July 2, 2021

The Sunshine City Part 1: Soaking Up The Rays

In this introduction to urban living in downtown St. Petersburg, we spotlight some of the City’s most prominent daytime activities.

While St. Petersburg, or St. Pete,  once was known as a quiet city to retire to, its downtown area has recently become a vibrant and active community. Whether you’re a resident looking for a day out and about or someone taking a day trip into town, the Sunshine City has a wealth of diversions for all comers. For those that simply want a sample of what life is like in this rapidly reviving city, Central Avenue is the place to put your finger on the pulse.

More specifically, the area known as the Grand Central District which encompasses Central Avenue and 1st Avenue N and S 16th street to 31st, is a hub of activity from dawn til dusk. Independently owned coffee shops, antique markets, and eclectic restaurants line the road with wide palm shaded sidewalks making this an excellent locale to wander and window shop for a few hours. If you’re inclined, there are a number of breweries in this area as well. Green Bench Brewing Company and The Dog Bar are popular daytime spots for a light lunch and a refreshing brew. If it’s a heartier dining experience you’re after, Hawkers Asian Street Food serves up unique spins on a variety of asian cuisines, while less than a block away Bodega offers a menu of Cuban classics and fresh squeezed juices. A similar story unfolds up and down the street, top notch eateries with unique offerings are packed together and the only thing left to you is figuring out what exactly you’re in the mood for.

If your wallet is feeling a little heavy and your shelves a little bare, Central Ave still has you covered. Independent clothiers abut antique stores across the lane from record stores, and a great deal of it is awash in carefully curated selection of street art. St. Petersburg is a city that embraces the arts freely, and you can find a variety of stores offering locally produced pieces at reasonable pricing. Though if you’d rather spend some time behind the easel yourself, there are a number of galleries which offer classes such as the Morean Center for Clay. One of several kilns around the area, they host workshops and individual classes while also offering studio space for full time or aspiring artists.

Stepping away from Central Ave but staying in the realm of art, St. Pete is also home to the Salvador Dali Museum. This striking structure of hard lined concrete and bulbous glass is home to a large permanent collection of the renowned Surrealist’s works. It also hosts rotating exhibits, and local artist’s works to keep things fresh, and spending an afternoon absorbing the works before winding down in the garden with a meal from the museum’s cafe is delightful. For those looking for something a little more tangible, St. Pete is also home to the Chihuly Collection. It’s halls are filled with the intricate glittering glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly, and the experience is unforgettable. The gallery space was designed to the specifications of the artist and every room is intended to highlight the pieces it contains to their maximum potential. There may be no better place in the world to enjoy the works of this famous artist than this space. And if what you see inspires a passion in you, the Collection also offers glass blowing classes with master craftsmen to help you get started.

A picture should be coming together by now, of a vibrant and delightful downtown district. Filled with arts, good food, thriving small businesses, and a slightly different pace of life. Urban living in downtown St. Petersburg is no longer just about shuffleboard and early bird specials, although they can certainly still be found. Things really start to heat up after the sun goes down in this city however, and in the next installment of this guide we talk nightlife in the Sunshine City.

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