A November 2001 trip
to St. Petersburg by Eve Carr
Quote: I knew that the St. Petersburg/ Clearwater area of Florida has terrific beaches, but on this trip, I discovered a whole new world of culture, entertainment, and food. Let me share it with you.
For starters, there's the modern Salvador Dali Museum; the Florida International Museum; the quaint Greek Village of Tarpon Springs; the peaceful surroundings of the Florida Botanical Gardens; Cypress Gardens-- which has something for the whole family; the Bok Tower & Gardens National Historic Landmark; and Florida's newest aviation attraction, Fantasy of Flight.
I’ll tell you about staying at a cozy cottage right on the beach at Treasure Island, Florida, visiting the quaint Suncoast General Store, and getting to pet a pelican at the Suncoast Seabitrd Sanctuary.
Best of all, I want to let you know you about the elegant cuisine and surroundings at Chalet Suzanne and the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, where you can enjoy modern amenities along with the style and panache of another area.
But, don't miss the chance to enjoy the decidedly upscale ambiance of the Old World Renaissance Vinoy Resort, which dates back to 1925. Stay here, dine here and you'll experience elegance, as well as friendliness. With easy walking distance from the Vinoy, you'll find a whole handful of museums--ranging from the stylistic creations of Dali, to the hands-on kids museum.
Warning, once you're here, you'll wish you had made plans to stay longer. For sure, when you see how much there is to enjoy--from having a butterfly land on you at Cypress Gardens to pigging out on seafood, you'll want to return.
You'll also be able to stop along the way at places such as The Lobster Pot, where you'll be able to savor seafood--and a wide range of other delicacies, especially Key Lime Pie.
Inland, in Central Florida you'll want to treat yourself to Polk County with an incredible dining experience at the elegant Chalet Suzanne--and Florida's newest aviation attraction, the Fantasy of Flight.
Driving south, you then be able to check out all that's happening in St. Petersburg. It sounds like a lot of driving, but it really isn't because these locations are relatively close--and, with so many things to do, you're never really driving for a long period of time
Hotel | "Seahorse Cottages & Apartments"
Although the cottages also face Gulf Blvd, it was incredibly quiet at night, and we had some wonderfully restful sleep here. Also, we had more towels here than at many hotels we''ve stayed at--and, upon arrival, we were treated to a plateful of homemade cookies!
It was especially nice to have a compact kitchen where we could store sodas in the fridge, and cook if we were so inclined.
There are many places nearby where you can get supplies or grab a bite to eat. We really liked the Suncoast General Store at 108 107th Avenue, which has a little of everything--from draft beer and wine to gourmet coffee--and some absolutely delicious hand-crafted jellies. We even got a $2 bill in change!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 22, 2001
Seahorse Cottages & Apartments
10356 Gulf Blvd.
St. Petersburg, Florida 33706
Restaurant | "Mykonos Authentic Greek Cookery"
At the Mykonos family restaurant, for example, you can treat your taste buds to such authentic Greek delicacies such as and Soutzoukakia (ground beef and Greek herbs, charbroiled on a skewer), Taramosalata (fresh caviar spread), and patatokeftedes (pan-fried Greek potato patties). Accompany these with delicious Greek village bread and pastries from their own bakery, and you’ll think that you’ve been transported to Greece.
For more information about the two Mykonos restaurants, other Greek dining possibilities, and a unique place go, visit http://www.tarponsprings.com/. I wonder if SpongeBob Square Pants dines here?
628 Dodecanese Blvd.
Tarpon Springs 34689
Surely, with all of this rich atmosphere, you must be in a restaurant in some enchanted, far-off land, right? Not at all. You’re in the good old USA in Polk County Florida, just a short drive from many of Florida’s main attractions. You are dining at Chalet Suzanne Country Inn and Restaurant—and joining thousands of people, including many celebrities and notables, who have made pilgrimages here since it opened in 1931.
