By Kara Franker
When you visit downtown St. Petersburg, you might want to get acquainted with the historic, pink Mediterranean revival-style building that overlooks the waterfront on Tampa Bay.
Built in 1925, the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is a beauty. Like a topper on a birthday cake, the Vinoy Tower stands tall and is visible from all around the city.
The storied history of the resort began in 1923 with a little wager between friends over whether famed golfer Walter Hagen could drive a golf ball off of the face of a crystal watch owned by wealthy businessman Aymer Vinoy Laughner.
Did the watch survive? Indeed it did, without so much as a scrape. To commemorate the feat, the businessman purchased the land where the golf ball landed for $170,000 and set out to build a premier resort, the first of its kind on Florida's west coast.
Throughout the years, the hotel has attracted a long list of celebrity clientele. Many such -- including Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, George Clooney and Brad Pitt -- have stayed in this glamourous hotel.
Today it's the resort-of-choice for many of the major league baseball teams when they come to town to play the Tampa Bay Rays.
At the top of the tower there's a secret door that leads to a hidden staircase. The staircase leads a covered veranda and the best panoramic views in the city.
You'll definitely want to take advantage of all the hotel's not-so-secret amenities, including the fitness facilities, tennis courts and the 18-hole golf course.The resort’s private golf club is located on Snell Island, just a few minutes from the resort, on a 14-acre site on Tampa Bay. The sparkling pool fronts the bay, where you can sit and enjoy what so many of us love the most about Florida -- the warm temperatures year round.
There are many delicious dining options on the property. Take your pick from casual lunch fare at Alfresco to fine dining at Marchand's Bar & Grill. Sneak into a throwback supper club at Fred's Speakeasy (reservations required). Or sip on a cold glass of Aymer's Promenade Punch on the resort's expansive waterfront veranda.
Down the street, you'll find a number of cozy cafes and seaside restaurants in charming downtown St. Petersburg. Must-see attractions in the neighborhood include the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market, Dali Museum and the Chihuly Collection presented by Morean Art Center. In fact, a Chihuly chandelier named “Isla de la Lunas” is comprised of 750 separate pieces of hand-blown glass and hangs in the grand ballroom at the Vinoy.
The Vinoy is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been an integral part of St. Petersburg's growing cultural scene. Whether you're looking for a vacation destination for the whole family or a romantic getaway, the hotel has something for everyone.
When you go...
The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club is located at 501 5th Avenue NE in St. Petersburg, Fla. To book your stay call (727) 894-1000 or visit the resort's website.
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