St. Petersburg is Florida’s fourth largest city, with 61 square miles. The St. Pete, Tampa and Clearwater areas have a combined Jewish population of about 60,000. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the first-known Jews were Mr. and Mrs. Henry Schutz, who arrived from Germany in 1901 and opened a dry goods store, the only Jewish merchants for seven years. Their store on Central Avenue, which had a basket on a pulley to carry money to a balcony to make change, later served as a temporary home for St. Petersburg High School. Olga and Leon Manket opened a dry good store in 1908; their daughter Anne was the first-known Jewish child born there. The first-known boy was Julius Lovitz in 1909; the Lovitz family were the first-known Jews in Tarpon Springs, a Greek sponge fishing village. Sam Lovitz was known as “Mr. Jew Sam.” That family moved to Clearwater, and another relative, Abe Tarapani, had a store in St. Petersburg in 1911, before also moving to Tarpon Springs. The Ben Haliczers had a gas station and tire store from 1910 and had four children in Florida – two in St. Petersburg. Ben’s brother Leon arrived in 1921 and had a watch repair store.

 

 

In 1920 St. Petersburg had 14,000 people, streetcars, and daily band concerts in the park, unpaved streets, and people who went to the Beach to open businesses were thought “crazy.” The pioneer Jewish families’ names, in addition to those already mentioned, included Jacobs, Davis, Goldman, Sierkese, Cohen, Katz, Heller, Benjamin, Wittner, Rothblatt, Argintar, Lew, Solomon, and Gilbert. Some of these early families had come from Europe first to Key West, Florida, then migrated to other areas of Florida, including St. Petersburg. The Jews faced the “gentlemen’s agreement” and antisemitic signs, lived near Central Avenue and had bicycle, jewelry, and grocery stores. On Sundays and holidays, Jewish families would drive through Pinellas County to pick oranges at the groves for 50 cents a bushel or drive to the waterfront and swim, filling jugs with the water that supposedly had health-giving properties – an early spa. In the evenings, the families would congregate in each other’s homes to play poker and pinochle while their children played. They ordered kosher meat from Finman’s in Tampa, which was delivered by boat across Tampa Bay; often it arrived spoiled, which discouraged many from keeping kosher. By 1925 a bridge was built and the meat came by bus – a big improvement!

 

 

The Jews also went to Tampa for religious services until 1923, when Congregation B’nai Israel was chartered and Conservative services were held in a rented store. The first president was Hymen Jacobs, and daughter Goldie Schuster recalls, “The discrimination and the schools were worse than her native Chicago.” The first Jewish women’s organization, the Ladies Auxiliary, was organized by Dora Goldberg to help the needy. In 1928 Reform Jews founded Temple Beth-El. The membership outgrew its original small home in downtown St. Petersburg, moving to its present location in 1955, and completing the Religious School addition in 2002 to meet the needs of its 600 member families.

 

 

During World War II, many Jewish servicemen enjoyed the hospitality of the small Jewish community for Sabbath dinners and the Passover Seder. Bunny Rothblatt Katz collected scrap metal for the war effort in 1941 with her slogan “Your scrap will whip the Japs.” Her father, David, was a legless veteran who owned Southern Grocery and was active in both civic and Jewish affairs. After the war, the Jewish population grew rapidly to about 1,500 families, and the first Jewish nursery school was opened in 1959. Since 1960 Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services has been helping infants, children, families and elders in serious physical, medical, mental, social and financial crisis, enabling them to remain free and independent with families and loved ones. In 1970 Menorah Manor was built to serve the Jewish aged; it includes a nursing home and assisted living facility. Philip Benjamin Tower is an apartment complex adjacent to Menorah Manor. In the early 21st century plans were being made to build a $16 million North County Campus of Menorah Manor. In 1986 the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County approached Jim Dawkins and Karen Wolfson Dawkins to start and publish their own Jewish community newspaper for Pinellas County, Jewish Press, which continues bi-weekly.

