10 Best Things to Do in St Petersburg, Florida

|   Last Updated on July 31, 2021

— ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA — St. Petersburg is a vibrant city filled with sports, museums, parks, marinas, beaches, outdoor activities, and sunshine. With about 361 days of sunshine annually, an average temperature of 74 degrees, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the country (and world!), the Sunshine City is the perfect getaway for a weekend, a week, a month, or a season.

St. Pete shares the peninsula that separates Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico with about 25 smaller beach towns and burgs. No matter where you are—downtown, at the beach, on a boat—you’re sure to see people just enjoying being outside.

The area has 137 parks, more than 20 hiking, and biking trails, botanical gardens, an arboretum, and the south’s largest city marina. There are more than 40 golf courses of all levels in the area. From the municipal course at or the professional-level Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, you can swing into the fun at any level.

Citing the area’s white-sand beaches, its art scene, and more, Conde Nast Traveler ranked St. Petersburg as one of the 10 best US cities for a getaway. So when you plan your visit to Sunshine City, check out my favorite 10 Best Things to Do in St. Petersburg.


St. Petersburg should be on your “Must Visit” list. No matter your age, lifestyle, budget, and likes, St. Petersburg has something for you.

~Chris Cutler

1. Sunbathe on Award-winning Beaches

Sunbathing on a Florida Beach
©Chris Cutler

Because St. Pete is on a peninsula, you can find white sand beaches everywhere. TripAdvisor named St. Pete Beach (SPB) the top beach in the United States and the fifth-best beach in the world. Just north of SPB, Madeira (#9), Treasure Island (#16), and Clearwater (#18) Beaches also ranked in the top 20 in the US. While most beaches are on the Gulf side, there are also beaches in the Downtown St. Pete area. There is a small one near St. Pete Pier and a larger one a little north at Vinoy Park.

Jumping in the water or soaking in the sun are fun, but there’s more to do on the beaches. You can always windsurf or kiteboard when the wind picks up. Skimboarding and Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) have gained in popularity, too. Many of the beaches have beach volleyball courts. Of course, shelling is always popular, as is just walking along the coast.

If you have a dog, you’ll be happy to know there are several dog-friendly beaches in the area.

Beach access is free.

2. St. Pete Pier

St. Pete Pier
©Jude Infantini for Unsplash

Over 100 years ago, the city’s fathers built a pier at 1st Avenue South in Downtown St. Petersburg. Warehouses and loading docks occupied the original pier’s half-mile length. Though it was a commercial pier, swimmers and fishermen enjoy using it for recreation, too.

The new St. Pete Pier opened in 2020. No longer a working pier, it offers a variety of activities for all ages. Almost any day of the week, you’ll see joggers and walkers enjoying the views as they exercise. The Marketplace kiosks and shops on the pier offer an array of different products and food. Visitors can swim on the beach, rent kayaks, relax in the Adirondack chairs, and enjoy a concert. Families can learn about the area’s marine life at the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center. There is even a dedicated fishing platform for anyone wanting to cast a line.

The pier is popular with locals and visitors. USA Today named it as the second-best new attraction in 2020. Admission is free.

As the city says, “It’s more than just a PIER. It’s an exPIERience!”

3. Cheer on a Major League Sports Team

Baseballs
©Lesly Juarez for Unsplash

St. Petersburg has the enviable position of being located on “Champa Bay” and sharing several major league sports teams with Tampa. You can catch the 2020 American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. The Rays had the best record in Major League Baseball (MBL) in 2020 (40-20) but lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, an American professional soccer team, also call St. Pete home. The Rowdies won the USL Division and Conference Championships in 2020 and play home games at Al Lang Stadium on the waterfront in Downtown St. Pete.

A short car ride will take you to Tampa to watch the 2020 Super Bowl Champions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or the 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It’s worth noting that if you are visiting during the off-season, you can attend some of the pro-sports training camps. The Bucs have a shortlist of viewable dates. Four MBL teams (Yankees, Phillies, Pirates, and Rays) enjoy spring training in the area.

4. Stroll Beneath the Palms

St. Pete Arboretum
©Chris Cutler

Gizella Kopsick Arboretum – What began in 1977 as an arboretum with 60 palms is today a two-acre park filled with more than 500 palms and cycads from around the world. The Gizella Kopsick Arboretum sits beside Vinoy Beach just north of Vinoy and North Shore Parks. Winding among the palms and plants is a red-brick path (Handicap accessible). You’ll also find a gazebo, wooden benches, and drinking fountains.

Admission is free.

5. Wander in Wonder at the City’s Museums

St Pete Chihuly Museum
©Marcus Urbenz for Unsplash

If you like to add a little art and culture to your trip, St. Petersburg has a museum or gallery for you. There are too many to mention here, so this is a shortlist of my favorites.

The world-famous Dali Museum is home to the largest collection of art by Salvador Dali. The museum owns more than 2400 of Dali’s paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, photographs, posters, textiles, and sculptures. It also hosts traveling exhibits like the Van Gogh Experience, which recently enjoyed a six-month run at the museum.

A little north of the Dali in Downtown St. Pete is the largest museum in town, the Museum of Fine Arts. It displays the work of Monet, O’Keeffe, De Kooning, and Renoir, as well as one of Florida’s best photography exhibits.

