One of our favorite ways to get out of the house and have fun without spending a lot of money at home is to go on day trips. After going to SeaWorld here in Florida, we wanted to do something a little easier on the wallet, so we got in the car and drove to St. Petersburg.
Day trips are a completely different animal here. At home, I get in the car and relax as I drive to whatever destination we choose. Most of the time there is no need for maps or brochures as we follow the signs to our small town of choice and then get out and walk around. When I’m driving on the freeways here I can’t relax as much. Though the roads are flat and completely straight for miles and miles, the traffic is much heavier and everything is unfamiliar, so it keeps me on my toes. Thankfully we have a GPS with us so we don’t have to mess with maps.
When we got in the car we didn’t necessarily have a specific destination in mind. We simply set the GPS for Tampa and let it take us wherever it chose. That wasn’t the best choice. We thought it might take us into downtown Tampa as the high rises appeared before us, but then it told us to exit. As we slowed down and exited off the freeway, our heart rates quickened and our doors locked. Lets just say we probably weren’t in the friendliest part of town. We saw a billboard that said www.tampabaygangs.com and panicked. I whipped that rental car into a U-turn and got back on the freeway as fast as I could. Turns out that website is geared towards warning people against getting involved in gangs.
After that we stopped letting the GPS take us into death traps, so we headed to St. Petersburg. Once we got there we immediately knew we made the right choice. The downtown area was really nice, with brightly coloured buildings, and a view of the ocean. It all felt very tropical.
Our first stop was The Pier. It’s apparently a big tourist attraction, but I had never heard of it until this trip. You can browse little gift shops, or eat at a choice of restaurants with a view of the bay in a building at the end of the pier that looks like an upside down pyramid. To be honest, I found the pier to be more interesting from the outside than from the inside. It’s a beautiful spot, but the shops and food really aren’t that great. There was one exception, though, with a music, movie, and sports memorabilia store inside the pier called D. D. Collectables. It had all kinds of signed pictures, musical instruments, as well as some great display pieces. A lot of the pieces were quite expensive so I didn’t buy anything, but I had a blast looking through everything.
Lastly, we took a trolley tour of the downtown area for a whopping $0.25. It was a great way to quickly get a feel for the town as the driver pointed out all kinds of landmarks along the way. You can’t really go wrong with anything that costs a quarter.
Our day trip to St. Petersburg and the pier was great. We didn’t spend much, and we got to see a part of Florida that was new to both of us.
If you’re in Florida looking for a place to unwind after endless days at major theme parks, St. Petersburg may be the answer. It’s a nice place to stroll around and explore. As Brad mentioned, we went to The Pier, which was a cool shape, but nothing to get excited about. It has a lot of touristy gift shops on the bottom floor with hawaiian shirts and tacky sea shell souvenirs. The second floor houses the Pier Aquarium, which we figured would be a bit of a let down after SeaWorld so we didn’t enter. The fourth and fifth floors are restaurants, but we settled on Captain Al’s on the bottom floor.
Captain Al’s was weird. I was expecting a nicer, cleaner experience considering the nice view. This was one of those times where the food was very average in comparison to the view. I had the cheeseburger sliders (mini cheeseburgers) and Brad ordered a veggie wrap that came with a weird bowl of oil. The food was okay, but the atmosphere made me feel like I had to take a shower. There was chicken on the floor beside us and everything just felt sticky. If that sort of thing doesn’t phase you, you’ll probably get along just fine at Captain Al’s. I’m starting to wonder why restaurants near the ocean always feel compelled to sell seafood. I guess some people expect it, but I think it would be refreshing to have some different cuisine served up. Every single restaurant at The Pier was seafood oriented and all I wanted was lasagna.
There are more things to do than just stroll around, if you’re willing to spend some money. You can rent an electric boat, go fishing off the pier, or go for a cruise on the Dolphin Queen. Instead, we opted to grab a bag of sweets from the bottom floor candy shop and go on a 25 cent tour of St. Petersburg. We found out about this cheap tour when we got on the trolley that takes you from the parking lot to the actual pier. I thought for 25 cents it would be a short ride, but the trolley went for a good 20 minute ride through the town pointing out various landmarks like the Salvador Dali museum and Little St. Mary’s public restroom, a church that the builder turned into a restroom after he was unsatisfied with what the church paid him, or so the rumour goes. You can get off the trolley at your choosing and get back on at various spots along the route.
St. Petersburg was a very nice afternoon trip and picturesque drive across Tampa Bay. If you’re looking to unwind and have a good pair of shoes to walk around for the afternoon, St. Petersburg probably won’t disappoint.