A Family-Friendly Florida Gulf Coast Getaway

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stpeteLocated a half hour from Tampa, the city of St. Petersburg is known for its pristine, powdery-soft shores. But beyond the beaches what is there to do? Plenty.

St. Pete, as it’s commonly referred to, prides itself on being casual, yet it takes its art quite seriously. If you can tear yourself away from the beautiful beaches, you’ll find St. Pete has first class cultural credentials as well.

shrinkdaliBack in the1920s, St. Petersburg attracted America’s high society. During its Gatsby era heyday, it actually attracted Gatsby’s creator, author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Franklin Delano Roosevelt also wintered here.  

Today, it remains a haven for artists with a number of world class museums. Its reputation as the cultural hub of Central Florida is currently on display with the opening of the new Salvador Dali Museum. It may seem unreal, but St. Petersburg houses the largest collection of this famed surrealist’s artwork, outside of his native Spain. 

The new $35-million Dali museum, located along the Tampa Bay waterfront, looks like it’s a work of art itself. A stunning, fantastical geodesic domed glass structure is the highlight of this modern masterpiece. The Dali delights both inside and out, but it’s not alone among St. Pete’s must-see museums.  

St. Pete’s waterferont is home to two other art spots worth the stop—the Museum of Fine Arts and, directly across the street, the Chihuly Collection, showcasing the glass artist’s vibrant and delicate creations (beautiful galleries, but not a good choice for anyone with small children or clumsy family members). 

As exceptional as the cultural offerings here are, the most unique element may well be that you can see fantastic art in flip flops and beach attire. There’s an incredibly relaxed vibe here for a city housing so much world class art.

Our home base in St. Pete was the TradeWinds Island Grand, a perfect choice for families with kids of all ages. It’s a sprawling resort with a kids’ club, pirate shows and paddleboats for little ones. Adults will be thrilled to have a night out at the delightfully romantic Palm Court Italian Grill, and a three-story beachfront waterslide keeps teens and tweens from retreating to their iPods.  
 
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shellsYou could spend the whole day slip sliding away on this magnificent wide stretch of Gulf waters. Shell collecting is another favorite activity along this pristine, white sand beach. Here’s a sampling of what we found.

They get an average of 360 sunny days a year here. We definitely returned home in a Sunshine State of mind after our visit to Florida’s Gulf Coast.
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Andrea Guthmann is a freelance journalist. She spent many years as a writer and producer for WTTW-TV, the PBS station in Chicago. Her travel stories have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent, Make It Better and on-line travel sites. 

A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from tot to teen. After giving birth to 2 beautiful children she’s had the joy of becoming a mom again through adoption. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl, she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations and is working hard to raise 3 happy campers! You can follow her on Twitter at @AndreaGuthmann.

Information was gathered on a trip sponsored, in part, by Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, visitstpeteclearwater.com.

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