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5 Ways to Experience St. Petersburg

Did you know that St. Pete's has the world's second-largest collection of Salvador Dali works? Bet you didn't.

St. Petersburg

1. The Birchwood
The rooms in this boutique hotel, housed in a historic Spanish Mission-style building that's been restored to its former glory (and then some), feature contemporary design with 1920s-inspired touches, like claw-foot bathtubs and pinwheel mosaic tiles in the bathrooms. Dine at Birch & Vine, where chef Jason Cline dishes out hearty classics with a twist; try the sous-vide ribs with kimchi barbecue sauce before topping off the night with a visit to the Canopy, a rooftop lounge that overlooks the waterfront. Cozy up to a fire pit while sipping a Rye Smash made with whisky, muddled lemon and mint.
340 Beach Dr. N.E., 727-896-1080,

2. 600 Block
The stretch of Central Avenue between 5th and 7th streets is the city's unofficial arts and fashion district, home to more than a dozen independent boutiques ranging from record shops and clothing stores to art galleries. If you're travelling with the family, stop by Strands of Sunshine for handmade dolls that are a hit with kids or check out the handcrafted boards at Local Longboard Company.

3. Morean Arts Center
With steel sculpting, glass-blowing and printmaking classes, this art hub caters to local hobbyists and visiting pros alike. Browse the gallery spaces, which host exhibitions by contemporary artists, many local, or pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir from the boutique. (We got Chihuly-inspired glassware.) If you have a few hours to spare, sign up for a workshop to make your own memento.
719 Central Ave., 727-822-7872,

St. PetersburgPhoto: Heather Lambie

4. Bodega
Don't let the lineup at this restaurant, which draws on Puerto Rican, Cuban and Jamaican flavours, deter you. Husband-and-wife team George and Debbie Sayegh serve up sandwiches like the Pollo Asado (coconut-marinated chicken, mango mayonnaise, avocado and Fresno chili on toasted Cuban bread) just as quickly as they're ordered. Sit at the counter or join the local lunch crowd at the picnic tables out front.
1120 Central Ave., 727-623-0942,

5. The Dalí Museum
It's fitting that the world's second-largest collection of Salvador Dalí works resides in this waterfront museum, a surrealist structure in its own right (part concrete rectangle, part geometric glass bubble). Opt for the guided tour for extra help pinpointing the optical illusions in some of the artist's masterpieces; Abraham Lincoln's likeness is concealed in a famous nude painting of Dalí's wife.
1 Dali Blvd., 727-823-3767,

Sand dollar

3 Sandy Spots Worth the Detour

Join fishermen perched on the piers at Fort De Soto Park, just south of the city's southernmost tip, as they try to reel in the big one.
3500 Pinellas Bayway S., 727-552-1862,

Drive 45-minutes north and hop a ferry for the white-sand beaches and nearly five kilometres of nature trails in Caladesi Island State Park, one of the only natural islands off Florida's Gulf Coast.
1 Causeway Blvd., 727-469-5918,

A beachside institution, the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant is the place for crab cakes in Pass-a-Grille, a timeless beach town whose shores are lined with Old Florida bars and inns.
809 Gulf Way, 727-360-9558,



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