Also in Downtown St. Pete are the Morean Arts Center (features local, national, and international artists) and the James Museum (features art of the American West), and The St. Pete Museum of History (history of Florida). On a more somber note, The Florida Holocaust Museum honors and preserves the memory of the millions who suffered and/or died in the Holocaust.

If you bring the kids, be sure to check out Great Explorations, the bay area’s first children’s museum. For more than 30 years, it has presented children with a hands-on learning experience.

My personal favorite museum, though, is the Chihuly Collection.  It is home to the first permanent installation of the glass art (and paintings) of famed glass artist Dale Chihuly. Be sure to catch the Glass Studio & Hot Shop across the street at the Morean, where you can watch a glassblowing demo.

For more information on all of the area museums, click here.

6. Take a Trolley Tour of Downtown St Petersburg

St Pete Trolley Looper
©Chris Cutler

Downtown Looper Trolley – Connecting all of the city’s major museums and attractions, the Downtown Looper Trolley is a great way to get an overview of the city.  It runs every 15-minutes from 7 am to 10 pm daily (from 8 am on weekends). Admission is free.

The Central Avenue Trolley runs from downtown to Pass-a-Grille on St. Pete Beach. While there is a small charge, not worrying about finding a place to park makes it worth it.

7. Visit Flamingos

St Pete Flamingo
©Brandon K for Unsplash

Sunken Gardens – Once a St. Petersburg roadside attraction, the century-old Sunken Gardens is home to more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers. Paths meander through the 4.5-acre gardens, and many are ADA accessible. In addition to the lush gardens, you’ll enjoy cascading waterfalls and a flock of flamingos, and other tropical birds.

The Gardens are open all year. During the holiday season, antique toy trains run through the gardens to add to the place’s delight. In the planning stages of the Gardens are a small children’s garden, a history center, and an enclosure for the parrots and macaws.

PRO TIP: The Sunken Gardens occasionally has a contest to win an encounter with the flamingos. Check out their Facebook page for more information.

8. Connect With the St Petersburg Community

Saturday Morning Market
©Chris Cutler

St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market – One of the best ways to participate in the local community is to head to the Saturday Morning Market held year-round in Downtown St. Pete. The market is open from 9 am- 2 pm every Saturday. From October through May, you’ll find it at the Al Lang Field parking lot on the corner of 1st Street and 1st Avenue S. When the summer sun and heat take over; the market moves to Williams Park under the shade of the great trees.

Ranked one of the top markets in the country, the Saturday Morning Market has 130 vendor spaces. Local farmers sell quality, farm-fresh produce and other products directly to the public. Artisan food vendors sell everything from bread and pastries to fresh seafood and cheese. And one of the most popular areas is the “food court.” You’ll find a great variety of international cuisines—Italian, Mexican, Greek, Indian, French, Belgian, Ethiopian, British, and more—that you can eat there or take home.

There are other farmers markets in the area during the week. You can find more information about them here.

Admission is free.

9. Take a Self-guided Tour of the City’s Street Art

St. Petersburg Street Art
©Chris Cutler

Wanting to revitalize the city and inspire and unite the community, St. Pete officials decided to use buildings and streets as a canvas to make an outdoor museum accessible to everyone 24/7.

The website, maketimetoseetheworld.com, recognized St. Pete’s street art scene as among the best in the world. There are more than 100 murals on area buildings, and the number is growing. While you can take an official walking tour of some of them, you can follow a map and walk or ride to view the murals at your own pace.

If you are lucky to be in town in October, be sure to check out The SHINE® Mural Festival. Artists from the city, Florida, and the world leave their art on Downtown St. Pete walls. Admission is free.

10. Pedal Around St Petersburg

Coast Bike Share bikes
©Chris Cutler

The League of American Bicyclists has named St. Petersburg a Silver-Level Bicycle Friendly City because it has promoted, educated, and invested in bicycle friendliness. The city has created miles of bike lanes and trails. You’ll find that recreational trails, paths, and facilities are more accessible to cyclists.

If you haven’t brought your own bike, renting a bike—or scooter—is easy. Coast Bike Share offers pedal and electric bikes for a nominal charge. Pick up a bike at one of the on-street locations throughout the area, pay via the app, ride around, and drop the bike off at the same or another location.

Not interested in pedaling? You might enjoy renting a scooter. Both Razor and Veo offer scooters much the same way Coast offers bikes. Find a stand-only scooter (Veo) or a sit scooter, pay via the app, and take off. Drop it off at another location.

Conclusion

Once called ‘God’s Waiting Room’ because it attracted scores of northerners searching for sunshine and warmth, St. Petersburg has changed. Thanks to the city’s lively art scene, relatively low cost of living, and great weather, today St. Pete is home to residents of all ages.

With ideal year-round weather, beautiful beaches, countless outdoor activities, and a vibrant art scene, St. Pete should be on your “Must Visit” list. No matter your age, lifestyle, budget, and likes, St. Petersburg has something for you.

*Opening photo ©Chris Cutler

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Last Updated on July 31, 2021

Author

  • Christine Cutler is a travel, non-fiction, and memoir writer; photographer, and editor whose work has appeared in various publications. In addition, she has taught Spanish, English, and memoir, grammar, and business writing. A dual Italian-American citizen, she spends as much time as she can exploring Italy.