ST. PETE/CLEARWATER, FLORIDA MAKES MOVIE MAGIC IN A GROUNDBREAKING TV SERIES

The locations in and around St. Pete/Clearwater are vital characters in the first-of-its-kind Life’s Rewards TV series, and you’ll want to visit these places again and again.

The Power of Real-Life Locations

While many locations in a movie or video series are shaped by talented production design teams in a studio back lot or on a soundstage, nothing goes further in supporting the narrative of a film or series or creating a more believable world than real-life locations. And their impact is not just a visual one; locations in the real world (both their exteriors and interiors) are often so central to the storyline that they function as main characters in the film or series, right alongside humans and animals. The locations are vital to furthering the fictional action and expressing character evolution. For this reason, producers spend a great deal of time and effort lining up perfect places to shoot.

Places in Films & TV Series Can Inspire Tourism

There’s a long list of movie and TV locations that have made people aware of places that hadn’t previously known about—places they then wanted to see in person because of their uniqueness and ability to evoke the production’s emotional power. When a film’s story is compelling, the locations that help bring it to life become iconic and start drawing visitors. Examples of this phenomenon: In the movie Forrest Gump, the park bench located in Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia, where Forrest Gump spoke about his mama’s view of life as a box of chocolates; in the movie Rocky, the 72 steps that Rocky Balboa climbed outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art while training for a boxing match.

But the traveler allure of film locations gets tricky when they really exist but are not actually based where the viewers are led to believe they are. Often, due to budget and technical constraints, producers will select a spot in one place that the story says is in another. For example, a site that the viewer is made to think is in Russia may, in fact, be located in Wyoming. While, that spot could still be inviting to tourists, it lacks the authenticity that travelers typically look for.

Life’s Rewards’ Groundbreaking Mission: Draw Tourists With Captivating St. Pete/Clearwater Film Locations

In recognition of the fact that film locations that are both captivating and authentic (are what they say they) inspire visits, three Florida-based marketing organizations responsible for attracting visitors and film productions to St. Pete/Clearwater— Visit Florida, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater and St. Pete/Clearwater Film Commission—decided to do something utterly revolutionary in the entertainment industry: not just leave the ability of a fictional series to inspire tourism to chance but rather, intentionally shape the storyline and locations to motivate viewers to identify with the series’ places, visit them and create their own indelible experiences and impressions in them.

They created the eight-episode Life’s Rewards series, a heartwarming tale of a life overhaul stemming directly from the lead character’s engagement with the people and hot spots of the St. Pete/Clearwater area. The underlying premise of the series is to put the tourism attraction power of extraordinary film locations to use to spark travel to St. Pete/Clearwater Florida—and, to that end, every single frame was shot there to portray the area authentically.

Life’s Rewards, which premiered on May 1, 2021 on Sunscreen and will continue to stream on Amazon Prime as well as YouTube, Watch.VisitFlorida.com, GoUSA TV and Places.Travel, features an impressive array of gripping locations around St. Pete/Clearwater, including Tarpon Springs and Dunedin. The series further fuels the area’s already stellar tourism reputation, which had gained steam with the release of Dolphin Tale in 2011 and Dolphin Tale 2 in 2014, movies starring Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. that focused on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and nearby sites. Several other notable movies have also shone a bright, inviting light on the region but none of their creators had tourism in mind when they shaped them.

10 Top Locations in the Life’s Rewards Series

Anyone who watches the Life’s Rewards series is steeped in the beauty, fun and fascination of the St. Pete/Clearwater area—from its famed historic The Don CeSar hotel (aka Pink Palace®), art museums and galleries, and popular family nature attractions to its spectacular beaches, vibrant bars and clubs, soccer stadium and street life. Life’s Rewards lets us experience the area through Dan’s eyes, which are opened to new possibilities as a result of his interactions in it.

The Don Cesar (lobby, ice cream parlor, beach bar, interior bars, suite and pool area).

When we meet New Yorker Dan Kinney, who has just arrived in St. Pete/Clearwater for a business gathering and learns he has been fired for suspected illegal activity, all he suddenly has left to his name is a bad rap, a pile of frozen assets, an outsized ego and a horde of hotel points. The latter allow him to stay in a penthouse suite at the landmark Don CeSar Hotel, where he is essentially stranded.