 

 

Opened in 1992 on the grounds of the former Jewish Community Center of Pinellas County in Madeira Beach, The Florida Holocaust Museum (www.flholocaustmuseum.org) – the fourth largest Holocaust museum in the U.S. – moved in 1998 to the heart of St. Petersburg’s museum district. The permanent exhibit includes an original boxcar from Poland once used to transport prisoners during the Holocaust. Traveling art and historical exhibitions change regularly, and the museum is currently the only one of its kind in the country to house a permanent art collection related to the Holocaust. The museum was begun as the vision of St. Petersburg philanthropist and businessman Walter Loebenberg, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1939, together with a group of other business and community leaders.

 

 

The Jewish Federation of Pinellas County has the following beneficiary agencies: Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, Pinellas County Jewish Day School, Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center in Clearwater, and TOP Jewish Foundation. A Jewish demographic study in Pinellas County in 1993 showed 24,200 Jews who live there year round. Most have come from Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The congregational roster for Pinellas County includes five Reform, three Conservative, two Orthodox, and one independent.

 

 

A visit to St. Pete-Clearwater

  Over the years my family and I have had many enjoyable trips to Florida. In most cases, we stayed in the Miami Beach area. However, working with the Canadian office of Visit Florida, I was encouraged to consider a trip to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area (http://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com) and over the Christmas holidays we did just that.

 

 

Beach House Suites by Loews and the Don CeSar

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We were very fortunate to obtain accommodations at the Beach House Suites by Loews Don CeSar (https://www.loewshotels.com/don-cesar). The hotel debuted its total room renovation in February 2016, introducing 70 brand-new all-suite accommodations. The resort, located directly on St. Pete Beach and just one-half mile from the iconic and posh Loews Don CeSar Hotel, is perfect for extended stays, smaller groups and families. Each suite includes a separate living room with sofa bed, washers and dryers and a kitchenette with mini-refrigerator, dishwasher, Keurig coffeemaker, microwave, toaster and induction stove top. Special details such as spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico, private balconies and stellar Loews-style service complement the new suites and make vacations at Beach House Suites that much more memorable. We felt very much at home, especially when a tray of Chanukah cookies was delivered to our room. On one of our first days at the pool we met a Jewish family from Hampstead.

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Beach House Suites is a non-smoking property and welcomes pets ($45 per night pet fee applies). There is a daily resort fee of $25 per room. This  entitles guests to all the amenities and activities at Loews Don CeSar Hotel: complimentary shuttle service to each hotel and downtown St. Pete, high speed Wi-Fi (thumbs up to this service in the room and at the pool), 24-hour fitness center access, yoga and aerobics classes daily, non-motorized watersport rentals (8 am to 10 am), half-day access to Camp CeSar for the little ones, history tours and complimentary tastings, two bottled waters daily, pressreader access, in-room  coffee, turn down service upon request, poolside pampering, pool and beach games, airline boarding pass printing and 24-hour shoe

 

 

Pet-friendly rooms are available on the first floor only, so one must call 866-728-2206 to check availability.

 

 

When we first booked this place we were excited to know that we had full access to the Don CeSar. You can get their by walking, via the shuttle or taking your own vehicle. I was even provided with a neat book upon checking in about the hotel’s history. They even provided guided tours each day. We quickly discovered that lounging by the pool at the Beach House Suites was a solid option. For one thing, the pool area was never overly crowded. The pool attendants set up our chairs and umbrellas each day. We swam in the nicely heated pool and took advantage of the warm and soothing Jacuzzi. Nice music plays on the speaker system. You can play a game of ping pong, shuffleboard or check out the giant chessboard. There is a full bar where you can get some great smoothies and food items – the latter delivered within a half hour from the Don CeSar. And of course it is a nice option to be able to go back to your own room when you wish for a rest, collect some snacks or make a sandwich.

