Let your inner explorer run wild at nearby Busch Gardens, where high-impact thrill rides combine with exotic African animals and captivating performers to get everyone’s heart racing. Afterward, visit the neighboring Adventure Island water park to cool off as you head down corkscrew slides and waterfalls or relax as you float along a rambling river.
Ft. DeSoto Park boasts the #1 Beach by TripAdvisor in 2008 and 2009, where you can ride, skate or jog on the 7-mile paved trail, canoe and kayak through lush mangroves, or fish from two free piers. Rover can roam at the Paw Playground and frolic in the surf at Dog Beach, while kids explore the canons and jail cells of the old fort. The nature lover will discover a host of other nature parks and birding trails throughout the area.
For even more excitement, take the short two-hour drive over to Orlando, the theme park capital of the world. You can meet your favorite characters at Walt Disney World, watch your favorite aquatic creatures put on a show at SeaWorld, meet some of Florida’s most interesting wildlife at Gatorland, or spend the day at one of the other many parks.
St. Petersburg has been ranked No. 1 on the list of Top 25 Arts Destinations for mid-size U.S. cities, for the third year in a row by AmericanStyle Magazine. In the ranking, St. Petersburg topped the list ahead of cities including Savannah, New Orleans and Charleston. So if you’re interested in soaking up some culture on your beach vacation, check out one of the many museums St. Petersburg has to offer.
The world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of Salvador Dali’s works outside of Spain, including over 2,400 paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures. In January 2011, the globally recognized New Dali opened its doors to a brand new museum space, which includes two main galleries, an avant-garden cafe, store, theater, and student gallery. Twice the size of the previous museum, the new building allows for 50% more gallery space. The museum’s exterior is itself a work of art, featuring more than 900 triangular-shaped glass panels. This geodesic glass structure – nicknamed the “Glass Enigma” – is the only structure of its kind in North America and has been deemed “one of the top buildings you have to see before you die” in AOL Travel News. Venue rental facilities for up to 775 available. Allow 2-3 hours for art appreciation, orientation film and guided tours, free with admission. Audio guides and wall test also available. St. Petersburg, 20 minutes. 727.823.3767.
The Gallery houses a permanent collection of Dale Chihuly’s glass, including many pieces created specifically for the Gallery. In addition to the Chihuly Gallery, Morean Arts Center also presents an extensive program of rotating exhibits, art classes and an emerging artist showcase that allows visitors to interact with emerging talent. St. Petersburg, 20 minutes. 727.896.4527
The fourth largest Holocaust museum in the country contains a collection of art, photographs and historical artifacts, which include the infamous Auschwitz Boxcar. Visitors may experience an interactive multimedia exhibit, visit the Library and Resource Center or reflect in the Meditation Court. St. Petersburg, 20 minutes. 727.820.0100
Featuring preeminent works from the American Studio Glass Movement and an extraordinary selection of contemporary glass sculptures from around the world. Imagine Museum has over 500 significant pieces of glass works on display. Offering tours and programs designed to inspire and uplift all who visit. Exhibits change throughout the year to expose the viewer to new artists and new works from the collection. St. Petersburg, 20 minutes. 727.300.1700
This hands-on museum with entertaining and challenging exhibits is equally as fun for kids and adults. Exhibits offer real life, practical learning experiences. Group facilities for up to 1,000 available. Allow two hours to tour the museum. St. Petersburg, 20 minutes. 727.821.8992
Houses a full-scale replica of the Benoist aircraft that made the nation’s first scheduled commercial flight in 1914, plus many artifacts from area history, including pre-Columbian, early Spanish, pioneer, Victorian and war items. Allow 1-2 hours for the museum. St. Petersburg, 20 minutes. 727.894.1052
Well known for its collection of French Impressionist paintings, this museum also houses outstanding holdings of ancient, Asian, pre-Columbian and American art as well as two interior gardens. The museum has one of the largest photography collections in Florida. Group facilities for up to 400 available. St. Petersburg, 20 minutes. 727.896.2667
Largest science center in the southeast and home of an IMAX domed theater. Over 450 hands-on activities, planetarium, space simulator, hurricane chamber and butterfly garden. Allow 4 hours (IMAX tickets additional). Tampa, 45 minutes. 813.987.6000
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art contains one of the world’s most important collections of Baroque art as well as Ruben’s “Triumph of the Eucharist” series. Also here is the Circus Museum’s memorabilia collection from “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling residence and one of America’s few private palaces. Sarasota, 45 minutes. 941.359.5700
Part of Pinewood Cultural Center, a 21-acre county historical park featuring a museum, botanical garden and more than 28 historical structures. Largo, 25 minutes. 727.582.2123