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19 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in St. Petersburg, FL

Written by Lura Seavey and Lana Law
Updated Mar 22, 2022

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The city of St. Petersburg, known locally as St. Pete and famed for its perpetual sunshine, lies on the Pinellas Peninsula on the central Gulf Coast of Florida, between Tampa Bay and Boca Ciega Bay. Off the western side of the peninsula is a chain of long, narrow islands with some of Florida's best beaches.

The city is compact and easy to navigate. Many of the top attractions are near one another, making visiting more than one in an afternoon an easy task. St. Petersburg is one of Florida's cultural hot spots with a fine selection of world famous institutions, including the Dali, Imagine, and Fine Arts Museums along with the Morean Arts Center.

However, St. Pete's isn't all about culture. Mere minutes away is St. Pete's Beach and the gorgeous soft sands and warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Turning inland, the city of Tampa is another fun place to explore, with more things to do and great restaurants.

Explore the best places to visit in the city and surrounding areas with our list of the top attractions and things to do in St. Petersburg.

See also: Where to Stay in St. Petersburg

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Soak Up the Sun at St. Pete Beach

St. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Just a 20-minute drive from downtown St. Petersburg is the fun beach town of St. Pete Beach. Home to a spectacular wide and long stretch of soft, golden sand lapped by warm, clear water, St. Pete Beach has been drawing legions of visitors for years. The list of things to do in St. Pete Beach is long, and includes lazing on the beach (of course!), parasailing, fishing, jet skiing, and frolicking in the ocean.

An assortment of accommodation is available, ranging from old-school Florida hotels to condos, right through to luxury resorts. Restaurants along the main street all have outdoor patios, perfect for grabbing a light lunch or a pleasant dinner once the heat of the day has passed. St. Pete Beach is just one of many fantastic beaches along this stretch of coastline; others include Treasure Island, Madeira, Redington Shores, and Indian Shores.

2. The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg

The Dali Museum in St Petersburg
The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg | Dan Lundberg / photo modified

The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg houses a comprehensive collection of paintings by this Surrealist master, with a total collection of more than 2,000 works of art. Dali's entire artistic career is represented, from his early work in Impressionism and Cubism to later experiments in more "Classical" styles.

Oil paintings, watercolors, original drawings, sculptures, graphics, photographs, and prints are among the exhibits. The Dali Museum Library and Center for the Avant-garde are also housed here, which preserve books, magazines, newspaper clippings, and other important documents related to Dali, Surrealism, and Avant-garde influences.

Address: One Dali Boulevard, St. Petersburg, Florida

Official site: http://thedali.org

3. See Nature Come Alive at the Sunken Gardens

Sunken Gardens
Sunken Gardens | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

The Sunken Gardens began as the hobby of a plumber named George Turner and have evolved into a St. Petersburg institution. First conceived of in 1903, Turner transformed a lakebed into a six-acre tropical garden, which eventually became so popular that he started to charge admission.

The Turner family continued to care for and improve upon the garden, and it was finally purchased by the city in 1999, becoming a community effort. Today, you can walk the paths and enjoy the rare plants, some of which are as old as the garden itself.

You'll have a chance to see tropical flora from all over the world, and enjoy the ambience of waterfalls, footbridges, and even resident flamingos. The gardens also conduct horticultural programs and garden tours, as well as host special events, including weddings.

Address: 1060 Gulf Boulevard, Clearwater, Florida

Address: 1825 4th St. N., St. Petersburg, Florida

Official site: https://www.stpete.org/visitors/sunken_gardens.php

4. Head Out to the New St. Pete Pier

Aerial view of the new St. Pete Pier
Aerial view of the new St. Pete Pier

The brand-new St. Pete Pier is a far cry from what used to exist in the same space only a few short years ago. Today the Pier is more than just an extension into the ocean; now it's 26 acres of fun, food, activities, and entertainment.

