BEACHES AND BASEBALL More than the Price is right

Posted on 10/21/2015 | About St. Petersburg, Florida

The folks from St. Petersburg Clearwater were in Toronto last month for the 13th Annual Beaches and Baseball event. I always attend this particular event if I can, because I like baseball, because these are my ‘home’ teams so, even though the Rays usually thrash the Jays - it’s not all bad. But this year it was different. The Jays had nicked David Price from the Rays. It was September 25 - the Jays were looking to clinch a playoff spot that evening - and this was the hottest ticket in town.

The Rays leapt out to a two run lead and I suggested (not nicely) that my now former friend Leroy Bridges, the media and interactive director, for St.Petersburg/Clearwater pack up his team and take them home. Leroy suggested I chill out, have a beer and watch. That was good advice, because as we all know by now, the Jays went on to win and did clinch their first playoff berth in 22 years. But, now here we are on October 21st – with the Jays 3-1 down in the ALCS with an ignominious loss last evening of 14-2 to the Kansas City Royals. Will they come back? Fingers crossed. But, back to a happier time. It was an eventful evening and there were a number of St.Petersburg Clearwater partners along with suppliers and media there to enjoy it.

Diane Dove was telling me about the upgrades and renovations at the quirky Postcard Inn on St Pete Beach. I stayed here not long ago and enjoyed it, as did Charlie, my Irish Jack. It has a casual laid back atmosphere, with every room decorated differently but with a decidedly “vintage” feel. The location is great for watching the spectacular St.Pete sunsets from the beach bar. Also on the beach at Treasure Island (which is north St. Pete) is Sunset Vistas and Beachfront Suites. It’s a great concept especially for families, with condo-sized two and three bedroom suites combined with full service resort hotel amenities. And big plus - the WiFi in the suites and throughout the resorts is free.

J.C. Resorts have been Canadian favourites for many years and their excellent vacation rental properties stretch along the coast from Madeira Beach to Indian Rocks Beach. Rental properties are always a perfect choice for long stay visitors. Those familiar with the award winning Gulf Beaches need no reminding - things may be splashier and flashier in other parts of Florida, but the beautiful white sand beaches, breathtaking views, and, they’re worth mentioning again – sunsets - over the Gulf will keep you coming back.

And you can never tell what you might see. One of my most treasured memories is having a drink on the deck of a cottage on the afternoon of January 1st and suddenly seeing three or four dolphins at play in the Gulf. Leaping and diving – we watched in awe for several minutes till they swam away - it was magical. And, speaking of dolphins, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium made famous by the film Dolphin Tale, is always worth a visit. You can meet Winter the dolphin with the prosthetic tail and there are opportunities to participate in training sessions and food prep and feeding. It really is a chance to see what it’s all about. Lovers of art and culture will have lots to occupy them in St. Petersburg/Clearwater. The Dali Museum which opened on 11 January 2011 (11-01-11) has a major collection of the artist’s work – the largest outside Spain, and their exhibitions have been interesting and innovative - featuring Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and the upcoming Disney/Dali.

Just up the street from the Dali is Museum of Fine Arts, where recent exhibitions included ‘Monet to Matisse’ and ‘Life’s a Beach’ which displayed the photographs of Martin Parr. A little further along Beach Drive is the Chihuly Collection. Glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s work is displayed in major galleries and collections around the world, but his permanent collection is right here in downtown St. Petersburg. If you like to see a another Chihuly – walk over to the Vinoy Hotel just down the street and take a peek in their ballroom at the magnificent white glass Chihuly chandelier. Along Beach Drive are a mixture of eclectic stores, all kinds of restaurants and bars, it’s a great way to spend some time. Newly completed Baywalk just off Beach Drive is a collection of boutiques, more restaurants, specialty food stores and movie theatres.

For the more sports minded, The Rays play at Tropicana Stadium, conveniently right in downtown St. Pete, where there is, amazingly, always lots of parking. In spring you can catch the Jays at their training camp in Dunedin, just north of Clearwater. Golfers wont be disappointed with the variety of courses in the area, and if you want to watch PGA golfers in action, the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbour (in March) is just a short drive. I think you get the point. Beautiful beaches. Great sunsets. Lots of art and culture. Good food. Plenty to do…and I haven’t got around to the half of it.