 

 

Manager Andrew Isherwood and his staff do pay close attention to everyone’s needs. I was impressed with how quickly Andrew remembered the names and room numbers of each guest. During his daily walkabouts he’d stop me near the pool or lobby to find out how everything was going. It is this type of individual attention I truly appreciated about the Beach House Suites.

 

 

We did take advantage though of the full resort privileges at the Don CeSar, aka the Pink Palace, where room charging options are available  at Spa Oceana, shops, and restaurants, including the award-winning Four-Diamond Maritana Grille and the newly opened Rowe Bar.

 

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There are two beachfront heated pools. The poolside concierge provides everything from cucumber hydration to tropical smoothies.  With programs like Loews Loves Kids and Loews Loves Pets, everyone in the family is sure to have a great time at the Pink Palace. And that includes your favorite four-legged friend.

 

 

Loews Don CeSar Hotel partners with the award-winning Boucher Brothers Management to pamper guests during their day on the beautiful St. Pete Beach. Take a walk from the pool deck and have some fun on the Gulf of Mexico, seeing the beautiful pink castle from a different view while cruising on wave runners or exploring on ocean kayaks. We got to spend one day lounging in private daybeds and chilling out on a chaise for a luxurious take on fun in the sun at the Loews.  Lunch and drinks were available right at our chairs via the Beachcomber. In terms of beach rentals, run by the Boucher brothers, luxury beach lounges cost $10; Beach Sand Chairs, $8; Large Umbrellas, $15; Deluxe Beach Cabanas, $30 and those Luxury Beach Beds, $100.

 

 

We also took advantage of the Jet Ski rentals. It is $120 per hour or $60 for a half hour after lunch time. You will save some money if you book it in the morning. The staff will sit you down in the Jet Ski in the water, provide a series of guidelines and then allow you to start the motor and go on your merry way. This was a real “rush” for my family. 

 

 

You can book your choice experience right at the hotel or call in advance and ask to be connected to someone from the Boucher Brothers team.

 

 

Lunch at the Don CeSar’s Sea Porch is another option. The Chef de Cuisine ensures fresh catches, comfort food, and local coastal flavors that cater to all appetites. This seaside location, with both indoor and outdoor seating, is the perfect place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Groups can enjoy the upper level, Gatsby’s, with sliding doors, a great choice for exclusive, private functions for up to 30 people. 

 

 

The signature Loews Loves Kids programs are designed to make it fun—and easy—for families to travel with children and teens. No matter how old your kids are, they are guaranteed to have as good a time as you do. From lending libraries of games to childproofing kits, they have everything to make your family’s travel as seamless as possible. A “Kids Closet” offers items available for guests to use during their stay. These include toys, books, car seats, strollers, nightlights, potty seats, baby bathtub, baby blankets, outlet protectors, self-contained DVD players with age-appropriate DVDs—and more. There are children’s menus, with healthy options, plus fun books with crayons. Cribs and roll-away beds are also available for in-room use

 

 

There is a list of nearby tourist attractions and activities recommended for children, as well as nearby pharmacies, pediatricians and bonded babysitting services. For babysitting needs, simply contact the concierge for arrangements and fees or more information.

 

 

Each summer, families can make a splash in the pool and enjoy a family-friendly “dive-in” movie.

 

 

As for things to do at the hotel, don’t miss a trip to Uncle Andy’s Ice Cream Parlor for some homemade ice cream. Go shelling on the white powder beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Take part in hourly games and activities for children of all ages, including sand-castle building, treasure hunts and obstacle courses. Check out the indigenous fish in the aquarium off lobby.

 

 

Kids from aged four to 12 can spend the day exploring the beaches and garden surroundings of the Don. Exciting and kid-friendly activities include beach crafts, seashell hunting, and castle contests, pool games and special Kids Night Out events. You must provide 24-hour advance reservations by calling 727-360-1881 x2233.

 

 

For teens the Loews Don CeSar  offers a combination of entertaining, fun and educational activities to occupy your hard-to-please teens and tweens who receive music download cards, a list of nearby tourist attractions, activities and shopping geared to teens and access to a lending library of Gameboys, DVD players, board games, and more.