Blending seamlessly into the surroundings, the pier area is an ideal place to spend an afternoon with the family or an evening out with a group of friends. You'll find six different restaurants ranging from Teak, a fine-dining establishment with fantastic views, right through to the more casual Fresco's Waterfront Bistro offering vistas of the incredible array of pleasure craft moored nearby. For a snack by the beach, pop into the Spa Beach Bistro.

The St. Pete Pier is 3,000 feet long and can be a nice place to visit for a stroll, but it can also feel like a long walk in the hot Florida sun. Fortunately, a tram runs from end to end making a walk out and a tram ride back a popular combination.

Spread throughout the St. Pete Pier area are public works of art, one of the most spectacular being the work by Janet Echelman called Bending Arc. Near the end of the pier is the unique Olnetopia by Nick Ervinck. Also definitely worth checking out is the sculpture of the Benoist Airboat first flown by Tony Jannus in 1914.

Don't worry, you can still fish at the new St. Pete Pier — just walk all the way out to the end, where you'll find a platform. Bait and tackle are available nearby.

Address: 800 2nd Ave NE, St. Petersburg, Florida

Official site: https://stpetepier.org/

5. Explore Beaches and History at Fort De Soto Park

View of the beach from the pier at Fort De Soto Park
View of the beach from the pier at Fort De Soto Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Five different keys make up the 1,136-acre Fort DeSoto Park, the largest park in Pinellas County. Most people come here to enjoy the beaches, but numerous nature and recreation trails offer great opportunities for hiking, birding, biking, and rollerblading, and there are also two fishing piers.

The park is named for the fort located on the southern end of Mullet Key, built in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. Remains of the fort can be visited on a self-guided tour, and a small museum with historical information is located in the former Quartermaster Storehouse. Other buildings on-site include civilian quarters, barracks, the bakery, and the former hospital, among others.

This is a particularly popular spot for bird-watchers, home to at least 328 species of birds.

Pelicans and shorebirds at Fort De Soto Park
Pelicans and shorebirds at Fort De Soto Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Camping is also popular here. The park has 238 sites just a short stroll away from the beach. Sites have electricity and water; central washroom buildings have flush toilets and showers. The campground has special sites set aside for those traveling with pets. The county has recently upgraded the playground in Campground Area #2, with new features that children will be sure to love.

Camping reservations can be made six months in advance for non-residents, seven months in advance for residents.

Address: 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde, Florida

Official site: www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

6. Check Out the Colorful Chihuly Glass Collection

Chihuly Collection
Chihuly Collection | Alex Cimbal / Shutterstock.com

St. Petersburg is proud to be home to the Chihuly Collection. Found at the Morean Arts Center, the collection is spread out over 10,000 square feet and is housed in a specially designed building. To get the best experience and understanding of the items you are about to see, start your visit by watching the short video on Dale Chihuly's life and his creative methods.

The collection has some of the artist's finest pieces, including Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier, Macchia, Ikebana, Tumbleweeds, and many others. The colors are incredible and varied; the shapes formed are unlike anything you've ever seen.

For a peek into how these amazing pieces of art are formed, be sure to visit the Morean Arts Center Hot Shop (additional fee). Here, you'll see the artists hard at work blowing glass into fantastical shapes.

Official site: https://www.moreanartscenter.org/chihuly/

7. St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market

Sunflowers for sale at the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market
Sunflowers for sale at the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market

St. Petersburg is considered one of Florida's most livable cities for its mild climate, cultural institutions, and overall quality of life. Part of what makes it an attractive place to live are things like the St. Petersburg Saturday Market. Each Saturday, over 125 vendors set up and showcase their goods.

It's an ideal place to collect all the freshest ingredients such as meats, cheeses, vegetables, and sweets for your Saturday night get-together dinner. It's also a great spot to search out that eclectic or unique piece of artwork for that blank space on your wall. Feeling a bit of hunger coming on? You are in the right spot. Over 15 different cuisines are represented by vendors cooking up the tastiest dishes you can imagine.

In addition to all the great shopping, local musicians fill the air with the sounds of music. The market runs from 9am until 2pm. In the fall and winter (October 2nd to May 28th), the market is located at the waterfront at the address below. In the summer, it is located at Williams Park, 301 1st Ave N.

