Recently, my husband and I booked a last-minute trip from Minneapolis, Minnesota to St. Petersburg, Florida after experiencing a $#@*% blizzard in April. My in-laws were going on a month-long cruise, so we jumped at the chance to stay at their place. Between free lodging and purchasing our airline tickets with miles, we were able to do a week-long trip in the Sunshine State on the cheap.
Fair warning: I’m a tourist. I’m sure any local could offer more things to do and see. I was raised in a family which planned every minute of our trips so that we were constantly running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to get everything done. Nowadays, I like to relax when I’m on vacation, so this list includes some low-key things I think are cool.
- Petersburg Looper Trolley. For 50 cents, you can jump on this trolley which does a loop from The Pier to Gulf Boulevard.
- Trip’s Diner. Trip’s Diner serves great coffee and breakfast food as I found out when I met up with Erin Mitchell, Bouchercon 2018 Chair and PR person extraordinaire; Cheryl Hollon, President of the Florida Gulf Coast Sisters in Crime and author of the Glass Shop mystery series; and debut author, Gale Massey, whose novel, THE GIRL FROM BLIND RIVER, will be released on July 10, 2018. I had a wonderful time with these funny and talented women. My St. Pete friend, Judy, asked me, “How in the heck did you meet people? You’ve only been here a few days.” Just one of the many perks of being part of the crime-writing community. (Trip’s Diner, 2339 Martin Luther King Jr St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33704)
- Great Explorations Children’s Museum. This place is a life-saver on rainy days if you’re traveling with kids. Lots of things to do inside, and the Sunken Gardens are next door. (Great Explorations Children’s Museum, 1925 4th N., St. Petersburg, FL 33704)
- Haslam’s Book Store. There are several nifty things to do and see on Central Avenue including Florida’s largest new and used bookstore. It’s a bibliophile’s dream come true, and they hold frequent book signings by local and national authors. (Haslam’s, 2025 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33713)
- Bodega on Central. Their Cuban sandwiches are yummy, yo. (Bodega on Central, 1120 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33705)
- Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish. The no-frills Ted Peters has been serving up smoked fish on its patio in South St. Pete for over 65 years. I highly recommend the smoked salmon meal which feeds two people, and their German potato salad. (Ted Peters, 1350 Pasadena Ave, South Saint Petersburg, FL 33707)
- Bealls. If you need a TJ Maxx/Marshalls/HomeGoods fix while you’re on vacay, check out Bealls and their discount beachwear, home goods, and clothing. They have a wide selection of toys, every day wear, and MiracleSuit swimsuits, expensive bathing suits that suck in your wobbly bits. I bought my MiracleSuit which was originally $169.00 for $29.99 at Bealls. (Various locations.)
- Pass-a-Grille. Most of the beaches in St. Pete are nice, but one of our faves is the beach in historic Pass-a-Grille. The white sand is gorgeous, and you can drop in at The Don CeSar, that fabulously pink palace of a hotel, for a cocktail. (Don CeSar, 3400 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach, FL 33706)
- Ka’Tiki. I wanted to make Ka’Tiki’s Beach Bar number one on my list of things to do, but I didn’t want you to think less of me because I like a drink or two. Ka’Tiki, the embodiment of Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville,” is where locals and tourists come together to enjoy cheap drinks and the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke. Ka’Tiki’s also offers excellent live music. Come hear local bands such as Ka’Tiki regulars, Corn Fused, probably one of the best live bands out there. One year, we met a member of the Twin Cities band, The Sweet Colleens, who–like us–had returned to Ka’Tiki to hear Corn Fused play once more before flying back to Minnesota. (Ka’Tiki, 8803 West Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island, FL 33706)
- Disney World. If you have an extra day it’s about a two-hour drive to the Magic Kingdom. We did a day trip this year with little to no planning by purchasing our tickets on the My Disney Experience app. The app gives you pretty much all the information you need to make it a great day at Disney. There are maps of the parks, daily showtimes, meal reservations, and even wait times by attraction. By purchasing your tickets on the app, you will also be given three fast passes to book rides in the morning, afternoon and evening. My recommendation is to use your morning fast pass as late as possible as wait times are not too bad in the early morning. My other recommendation is to bring a lightweight stroller for your kid(s) if possible. Believe me, you will be happy you brought that stroller by the end of the day. Disney says most people will walk about 9 miles during a visit to one of their parks. (Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL 32830)
Well, that’s my list. I’d love to hear what places you love in and around St. Pete. Hope to see you this September at Bouchercon 2018!