Once a quiet beach town where railroad tycoons built palaces on the water in boom-and-bust Florida, St. Petersburg had become a haven for retirees and a punchline for comedians who derided it as “God’s Waiting Room.” But awash in sunlight almost year round, it attracted major league sports franchises and Grand Prix racing as its world-class Salvador Dalí Museum made it an arts destination. More recently, its nascent creative class has been turning the shuttered storefronts and abandoned warehouses of its downtown area into independent shops, restaurants, and breweries. While keeping its laid-back, under-the-radar cool, St. Pete is shining brighter every day.
Start the day in downtown’s EDGE District with a ‘spro julep (cold brew with mint-infused syrup and club soda) at Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktail, then watch the specialty coffee shop turn into the Omakase-style Empire Oyster in the afternoon, before closing out the night as a popular cocktail lounge.
Cross the street to Bodega on Central for a Cuban sandwich paired with a freshly pressed sugarcane juice. The city is known for its craft breweries, so try some local drafts at the nearby Independent bar or go international with their revolving roster of rare bottles and boutique wines.
Follow a visit to the Dalí Museum with lunch at chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona’s Farmtable Kitchen where the surreal cocktail menu is inspired by the current exhibit. Take on the monumental St. Petersburger Deluxe made with their thirty-day house-aged beef, served with duck fat fries, or browse the team’s Locale Market downstairs showcasing both local food artisans and specialty imports. If you’re looking for scale, next door’s Sea Salt offers a twenty-two-foot wine tower displaying 4,000 bottles, an eighty-foot long raw bar, and 130 varieties of salt to complement Venetian chef Fabrizio Aielli’s Gulf-to-table menu.
Follow the crowds to Williams Park for the Saturday Morning Market, a waterfront warren of bakers, purveyors, and farmers, or head to the Florida CraftArt for a walking tour of downtown’s spectacular street murals. Browse Central Avenue for retro items at the Swag on Central or feed your vinyl obsession at Daddy Kool Records then grab handmade ice pops at the Hyppo in tropical flavors like jackfruit or chocolate canistel. Stop into the Morean Arts Center’s Glass Studio and Hot Shop for a demo before seeing the work of master glass sculptor Dale Chihuly on display.
Just a short drive away, the Green Bench Brewing Company hosts the monthly St. Pete Indie Market for makers. If you miss market day, watch the sidewalk scenes unfold from their tap room or beer garden, then head over to the historic St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club to play the game both retirees and hipsters love.
While there’s plenty to do downtown, the Kimpton Hotel Zamora on St. Pete Beach brings an urban boutique hotel experience to the water’s edge, with rooms overlooking the Gulf and the Intracoastal Waterway. Take in the panoramic views from its 360 Rooftop lounge before dinner at the hotel’s Castile Restaurant for chef Nicolas Lebas’ Mediterranean fusion fare. Standouts include the romesco butter sea scallops over black rice and lamb shank with poached apricots.