Tampa Bay Rays: Florida Fancation in Tampa and St. Petersburg

It’s South to Florida for our next installment in the Fancations series of vacations. Welcome to Tampa and St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays

Painting: Salvador Dalí, Daddy Longlegs of the Evening­Hope!, 1940 © Salvador Dali Museum, Inc. St. Petersburg, Florida, 2010

Baseball Stop: Tropicana Field , domed home of the Rays. Named the Tampa Bay Rays (formerly the Devil Rays), the team is actually based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

As if the name weren’t enough, the 1.1 million square foot Tropicana Field screams Florida. Whether you’re enjoying the 900-foot tropical-themed ceramic mosaic walkway (the largest outdoor ceramic mural in Florida and one of the top five largest in the US) or the live cownose rays in the 10,000 gallon tank behind right center field (you can feed them throughout the game), you know that you’re in the Sunshine State. Initially built in 1990 as the Florida Suncoast Dome, Tropicana Field seats 43,772 visitors. The stadium feels a bit like attending a Cirque du Soleil performance with its funky dome, but even funkier is walking across the outfield as you exit at the end of a game. I haven’t found any other stadium that lets you do that! I almost felt like I was in “Fever Pitch,” the movie. Don’t expect a quiet game here; fans ring cowbells at home games, cheering on the 2008 World Series team. This was certainly a fun experience and highly recommended. There are multiple food outlets for stadium staples like corn dogs and grilled sausages, or Florida’s own Cuban sandwiches and fish tacos, with TV screens thoughtfully placed nearby so you can watch games of competing teams as you eat and drink. Ticket prices are reasonable with most ranging from $40-$140. Ninety-minute tours can be arranged for $9 (less for children and seniors). For more baseball history, Tropicana Field’s Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fames honors Ted and other baseball legends including Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 888-326-7297; http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/

If you can tear yourself away from the Rays, there’s much more than baseball in greater Pinellas County. Tampa and St. Petersburg together offer lots of fun vacation activities for all ages.

Be a Beach Bum: With its beautiful white sand and crystal –clear blue-green water, Fort De Soto Park clearly deserves TripAdvisor’s “America’s Top Beach” ranking. Enjoy the natural beauty at this unspoiled park where there are no hotels or restaurants in sight. Features include a 238-site family camping area, two large swim centers at the North Beach Swim Center, a food concession area, two fishing piers (one on Tampa Bay and one on the Gulf), a canoe trail, and even a dog park.

Open daily from 7am to sunset. 3500 Pinellas Bayway South, Tierra Verde, FL 33715; 727-893-9185; http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

Get Soaked: Adventure Island, part of the Busch Gardens collection of family theme parks, will give you a full day of water thrills and spills to help you stay cool. Float down a lazy river, chill by the wave pool (or jump in with your life jacket), or tube down any number of corkscrew waterslides. Wear water shoes and a bathing suit, with somewhere to stash some soggy dollar bills, and you’re all set for a great day of fun in and out of the sun.

The water park is open from mid-March through the end of October (check online for exact dates and times) and has something for all ages. 10001 N. McKinley, Drive, Tampa, FL 33612: 888-800-5447.

Swirl, Sniff, and Sip: If you love wine, unleash your adventurous side and try some tropical, citrus, and berry wines at the Florida Orange Groves Inc. and Winery. Ever tried mango wine or key lime wine? You can try them here. Visit the winery for tours and tastings Monday through Saturday from 9am-5pm or Sunday from 12:30pm-5pm. Tours are at 11am, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm.
1500 Pasadena Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL, 33707; 1-800-338-7923

Jazz It Up: Start the weekend off right and enjoy the sounds of live jazz in the beautiful glass Conservatory at the Museum of Fine Arts. The Summer Jazz Series will run through August 27 each Friday from 6-9pm. Grab a bite at the new MFA Café or a drink at the bar and enjoy the Florida night on the terrace overlooking the bay. Admission is $10 for members and $15 for non-members and includes admission to galleries in the Hazel Hough wing.

Table reservations are suggested for dinner and can be made at 727-896-2667 ext. 259. 255 Beach Drive N.E., St. Petersburg, FL 33701; 727-896-2667.

Get surreal: Visit the most comprehensive collection of Salvador Dalí’s work outside of Spain. Marvel over a changing exhibit of 96 oil paintings, more than 100 watercolors and drawings, and 1,300 graphics, photographs, sculptures, and objects d’art. I particularly loved the Dalí botanicals which I had never seen anywhere else. Bring the entire family to try a surreal scavenger hunt or to “Dalí Fun Saturdays” for games, puzzles, and craft activities now until the opening of the new twice-as-large Dalí Museum (January 2011). “Dalí Fun Saturdays” are free with museum admission and run from 11:45am-4:30pm. For a more romantic touch, visit the museum on Friday evenings (5:30-8:30pm) through the end of August for the popular summer happy hour series, “Surreal Fridays.” Enjoy music, tours, and silent films along with a cash bar, cigar bar, and complimentary tapas for half-price admission ($8.50). On Sundays, have a true mind-body experience with “Inspire Yoga at the Dalí” from 12:15pm-1:30pm. Classes are held in the Community Room or on the front lawn (overlooking the waterfront), and both beginners and experienced yogis are welcome. Don’t forget your mat or towel. The cost is $10 for members or $15 for non-members.

