10 FREE THINGS TO DO IN ST PETERSBURG
November to May is Florida’s high season, when short-term vacationers and long-term snow birds alike head south to escape cold winters. While many Florida destinations offer beautiful beaches but little else, St. Petersburg has gobs and gobs of things to do.
You can immerse yourself in cultural activities including world-class museums and hundreds of art shops in America’s #1 mid-size city for the arts.
Enjoy the great outdoors at parks, beaches, lakes, marinas and on the water.
Learn history on walking tours, in historic neighborhoods, and at stunning old hotels.
Happily, many of these activities are free in St. Pete! Here are 10 fab freebies:
1. Browse Local Art Galleries
For several years running St Pete has been listed among the Top 25 Arts Destinations of mid-sized cities in the USA by American Style Magazine. In 2010 and 2011 St Pete took 1st place. This prestigous designation is a result of St Pete’s amazing diversity of arts.
In addition to boasting 4 world class museums, St Pete has a burgeoning and diverse local arts community. Several blocks of Central Avenue in downtown St Pete are filled with painting galleries, craft shops, ceramic shops and even an art school. Further out along Central Avenue are 2 more blocks of art galleries, antique shops and boutique cafes.
|Sailboats at St Pete Municipal Marina|
2. Go sailing
Unless you own a sailboat or have friends who do, you don’t often get the chance to go sailing, especially for free. But in St Pete, anyone can join the city’s Friday evening sailing races. Held weekly from April through August, the races set off from St Petersburg Sailing Center on Demen’s Landing.
In order to join a boat, you should show up between 5-5:30 pm then just wander around the piers asking the sailors if they need crew or have room for an extra passenger. In most cases you’ll get on one boat or the other. No experience necessary.
Even better, most of the sailors are happy to teach you some sailing tasks and skills on board. They’re a friendly, welcoming crew down at St Pete Sailing Center, so don’t be shy. Head on down any Friday evening.
|organic vegetables and fruits at Saturday morning market|
3. Enjoy the Saturday morning markets SaturdayMorningMarkets.com
St Pete’s Saturday morning market, right along the waterfront in downtown St Pete, gets bustling early with organic vegetable stalls, homemade pastry and coffee shops, tropical plant nurseries and an array of artists’ stalls and ethnic clothing. As the market gets underway, dozens of ethnic food and homemade gourmet food stalls open. People start flooding in. Round about 11 am a band begins playing in the middle of the market to entertain the guests. It’s a lively, festive, cultural experience.
St Pete’s market is unique in the US on many counts. It’s the largest market in the southeast. It’s the only market with a seating area and a band in the middle of the market. It’s the only city market run privately instead of municipally. It has the largest selection of ethnic foods and largest variety of arts n crafts. Most of all, it’s a fun venue with a sense of community among both vendors and visitors. Not bad St Pete!
|Powdery white sands in St Petersburg|
4. Spend a day at the beach
St Pete actually has a beach right in the city: North Shore Beach. It’s a small strip of sand along St Pete’s several-miles-long coastal parks, just north of the marinas and Vinoy Hotel. Although it’s in the city, it comes complete with palm trees, sea gulls, and lovely white sand. On week days the beach is generally pretty empty, quiet, and peaceful. Work on your tan, take a nap, read a book, listen to wind blow through palm leaves and water birds screech, squak, and chirp. Spend a relaxing day surrounded by nature right in the city.
|Dali prints for sale in Dali Museum Shop|
5. Browse the Dali Museum art shop
Dali Museum has a hefty admission fee of $20 to view Dali’s amazing painting collection. If that’s pricey for your budget, you can still completely absorb yourself in Salvadore Dali by spending a morning or afternoon in the museum’s massive art store. They have enough merchandise to keep you entertained for several hours.