 

 

One of the hotel’s senior executives, Director of Rooms Justin Stern, is Jewish.

 

 

The Maritana Grill

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It turned out that one of the more outstanding restaurants in St. Pete was right at the Don CeSar. The Maritana Grille exudes fine dining. Our meal there was a true experience, thanks very much in part to our superb server Tim who guided us perfectly through each portion of the meal. There is a reason why this made it as a USA Today 10 Best acclaimed restaurant. It features food sourced from local farms, dairies, and fishermen and includes traditional contemporary favorites prepared with a creative twist.  The menu is accented with an extensive wine list, first-class service, and a stunning setting, graced by dazzling salt water aquariums. Ask about the private Chef’s Table, where your entire dinner experience is specially created and presented by the talented culinary team—the perfect setting for special occasions or whenever the mood strikes. In this case you are seated right in the kitchen.

 

 

We began with some drinks, the pink pearl consisting of chopin vodka, Chambord, champagne sparkle and fresh raspberry. On this night, a fabulous seafood platter was available. It consisted of some crabs, large shrimp and six kusshi British Columbia oysters, with champagne mignonette and cocktail sauce.   In addition, we ordered some delicious tuna sashimi (with ginger vinaigrette, lemongrass aioli and ginger crunch) to share while one member of party selected the roasted carrot bisque. This literally tasted like candy it was so good, featuring toasted coriander, lime and chili oil.

 

 

For the main course, Tim went over the many sumptuous options. We took some time before settling on three dishes: Maine lobster, with hand cut pappardelle, asparagus spears, trumpet mushrooms and lobster cream; an extraordinary serving of Chilean sea bass, with confit potatoes, asparagus, oyster mushrooms, herb foam and port lemon reduction; and an Anderson Ranch Lamb Rack, with celery root purée, sweet pea gnocchi, carrots and mint pesto. Tim would also make a great sommelier, for he matched different glasses of wine with each of our dinners to absolute perfection.

 

 

The dessert options were tantalizing to say the least. We opted for the olive oil cake (white chocolate ice cream, vanilla custard, black pepper strawberries and olive oil powder), the key lime semi fredo (graham cracker whipped cream, crushed blackberry sauce, meringue kisses and blackberry sherbet) and mocha spheres (dark chocolate espresso, coconut ice cream, caramel cream and cocoa toast). This was definitely an opportunity to share, so we dove into each one at a time. Needless to say, there was not a crumb left on any of the plates.

 

 

Open for dinner daily at 5:30 pm, reservations are strongly recommended. You can call 727-360-1882, email cbarrett@loewshotels.com and log on to the full menu on the hotel website.    Hats off to chef Mouhssine Benhamacht and his team.

 

 

Harold Seltzer’s Steakhouse

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Canadians in particular will want to visit Harold Seltzer’s Steakhouse. I quickly learned that Harold is a native Montrealer whose grandfather Sam was one of the city’s most legendary butchers.

 

 

Upon arriving at the St. Pete locale, I felt right at home. There was the well-lit up sign no passing car could miss, several model cows near the entrance, a packed parking lot accompanied by a sizable lineup for tables and a menu which looked oh so familiar.

 

 

Harold Seltzer was only eight years old when he started to work at his grandfather’s iconic butcher shop in Montreal for 75 cents an hour. As he grew up, he learned the business inside out and put himself through school by waiting on tables and working in management for different restaurants. While he chose a different career path and became a commercial tax real estate lawyer, the food industry remained close to his heart

 

 

Sam Seltzer (1905-1997) began working as a young boy delivering packages of meat on the streetcars of Montreal. He worked for the butcher shop of the man who would become his father-in-law and eventually opened up one of his own, which he became deservedly famous for more than 60 years.

 

 

Harold’s father Nelson and his uncle Norman took over the family business and grew it to greater heights, serving the finest cuts of aged and marbled beef to individuals, as well as the better restaurants, hotels and private clubs in Montreal. Nelson also owned and operated many restaurants in Canada, before returning to the meat and wholesale food business and still works full time. 