Location: 100 1st Street NE, St. Petersburg, Florida

Official site: https://saturdaymorningmarket.com/

8. Waterfront Arts District

Aerial view of St. Petersburg's waterfront area
Aerial view of St. Petersburg's waterfront area

Just back from St. Petersburg's waterfront area is a delightful area known at the Waterfront Arts District, one of five located throughout the city. Stately old trees line the streets, and several city parks provide public space to rest and relax. Park the car and just wander around; you'll be amazed at what you find.

The area is home to many of the city's most popular cultural institutions, including the Dali Museum, the St. Petersburg Museum of History, The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, along with many others. All are within walking distance of one another.

In addition to the museums, the area is full of shops and restaurants, many of which have lovely shady patios, ideal for lunch or dinner. Walk towards the water past South Straub Park, and you'll come across the St. Pete Pier to your left and Demens Landing Park to your right.

The area is roughly defined as a long rectangle running from Beach Street/1st Street South to 3rd Street and 7th Avenue North and 7th Avenue South.

9. Imagine Museum

Imagine Museum
Imagine Museum | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

The Imagine Museum is one of the top museums in the United States for art created out of glass. The museum is the proud home of the extensive Trish Joy Collection of over 1,500 pieces, 500 of which are on display at any point in time. In addition, you'll find other interesting collections, including the spectacular 1,000 Buddha installation.

One of the best ways to experience the museum is to take one of the three free tours included with your admission. The first of the three tours is titled Journey of the Imagination. It is a fascinating multimedia and augmented reality experience.

The second tour is the Introduction to Studio Glass, and details the development of this art form starting in the 1960s.

The third tour, Introduction to International Studio Glass, showcases the evolution of studio glass work in Europe. Tours are generally 30 minutes in length and take place on specific days.

Official site: https://www.imaginemuseum.com/

10. Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg
Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine Arts is considered the premiere art museum in the Tampa Bay area, home to over 20,000 works of art that span 5,000 years of human creativity.

The collection includes Greek, Roman, and Asian antiquities, African art, ancient art from the Americas, and European art. Among the better-known artists featured here are Monet, Rodin, and O'Keefe, and the museum hosts traveling exhibits and temporary galleries.

Collections also include a large photography collection, a gallery of glass art, and a sculpture garden. Docent-led tours are available for full museum tours, and visitors can request tours that focus on the areas that interest them most.

The museum is located in a lovely setting in St. Petersburg's waterfront downtown area.

Address: 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, Florida

Official site: http://mfastpete.org

11. Enjoy Some Nature at the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

This lovely park is a beautiful retreat for those looking for a little nature. The park features six miles of walking trails and boardwalks that explore the area's varied ecosystems, including swamp woodlands and a willow marsh.

The park is also part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and home to the Birds of Prey Aviary, and rangers provide guided tours, which often spot turtles and other wildlife. The park also offers nature camps and picnic facilities and has a playground, picnic areas, and shelters.

A great way to explore the park is to take one of the tram tours. For a modest fee (in addition to your park admission) you'll cover far more of the park in a shorter period of time and learn about the flora and fauna from an expert.

Also on site is a gift shop, and the park hosts annual nature events like a butterfly count conducted by the North American Butterfly Association.

12. Drive the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Sunshine Skyway Bridge
Sunshine Skyway Bridge | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Located on I 275, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge crosses the water at the entrance to Tampa Bay. This spectacular bridge is impressive from a distance but driving across it offers a unique perspective. Stretching 12 miles in total, a little more than four miles of the bridge rises high above the ocean, allowing for large vessels to pass below.

Two main pillars tower above the road, and the high points add some eye-catching drama to the bridge. It took five years to build, and is now considered one of the world's most beautiful bridges. Views of the bridge are particularly beautiful at night when it is lit up.

If the wind is blowing, pull off at the northern Skyway Rest Exit and check out the kiteboarders racing across the water under their colorful kites.