In fact, you can see most of Dali’s paintings there, albeit reproductions, in a dozen different formats: posters, postcards, greeting cards, notebooks, mouse pads, calendars, t-shirts and other clothes, wine glasses, puzzles, magnets, and key chains, to name a few. Learn all about Dali, the man, or Dali, the artist, or the details of Dali’s paintings by reading the shop’s extensive book collection.
Did you know Dali made several short movies? You can watch them at the store’s monitors. You can also try on Dali inspired jewelry, watches, and clothes. Spritz yourself with Dali designed original perfumes, and bask in sweet fragrance all day. Finally enjoy the ‘Rainy Rolls’ art installation, a real live art-ified Rolls Royce that rains inside when you insert a quarter.
If that doesn’t keep you busy for a few hours, I don’t know what will!
If you still have more energy for art, visit the smaller but equally fantastic art shops at Chihuly Collection and Fine Arts Museum, both on Beach Drive, a few blocks from the Dali.
|St Petersburg Preservation Society’s Saturday morning walking tours|
6. Learn St Pete’s fascinating history and development. Saturday morning walking tours
St Petersburg Preservation Society members guide people on walking tours of the city every Saturday morning, from October to April. Each Saturday of the month they do a different tour, which leads to a lot of interesting learning about the city and its fascinating history. Tours statt at 10 am in front of historic Detroit Hotel and last about 2 hours. A $5 donation is requested but not mandatory. They’re just happy to teach people about their beloved city and its origins.
|Private planes resting at Albert Witted Airport|
7. Watch private planes take off and land Albert Witted Airport
Whoever heard of an airport IN downtown? Well, ST Pete has one! It’s the Albert Whitted Airport. The runway sits right on the Tampa Bay waterfront. The small city-owned and operated airport shares its waterside home with the Dali Museum and the St Pete municipal marina.
Every day small privately owned, company and commercial planes fly in and out of St Pete. Private plane owners come both for business and pleasure, from all over Florida and the US. Think how convenient it’d be to fly into a city then simply walk 10 minutes to a nearby hotel. Splendid!
Besides use for private planes, the airport offers flight instruction, plane storage and parking, fueling, and other flight services. Several important life-saving organizations also use the airport.
If you’re a plane aficionado, you can watch planes take off and land from the park right next door or inside the small airport building. The second floor has a restaurant and outdoor balcony over looking the airfield.
St Pete’s lovely Mirror Lake is not much publicized or promoted. Perhaps it’s simply eclipsed in grandeur by the nearby waterfront park, marinas, museums and shops along Beach Drive. However, Mirror Lake sits prettily right in the city center between 4th and 1st Avenues North along 6th Street N.
The normally calm glassy waters are surrounded by several beautiful historical buildings, including the St Pete Library, the former St Pete High school, and the Church. Mirror Lake is also home to dozens of waterbirds: seagulls, ibis, egrets, herons, and others. Stroll around the lake, admire the buildings, and sit at one of the benches to enjoy the antics of birds, the wide open sky and the lovely, soothing water.
On the first Friday of every month, the city of St Pete presents, well, ‘First Friday’, during which they cordon off several downtown blocks from traffic and set up a big outdoor block party with live bands. Naturally, the area’s restaurants and bars serve up great food and drinks. But you can also enjoy the live music and festivities without patronizing the bars and restaurants. Go out for a dance, meet some new people, and enjoy the music!
|tower and roof of The Vinoy peaking behind gardens of North Straub Park|
10. Visit St Pete’s grandest historic hotel: The Vinoy
The Vinoy Park Hotel, built in 1925 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was one of the largest of St. Petersburg’s “Boom Era” hotels. It was renovated and re-opened in the 1980s and has been booming ever since. Go admire the Vinoy’s grand pink exterior then stroll through the well-appointed lobby.
At the far left end, as you enter, there’s a section of hallway dedicated to Vinoy’s history, complete with photos and descriptions. The hotel’s ceilings, columns, and detailing are wonderful architectural points of interest. Enjoy a splash of luxury.
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