St. Petersburg, Dunedin and Ybor City
A touch of Russia, a bit of Scotland, and a dose of Latin America in this tour of St. Petersburg, Dunedin and Ybor City.
St. Petersburg, also known as the "Sunshine City," is a city that boomed while the big bands played. Hollywood stars, baseball greats and real estate tycoons all claimed their place in the sun. Today, St. Petersburg has entered its second golden age.
Dunedin (pronounced "done-EE-din") is an old-fashioned town steeped in Scottish heritage, with a sister city, Stirling, in Scotland. Each spring, the town boasts the Highland Games and Festival, bringing an international flavor to the area through the authentic cuisine and the competing bands and dancers from around the world. Bagpipes and kilts abound during this exciting and fun festival.
Ybor City is one of only three National Historic Landmark Districts located in the State of Florida. Quaint original brick streets and huge, old cigar factory buildings make up this legendary town. Founded in 1886 by Vicente Martinez Ybor, Ybor City became "the cigar capital of the world" by 1900. Although most of the cigar factories were gone by the early 1950's, Ybor was revitalized in the late 1990's and now attracts large numbers of visitors due to the wide array of shops, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries.
ST. PETERSBURGSt. Petersburg was named after the Russian capital by one of its two founders, Peter Demens, a Russian aristocrat. He brought the Orange Belt Railway to its terminus on the western edge of Tampa Bay - what is now downtown St. Petersburg. Ever since that first rail car arrived in 1888, St. Petersburg has been welcoming winter-weary visitors.
The city's forefathers were wise in preserving its waterfront. The result is a seven-mile ribbon of green parkland that rests alongside the scenic lagoons and bayous that create downtown St. Petersburg. It is acclaimed as the "nation's most beautiful urban waterfront."
Visitors choose among world-class museums, including the world-famous Salvador Dali Museum, (727) 823-3767, a unique museum housing the most comprehensive collection of the famous Spanish surrealist painter's works. The Museum of Fine Arts, (727) 896-2667, features more than 16,000 objects, French Impressionist paintings, Steuben glass gallery, significant works by Monet, Gauguin, Renoir, Morisot, Cézanne, Rodin, Henri, Bellows, and O'Keeffe; African, Asian, pre-Columbian, and Native American objects and more. The Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club, (727) 894-1000, the "Grand Lady of the Bay," takes you to a time when elegance reigned, service was an art form and grand surroundings made every guest feel special. The resort is a fine example of 1920s Mediterranean Revival architecture that has earned it a National Register of Historic Places designation.
Downtown St. Petersburg's streets are lined by more than a hundred cafes, restaurants and eateries, two dozen fine galleries and Mediterranean-style architectural treasures, including the historic open-air U.S. Post Office, still in operation today.
DUNEDINDunedin, a charming village of American and Scottish heritage, once had the largest fleet of sailing vessels in Florida. Its colorful Main Street begins at the Gulf of Mexico, where sailboat masts still pierce the sky at the municipal marina. The history of the area is displayed at the Dunedin Historical Society and Museum, (727) 736-1176, located downtown in the 1923 Atlantic Coast Railroad Station through artifacts, photographs and a library.
The Dunedin Fine Art Center, (727) 298-3322, presents a unique view of Florida's environment, history and people through the "Florida Treasures" Art Mural. This fascinating and magnificent one-of-a-kind mural, 85-feet long, is created from hand-painted glazed ceramic tiles.
Enjoy the ocean breezes while exploring the abundant art galleries featuring original works of art in all media, many by local artists. The offerings of the downtown antique shops include vintage furniture, pottery, linens and accessories. Enjoy a break between shops in your pick of restaurants; choose from casual eateries, fine gourmet dining establishments and waterfront restaurants offering fresh seafood.
The renowned Pinellas Trail, (727) 549-6099, a 47-mile haven, affords bikers, walkers and even in-line skaters an opportunity for exercise and adventure. It is served by bicycle and skate rental and repair shops as well as places to grab a quick bite or a cooling drink.
YBOR CITYWith dozens of restaurants, cafes and nightclubs on the quaint and historic streets of Ybor City, visitors enjoy a full gamut of culinary delights - from the exotic to ethnic to rich southern cooking. During special events, Seventh Avenue is closed to traffic so pedestrians can enjoy the lively nightlife.
The city boasts a streetcar, which recaptures the charm of the city's historic past. Visitors ride between Ybor City and Downtown in these electric streetcars, replicas of the Birney Safety Cars that were an essential part of Tampa's daily life from the 1890's through 1946.
The pride of Ybor City's fine culinary delights is the Columbia Restaurant, (813) 248-4961, which is the oldest Spanish restaurant in the USA. Flamenco dancers perform daily and amaze visitors with their style and flair.
Attractions to Ybor City include Ybor City Visitor Information Center and Museum, (813) 241-8838, a state-of-the-art visitors center housed in the world's largest cigar box surrounded by cigar art, a historical film theater, souvenir shop and brochures offering endless resources and ideas for you to plan your "Latin Quarter Experience." Ybor City Museum State Park, (813) 247-6323, offers visitors the opportunity to experience the unique and nostalgic history of Ybor City, and learn about the cigar industry and the varied nationalities of the immigrants that created Tampa's rich ethnic culture, including Cubans, Italians, Germans and Spaniards. Visitors marvel at the shotgun style houses or "casitas" that re-create the home life of a typical cigar worker. One of the two remaining cigar companies in Ybor City, the Gonzalez y Martinez Cigar Company, (813) 248-8210, demonstrates the fine ancient art of cigar rolling "Tabaqueros," while cigar aficionados enjoy the luxury of premium hand-rolled cigars.