Whether you’re in Florida for the AOPA Fly-In, Sun 'n Fun, or just want to spend a weekend where the sun shines an average of 361 days a year, St. Petersburg makes a great aviation getaway. Bask in the balmy weather; wiggle your toes on a sugar-sand beach; take in a Rays baseball game; or take advantage of the great inshore fishing, interesting museums, and urban recreational trail.
Albert Whitted Airport sits on the southeast corner of a peninsula that juts out between the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Skies here are busy and the airport lies beneath Tampa’s Class B airspace. Watch out for five tall towers southeast of Tampa International. If you’re flying along the coast, it’s a gorgeous flight: turquoise waters, blue skies, and white beaches. The airport is home to The Hangar restaurant, with great airport views.
To see a building as warped (in a good way) as the artist it honors, visit the Salvador Dali Museum. A huge, free-form geodesic glass bubble comprised of over 1,000 triangular windows oozes out of the building. Ride a helical staircase to multiple wings to view the paintings and other works, or take a tour. A Spanish-themed café and gift shop are onsite. Baseball fans can take in a Tampa Bay Rays game at air-conditioned Tropicana Field, a smaller-than-some venue that creates a more intimate atmosphere.
Brought a bike? Starting at Demens Landing Park, just north of the airport, you can take the 37-mile Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail past the museums and through sleepy seaside towns; Largo offers an amazing botanical garden and living museum. For excellent inshore fishing, Captain Barry and his flats boat will glide you around mangrove-laden islands, on the hunt for feisty snook, seatrout, and redfish. Keep an eye out for friendly bottlenose dolphins and manatees. Nearby Fort DeSoto Park touts miles of undeveloped white-sand beach; some dog friendly. Hike through hammock forests to the park’s namesake fort, built during the Spanish-American War and used as a gunnery during World War II. On a self-guided tour, check out the last four 12-inch M 1890-MI mortars remaining in North America at the Battery Laidley. The 900-acre park has plenty of picnic shelters, restrooms, and campsites.
Heading up the list of excellent area accommodations is the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club. Built during the 1920s, it’s been updated with uber-luxurious amenities and décor while retaining its Art-Deco architecture. You’ll find restaurants, an 18-hole golf course, tennis complex, private marina, and more. Downtown, the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront provides complimentary airport shuttle service. If you’d like to camp, the Madeira Beach KOA offers quick access to the Pinellas Trail and the Gulf.
St. Pete is loaded with fun eateries. For an Old Florida feel, head to the 4th Street Shrimp Store, for locally caught shrimp specialties served in a room full of nautical novelties. Gratzzi Italian Grille has been voted Best Italian Restaurant in St. Petersburg, and it's a favorite with locals. For more information, contact the St. Pete-Clearwater Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Visit St. Petersburg, the Sunshine City, when you need a tropical break. Stop by to enjoy the area and show support for the efforts that have, so far, preserved this historic airport.
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