 

 

In 1995 an opportunity presented itself to launch a steakhouse concept in the Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida area and Harold jumped at it. He called the restaurant Sam Seltzer’s Steakhouse, after his legendary grandfather, and from the first 1,000 seat dining establishment in Tampa it grew into a chain of 30, with other locations in such places as Clearwater, Orlando, Sarasota, St. Pete, Port Richey and Fort Myers.

 

 

Harold sold his interests in Sam Seltzer`s Steakhouse in 2004. One night, six years later, he was watching the news and saw that the entire chain was shutting down. He was shocked and felt particularly bad for the staff who would be out of work. A few days later he purchased the contents of the St. Pete and Port Richey locales and reopened under the new name of Harold Seltzer`s Steakhouse.

 

 

Harold Seltzer’s Steakhouse is reputed to have the best prime rib in town and can personally attest to how good it is. He buys all of his beef in bulk and ages it for five to six weeks to make it more tender. They make their own dough each day in order to serve homemade dinner rolls and croutons and house-made dressings and they have strict meat handling approaches. From the time the meat is produced, Harold’s has control over it. It is cut in-house and aged a minimum of 35 days.

 

 

Besides the prime rib, members of our party also ordered the 10 once rib eye and the filet mignon. We began our meal with delicious house salads and bowls of another speciality, the lobster bisque.

 

 

The St. Pete restaurant seats about 350 people. Their menu and ambience is very much like some Montreal steakhouses we have known. Take the millefeuilles for example. Harold orders them on palates from Les Delices Lafrenaie in St. Leonard and calls them the Napoleon. Well we made sure to save room for this favorite, sharing two among the three of us. Harold also brings in his signature steak spices from Montreal;

 

 

Harold spends four to five nights at the restaurant. “I tell my staff all of the time that we are not in the restaurant business; we are in the entertainment and hospitality business,” he said. “All of our team go the extra mile.

 

 

 

It was impressive to watch Harold in action. For one thing he stopped at every table to chat and most customers spoke to him on a first name basis. He cleared dishes and when I went to the washroom there he was cleaning the sink counters. A little later I saw him circulating in the kitchen.

 

 

 

The St. Petersburg restaurant is located at 3500 Tyrone Blvd. while the one in Port Richey is at Gulf View Square Mall.  Log on to www.seltzerssteakhouse.com

 

 

 

Downtown St. Petersburg has many excellent dining options. The international Ruth’s Chris Steak House has an absolute winner of a franchise here. I cannot remember a better Porterhouse Steak that the three of us shared happily. Also check out 400 Beach Seafood and Taphouse on trendy Beach Drive.

 

 

Plenty of Things To Do

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White-sand Florida beaches with crystal-clear water, a foodie and arts scene praised by Travel & Leisure, and glittering nightlife options that range from craft beer bars to New York-style dance clubs—in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, the op  ions are endless for whatever kind of vacation you’re yearning for, be it rejuvenating or exhilarating.

 

 

Along with award-winning beautiful beaches, St. Petersburg is home to the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum, top-rated restaurants and beautiful Fort De Soto Park. This waterfront escape is a perfect family getaway with so much to explore. The city, which glimmers between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, is known for its warm weather and for holding the title of “most consecutive days with sunshine” at 768. Downtown St. Petersburg is the city’s heart, home to great shopping, restaurants, bars and attractions. We spent some real quality time there and enjoyed excellent meals at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and 400 Beach Seafood and Taphouse.

 

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After making a stop to check out the largest collection of Dali’s work outside of Spain, swing by the Chihuly Collection on picturesque Beach Drive to witness mind-blowing glasswork. Beach Drive anchors downtown shopping, dining and entertainment districts that include outdoor cafes and restaurants, world class museums and a dazzling array of shops, galleries, businesses, hotels and bed and breakfasts that line the city’s pedestrian-friendly streets. Grab a sweet treat at Kilwin’s Chocolate or browse along the many galleries and jewelry shops. 

