Downtown St. Petersburg has really changed since my first visit for the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit annual St. Pete-Fort Lauderdale race. While I had spent time in the Tampa Bay area, I was never compelled to take the drive to downtown St. Petersburg. Back then the only places of interest were the St. Pete Yacht Club, one restaurant/night club near the marina and a chandlery. It was mostly retirement hotels and boarded up retail locations. A real travesty considering the geographic location with a harbor, marinas and a linear park that separates the water from the city.
Well fortunately times have changed. New construction of residential and mixed use high-rises along with the restoration of old and historic buildings located on quaint streets have given downtown an artistic and creative vibe. Al fresco dining along the park at any number of new and interesting restaurants gives the area a decidedly pedestrian friendly feel. Specialty museums dedicated to Salvadore Dali and Dale Chuhuly give in depth insight and understanding to two creative geniuses each recognized in their respective mediums.
Now day or night the area is alive with young and old walking the streets, dining at the numerous restaurants, browsing in galleries and boutiques or just strolling through the park. In the day when more development usually means over development St. Petersburg has through some juxtaposition of vision, money, architecture and geographic location achieved something different and wonderful.
If you find yourself on the West Coast of Florida you should visit downtown St. Petersburg for an afternoon or an evening, take in a museum and have lunch or dinner on the street. Enjoy that pleasant mélange of the tropical lifestyle with a casual sophistication that is today’s downtown St. Petersburg.