But Chalet Suzanne’s setting, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is just the beginning. While selections include such sumptuous entrees as Curried Shrimp, King Crab Thermidor, Lamb Chop Grill and Filet Mignon, our personal favorite is a positively addictive Chicken Suzanne ($59 for dinner, which includes appetizer, soup, homemade potato roll, dessert and beverage). Baked and continuously basted with its natural juices, the tantalizing flavor of Chicken Suzanne lingers on your taste buds—and in your memory. Just before the main course, you’ll be served just enough of their icy cool lemon sorbet to get your palate ready for this culinary adventure. But, regardless of which entrée you select, make certain that you save room for their decadent desserts. From the rich home-made carrot cake to their ice cream drizzled with Bing cherries, each item is a specialty of the Hinshaw family.
In addition to numerous other honors, Chalet Suzanne has been consecutively voted one of Florida’s Top 20 restaurants since its opening over three decades ago. Now that’s what we call a record.
Once you have enjoyed the atmosphere and food at the Chalet Suzanne Restaurant, do take time to stroll around their 100 acres. Here you’ll be able to enjoy the
Wine Dungeon, Gift Boutique, Autograph Garden, Chapel Antiques, Ceramics Salon, the Soup Cannery, and the private airstrip.
Don’t want to leave? If you’ve made reservations, you won’t have to. You’ll be able to relax in elegance in one of their 30 uniquely decorated guestrooms, many of which have Jacuzzis. Prices range from $169 to $229 per night, and include a breakfast that will continue pamper your taste buds. For more information, visit www.chaletsuzanne.com or call 863-676-6011.
3800 Chalet Suzanne Drive
Lake Wales 33859
St. Petersburg Museums
Throughout St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg, Florida
To get an overall view of this little town of about 20,000, start your visit at The Tarpon Springs Cultural Center, where you can watch a Smithsonian video about the fascinating history of sponge diving in Tarpon Springs. There are plenty of souvenir shops here, but, unlike many other places, these shops are authentic: Greek people selling Greek merchandise.
Tarpon Springs has many lively festivals and events through out the year. But if you plan your visit for January 6th, Epiphany Day, a Greek religious celebration of the Baptism of Jesus, you’ll be able to attend the celebration at The St. Nicholas Cathedral and, down at the water, witness enthusiastic Greek boys as dive into the water for a cross.
Look closely and, as these competitive swimmers wait for the signal to dive, you’ll probably see more than one cross himself with his right hand—and, with the left, make certain an opponent doesn’t get between him and the water. I haven’t been here for this festival, but as a staunch supporter of women’s liberation, I wonder if the girls are given the opportunity to try. After the dive, the town comes alive with festive parades dancing, celebrating and, of course, plenty of tasty Greek food.
When you come to Tarpon Springs at any time of the year, come hungry…real hungry for here you will find an array of Greek foods that would make even the Greek Gods happy. I’ve eaten in the Mykonos Restaurant twice. Family owned and operated, it offers a vast array of delicious Greek foods. You can treat your taste buds to such authentic Greek delicacies such as and Soutzoukakia (ground beef and Greek herbs, charbroiled on a skewer), Taramosalata (fresh caviar spread), and patatokeftedes (pan-fried Greek potato patties). Accompany these with delicious Greek village bread and pastries from their own bakery, and you’ll think that you’ve been transported to Greece.
After all that food, take it easy for a while by going on a sponge diving boat ride with the St. Nicholas Boat Line, where you can witness an actual sponge diving exhibition. St. Nicholas Boat Lines in the oldest established sponge diving exhibit in the western hemisphere. You’ll board a U. S. Coast Guard Certified Vessel and then take a half-hour round trip boat cruise through the historic sponge docks of Tarpon Springs. Through the narration, you’ll learn about the history of sponge diving and then have a demonstration of sponge harvesting as you watch a diver in traditional diving equipment jump, weight himself down and jump overboard. For more information contact For more information visit tarponsprings.com.
