hip Edge District.
Brews and boards (but not those kinds)
A beer town with a shuffleboard problem? Only in St. Pete. The original St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club that first opened in 1924–today the oldest and largest shuffleboard club in the world–draws all ages for friendly competition under the evening lights with BYOB vibes.
Pick up a six-pack to take along from one of the great local breweries lining Central Avenue, like Cycle Brewing, within walking distance of the shuffleboard club and known for its stouts and porters. Or see what else is brewing around town at St. Pete’s 12 other local breweries (plus about 20 more in the greater metro area) such as St. Pete Brewing Company or Green Bench Brewing Co., whose name references the city’s Civil Rights history.
From bay to beach
There’s water, water everywhere here, from the mangrove tunnels of Weedon Island Preserve (where you can rent a kayak and paddle out to feel like you’re in the Everglades) to the urban beach fronting Tampa Bay at the spectacular new downtown St. Pete Pier, a destination of its own with public art, a pirate playground, and an overwater eco discovery center.
St. Pete/Clearwater’s 35 miles of uninterrupted coastline are home to 12 beaches that are deservedly world famous for their white sand and clear water, everywhere from Fort De Soto Park (popular for camping and kiteboarding) to laid-back Pass-a-Grille Beach, on the southernmost tip of St. Pete Beach. Be sure to do the “Stingray Shuffle” and move your feet in the sand entering the gulf waters between April and October, which is stingray mating season in these parts.
On land and at sea, it’s all about being active and outdoors in St. Pete’s year-round sunshine and salty breezes. A clear kayak tour to Shell Key Preserve makes you feel like you’re in the Caribbean, complete with pristine sandbars and roseate spoonbill sightings. For something less strenuous, scout for dolphins in the same area during electric paddle board tours while plying the waters at roughly five miles per hour.
On land, the beloved Pinellas Trail Loop–a 75-mile multi-use path along an abandoned railway corridor—links St. Pete and Tarpon Springs to the north.