Open daily; Mon, Tues., and Wed. 10am-5:30pm; Thurs. 10am-8pm; Fri. and Sat. 10am-5:30pm; Sun. 12pm-5:30pm. 1000 Third Street South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727)-894-6068.

Welcome Chihuly to Town: Be one of the first to visit the Chihuly Collection, opened last month, in a permanent 10,000 square foot setting at the Morean Arts Center. See the magnificent large-scale installations that have made Dale Chihuly famous and marvel at the new Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier, created specifically for the collection at the Morean Arts Center. The collection includes some of Chihuly’s more popular series: Macchia, Ikebana, Niijima Floats, Persians and Tumbleweeds. Docent-led tours are available every half hour on the quarter hour starting at 10:15am. After viewing the spectacular pieces in the collection, see how it’s all done at the Glass Studio and Hot Shop within the center to watch a glassblowing show.

Open daily; Mon., Tues., Wed., Fri., and Sat.10am-6pm; Thurs. 10am-8pm; Sun. 12pm-6pm. 400 Beach Drive, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727)-896-4527.

Sleep: When staying in St. Petersburg, there’s one hotel that stands out as a true classic: the striking, pink Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club. The Mediterranean Revival-style resort, honored with a place on the National Register of Historic Places, membership in Historic Hotels of America, and AAA Four-Diamond status, continues to provide guests with the same luxurious experience and Roaring ‘20s aura as it did when it was built. Happily the resort was renovated in 1992 and again in 2009, and it’s as grand as it ever was. Now with 360 rooms including a new tower, the Vinoy features include a private marina, a grand ballroom with a Dale Chihuly chandelier of 750 pieces of glass, heated pools, health club, a 12-court tennis complex, a spa, four restaurants and a lounge, and an 18-hole par-72 golf course. Babe Ruth and Marilyn Monroe stayed here, probably sipping an Aymer’s Promenade Punch or two on the resort’s expansive front porch. Mounted on two walls in a dedicated area off the lobby, the gallery of Vinoy history (1901-2005) is a museum unto itself.

501 5th Avenue NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701; 1-888-303-4430 or 727-894-1000.

Eat: Embrace Florida’s deep Spanish history and enjoy tapas at Ceviche, located within the Ponce de Leon Hotel. Menu highlights include the gambas Romesco (sautéed jumbo shrimp with roasted tomato, garlic, almonds, and sweet red peppers), codillo De Cordero (braised lamb shank in Rioja red wine sauce), and the Paella Valenciana (lobster, scallops, shrimp, squid, chicken, and mild chorizo). Try any of the delicious Spanish and Portuguese wines from the extensive wine list. To continue the party after the fabulous food, head down to the basement in to the restaurant’s Flamenco Bar. 10 Beach Drive, St. Petersburg, FL 33701; 727-209-2302.
On Sundays, the only place to be is at Marchand’s Mediterranean Market in the Renaissance Vinoy for a truly fabulous brunch. From 10am-2pm, indulge in any of the seasonal fresh fruits, fluffy pancakes, oatmeal brulée, Chef’s prime choice meats, fresh seafood, and wonderful desserts (the chocolate fondue fountain is a definite favorite). 501 5th Avenue NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701; 727-824-8072.

Shop: For us ladies, we’re never at a loss for something fabulous to wear, and now men can feel the same. Daniel’s, a men’s haberdashery, recently opened around the corner from the Renaissance Vinoy and the Morean Arts Center. The shop prides itself in offering exceptional one-on-one service for all the visitors or southern gentleman out there. With brands such as Peter Millar, Ike Behar, Southern Tide, and Allen Edmond shoes, men will find whatever they need to look their best on the greens, at any of the museums, or for Sunday brunch at the Renaissance Vinoy. 400 Beach Drive (Suite 181), St. Petersburg, FL 33701; 727-498-8805

Coco Brazil, a neighbor to Daniel’s, offers the best in women’s Brazilian fashion. Shoppers are sure to find one-of-a-kind pieces ranging from casual to glamorous at Coco Brazil. The boutique is the exclusive retailer for Morena Rosa, Maria Valentina, and Zinco. Let the warm Florida sun fool you into thinking you are actually in South America while looking fabulous in a piece from Coco Brazil. 400 Beach Drive (Suite 161), St. Petersburg, FL 33701; 727-821-1212.


  1. Thank you so much for giving St. Pete a shout out from an art and cultural perspective. Not many people realize how many wonderful museums and exhibits there are! We were beyond thrilled to have Chihuly come to town!

  2. Hi Meryl,
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blog posts about Tierra Verde to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
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