Rates start at $199
TradeWinds Island Grand
Rates start at $129
Winter, the celebrity dolphin from the family blockbuster
"Dolphin Tale," has become Clearwater's biggest attraction, drawing
waves of families to these Gulf Coast shores a half hour west of
Tampa International Airport.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a working marine veterinary
facility where you'll see examination rooms, along with plenty of
props from the Hollywood movie. Kids can also feed stingrays and
watch trainers attach Winter's prosthetic tail.
But the aquarium is only one of the many things to do in
Clearwater and neighboring St. Petersburg. Miles of pristine,
powdery-soft shores, combined with world-class art museums, have
made this a popular vacation destination.
Our trip, in part courtesy of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater,
visitstpeteclearwater.com, began at the swanky
Sandpearl Resort, located on a magnificent wide stretch of
Clearwater's white sandy beach. There's a kid-friendly zero-entry
beachfront pool, soothing spa and complimentary beach cruisers for
a scenic bike ride.
Sandpearl's on the main drag of Clearwater Beach, where you'll
find hip restaurants, surf shops and sweet spots for dessert. It's
also just a 10-minute walk to Pier 60, where there's a nightly
A half hour south of Clearwater, you'll find St. Petersburg, or
St. Pete, as locals call it. On your way, stop to eat and stroll at
John's Pass, an old-fashioned waterfront boardwalk filled with fun
restaurants and funky shops. We grabbed a table at The Hut, had a
tasty grouper sandwich and drank in the stunning views.
Our home base in St. Pete was TradeWinds Island Grand, a
sprawling resort with a kids' club, pirate shows and paddleboats
for little ones. A three-story beachfront waterslide keeps teens
and tweens from retreating to their iPods. There's also a romantic
Italian restaurant for the adults.
If you can tear yourself away from the beautiful beach, you'll
find St. Pete has first-class cultural credentials. The new
Salvador Dali Museum, a stunning, geodesic domed glass structure,
is a modern masterpiece overlooking the Tampa Bay waterfront. Down
the street is the Museum of Fine Arts and across the street is the
Chihuly Collection, showcasing the glass artist's vibrant and
delicate creations (not a good choice for anyone with small
children or clumsy family members).
Beautiful beaches, an amazing art scene and Clearwater's newest
celebrity, Winter the dolphin, make a trip to Central Florida's
Gulf Coast a perfect fit for families with culture vultures and
beach bums. You'll head home in a Sunshine State of mind that
hopefully lasts at least until the tulips bloom.
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