 

 

We went to the Dali Museum (http://thedali.org) on a Thursday evening. Located in the heart of   downtown St. Petersburg, this is home to an unparalleled collection of Salvador Dali art. It features more than 2,000 works, comprising nearly 100 oil paintings, over 100 watercolors and drawings and 1,300 prints, photographs, sculptures and art objects. The building is itself a work of art, featuring 1,062 triangular-shaped glass panels—the only structure of its kind in North America. Nicknamed The Enigma, it provides an unprecedented view of St. Petersburg’s picturesque waterfront. The Museum has attracted the world’s attention, and was listed by AOL Travel News as “one of the top buildings to see in your lifetime.”

 

 

I was thoroughly impressed with the experience and definitely list this as a “must see” for anyone in the area. Make sure to take advantage of the audio tour, available in several different languages. Many of the art work is labelled by numbers, so it is easy to pick up the commentary of relevant background information. I definitely acquired an increased fascination with Dali when I completed the gallery.

 

 

The museum recently announced two new permanent installations for the public to enjoy: a breathtaking new outdoor sculpture of Salvador Dali’s memorable mustache, and, inside its galleries, the awe-inspiring and globally award-winning Dreams of Dali virtual reality (VR) experience. First introduced as a component of the special exhibition Disney & Dali: Architects of the Imagination (January-June 2016), Dreams of Dali allows users to go inside – and beyond – Dali’s 1935 painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus” and explore the world of the Surrealist master like never before. The VR experience and its component 360-degree video received visitor acclaim, online praise and international recognition through a multitude of industry awards, including the prestigious 2016 Cannes Cyber Lion Gold; a 2016 Webby People’s Voice award; Facebook Silver award for Innovation, among many others.

 

 

Visitors to the museum are engulfed by art in every form – from the magnificent works of the talented Salvador Dali on display and installations in the outdoor Avant-garden. The Garden was inspired by local flora and Dali’s fascination with duality in art and nature, and is home to a tree where visitors can share their wishes, a meandering labyrinth, a tranquil “melting clock” bench, and myriad mathematical environmental elements. One of the most popular attractions in the Garden, known as the ideal spot to take photos and share via social media, was a colossal three-dimensional mustache that over time began to deteriorate.

 

 

Through April 17, 2017, the Dali is presenting the work of one of the most celebrated female artists of all time, Frida Kahlo. Her works have achieved significant importance in art, popular culture and the politics of personal identity. The exhibition features more than 60 pieces, including 15 original paintings – many of them among Kahlo’s own favorites – seven drawings, and more than 45 of her personal photographs. 

 

 

The exhibition celebrates the beautiful yet tumultuous life of the iconic artist. There are, in a sense, two Fridas we learn: the suffering, pain-wracked Frida and the Frida alive to the joys of the universe. The exhibition demonstrates that despite her troubles, Frida’s legacy is her redeeming art and indomitable spirit. The Dali Museum is located at One Dali Boulevard. For additional information contact 727-823-3767.  

 

 

Downtown St. Petersburg is known for its urban art scene, where you can see dozens of painted murals on a stroll down Central Ave. The St. Pete Mural Tour takes you on a guided journey through the colorful streets of the city with tours led by local artists who uncover the vibrant stories of the creators behind the murals.   You might also want to check out the Museum of Fine Arts or the Florida Holocaust Museum.

 

 

There are some live theatre options here. Visit the Sunken Gardens, a botanical paradise in the midst of the city. As St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum, this 100-year-old garden is home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the region.

 

 

We met some people with young kids who really enjoyed the Great Explorations Children’s Museum.  Designed for children 10 and under, the 24,000 square foot museum is filled with exhibits and activities to stimulate learning through creativity, play and exploration. The museum is a learning playground where children can make a discovery, make a mess, and even make a new friend.