We see Dan enjoying the hotel’s superlative boutiques, bars, restaurants, pool, spa and various rooms and spaces—not to mention a group of wonderful staffers who have everything to do with him ultimately reinventing his life. Awe-inspiring footage of the interiors and exteriors of the palatial pink building at all times of day, including sunset (St. Pete Beach sunsets are spectacular), showcase a multitude of irresistible, indulgent temptations.

Fortunately, viewers can tap in everything wonderful Dan experiences at the hotel (and beyond) through its special Life’s Rewards getaway package (promo code: REWARDS), which includes: minimum 2-night luxury accommodations, daily valet parking, complimentary daily resort fee, $250 recreation credit per stay and daily $150 food & beverage credit.

The Don CeSar rests at the edge the Gulf of Mexico beach that’s been voted the #1 Beach in the U.S. for 2021 by Tripadvisor. In Life’s Rewards, leading character Dan takes a hotel-provided wave runner out on the pristine Gulf of Mexico waters and spars, does yoga and lounges on the beach’s sugary white sands (that, by the way, never get hot) with his sage buddy, a hotel bartender. There’s no question, Dan’s beachy hangouts are the very definition of paradise.

This family destination located at the new St. Pete Pier offers up a perfect mix of fun and education with interactive exhibits; video presentations; guided tours; a touch tank featuring such creatures as seastars, hermit crabs and sponge crabs; and indoor and outdoor classes that cast light on Tampa Bay’s unique ecosystem and rich marine life (from sea horses to oysters). In the Life’s Rewards series, the Discovery Center is where romance blooms (and facts about water bottle usage get shared) as Dan meets and helps a marine biologist instruct a group of kids.

The Hideaway Cafe

As Dan learns, it’s easy to have a memorable and transformative night out on the town on St. Peterburg’s Central Avenue, a rollicking hub of live music, good eats and stiff drinks. Hideaway Café on the 1700 block of Central Ave. serves up stirringly soulful original music at its open mic ‘Living Room Live’ experience. Dan and his pal get a taste of the blues here that makes Dan listen carefully and dig deep.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more gay-friendly destination than the St. Pete/Clearwater area, and Blur Nightclub, located just north of Clearwater in charming Dunedin, is a perfect example of a hip, party-goer’s hot spot that welcomes all ages and orientations. Dan unexpectedly meets up with someone he knows at this show bar—someone who holds keys to Dan’s ability to unravel his gnarly predicament.

This St. Petersburg-based stadium is the site of some serious uncle-niece-nephew bonding, when Dan, forging his path to redemption, takes his estranged brothers’ kids to a Rowdies soccer game. Since the stadium gates open 60 minutes prior to kickoff, Dan and family have ample time to make mischief in the broad gold-and-green corridors—and get an autograph from a top player (cameo alert!)—before settling in to view the game and cheer.

The Dali Museum

This waterfront museum not only houses a mind-blowing collection of 2,400 pieces of art by famed Surrealist artist Salvador Dali, but it also serves as a showcase for an everchanging roster of special exhibits and is an acclaimed architectural wonder. Dan’s soul-searching-by-scooter outing takes the viewer of Life’s Rewards past the “Enigma,” the structure’s stunning geodesic glass-and-steel bubble. You have to have a steel will to resist going in to see more of the museum’s fantastical structural elements and art.

The Chihuly Collection

In keeping with the fact that St. Pete/Clearwater is an art and culture haven particularly known for its glass art, Dan enters the Chihuly Collection, which features works by legendary glass artist Dale Chihuly. Dan experiences what every other person who has come here and gazed has—a dropping jaw. The wildly colorful sculptural glassworks, which are shown to best effect by the gallery’s design and exquisite lighting, are just that beautiful and unique!

Dan’s new female companion has a dog. Good thing St. Pete/Clearwater makes it so easy to do all the fun things with best friends of both the human and canine variety. Without missing a beat or a bark, Dan, Amy and furry pal head over to The Dog Bar, located in the Grand Central District of St. Pete, to enjoy chatting, live music, cold ones and lots of pup action.

Life’s Rewards shows us that this super-efficient, comfortable and affordable way of crossing Tampa Bay between the downtown waterfronts of St. Pete and Tampa also provides amazingly scenic water and city views. The boat—the Provincetown IV—also ends up putting Dan’s most redeeming qualities on display. Lovely boat trips can have that effect.