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To Plan A Trip

July 2024
1min read

I liked the Belleview’s big, summery atmosphere. It’s a relaxed place, and of the several hotels I visited, its history seemed the most tangible. In fact there was much talk of past ghost sightings during my stay (813-442-6171). Another area resort, the Don CeSar (813-360-1881), sits on St. Pete Beach like a huge, frosted pink cake; built in 1928, the Don is all sweeping windows, light tropical colors, and potted palms, and it’s easy to imagine previous guests like F. Scott Fitzgerald strolling around the luxe grounds. The elegant Mediterranean-style Renaissance Vinoy Resort (813-894-1000), built in 1925, sat vacant for nearly eighteen years after closing in 1974. A $93-million historically correct renovation in 1992 brought the hotel back to its grand self. A guide pointed out the original stenciled ceiling beams that were taken down and numbered so that they could be replaced exactly after airconditioning and fire-safety equipment was put in behind them. The hotel’s original solarium—a private booth where a guest could sunbathe nude—now sits demurely in the Vinoy’s tea garden. Though all these hotels are grand places to stay, keep in mind that the area is full of more moderate options; call the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau for listings (813-464-7200).

Be sure to eat at the wonderful waterfront Greek restaus and bakeries in Tarpon Springs; you will visit Greece without leaving Florida. If you’re spending the day in Tarpon Springs, you may want to visit the beach at Howard Park, a simple, pristine, and peaceful spot that to me looked like Florida at its most natural. Heritage Village is less than an hour’s drive from Tarpon Springs. It is connected to the Pinellas County Historical Museum, which houses a library and archives that are open to the public (813-582-2123).

The original Columbia Restaurant, with its dramatic tiles and iron-work and excellent Spanish-Cuban food, is one of the gems of Ybor City’s Seventh Avenue strip (813-248-4961). The family-owned chain has several locations. Just down the street is La France vintage clothing shop (or “d»javu garmenture”), which has beautifully preserved clothes from the 1860s through the 1960s (813-248-1381). Of course, if you like cigars, you can puff on a bit of Ybor City’s history by stopping into any of the cigar shops on Seventh Avenue.

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