With a decidedly more low-key attitude than go-getter sister city Tampa to the east, St. Petersburg offers lovers of history and art much to enjoy, but the city’s slow pace and friendly faces will be inviting to almost any visitor.
The early-20th-century architecture that defines St. Petersburg’s downtown speaks to the area’s past as a prime tourist destination, and many of the same things that drew the area’s first guests—beautiful weather, lively street-level shops, and cafés—are drawing younger crowds who are shuffling off the city’s reputation as “God’s Waiting Room.” The beautiful award-winning beaches that line a 25-mile-long barrier island are just as attractive, with communities that range from bustling to sedate.
Getting to St. Petersburg
Most visitors fly into Tampa International Airport (TPA, 4100 George J. Bean Pkwy., Tampa, 813/870-8770, www.tampaairport.com), which is only a few miles from downtown Tampa but offers easy access to the St. Petersburg–Clearwater area. The airport is well-served by major domestic and international carriers; several low-cost carriers such as Southwest and Spirit fly into TPA also. Although it is closer, the smaller St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport (PIE, 14700 Terminal Blvd., Clearwater, 727/453-7800, www.fly2pie.com) is mainly served by charters and seasonal routes from Canada and the northern Midwest. However, low-cost carrier Allegiant Air also utilizes the airport for flights to and from 15 cities.
Amtrak’s Silver Star train arrives and departs daily at the Amtrak Station (601 N. Nebraska Ave.) in downtown Tampa; the Greyhound Station (610 Polk St.) is also in Tampa.
Navigating the area is fairly simple. Three causeways cross Old Tampa Bay, connecting Tampa to the St. Pete–Clearwater area; the Courtney Campbell Causeway provides a relatively direct route into downtown Clearwater, and the I-275 causeway is the fastest way to central St. Petersburg. Both are close to Tampa International Airport.
The Gandy Boulevard Causeway follows a route similar to I-275 but connects to the southern end of Tampa. The beaches are all connected by the north-south Gulf Boulevard (State Rd. 699), which is easily accessible from Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and all points between.
In downtown St. Petersburg, hop on The Looper, a trolley that makes stops near all the major sights about every 15 minutes. Fares are only $0.25, and the Looper runs 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, with service until midnight on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Suncoast Beach Trolley runs up and down Gulf Boulevard, connecting Clearwater Beach to Pass-A-Grille with eight major stops along the way. Fares are $1.50 (exact change only) and the trolley has pickups every 20–30 minutes from 5:05 a.m.–10:10 p.m.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition