More Things to Do in St. Petersburg, Florida

Previously, I wrote A Brief Overview of St. Petersburg, Florida- Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Eat with some basics like where to stay and some of my favorite places to eat. In this post, I’m going to just talk about things to do since there are so many fun things to do in that area. I’ll start with outdoor activities since that’s my favorite. There are a crazy number of places in and around St. Petersburg to go walking, cycling, running, bird-watching, or just have a nice picnic lunch in nature. The town of Bradenton (a suburb of St. Petersburg) has a multitude of preserves so I’ll start there.

Preserves, Parks, and Trails in the Greater St. Petersburg Area

  • Robinson Preserve- 682 acres that is a mix of preserved mangrove, tidal marsh, and former agricultural lands that have been converted to coastal wetlands. The “Expansion” which has even more coastal wetlands and other habitats, a 2.5k rubberized pedestrian-only trail, additional kayak launches and trails, restrooms, picnic areas, and the Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology, or “NEST.”
  • Palma Sola Botanical Park- free. 10 acres. Yoga and other special events like Winter Nights Under the Lights the end of December. tropical plants, rare fruit trees, 3 tranquil lakes, a wealth of butterflies, screened pavilion and two gazebos.
  • Perico Preserve- trails, birdwatching, no dogs allowed.
  • Jiggs Landing Preserve- boat ramp, fishing, grills, open space, pavilion, playground, restrooms, trails
  • Neal Preserve- 20 foot tall observation tower, shell trails, and boardwalks that wind through the coastal environment (no bikes on trails; no dogs allowed).
  • Riverview Pointe- 11-acre site adjacent to the DeSoto National Memorial. Trails, fishing, wildlife viewing.
  • Ungarelli Preserve- trails, pavilion.

Nearby Anna Maria Island also has Leffis Key Preserve with scenic trails.

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Sunken Gardens

We visited Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg and loved it! In addition to the botanical gardens with waterfalls, winding paths, and more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers, there are pink flamingos and many other tropical birds. There are also special events throughout the year. Admission is a reasonable $12 for adults and $6 for children. We found a special buy one, get one free on Groupon, so it was an even better deal for us.

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Flamingos in Sunken Gardens

There are literally dozens of parks in the St. Petersburg area, some that are simply open spaces, while others have playgrounds, kayak/canoe launches, fishing, pavilions, soccer and baseball fields, tennis courts, swimming pools, splash pads, dog parks, grills, and so much more. You can check out this interactive map of parks and things to do in Manatee County.

Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde is on 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys). In addition to the historic fort, there is over 7 miles of waterfront including almost 3 miles of white sandy beach, camping, seven miles of paved trail connecting North Beach, East Beach, the boat ramp and the camping area, two swim centers, 2 fishing piers, a 2.25 mile canoe trail, and short nature trails. There is a daily parking fee of $5.

Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo has 30 acres and over a dozen different gardens, aquatic habitats, artwork, a gift shop, annual events and programs, and best of all, it’s free. Also in Largo is the historical Heritage Village, set on 21 acres with 33 historical attractions including a variety of historic homes, general store, railroad depot, two schools, church, and more, and also all free.

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Stand up paddle boarding in Weedon Island Preserve

Weedon Island Preserve is an expansive 3,190-acre natural area located on Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg. There is a cultural and natural history center, guided tours and nature hikes, boardwalks and trails, and kayak/stand up paddle board rentals. Weedon Island Preserve is also a well-known birding and fishing site. Here’s the link to Sweetwater Kayaks, where we rented stand up paddle boards and paddled through the mangroves there. The guys working there are extremely nice and the launch site is literally steps from where you rent the boards or kayaks. There’s a link where you can check the tides, too since it can make a difference if you’re going through mangrove tunnels.

You can find more information on parks, gardens, beaches, and preserves for St. Petersburg, Largo, and Tierra Verde at the Pinellas County Website.

The Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail (most people just call it Pinellas Trail) is a linear trail currently extending from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs and is a multi-use trail that runners, cyclists, and walkers can enjoy. The trail was created along a portion of an abandoned railroad corridor, providing a unique, protected greenspace. My daughter and I ran on the trail a couple of times in different directions each time and absolutely loved it. It’s safe, scenic (cool mosaics, flowering shrubs and other landscape typical to the area) and pancake flat. Parts of it are shaded but other parts are not, so I suggest getting out early to beat the heat.

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Running on the Pinellas Trail

Museums and Galleries in St. Petersburg

Like the wide array of outdoor spaces available, there is no shortage of museums and galleries either. If I was short on time and had to choose just two or three, I would choose the Chihuly Collection, The Dali Museum, and Imagine Museum, but there are others that are fabulous as well, depending on your interests. Here are the major ones in St. Petersburg:

  • Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center- glass art by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly.
  • The Dali Museum- an impressive collection of works by Salvadore Dali and similar artists of his time.
  • Imagine Museum- a stunning collection of American Studio Glass, rotating exhibitions, and a growing collection of International Studio Glass.
  • The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art- over 400 works of art inspired by the history of the American West.
  • Morean Arts Center- located in the Central Arts District with three other facilities in St. Petersburg.
  • Morean Glass Studio- watch glassblowing demonstrations and sign up for classes to make your own masterpiece.
  • Morean Center for Clay- watch local artisans at work and purchase some locally made pottery.
  • Museum of Fine Arts- over 20,000 works of art from ancient to contemporary.
  • Craftsman House- gallery with a collection of fine craft and artwork by American artists.
  • St. Petersburg Museum of History- featured displays include Schrader’s Little Cooperstown, the largest collection of autographed baseballs and the world’s first commercial airline flight.
  • Great Exploration Children’s Museum- designed for children ages 10 and under and filled with hands-on activities to stimulate learning through play and exploration.
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Some of the impressive artwork we saw at the Dali Museum and Imagine Museum

St. Petersburg does not seem overly touristy to me, although there are places that fit the bill for that, such as the cheesy miniature golf spots, cheap beach-themed shops (where you can buy an umbrella that probably won’t last a full day at the beach), and other similar places. You won’t find a plethora of chain restaurants, though of course there are some here, but there are also a decent number of locally-owned restaurants. You also won’t see row after row of towering chain hotels like you see at some beach areas.

If you’d like more information on the beaches in the St. Petersburg area or Anna Maria Island, check out my previous post, as mentioned in the beginning of this post.

Have you been to St. Petersburg, Florida? Anything I missed here that you enjoyed doing while you were there?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to Do on a Rainy Day in San Diego- Balboa Park

On  a recent vacation to San Diego I found myself in an unusual predicament: what do you do if it’s raining? With so many activities geared towards the outdoors, what are your options if the weather actually isn’t its usual perfect?

Balboa Park seems to be the most obvious choice, with its collection of 15 museums, you could easily spend a rainy day at one or two of them. We started out at Fleet Science Center and even though it was a Tuesday, the place was packed. Apparently everyone else had the same idea.  Finding a parking spot took about 20 minutes and a lot of circling around.

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Balboa Park

First Stop:  Fleet Science Center

Fleet Science Center is a hands-on science museum with more than 100 exhibits. There are two floors and while the main floor was a mad house with kids running everywhere, there was an area we found to be much quieter, “Cellular Journey.” Here you could learn about human cells and cellular research.  My daughter enjoyed the virtual reality exhibit “Journey inside a Cell.” She enjoyed the main exhibit area as well despite how crowded it was. There are the usual displays such as using marbles to teach about physics and spinning discs on a moving surface. You can also learn about San Diego’s water sources or build structures with blocks.

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Fleet Science Center

We spent 2 and a half hours here with the basic admission which costs $19.95 for adults and $16.95 for children ages 3 -12 at the gate. If your child has received an “A” in science or math in the past 3 months, bring in their report card for free admission. For an extra $10 per person you can see the special exhibit, “The Art of the Brick,” with more than 100 sculptures made from Legos. This is at Fleet Science Center through January 2017 but we did not go. We also did not go to the Fit-a-Brick Build Zone, Tinkering Studio, or Kid City (for kids 5 and under), all of which would have extended our time there.

Second Stop (after lunch):  Museum of Man

After a delicious lunch at the nearby cafe Panama 66, we decided to go to the Museum of Man. We added on the special exhibit “Cannibals: Myth and Reality” for a total of $20 for adults and $12.50 for children up to age 12. The  Museum of Man is unlike any other museum I have been to and I really enjoyed it. There was a touring exhibit, Beerology, on the history of beer around the world that was fun and interesting. Race: Are We So Different is a unique perspective about the human race. Monsters is a display about real and make-believe monsters around the world. There are also pretty extensive Mayan and Egyptian galleries. Plus there is an anthropology exhibit “Footsteps through Time” that was nicely done.

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“Cannibals: Myth and Reality” were worth the extra price for tickets. The exhibit covered everything from cannibals in popular media such as movies and books to evidence of cannibalism in English royalty. There is information on how they used body parts for medicine and how the definition of cannibalism became misconstrued. We played the “Donner Trail” game to see what we would have done if we were one of the early travelers to Oregon and conditions became so poor we were stranded and starving.

We spent about 3 hours at the Museum of Man. You can also go up in the tower for an additional $22.50 for adults and $16 for children ages 6 to 12. If you take the California Tower Tour at the Museum of Man be prepared to climb 125 stairs in 40 minutes. In return you will have views of the rest of Balboa Park including the zoo, downtown San Diego and the bay, Coronado Peninsula, and as far as Baja California and Mexico.

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Museum of Man Tower

Money-Saving Tips:

If you plan on spending shorter periods of time in museums, you can buy the Balboa Park One Day Explorer pass for $45 for adults and $26 for children up to age 12. This gives you admission for up to 5 museums in one single day. Another alternative if you plan on going to several museums in Balboa Park is to buy the Multi-Day Explorer for $55 for adults and $29 for children up to age 12. This is good for one admission to each of the 17 museums for 7 days, and can save a considerable amount of money. Balboa Park Explorer Pass

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This place is so cool at night!