Over the weekend, I had the joy of doing something normal again: taking a vacation for the first time since 2019! Because of the pandemic, you’ve likely noticed over the past 14 months, the “wanderlust” aspect of Wellness & Wanderlust has been mostly non-existent. After getting my second round of the Moderna vaccine in April, I was excited to bring travel back into my life, if only for a mini-road trip across the state to St. Petersburg, Florida.
The reason for this trip? Aside from falling in love with this city during previous visits (see recaps here and here), I couldn’t wait to visit the Van Gogh Alive exhibition at the Salvador Dalí Museum. Not only am I a huge fan of Van Gogh’s works, but I’ve been intrigued by the emergence of immersive art experiences and knew I needed to be a part of this one. Van Gogh exhibitions have been popping up all over the world this year (any Emily in Paris fans here?) and tickets are in high demand.
Planning a trip to St. Petersburg in the near future? Here are my recommendations, along with my recap of Van Gogh Alive!
Visit the Dalí Museum.
I wrote about the Dalí in a previous blog, but I can’t stress enough what a treasure it is to have such a comprehensive permanent collection of Salvador Dalí’s works right here in Florida. Although he’s best known for his role in the surrealist movement (and those melted clocks!), Dalí experimented with other styles throughout his life and had a lot of hidden symbols in his works.
Since my last visit a few years ago, the museum has launched an app where you can follow audio tours and experience several of the paintings in augmented reality! Open the app, allow camera access, and hold up your phone in front of the paintings to see the art quite literally come alive before your eyes.
Right now, visitors must purchase tickets ahead of time to gain entry to the museum. I absolutely fell in love with the Van Gogh Alive exhibition, where classical music played as Van Gogh’s paintings appeared on screens all throughout each room. Looking at Starry Night while listening to Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals was truly magical. Van Gogh’s quotes were displayed throughout the show to reflect where he was in his life, and viewers had the chance to see the evolution of his work. If you have the chance to see an immersive Van Gogh exhibit in your city, I highly recommend it!
Tour the Sunken Gardens.
The Sunken Gardens are considered St. Pete’s oldest living museum! Home to more than 50,000 types of plants, the gardens were formed around an ancient sinkhole and are a beautiful oasis from the busy city life. Even though the Sunken Gardens are considered a roadside attraction (you’ll literally park near Carrabba’s to go in!), you’ll feel like you’re in another world once you step inside.
The succulent gardens and butterfly gardens were two of my favorite stops along the path, but I was also thrilled to come in contact with wildlife too. You’ll find a few koi ponds in the gardens, along with a flock of flamingos, tropical birds, and even some tortoises!
Stroll along the Pier and marina.
It’s touristy, but worth a visit – if only for the lovely breeze! You’ll see plenty of people roller-blading throughout the area, but my favorite part of the experience was seeing the murals on my walk over there. St. Pete is home to some beautiful outdoor art, which not only adds a splash of color to the city, but also is perfect for social distancing.
Eat delicious food.
My favorite food stop on any of my St. Pete trips so far has definitely been Cali. In fact, I loved it so much, I went to lunch there two days in a row! It’s the perfect place to grab a healthy bowl or other dish that’s friendly to dietary preferences and sensitivities. Gluten-free or plant-based friends, this is the place for you. (Shout out to my friend Jessica for recommending it!) For dinner, I enjoyed Red Mesa Cantina for their Southwest Chicken Bowl and their bean dip. I was waddling out of there, but the food was delicious!
Explore other art museums in the area.
I won’t go into too much detail here, since I’ve written more extensively about these museums before, but the Chihuly Collection in Downtown St. Pete is absolutely worth a visit if you’re a fan of Chihuly (or just enjoy really bright glass art!). I had just returned from Seattle when I first visited this museum, so I was definitely on a Chihuly kick at that time, but his art is so playful and incredible to see. The Imagine Museum is another glass art museum with a similar vibe, but also features other artists and really should not be missed.
What are your St. Pete recommendations? Sound off in the comments!