Dolphin-TaleWinter has taken over the quaint Gulf Coast beach town of Clearwater, Florida. No, not the kind of winter with snow, ice and frigid temperatures. This is a winter we can all embrace—Winter is the name of the celebrity dolphin from Hollywood’s popular family movie, Dolphin Tale, who lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA).

wintershrunk2Dolphin Taleis the heartwarming story of how Winter, whose tail was damaged in a crab trap, was rescued and rehabilitated by the CMA. Credit the town of Clearwater for recognizing that ripples from this dolphin’s tale could be felt way beyond Hollywood. You’ll see Winter banners hanging throughout the town and lots of Winter promotions.

The movie has inspired waves of families to make the pilgrimage to this Central Florida town thirty minutes west of Tampa International Airport. Like us, they’re here to visit the aquarium, marvel over the dolphin and the technology behind her prosthetic tail, and see sets from the movie.

Clearly, Clearwater has benefitted immensely from this aquatic anomaly. But the town has plenty of other activities making it a great choice for a family vacation.

clearwaterWe stayed as guests of the luxurious Sandpearl Resort, located on a magnificent wide stretch of Clearwater’s white sandy beach. There’s a kid-friendly zero entry beachfront pool, soothing spa, an oceanfront restaurant and when you’re ready to head out, just hop on one of their complimentary beach cruisers for a scenic bike ride.

sandpearlSandpearl Resort is diving right into the Winter phenomenon, offering a Winter the Dolphin family package, which includes tickets to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and a keepsake book. Staff at the resort are all wearing their Winter buttons, too.

Walking the beach and collecting shells was one of our favorite activities. Upon checking in we were handed a bucket with our daughter’s name on it and we got to work.

The Sandpearl is a short walk from Pier 60, where there seems to be a nightly sunset party. On the Friday night we were there, we found musicians, street performers and an outdoor movie playing. There’s also a great playground right off the pier.

We walked back to the hotel along Clearwater’s main drag, where we found hip restaurants, surf shops, and sweet spots for dessert. sasosunsetThere’s so much more than just Winter to enjoy in this Gulf Coast town. It’s a great place for a sunny vacation, any time of year.

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.

Winter the dolphin photos courtesy of Warner Bros. & the Clearwater Marine Aquarium