Having lived in Florida most of my life, I know cities like Orlando and Miami are a lot of fun. But my favorite spot in our state isn’t quite as popular with tourists, and I view it as a bit of a hidden gem. I’m talking about none other than St. Petersburg, Florida (or as most locals call it, St. Pete). People half-jokingly call Florida God’s waiting room — and don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of elderly people here. That’s not a bad thing, of course. St. Pete was even ranked one of the best cities to retire in. If you’re a 20- or 30-something looking for a great place to vacation, don’t count St. Pete out because of its reputation with retirees.
If you want a city with a lively art scene, plenty of coffee shops in breweries, and a welcoming environment where people of all races, gender, and sexual orientation can feel safe, St. Petersburg is the place for you. I grew up about an hour away, and my family didn’t really travel to that part of Tampa Bay often. As an adult, though, me and Vagner love visiting. We even got married in downtown St. Pete!
7 Best Things To Do In St Petersburg, Florida
One of our favorite things to do is park at the Mall at Sundial in downtown St. Petersburg and walk around, admiring the shops and local art. It’s a free, fun way to explore the city. I’m not usually an outdoorsy person, but St. Pete offers views and experiences that are unparalleled, and its numerous white sand beaches are truly stunning. There’s a reason it’s ranked one of the best large cities in the United States. Now that I’ve sold you on visiting St. Pete, what should you do while you’re in town? Keep reading, because I’ve compiled quite the list for you.
There’s so much to do in St. Petersburg that it’s hard to compile it into one list! I’ve tried to include a little bit of everything — things to do for families, couples, and even if you’re looking for something to do for yourself! I also wanted to make sure the list included free and low-cost options just in case you’re traveling on a budget. Lastly, there are a variety of activities for those who are into art, nature, history, and more.
One of the best things about St. Pete that didn’t make the list below: It’s only 30 minutes from attractions like Busch Gardens in Tampa and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater. You can travel Tampa Bay in a couple hours, which makes it a relatively central location.
1. Museum of Fine Arts
We fell in love with the Museum of Fine Arts the second we stepped in — the mile-high ceilings and windows instantly take your breath away. It’s one of the reasons we chose it as our wedding venue. The architecture is unmatched, but that’s only the beginning. The artwork is immersive, and the collections are sizable. You can find everything from oil paintings to glass to textiles. When you‘re planning your visit, it’s good to know that they have programs for homeschool families along with discounts for college students, seniors, teachers and military service members. Additionally, there are COVID-19 restrictions in place, with masks, social distancing and temperature checks required.
2. St. Pete Beach
It’s not Florida without a beach recommendation, right? Admittedly, I’m not a big beach person. Vagner and I usually visit the beach once or twice a year, if that. But St. Pete Beach is an amazing one to check out if you’re looking for white sands and want to swim in the Gulf of Mexico.
Even with my dislike of the beach, I’m always impressed. One of my favorite places to take pictures is the Don CeSar Hotel, a historic resort conveniently located right along St. Pete Beach. What you should know before you go: Masks aren’t required on the beach, but if you’re visiting a public bathroom or concession stand, you should bring a face covering to wear. Also, you may have to hunt for free parking, so be prepared to pay just in case.
3. Saturday Morning Market
The Saturday Morning Market is one of the things that makes this city unique. If you’re a fan of farmers markets or you’ve visited places like Eastern Market in Washington, D.C., this is a must-do. With over 125 vendors and the ability to buy food, art, crafts and fresh produce, it’s the place to be on Saturday mornings in St. Pete. Due to COVID precautions, the market doesn’t currently have live music. Face masks are required, and there are hand sanitizing stations on-site.
4. St. Pete Pier
This is probably my personal favorite destination on this list, and if you’ve visited lately, you know what I mean. This isn’t any old fishing pier — it took years for the city of St. Petersburg to agree on a pier design, and then it was under construction for three years. It cost a staggering $93 million, but it’s hard to say it didn’t pay off.
It’s a waterfront destination complete with live music and entertainment, along with an impressive array of restaurants and bars. We’re quite partial to Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille for cocktails. Be prepared to do a lot of walking — comfortable shoes are a must, and I made the mistake of wearing heels when we visited. There’s parking on-site, but if the lots are full (which they often are), I recommend finding a city parking garage and walking.
5. Florida Holocaust Museum
This isn’t necessarily a “fun” thing to do, but it’s an important one. The museum has been in St. Pete for nearly 30 years, and its solemn exhibits provide a way to honor the millions who died during the Holocaust. Walter and Edith Lobenberg, a couple who escaped Nazi Germany, founded the museum.
It is one of three Holocaust museums credited by the American Alliance of Museums. I’ve visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and it’s incredible that we have something similar right down the road. You can take a virtual tour of the museum or visit in person. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, $10 for college students and veterans, and $8 for children under 18.
6. Morean Arts Center
If you’re a fan of glass art, the Morean Arts Center should be your first stop in St. Pete. It’s home to the Chihuly Collection, the largest collection of famed glass artist Dale Chihuly’s work on display. Chihuly’s art can also be found at locations like the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, so it’s pretty cool that you can find it in St. Pete.
Of course, the Morean Arts Center has way more to offer than just Chihuly’s work — you’ll also find eclectic clay art, murals, and fiber art. If you’re planning to stop in, be prepared to wear a face mask and practice social distancing. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $13 for students.
7. St. Pete Mural Tour
I’m super stoked to share this with y’all, because it’s one of my favorite spots for anyone who loves art. I took the mural tour in 2018 over the summer, and while the 95 degree weather wasn’t fun, the tour is one of the coolest things I’ve done in St. Pete. Downtown Central Avenue has dozens of murals, and many of them are from popular artists. It’s a colorful, vibrant experience, and it reminds you just how eclectic the local art community is. You can find tickets for
If you’re looking for art and don’t want to pay for the tour, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater has a comprehensive list of artwork, and you can use it to find specific murals. If you’re planning to do the mural tour, you should know that masks are required and the tour is limited to 10 people due to COVID restrictions. Tickets are $19 for adults, $11 for children 6 to 18 years old, and free for children under 6. If you take pictures of the artwork, try to find the artist’s social media handles and tag them if you share as a courtesy.
This is by no means a full list of things to do — I have so many to add, but I decided to keep this post shorter and will add to it over time. If you have any suggestions or things you love to do that I missed, let me know in the comments!