For the more than twenty years I’ve lived in the Tampa Bay area, the city of St. Petersburg, Florida, has had a vibe all its own. What some consider the playground of retirees is surprisingly creative and diverse and fun. St. Pete’s SHINE Mural Festival invites artists from around the globe to revitalize public spaces. Glass works by Dale Chihuly reside in a building designed specifically to showcase his art. And the new St. Pete Pier boasts a terrific display of public art, including “First Flight” by Mark Aeling, a life-sized stainless steel airboat that nods to the city’s place in aviation history.
St. Pete has other assets to recommend it: a thriving downtown restaurant scene, a Saturday Morning Market that’s the stuff of farmers’ market legend, and of course, white-sand beaches with clear, turquoise water just a short drive to the west. But it’s the art and design, above all, that I tout to visiting friends and family. Here are some of my favorite ways to experience it:
A Modern Take
The only museum dedicated to America’s Arts and Crafts design history is in downtown St. Pete. The five-story, 137,000-square-foot Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement houses furniture, lighting, fine arts, metalwork, textiles, pottery, and photography from between 1890 and 1930. Some of the most celebrated artists of the era are represented, including Tiffany Studios, Frank LLoyd Wright, Charles Rohlfs, and Margaret Patterson. A free smartphone audio tour walks visitors through seventy-five works of interest, and the building itself is a showpiece for the period.
More than four hundred works of art, including sculptures, paintings. and jewelry, are on display at the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art. The once private collection of modern works is now beautifully displayed in eight spacious galleries, which you can experience on a forty-five-minute complimentary public tour (with admission). From Far East to West: The Chinese American Frontier is on exhibit through January 28, and you shouldn’t miss the pop art, cubist, and surrealist interpretations in the New West Gallery.
For more than forty years, the preeminent collection of Salvador Dalí’s artwork outside of Spain has resided in downtown St. Pete. The Dalí Museum holds more than 2,400 works by the surrealist master, including oil paintings, original drawings, book illustrations, prints, sculpture, and manuscripts. Dalí enthusiasts will delight in seeing pieces like Daddy Longlegs of the Evening-Hope! and Aphrodisiac Telephone (also known as Lobster Telephone) up close. The museum also hosts exhibits featuring the likes of Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, and Frida Kahlo. Dalí & the Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Degas & More is currently running through April 2024.
A New Golden Age
One of Florida’s iconic pink palaces has proudly stood on the shores of Tampa Bay in downtown St. Pete for nearly one hundred years. Like any palace her age, the Vinoy Resort and Golf Club, Autograph Collection was due for a refresh that held true to her rich history. Earlier this year the hotel unveiled renovations to its legendary veranda, lobby, and guest rooms, and the property added a new spa and fitness center. Dining at the Vinoy got an update too, including the addition of Lottie, a French patisserie serving sweets and lunchtime bites in the lobby, and the Latin-inspired poolside restaurant Parasol.