 

 

In terms of downtown parking, there are private valets. If you are going to one of the restaurants connected to a specific valet, there is generally validation where you can save half the price. One night I choose a public lot, which was double the price but unlike the valets there was no curfew to worry about.

 

 

Check out Fort De Soto Park at 3500 Pinellas Bayway South. Fort De Soto Park is 1,100-plus acres, made up of five interconnected islands, featuring two fishing piers, a historic fort, seven miles of paved trails and iconic North Beach.  Explore the two piers at Fort De Soto Park. Visitors can enjoy two piers at beautiful Fort De Soto Park. One is on the bay side and the other is on the Gulf. The Bay Pier provides an awesome view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the left and to the right you will see an island with a lighthouse on it – that is Egmont Key. The Gulf Fishing Pier is the longest at more than 1,000 feet and with no charge to fish on the pier; it has become a popular spot for locals and visitors alike!

 

 

Interested in kayaking through the mangroves at Fort De Soto Park? Stop by the Topwater Kayak Outpost to explore the calm waters that weave through the mangroves. Manaphins and dolphins are a common sighting in these waters.

 

 

During our stay we were steered towards   Pass-a-Grille Beach. Located at the southernmost end of St. Pete Beach, historic Pass-A-Grille is a quaint, laid back beach town where you can park your car and walk to the beach, boutiques, ice cream shop, outdoor art market, restaurants, tennis courts and fishing piers. There were many road repairs going on when we visited.

 

 

St. Petersburg is actually the physical home of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Major League Baseball team that many hope will one day relocate to Montreal. They play out of Tropicana Field near the downtown area.

 

 

Clearwater is about 45 minutes away. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the home of Winter and Hope, stars of the sequel to box office hit “Dolphin Tale.” Clearwater Marine Aquarium operates as a marine hospital with its main mission to rescue, rehab and release.

 

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Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill in Clearwater was started by a Quebecer. We passed by but did not have time this trip to indulge in a fresh-caught Grouper sandwich just feet from the white sands of Clearwater Beach. Frenchy’s, which has five local restaurants, is a staple of Clearwater Beach.

 

 

Consider a Dolphin Cruise aboard the Sea Screamer. Soak in the sunshine aboard a dolphin cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Watch as dolphins play in the boat’s wake by wowing everyone with playful jumps. This area is home to the largest pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

 

 

Named the number one beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor this year, you’re sure to find your perfect spot in the sand on Clearwater Beach. Rent a cabana and beach umbrella from a local vendor, or walk toward the more residential north side of the beach for a little serenity away from the bustling scene of Pier 60 and Clearwater Marina.

 

 

Take a stroll to Sunsets at Pier 60 festival- a local institution in Clearwater Beach. This free, family event takes place 365 days a year, weather permitting. Next year, the daily festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Explore the various artisans, crafters, street performers and musicians and take in a great sunset.

 

 

Visitors can enjoy the best of all worlds in St. Petersburg/Clearwater, from award-winning beaches to theme parks and everything in between. A dazzling array of world-class museums, galleries and performing arts have made St. Petersburg/Clearwater the cultural gem of Florida’s west coast, including the world-renowned Dali Museum.

 

 

Along with the areas many pristine beaches and barrier islands, a wealth of parks and preserves offer a fascinating look at nature. Outstanding fishing and scores of water sports and eco-tours are popular activities along the area’s 35 miles of coastline. Back on land, golfers can tee off at more than 40 courses.

 

 

The area’s eclectic mix of beach and downtown communities provides diverse options for hotels, dining, shopping and nightlife, from sophisticated resorts and nightclubs to casual beachside dining and surf shops. Numerous year-round events add to the fun including art and music festivals and professional sports games.

 

 

If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll find family-friendly things to do to keep your whole group entertained. Outdoor lovers won’t be disappointed with all the sporting adventures that abound: from boating, sailing, stand-up paddle boarding and other watersports, to horseback riding on the beach, to highly rated golf courses and hiking and biking trails.

