Florida’s Hidden Gems: St. Petersburg & Clearwater

July 4, 2014

*Special thanks to VISIT FLORIDA for sponsoring today’s post! As always, all opinions are my own*
Downtown St. Petersburg
How Gorgeous is downtown St. Petersburg? Can you imagine waking up in the morning and looking out your window to that view? It honestly looks like a city in Europe!

My Florida vacation has unfortunately come to an end, but not before I got to visit two of the most charming cities I’ve ever laid my eyes on: St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Located in Pinellas County, Florida, St. Petersburg and Clearwater are both booming with culture and character. Between these two cities lies art, beaches, beauty, amazing food and, according to USA Today, 2013’s Best Florida Attraction (no it’s NOT Disney World!)

 ArtThe Dali MuseumDali Museum St. Pete
During my stay in St. Pete and Clearwater, I visited the stunning Dali Museum, a museum dedicated to the work of Salvador Dalí. Located in downtown St. Petersburg’s, this art museum houses the largest collection of Dalí’s works outside of Europe (isn’t that amazing!) I was so excited to visit this museum because I’ve been a fan of Dalí since I was a kid. Plus, “The Persistence of Memory” is one of my favorite pieces of art. The newest exhibit, Marvels of Illusion, offers a sensational optical and intellectual experience delving into the world of double images and illusions. There was even an interactive installation entitled “Gala Contemplating You” which places visitors inside one of Dali’s most famous paintings “Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea.“A camera takes your photo as 121 pixels identify your face and add it to the painting. It was so COOL because it felt like you were actually on display in the museum (since you kind of were!)Dali Museum St. Pete, FL
That’s me on the right! I was actually ‘on display.’Dali Museum The Persistence of Memory
I really loved getting to see so many of Dalí’s masterpieces in one place! I’ve always been a fan of Dalí’ but after visiting this museum I’ve really come to appreciate his impact on the art world and truly understand his brilliance. I even bought a book on Dalí’ to learn more about his creative process and many inspirations. I highly recommend this museum to Dalí’ fans and art lovers alike. One of the favorite things about this museum had to be the subtle reference to “The Persistence of Memory” on a bench outside! Chihuly Collection in St. Pete
I also had the pleasure of stopping by the Chihuly Collection in St. Pete. Dale Chihuly’s works belong to museum collections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Louvre. His installations have hung over the piazza and canals of Venice. But his permanent collection resides in downtown St. Petersburg! Who would have thought, right? That’s what I love most about St. Pete and Clearwater. There were so many cultural attractions you’d never expect to find (but you’re happy you did!)Chihuly CollectionChihuly Collection St. Pete
I really loved the neon lights sculpture. There was something about it that really caught my eye. 

BeachesClearwater Florida beaches
There is no shortage of beaches in the St. Pete and Clearwater area! In fact, the hotel I was staying at was literally on the beach (how convenient is that?) So on the first night of my visit, I decided to head over to the beach to watch the sunset. How lucky are residents of St. Pete and Clearwater that they get this amazing view every night?Surfing in St. Pete Florida
I never realized how HUGE surfboards were until they were starring me in the face! How cute is the black and pink one?

St Pete Florida
Since both cites are so bike friendly and accessible, I decided to rent a bike on my last day so I could really explore. I really loved how close everything was to each other (I was able to bike from the Dali museum to the Chihuly Collection within minutes!) While on my bike ride, I passed the St. Petersburg College, beautiful statues, the Museum of Fine Arts and lots of breathtaking scenery!
St. Pete Museum of Fine Arts
Amazing Food
Cassis American Brasserie St. Pete
I had a great lunch at Cassis American Brasserie during my visit! The restaurant aims (and succeeds) to be an affordable “Continental Comfort Cuisine” in the tradition of European Brasseries, yet with the relaxed flair of American eateries; hence the name “American Brasserie.” I ordered a juicy burger and the most unique carrot cake I’ve ever seen (it was delicious by the way!) 
For dinner, I headed to Castile Restaurant & Rooftop Lounge located in the brand new Hotel Zamora. I decided since I was in Florida, I might as well get some kind of sea food. I settled on the Lobster Fries (definitely the best fries I’ve ever tasted) and some Baked Oysters Zamora!
Best restaurants in St. Pete
#1 Attraction in Florida
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium
According to USA Today, the #1 attraction in Florida doesn’t have to do with a certain mouse but it does involve animals. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is non-profit organization located in Clearwater, Florida, dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured marine animals, public education, and animal-assisted therapy and research. Among these injured marine animals is the aquarium’s best-known permanent resident Winter. Winter is a bottle-nose dolphin who was rescued in 2005 after having her tail caught in a crab trap. Winter’s incredible story and journey was even turned into a movie in 2011 called Dolphin Tale. The movie was so successful that residents from all over came to visit the aquarium just to see Winter. The sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, will follow the story of the aquariums newest dolphin, Hope, and hits theaters this September.

The aquarium is also home to Nicholas, the only male dolphin at CMA. There are also sharks, sea turtles, american river otters, pelicans and stingrays. Although it has ‘aquarium’ in its name, it’s more of a research and recuse center than anything. It’s so inspiring to see so many people who genuinely what to help animals. I highly recommend stopping by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on your next trip to Florida. It’s one thing to hear about all the great things people are doing to help animals but there’s another thing to see it with your own eyes. 

St. Petersburg & Clearwater, you are amazing cities! I can’t wait until we meet again.