Family Fun in the Sun: St. Petersburg/Clearwater

If you are looking for a family friendly destination that offers plenty of fun in the sun, look no further than St. Petersburg, Florida. With its beautiful beaches, exciting attractions and wealth of outdoor activities, St. Petersburg is the perfect spot for a memorable getaway with kids.

Savor the Sunshine

One of St. Petersburg’s greatest draws is its abundance of sunshine and pristine beaches. There is something for everyone, from the family-friendly shores of St. Pete Beach, to the tranquil vibes of Pass-a-Grille, there’s a beach for every preference. While in St. Petersburg, we stayed in a small community called South Pasadena. This was centrally located to all of our planned stops- roughly 30 minutes from Tampa, 20 minutes from Clearwater, 10 minutes from Pass-a-Grill, and 10 minutes from Madeira Beach. If you are traveling with small kids, I would highly recommend this quiet community!

While we went to an array of local St. Pete beaches, one of our favorite spots was Anna Maria Island which is located roughly an hour south of St. Pete. (Pro tip: get to this island early to avoid the one lane traffic road leading in). This 7-mile-long beach is extremely peaceful with only mom and pop businesses. From the moment you arrive on this island, it has a calming presence with a less crowded feel that is very kid-friendly. One of the most memorable experiences for us on this trip was watching our daughter participate in an outdoor steel drum experience on the beach. Make sure to check out Waterfront Restaurant and the Mote Marine Science Education & Outreach Center at the end of a pier. This center is free and includes fun touch tanks and small aquariums for kids!

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Experiencing Outdoor and Indoor Adventures

Saint Petersburg is home to a variety of family friendly attractions that are sure to delight kids of all ages. One area that you will want to make sure to visit is the St. Pete Pier. This newly redesigned area has a splash pad, food vendors, roller rink, small beach access, and plenty of playgrounds with live music. Towards the end of the pier, you will find the Tampa Bay Watch Discover Center where you can explore interactive marine exhibits. While you are checking out the pier, you will want to make sure to stop by Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grill. They have the best grouper, and you may catch a glimpse of dolphins in the bay!

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Our one-year-old daughter enjoyed visiting the Great Explorations Children’s Museum, the first mid-sized children’s museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Here, little ones can unleash their creativity with hands on exhibits exploring science geared towards early childhood education. On the perimeter of this museum, it is set up like a small town, with small “exhibits” that include a Publix grocery store, fire station, dentist and doctors’ office just to name a few. Next to this museum, is the 100-year-old Sunken Gardens, home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the region. Paths guide visitors through a living collection of more than thousands of plant species, tropical plants and flowers with lush demonstration gardens, cascading waterfalls, a flock of flamingos, and a colorful array of rehomed tropical birds.

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Nearby Attractions

A quick 30-minute drive from St. Pete, is ZooTampa. Our daughter loved exploring the critical care unit that houses manatees. The state-of-the-art David A. Straz, Jr. Critical Care Center takes in sick, injured, and orphaned manatees to provide them with the specialized care they need so they can rehabilitate and be re-introduced back to their native waters. Another unique experience is the stingray exhibit where you have the chance to feed stingrays from the palm of your hand!

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Additionally, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a must stop place if your find yourself in the Clearwater/St. Pete area. This place is incredible! At this aquarium they rescue dolphins, otters, sea turtles, and other marine animals. It was the home of the famous dolphin Winter, who Disney featured as the star of their movies “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2”. We did a 90-minute sea life safari boat tour that included a guided tour with a marine biologist. On this tour we saw dolphins and observed data collection in action, as biologists perform a net pull and conduct a “show and tell” onboard of sea creatures found in the grass beds and sand flats of the bay. The boat tour also included going to a local shell island to collect seashells.

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Indulge Your Taste Buds

No visit to St. Petersburg would be complete without sampling its culinary delights. From fresh seafood straight off the boat, to innovative farm to table fare, the city’s dining scene is sure please every palate. Anytime my wife and I travel we are always looking for the best local coffee and breakfast place. We definitely found it with Bandit Coffee Company. Located in the heart of St. Pete, Bandit Coffee Company makes everything from scratch including their breads daily. We very rarely go to the same spot twice on vacation, but let me tell you, their breakfast sandwiches will make you want to go there more than once. Other notable mentions include Mio’s Mediterranean Cafe, Restoration coffee, Crabby’s, A La Crêperie located at Anna Maria Island, and don’t sleep on Pepo’s Cuban Cafe.

St. Petersburg and its surrounding cities boasts a unique blend of culture history and natural beauty that captivates all who visit from its stunning beaches to its thriving art scene. St. Pete offers something for everyone making it an ideal destination for travelers, seeking unforgettable experiences with their kids.

A Few Quick Tips that Made Our Trip Simple

  • We flew with our umbrella stroller. The airline is not responsible for any damage to your personal baby items. If anything happened, we would not be without our usual stroller when we got home. Note: some airports may require you to fold down the stroller to go through security on the belt scanner. Not all airports we have traveled through required this.
  • Book direct flights when possible. This one is obvious, but the shorter the flight/travel day, the better!
  • If you are renting a car, get that scheduled before your trip. You may save yourself hours of waiting in line. Many car rentals will also rent out car seats or boosters. This also makes the process that much easier once you reach your destination.
  • Be flexible. Your day may not (likely not) go exactly as you planned. Pack your patience. Your children are watching and learning from you by how you interact with others. A little kindness can go a long way.
  • Enjoy the time together. Your kids want nothing more than your time, and your love. You don’t need fancy/picture perfect vacations for them to curate incredible childhood memories. Have fun together!

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