History Takes Flight in St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL – Episode 208
St. Petersburg is a charming city located just west of Tampa along the Florida coast. A Russian aristocrat named Peter Demens founded this seaside town in 1888, facilitating its development into the destination it is today. Boating and beaches are defining features of St. Petersburg, maintaining the same allure the city was founded on. Palm tree-lined roads are woven throughout the city, while Mediterranean-style buildings fill the spaces in between.
St. Petersburg is about more than just fun in the sun. The city is also known for its historic sites as well as its cultured taste, reflected in the numerous museums and galleries within the city.
Tony Jannus Epic First Flight & the St. Petersburg Museum of History
In 1914, St. Petersburg made a global first as Tony Jannus flew the 1st commercial flight from St. Petersburg to Tampa on New Year’s Day. He flew a Benoist biplane from the now famous Municipal Pier, located on 2nd Ave. in downtown St. Pete.
Along the Municipal Pier sits the St. Petersburg Museum of History, a building dedicated to preserving the story of St. Petersburg as well as Florida’s history. A Benoist XIV plane is housed within the museum along with over 30,000 artifacts, including unique pieces like a 3,000 year old mummy and a two-headed calf. The underwear exhibit and Schrader’s Little Cooperstown baseball showcase are also notable features at this family-friendly attraction. Little Cooperstown features the Guinness Book of World Records certified largest collection of signed baseballs.
Be sure to stop by the pier in the evening. The pier extends out into the Bay and is the perfect place to enjoy Florida’s tangerine sunset.
Tropicana Field and the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame
Hit one out of the park by visiting St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, home to the Tampa Bay Rays major league baseball team. Located inside the stadium you’ll find a nostalgic memorial to one of baseball’s greats, “Teddy Ballgame” Ted Williams – the last major league player to hit .400.
Ted Williams topped the charts in average hitting, RBI’s, and home runs throughout his 17 year career, placing him among other Baseball legends such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame commemorates his life and features baseball exhibits focusing on the Tampa Bay Rays, Triple Crown Winners, Negro’s League, and the Women’s League.
The Historic Sponge Docks
North of St. Petersburg lies the quaint town of Tarpon Springs, home to the historic Sponge Docks.
Tarpon Springs was settled by Greek immigrants who developed the town through sponge trade, turning this area into a worldwide site for sponge commerce. Today, visitors can tour the sponge docks and watch live sponge diving demonstrations. Greek shops and restaurants also line the docks, providing an allover Greek experience. If you want to enjoy the ocean water, go sightseeing on a narrated boat tour where you can hear about the town’s history while looking for dolphins, sting rays, and manatees.
The Dali Museum
St. Petersburg is home to quite a few galleries, but if you’ve only got time to tour one, visit the Dali Museum located downtown.
Step into wonderland at the Dali Museum and experience Salvador Dali’s eccentric imagination personified. The building and surrounding gardens were handcrafted to reflect the inventive spirit and unorthodox vision of the Dali.
A spiral staircase is the main feature of the building’s first floor which is commonly used for lectures, films, and educational discussions. The museum also features an extensive archive collection used by scholars and students, as well as two galleries for the artist’s work, ranging from the well-known oil paintings to his more obscure artworks including sculptures, printmaking pieces, creative writings, and films. Better yet, go early on Sunday and enjoy a yoga class in the museum’s Avant-Garden.
St. Petersburg’s Sunken Gardens
Enjoy the lush greenery and exotic plants at the Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, the city’s oldest living museum.
The Chihuly Gallery at the Morean Arts Center
In keeping with the wonderland theme, visit the Chihuly Collection downtown to see his vivacious artwork. Chihuly’s works are also featured in esteemed museums such as the Louvre and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Florida Holocaust Museum
Within walking distance to the St. Petersburg Museum of History, lies the Florida Holocaust Museum. This multi-floor museum displays various artifacts from the Holocaust including an actual boxcar on railway tracks that was used to transport prisoners. In addition to the photos, letters, and relics from that tragic time in history, the museum also displays contemporary works of art from Holocaust survivors. The collection at the museum continues to grow as it focusses on remembering Holocaust victims and promoting education about hate crimes.
When you’ve had your fill of attractions in downtown St. Petersburg, take a small drive south to Fort Desoto on Mullet Key. Explore the grounds and weaponry used to defend our nation during World War 1 and the Spanish-American War. The fort houses 4 massive 12-inch mortars used for firing cannons at enemy ships as well as 2 6-inch rapid fire batteries.
Fort Desoto is a great place to appreciate our nation’s soldiers and it also provides an opportunity to enjoy one of the nation’s leading beaches, Fort Desoto Beach. With soft white sand and calm waters, this dog-friendly ocean escape is a great way to enjoy the rest of the day. Nearby, there are also nature trails, Kayak rentals, and bird watching sites offered through Fort Desoto Park. Fort Desoto Park even maintains a campground, so you can stay in St. Petersburg as long as you’d like.
For more information, visit www.stpeteclearwater.com
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Dollar Photo Club.