13. Run, Walk, or Cycle the Pinellas Trail

Pinellas Trail
Pinellas Trail

The Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, created along an abandoned railroad corridor, is a 37-mile-long park and recreation trail, running from the downtown waterfront of St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs.

This multi-use trail is enjoyed by walkers, runners, cyclists, and skaters, and features a number of shops, restaurants, and cafes along the route. To help visitors navigate, nine sculptures mark the various communities through which the trail passes.

One of the lovely areas along the trail is Dunedin, a quaint town that has preserved its village-like atmosphere. It began as a seaport and trading center, and is best known today as the spring training camp for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area and Caladesi Island State Park are located just off the coast of Dunedin and offer opportunities for both nature and water sports enthusiasts.

14. Weedon Island Preserve

Kayaking at Weedon Island Preserve
Kayaking at Weedon Island Preserve | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

The Weedon Island Preserve covers over 3,000 acres in north St. Petersburg on the shores of Tampa Bay and can be explored on foot via nearly five miles of paths and boardwalks, and by water on designated paddling trails along the waterways.

A great place to start is the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, which houses a variety of exhibits and resources. This is a free attraction, and visitors will learn about the area's ecosystems, habitats, plants, and animals, and how humans have interacted with nature here over thousands of years. From the center, you can walk out on scenic trails.

Walking trail at Weedon Island Preserve
Walking trail at Weedon Island Preserve | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

If you are interested in paddling or fishing, head to the boat launch area. You can set off from here, and the water is quite shallow in areas. People come here to kayak or stand up paddleboard; kayak rentals are available nearby. Next to the launch is a dock where people come to fish.

This is an excellent place for bird-watching, as well as spotting marine life in the water of this protected flood plain, including stingrays and oysters.

Address: 1800 Weedon Drive N.E., St. Petersburg, Florida

Official site: http://www.weedonislandpreserve.org/

15. Great Explorations Children's Museum

The Great Explorations Children's Museum is an excellent place go on a rainy day, providing a variety of educational activities and fun things to do for younger kids. Children can explore and climb on an ocean-themed play structure, Longo's Cove, or dig in the sand in a beach-themed play area.

Young engineers can build using an assortment of materials provided at the "Build It" tables or stack giant soft blocks to create kid-size structures. Kids can try being a grown-up in the kid-size supermarket, help a sick puppy get better at the veterinarian's office, make "pizza" at the local shop, and learn about safety while exploring the firehouse.

Other interactive areas include an art studio, a theater, and a health and wellness exhibit sponsored by Johns Hopkins.

Address: 1925 4th Street North, St. Petersburg, Florida

Official site: https://greatex.org

16. Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium | Walter / photo modified

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is best known as home to film dolphins Winter and Hope who inspired and starred in the Dolphin Tale movies. Among other residents are sea turtles, otters, pelicans, sharks, and stingrays, as well as an assortment of other fish.

The aquarium has regular shows, which are part of general admission, as well as special tours and activities you can choose as add-ons. One of the most popular is a behind-the-scenes tour, which allows you to see rescued and recovering animals awaiting return to their ocean homes and learn about what it takes to care for these beautiful creatures.

Other offerings include guided kayak and boat tours, which explore various topics, including the ecology of Clearwater Bay and a Dolphin Adventure Tour.

Address: 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, Florida

Official site: https://www.cmaquarium.org/

17. Visit John's Pass Village & Boardwalk

John's Pass Village & Boardwalk
John's Pass Village & Boardwalk | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Tourist trap or fun place to go shopping and hang out; the jury hasn't made a final determination on this popular attraction. If it's a so-so day or you've had enough culture or beach and are looking for something different, swing by John's Pass. You'll find a boardwalk lined by restaurants with good views over the water and constant boat traffic.

Back from the waterfront is an extensive retail area with over 100 retailers consisting of souvenir shops, ice-cream stands, and places selling things you never thought you needed. Many tour boats leave from here on excursions out into the Gulf of Mexico. Note that parking here is not free, and enforcement is stringent.