It’s difficult to select a favorite nature experience here — there are so many. In Central Florida in Polk County, for example, you can enjoy the formal gardens of the Bok Tower Gardens, as well as soak up the natural beauty of its Pine Ridge Nature Trail. On the Florida National Scenic Trail, you’ll be able to witness the swampy homeland of bald eagles, red-cockaded woodpeckers, white-tailed deer, and, of course, some of those famous Florida gators--and I'm not talking football.
From state parks such as Kissimmee State Park in Lake Wales, to the bird-watchers paradise of the Audubon Nature Center, you’ll feel good about seeing so much nature at peace.
But, of all of the nature activities, my favorite has to be the Butterfly Conservatory at Cypress Gardens. Here, in this steamy greenhouse, I felt as if I were in a cathedral, surrounded by magnificent creatures so beautiful that I could never really find the words to describe their ethereal ballet. As a photographer, I was truly in heaven as these gentle creatures flew around me, landing, as if they were professional models, in just the right position and lighting.
You could easily spend a couple of days at Cypress Gardens itself because it has everything from exciting action sports to show-stopping entertainment. But, for me, it’s the Butterfly Conservatory that truly captivates me. Fortunately, with the admission ticket, you can enter as many times as you wish.
After satisfying the dog’s thirst, they said they tried to return the creamer, but somehow managed to drive off with the creamer. This little pitcher, now on display at the Vinoy, traveled the world with the couple to places as far away as Germany and Hawaii. Mrs. Risher finally was able to return the creamer to the Vinoy in 1999.
Today, the luxurious 77-year-old Renaissance Vinoy Resort, still offers a truly magnificent experience for travelers. Originally built in 1925, this stylish resort in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg, pampers guests with its elegant setting, a variety of fine dining experiences, and attentive, yet unpretentious service.
At The Terrace Room, you’ll be surrounded by massive pillars, hand-painted ceiling and walls, and rich plaster carvings that provide a stylish setting for your breakfast, lunch, dinner—or most impressive Sunday Brunch. How does Macadamia Crusted Grouper and Black Pepper Stuffed Ravioli with feta cheese, spinach and pine nuts sound? These are some of the most popular items on their menu.
The Vinoy offers variety of other dining options including Marchand’s Bar and Grill, with a definite Mediterranean flair, both in décor and in cuisine. Chef Tom Chin’s creativity is something you’ll soon learn to appreciate once you dine here.
At Alfresco, the resort’s Florida-style restaurant, you can enjoy indoor/outdoor (this is Florida, after all) service with a light and creative menu. Since the restaurant overlooks the pool and tennis complex, you’ll definitely be able to enjoy a tropical, laid-back atmosphere.
And, if those choices aren’t enough, there’s Fred’s Bar, a private dining room open to Vinoy Club members and resort guests only, the Clubhouse Restaurant, located at the famous Renaissance Vinoy Gold Club, and the stylish Promenade Lounge, their graceful open-air cocktail lounge.
Warning, if you dine at the Vinoy, you’ll wish you had made reservations to stay here.
For more information about the Renaissance Vinoy, visit www.renaissancehotels.com
Attraction | "Indulge Yourself at the Fantasy of Flight"
Enter the self-guided tour, and wind, music, and a video of clouds let you vicariously experience a parachute jump. After a multi-media display of early flight, from hot air balloons to the Wright Brothers’ flight, you witness an aerial dogfight from the trenches of the Western Front.
Then you board a B-17 Flying Fortress and become an integral part of a bombing mission as you reenact a flight at 25,000 feet over enemy territory. Eight real-time motion simulators let you participate in the action in a mock battle over the Pacific. At the hangers and during the Back Lot Restoration Tour, you’ll see more than 40 planes on display.
Introductory flights on a Flightstar Ultralight are also available for an additional charge. Fantasy of Flight, 1400 Broadway Blvd., S.E. Polk City, Fla. Hours: Open daily (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 9am to 5pm. Group rates available. Admission: $24.95 Adults; $22.95 Seniors; $13.95 Children (5-12 years); free children under 5. 863-984-3500 www.fantsyofflight.com .
Fantasy of Flight
1400 Broadway Blvd. SE
Polk City, FL 33868