Breaking Tampa Bay, Florida and national news and weather from Tampa Bay Online and The Tampa Tribune | TBO.com
Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

Travel makes the heart grow fonder


Published:

Maybe it's inevitable when you live in a world-class travel destination, but I found myself making comparisons last weekend when my wife and I spent a few days in Savannah.

The historic district's oak-shaded squares and assortment of restaurants, bars and shops have become an annual ritual for us. We love parking the car and spending our time wandering the brick-paved streets - with or without a "to-go" cup in hand - and the fun that comes from discovering new neighborhoods and restaurants and saying "hello" to old favorites.

Being there made me wonder whether we could have that sort of walkable vacation here. Though St. Petersburg is considerably larger than Savannah, I'm not sure we boast the same type of draw, where you can walk and walk for days on end and still keep discovering new things, or seeing familiar places in new ways.

Downtown certainly offers a lot. You could have a lot of fun - as we did a few years ago, when we were living in Largo and booked an overnight stay at the Vinoy - venturing out each night, exploring the hot spots along Beach Drive and Central Avenue. There's even more downtown now, as the nightlife expands onto adjacent blocks and the area grows into more of an urban neighborhood.

If you stayed at the Vinoy or at one of the boutique hotels north of Central, you could certainly have some fun exploring Old Northeast. Its stately homes may not be as rich in history as Savannah's, but there's a lot to charm any visitor there; and if you stroll as far as Coffee Pot Bayou, you'll be amply rewarded for the ache you might feel in your legs the next morning.

On the other hand, you could head west and explore emerging neighborhoods, such as the Edge District, near Tropicana Field, or the Grand Central District, where a new art gallery or restaurant seems to open every week.

Soon, you'll be able to take a ferry between downtown St. Pete and Pass-A-Grille, an excursion that gets you a change of scenery and a remarkable view of the Sunshine Skyway. Or you could hop on the Central Avenue Trolley and then connect to the free beach trolley to explore the communities along Gulf Boulevard.

While Dunedin is smaller and a little more isolated, I can imagine worse places to spend a few days. Walking along the water, trying all those eclectic bars and restaurants, renting a bike and exploring the Pinellas Trail - What else could you ask for? And maybe you could hop in the car for a drive up to Honeymoon Island and spend the day on the water in a rented kayak.

Of course - and this is one of the real treasures of our area - once you're in the car, you're not far from so many wonderful day trip destinations, many in Pinellas County.

The truth is that, while we may be different than Savannah or other top travel destinations, we are no less wonderful. That might be the real value of getting away, regardless of where we go. Traveling allows us to hit the reset button and to view our own backyard with the sense of wonder and adventure that helps us get the most out of living in such a special place.

Meet the editor

This week, I'll be stopping by the Fork & Cork Café, at 701 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg - right next to the Morean Arts Center. If you're free, please stop by and join the conversation.

jscullin@tampatrib.com

(727) 828-6150

Twitter: jscullinTBO

Comments