St. Pete/Clearwater, Hello Adventure!
Lisa Valadez | 6/3/2019, 8:53 p.m.
Get ready, set, pack! It’s summertime in Houston and most of us (if not all of us) are searching for the perfect beach destination to escape this Houston heat. (Please take me with you!)
If you’ve been following Houston Style’s latest Florida travel escapade, the adventurous journey has taken us swimming with the manatees in Crystal River, where we got up close and personal with the adorable “sea cows”. We canoed the Chassahowitzka River and Seven Sisters Springs and got super bold by freestyle cave diving! But the fun in the sun adventure doesn’t end there; our next stop is the beautiful St. Pete/Clearwater.
Flying directly into Tampa offers the perfect for any adventure-seeking enthusiast. While Crystal River and Tampa Bay are definitely great vacation destinations for the family, my recommendation for a much-needed adult getaway with great restaurants, pristine beaches, and tons of adventure would be St. Pete/Clearwater.
Described as “retro surfer- chic”, the Post Card Inn is the perfect lodging spot if you’re wanting day time pool side fun, lively evenings filled with music, beach bar cocktails, and perhaps even wedding watching on the courtyard. (Yes, there was an actual wedding right outside my hotel room door front. Yes, I crashed it. Yes, I danced all night!) And if some serious daytime rest and relaxation after a night of dancing (don’t judge me!) is needed, the beach is just footsteps away. Trust me, make sure you experience at least one sunset on the beach.
Looking to experience upscale accommodations with a whole lot of plush? Then, the historic Don CeSar Hotel is your destination for a luxurious hotel experience.
Known for its friendly “Old World” service and once a favorite of legends such as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Babe Ruth, the iconic “Pink Palace’, one of the most recognizable landmarks on the Gulf Coast, boasts newly redesigned 277 rooms including 36 suites, many with spectacular views of the pristine Gulf beaches or Boca Ciega Bay.
Dining and Attractions
After checking in to your hotel of choice, it’s time for some sight seeing fun! The Pedego Bike Mural Tour is a perfect way to map out the places you want to dine, shop, and visit while exploring the many murals in the downtown area.
With the electric bikes offered at Pedego, (less pedaling, more wind in your face!) you can easily cover lots of ground, while getting up close and personal and somewhat interactive with the murals of St. Pete’s vivid outdoor gallery. (Check out my Jaws reenactment. I should win an Oscar!)
For thrill seekers (like me), you can make your Miami Vice dreams come true by booking a speed boat adventure with Tampa Speed Boat Adventures. This guided and narrated 13-mile tour is filled with tons of sights to see including National Wildlife Refuges and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Narrated through a speaker system mounted in your boat will help keep you right on track while you’re trying to reenact all the stunts you’ve seen in all the movies. (I was a bit nervous at first, but about 5 minutes in I just knew that I was the #1 speed boat driver in the entire world.)
More thrills? Take a short drive on to Albert Whitted Airport and book a one-of-a kind bi-plane tour. This thrilling ride in the sky will give you a birds eye view from a 1929 Travel Air open cockpit airplane originally owned by William Randolph Hearst (how cool is that?). This was my absolute favorite thing to do in St. Pete and yes, I got to cross another “must-do” off of my bucket list. So now that I am an expert and have crowned myself today's unofficial Amelia Earheart, I am definitely recommending that this be your adventurous vacation getaway splurge. (Check out the picture of me and my "excellent adventure" pal, Ted.)
After all this exciting adventure, did someone say hungry?
If bicycling is your choice of adventure for the day, plan to have lunch at Bodega on Central. Although the line might be slightly long, do not let it discourage you; these street- style Cuban sandwiches are definitely worth the wait! The Lechon (Cuban style roast pork, garlic mojo, and grilled onions) is my recommendation. And make sure to wash down all that deliciousness with a soda fresca (fresh-squeezed fruit, herbs, spices, Florida can sugar and Pinellas seltzer). And no worries – there’s also a delicious sandwich for vegetarians!
A super chic and fun lunch spot, if you're in the mood for good wine or even great local beer to pair with light bites is Lolita's Wine Market. The charcuterie-centric menu offers an array of tasty nibbles that about 22 accoutrement options along with other small plates and signature dessert "jars" such as the the triple chocolate decadence with dulce de leche,
For evening dining, Alesia and ILRitorno are highly recommended by me, your professional foodie! (Have I ever let you down?)
Alesia’s cozy outdoor dining area is the perfect setting for a romantic evening or even a girl's night out offering a beautifully lit backdrop for amazing photo ops. But let's not let the charming courtyard take away from the fact that Alesia's "French meets Vietnamese" cuisine is superbly delicious. My dining partners ranged from carnivores to vegans and the menu did not disappoint; offering an array of options for every appetite. My recommendation: French Onion Soup, Summer Rolls, and Phở.
IL Ritorno is not just dining; it is an experience that will tantalize all of your tastebuds with every bite! By far, this has been one of my favorite foodie experiences and I honestly cannot wait to return (as the establishment’s name suggests). In all honesty, the entire menu was completely satisfactory so you might want to splurge a little and opt for the Chef’s 5-Course Tasting (well worth it). However, if you do decide to order off the menu, start with the Charred Octopus and follow with the Short Rib Mezzzluna. And for the love of everything, please end your meal with the Olive Oil Lemon Cake. (I saved the picture of me eating this deliciousness and dream about this dessert often. Please someone go to this restaurant and bring me back an entire sheet pan of this cake!)
So now that I have done the hard work of adventuring and eating for you (such a hard job!), what are you waiting for? St. Pete/Clearwater offers the perfect and budget-friendly alternative to Orlando and even Miami. At this vacation destination, you get the beautiful beaches, daytime adventure and sight-seeing, top dining, and a whole lot of fun.
Experience the sunshine. Experience the beaches. Be the adventure!