 

 

The events calendar is always full, and features everything from big-name concerts and performances to Saturday art walks and annual seafood and music festivals.  

 

 

What I liked most about St. Pete was that even though we visited during a very busy period, tourist stops, shopping malls, restaurants and even the highways were not overly congested like we have seen too many times in the South Florida area. We only had nine days to explore, so a second trip to St. Pete/Clearwater is definitely on our wish list.

The Best Rental Car Option

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Booking a rental car from a good agency represents an important component to any holiday. On our recent trip to St. Petersburgh, Florida we had our first experience with Fox Rent A Car (https://www.foxrentacar.com/en/faqs.html). Our Air Canada flight landed at the airport in Tampa. A free shuttle brought us to their area headquarters where we drove away with a Chrysler 300. I really liked this vehicle.  It even came with Sirius XM Satellite Radio. At Fox you’ll find economy cars, family-size cars, SUVs, mini-vans and luxury or sport vehicles available for your discount rental.  

 

 

The shuttle pickup was very smooth. Our driver Robert was a real gentleman, loading and unloading all of our luggage. It is a pleasant 10 minute drive from the airport, where a friendly staff awaits and checks you in promptly. The gentleman at the desk signed me in and then walked me to the Chrysler, loading our luggage and giving me an overview of the car’s features. We brought our own GPS, but Fox will provide you with one.

 

 

Fox is the fifth largest car rental company in the US and it continues expanding globally   with new locations now open for reservations in the popular tourist markets of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Merida, Mexico, Auckland, New Zealand, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada and Istanbul, Turkey.

 

 

“We are very happy to expand with our new airport partners in Canada, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Turkey and Mexico to bring the Fox value and brand experience to travelers in these growing leisure rental markets” said Jack Wetzel, Director of Fox Affiliate Division for Fox Rent A Car. “We continue to seek out new partners and business location opportunities to expand our car rental service to loyal Fox customers around the globe.”

 

 

The addition of these new locations enables Fox to now reach an additional 52 million international travelers and expand its value-based rental service around the world through. Overall Fox has more than 12 locations in 29 countries and territories, including the United States and with an available fleet of over 60,000 vehicles worldwide.

 

Fox Rent A Car, Inc. was founded in 1989, as a value-based car rental brand catering to airport travelers. Actively managed and owned by its founders, Fox has enjoyed robust growth for over 25 years. Fox Rent A Car offers consumers great value, convenience and superior service at 20 major corporate owned airport locations cross the US plus more than 90 affiliate locations and a growing roster of international partner locations at www.foxrentacar.com.

 

 

With 20 major airport locations across the US, Fox offers the consumer the same selection of foreign and domestic vehicles at a significant discount from the larger rental operators in the market. As the 21st century traveler becomes more discerning and cost-conscious, the Fox brand will continue to gain acceptance and a loyal following, founded on the principle of consistently offering value and superior service to the customer.

 

 

I was very impressed with the Tampa operation, managed by Johnny Hubner. The airport is currently undergoing major renovations. When completed in early 2018, there will be a new rental car facility at which point Fox will relocate.

 

 

Fox has been in Florida for five years now, with locations in Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Their prices are significantly better than the competition. “Pricing is obviously a big factor when renting a car,” says Hubner. “That and of course the reputation of the company. I believe we stand out on both counts.”

 

 

The Tampa location is open 24 hours a day.

 

 

For more information call (800) 225-4369 Ext. 1 or (310) 641-3838 Ext. 1

 

 

For customer service call toll free (800) 225-4369 Ext. 9 Fox does assist with reserving vehicles with hand controls. Fox cannot provide hand controls on every make or model of vehicle, and cannot confirm a reservation for a particular make or model of vehicle on any rental. Please call (800) 225-4369 at least 72 hours in advance to make your reservation.

 

 

For assistance with a wheelchair-accessible shuttle, you can call (800) 225-4369.

 

 

Yes folks, I highly recommend a trip to the St. Pete- Clearwater area.