On Saturday, I packed my bags and hit the road for St. Petersburg on my very first completely solo vacation. Although I’ve roamed around cities like New York and Seattle on my own before, those trips were ultimately part of planned visits to see old friends. Aside from a conference in Jacksonville earlier this year, I have always traveled with friends and family, so planning a trip on my own was an adventure completely outside of my comfort zone.
The verdict? I absolutely loved it! The trip was a short one, not even lasting 48 hours, but I enjoyed fun tourist activities, combined with much-needed rest and relaxation. The drive from my apartment (just north of Orlando) to St. Petersburg took roughly two hours, with plenty of sightseeing along the way.
It was Smithsonian’s Free Museum Day, so I first made a stop in Tampa at the Henry B. Plant Museum. Originally the Tampa Bay Hotel, this museum is a National Historic Landmark and served as a luxury resort in Victorian times. The hotel features a collection of porcelain, faberge eggs, and other items that once belonged to the Habsburg family and the Russian tzars. The byzantine architecture alone is enough to make you stop in your tracks. The hotel is now home to the University of Tampa’s admissions building, but you can still wander around and learn more of its history.
After the Plant Museum, I headed into St. Pete to continue my adventure. I stayed at the Cordova Inn downtown, a charming little hotel with its own history in the city. The hotel had a beautiful veranda where I enjoyed my breakfast the next morning, along with complimentary wine and cheese in the evenings. The rooms are a little older, but with Turner Classic Movies playing as soon as I walked in, I knew I made the right choice. 🙂
After checking in at the Cordova, I strolled over to the Morean Arts Center and the Chihuly Collection across the street to enjoy some of the art. My trip to Seattle this summer really solidified my love for Dale Chihuly and his glass works, so I was especially excited to visit his collection. Meanwhile, the Morean Arts Center featured a unique array of exhibitions by staff members and by their members.
In the evening, I ventured over to A Taste for Wine for a glass of grapefruit rosé and dinner (a personal margherita pizza on naan bread). On a cooler night, I would have enjoyed my meal on the balcony for some people-watching, but I ultimately had a great time indoors getting to know the bartenders and other patrons. A Taste for Wine is a quieter wine bar that serves charcuterie, artisan pizzas, and various appetizers.
The next morning, after checking out of the hotel, I ended up fulfilling a longtime goal of visiting The Dalí Museum. I’ve always loved the surreal works of Salvador Dalí (Persistence of Memory is a favorite of mine!), so learning more about his life and art was a dream come true for me.
My visit began with the Clyde Butcher exhibit, which featured Visions of Dalí’s Spain. Clyde Butcher is a black-and-white landscape photographer who primarily shoots in Florida, but was commissioned by the museum to photograph the areas that had the most meaning to Dalí throughout his life. The jagged rock formations and twisted trees in Cadaques and in Dalí’s Port Villat home have a whimsy to them that clearly inspired him in his art. In fact, one of the rock formations reminded Dalí of his own profile, and he used it to represent himself in his paintings thereafter! The exhibit gave me a fresh perspective on Dalí before I headed over to the artist’s permanent collection.
I joined a docent-led tour at noon, learning the nuances of a few of Dalí’s most famous works and about the artist’s own life. Even after the tour was over, I used the headsets to embark on my own self-guided tour through the exhibit, taking time to appreciate his works and learn as much as I could about the hidden meaning in his paintings.
I ended the trip with a late lunch from the museum’s Café Gala, where I enjoyed the Ensalada Pear & Cabrales along with bread and manchego almond pesto in the garden overlooking the water. Throughout the garden, other interesting works (such as a melted clock bench) were available to explore and snap photos of.
After the museum, it was time to return to reality, but I can’t recommend St. Pete enough for a dreamy vacation!
What are some of your favorite spots in Tampa and St. Pete? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!