St Petersburg Florida is called St Pete by most natives of the Tampa Bay area. The population is about 250,000.
St Pete is within the Tampa Bay Metropolitan Statistical area of about 2.7 million residents.
The city had two major founders: John C. Williams of Detroit, who bought the land that is now St Pete in 1876, and Peter Demens, a Russian who was instrumental in bringing the terminus of the railroad there in 1888.
St Petersburg Florida was incorporated in 1892 with a population of only about 300 people. Demens named it after his former hometown of St Petersburg Russia.
St Pete is located on a large peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The peninsula is surrounded by some of the prettiest waters in Florida.
This peninsular location somewhat isolated St Pete from the rest of Florida in its early days. In the early 1900's a channel was dredged out into Tampa Bay and St Petersburg Florida became a significant port city. It was still a long way from anywhere by land, however. It was a winding 43 mile trip from St Pete to Tampa through Oldsmar on the north side of the bay.
The first commercial airline service was started in 1914 with a seaplane. It was known as the St Petersburg–Tampa Airboat Line. The first pilot was Tony Jannus. Jannus Landing, a local music and entertainment venue on Central Avenue in downtown St Pete is named in his honor.
Promoter George Gandy built the first bridge over Tampa Bay in 1924. At last, St Petersburg Florida was a convenient trip to and from Tampa. The other bridge that connects St Pete to Tampa is the Howard Frankland Bridge that carries I-275 from North St Pete to west Tampa.
In the years after World War Two, St Pete became a mecca for retired people. They flocked to the sunshine and lived in the many residential hotels in the downtown area. The symbol of St Pete became old people sitting on the many green benches that dotted the sidewalks of the city.
Today's downtown St Petersburg Florida has marinas brimming with hundreds of sailboats and almost as many power boats. Tampa Bay is great sailing territory. There is a significant marine industry in town. Unlike the rest of Florida, a few of the boatyards have not been converted to condominiums or marinas.
St Petersburg Florida has long been nicknamed The Sunshine City, and was a retirement location for northerners. When I first moved to Florida, St Pete was known as "God's Waiting Room", and the streets were lined with green park benches upon which were perched thousands of old timers watching the world go by.
To paraphrase a popular car commercial of some years ago, this ain't your father's St Pete.
The old apartment and condo buildings of "God's Waiting Room" of 50 years ago have been either torn down or renovated. Old homes have been purchased and restored. The entire downtown area is vibrant and alive, night and day. My favorite place to stay downtown is the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel, a beautifully restored structure on the National Register of Historic Places.
St Pete's downtown has many walkable attractions. A children's museum, a museum of fine arts, a history museum, a Holocaust Museum, and the Salvador Dalí Museum, which houses the largest collection of original Dalí's outside of Europe. There are links to some of these places further down this page.
There are dozens of smaller art galleries, small entertainment clubs, theaters, and a massive waterfront park system that showcases the marinas. The legendary St. Petersburg Pier, a popular Florida tourist attraction, was once the centerpiece of the downtown district.
The pier has been demolished and plans are underway to replace it with a modern version; plans are expected to be completed in late 2016.
The architect's rendering of the proposed new pier is shown below.
The Bounty II, a replica of HMS Bounty used in the 1962 MGM movie starring Marlon Brando was permanently docked near the Pier for many years until the ship was sold in 1986. It used to come to St Pete for the winter, but no more: it was lost in a storm off North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The BayWalk shopping complex is also downtown, with an IMAX Muvico 20 screen movie theater, as well as many chain restaurants and retail shops. The University of South Florida St Petersburg Florida campus is also downtown.
Every Saturday morning, from October to May, the downtown area hosts a farmers market in the parking area of Al Lang Field (now also known as Progress Energy Park). Local vendors sell produce, vegetables, fruit, arts and crafts in a festive atmosphere.
The Grand Central district, part of historic Kenwood, is due west of downtown St Pete on Central Avenue. It has a vibrant artistic community that contributes to the ambiance of downtown St Pete.
Tropicana Field, home of Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays is also located in the western part of downtown.
St Petersburg Florida is just a short drive from the Gulf beaches of St Pete Beach, Pass-A-Grille and others. Fort Desoto State Park has a beach that Dr. Beach has ranked number one in the USA.
South of St Pete, the peninsula is connected to the south side of Tampa Bay near Palmetto and Bradenton by the modern Sunshine Skyway Bridge that carries I-275. The view from this bridge is one of the most magnificent in Florida.
ST PETE HOTELS
Beach Drive Inn Bed & Breakfast, 532 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Tel: 727-822-2244. An elegant Key West Style house built in 1910 and restored in 2007. This historic inn is located in the charming downtown waterfront district of St. Petersburg near the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel. It is within a short walk of St. Pete's finest attractions including the Bayside Beach, Vinoy Park and Jannus landing, the Pier, Baywalk, museums, and restaurants. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, 501 5th Avenue NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Tel: 727-894-1000. I stayed here in June 2009, and it is an amazing place. The resort includes a private marina, 18-hole golf course and 12-court tennis complex. The large hotel has been beautifully restored to its 1920's elegance. It is a classic example of Mediterranean Revival architecture, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is within easy walking distance of all of downtown St. Pete's attractions. It is a typically well maintained Marriott property with a knowledgeable and friendly staff.
Lots of interesting things to do within 100 miles or so of St Petersburg. Check Tampa Bay Day Trips on this website.
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