Thinking of visiting St. Petersburg, Florida, or St. Pete, as it’s affectionately called? Well, you don’t need a car to explore this arty, funky, creative, queer, liberal, colorful gem of a city! With rainbow flags flying everywhere and colorful murals dotting the walls and alleyways, St. Petersburg feels like a cross between SF’s Castro District and East Austin. It also happens to offer phenomenal public transportation.
To take advantage of two FREE public buses, I recommend staying near Central Avenue. Firstly, it’s a major artery that runs through St. Pete. Secondly, it offers a FREE trolley called the Central Avenue Trolley. It’s particularly handy since it takes you east to downtown and St. Pete Pier, and west to St. Pete Beach. In the event that you take the trolley past Grand Central Station and all the way out to St. Pete Beach, it costs $2.25 for adults.
I found this out because I’m staying a block away from the trolley in what is known as the Grand Central District. Apart from being a block away from the trolley, I’d like to mention that this is a great part of town to stay in. It’s a very cool arts and entertainment area filled with quirky and eclectic galleries, restaurants, bars, shops. You’ll also see lots of St. Pete’s famous murals around here – on the walls, in the shops, down the alleyways. If you look on a map, I’m referring to the part of Central Avenue that runs from The Garage on Central to the Imagine Museum. Lots of locals around here too!
A second free trolley
When you visit downtown St.Petersburg, there is a second FREE trolley called the Downtown Looper that cruises through downtown. It connects the city’s major destinations, including the Dali Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg Museum of History, St. Pete Pier, and Mahaffey Theater, to name a few. St. Pete has a lovely downtown and the Downtown Looper is generally a great way to see it.
Other buses in St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Pete offers a network of buses throughout the city. For example, I took Bus #4 from downtown to visit the enchanting Sunken Gardens, a must-see for plant lovers. Regular bus fare is $2.25. Day passes are on sale for $2.50 until June 1, 2022 which is when they go back to $5.00. The buses are definitely a good deal!
St. Petersburg also has you covered if you want to visit the beautiful coastal communities and see the gorgeous beaches. The Suncoast Beach Trolley takes you 18 miles up the coast from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach. It takes about an hour to get up to Clearwater Beach but it’s definitely worth it.
Clearwater has a gorgeous white sand beach and a long pier where you feel you are walking out into the Gulf. But note that there are a lot of major hotels in Clearwater so expect to see a lot of tourists. It’s a big change from the quiet coastal communities you pass through as you head to Clearwater, but I still enjoyed it immensely.
If you’re looking for a more low-key beach, I recommend Treasure Island Beach. The beach isn’t at all busy. Check out the Thunderbird Beach Resort which has a pool and tiki bar that are open to the public. I recently caught a singer with the most beautiful voice there strumming her ukelele as the sun set.
Interested in visiting Tampa?
I recommend taking the scenic Cross Bay Ferry which takes you from downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa. From there it’s easy to get to Ybor City, a Tampa neighborhood that is a National Historic Landmark District. Ybor City dates back to the 1880s when it was a melting pot of Cuban, Spanish, German and Italian immigrants and home to the world’s most famous cigar factories.
How to get to St. Petersburg, Florida, by air
Fly to Tampa Airport. Then take an Uber to St. Pete. I landed at “rush hour” and learned that there is no rush hour, so I quickly reached my destination.
If scooters and bicycles are more your thing: The city offers plenty of them.
On a different note: Need a snack or something to munch on for your excursion? Check out my healthy recipes here.
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