Address: 12901 Gulf Lane, Madeira Beach, Florida

Official site: https://johnspass.com/

18. Take a Drive to Clearwater Beach

The pier at Clearwater Beach
The pier at Clearwater Beach | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Clearwater Beach is often rated as one of the top beaches in Florida, and even the United States. Miles of pristine white sand attracts tourists and local sun-seekers, and it's all just a 40-minute drive from St. Petersburg. A number of Clearwater's top resorts look over this beautiful beach.

The Beachwalk, Clearwater Beach's seaside promenade, stretches along the sand and is lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, and other attractions. Another popular spot is Pier 60, a 1,080-foot fishing pier with numerous amenities, including a large bait and tackle shop, which provides rental equipment to tourists.

Family attractions include a huge beach playground and nightly sunset celebrations with entertainment and vendors

19. Sand Key Park

The beach at Sand Key State Park
The beach at Sand Key State Park | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Sand Key Park is located on the barrier island of the same name, and is home to both a beautiful beach and a diverse nature area, if you are visiting Clearwater, it's worth a stop.

The park is part of an ongoing effort to create an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico, and also works closely with Clearwater Aquarium to ensure the safety of the sea turtles and their hatchlings.

In addition to its walking trails, Sand Key Park is ideal for bird-watching, where heron, roseate spoonbill, great horned owl, anhinga, and common moorhen nest and feed in the salt marsh.

Sandy Key Park
Sand Key Park

The park's beach area offers a good range of amenities, including lifeguards during the summer months, concessions, and bath houses. Plenty of rentals are available, so you don't need to lug your own - you can get everything from umbrellas and cabanas to bicycles and kayaks. This beach is also one of the least expensive things to do around St. Petersburg, with only a minimal parking fee.

Where to Stay in St. Petersburg for Sightseeing

We recommend these highly rated hotels in St. Petersburg, near popular downtown attractions like the Dali Museum:

  • The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club: A 4-star luxury resort, this 1925 landmark property features stylish décor, multiple restaurants, a deluxe spa, and heated outdoor pool.
  • Avalon Hotel: This mid-range hotel is located in the historic district and has a funky retro feel. The rooms feature Art Deco décor. Guests have access to an adjacent pool and a free area shuttle.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites St. Petersburg Downtown: With affordable rates, a lovely outdoor pool, modern room décor, and free hot breakfast, this hotel checks all the boxes.
  • The Inn on Third: This budget-friendly hotel offers quaint décor and antique furnishings.

Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to St. Petersburg and Clearwater

  • Segway through St. Petersburg: Tourists can cover plenty of ground while exploring St. Petersburg by Segway on this guided historic tour. Limited to a maximum of seven people, this intimate tour provides an up-close look at some of the city's most historic spots while a knowledgeable guide provides commentary and answers questions. Safety equipment and Segway operation instruction is included.
  • Speedboat Adventure: Tourists can take the wheel and feel the thrill of driving their own speedboat on this two-hour guided tour of Tampa Bay. Communicating with your guide via two-way headset, you will be led past some of the bay's top tourist attractions, including Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Fort de Soto, and Egmont Key, as well as several stops at scenic spots where you can spot marine wildlife like dolphins and manatees. Instruction on boat operation is included.
  • Romance on the Gulf: Couples will particularly enjoy this 2.5-hour evening cruise by yacht on the Gulf of Mexico. The cruise features live music and dancing, and passengers can enjoy the views from both the outdoor observation deck and the indoor areas, which feature picture windows to ensure a great view. For those who would like to dine during the cruise, a full-service gourmet restaurant has a wide variety of options.
  • Marine Wildlife on Shell Key: Tourists can get a great introduction to Shell Key Island on this two-hour small-group Dolphin Watch and Snorkeling Cruise. The cruise, which offers a variety of departure times to fit your family's vacation itinerary, stops on the shores of Shell Key Island where passengers can choose to swim, stroll on the beach, or snorkel using provided equipment. Guests will also get the chance to look out for sea life on the way to and from the island, including dolphins, rays, and even manatees.

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