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St. Petersburg/Clearwater is one of those unicorn destinations that has it all – top-rated beaches, award-winning attractions, and incredible weather (especially in winter). The blue skies, pastel buildings, and waterfront are a photographer – and snowbird’s – dream, which means if you’re in search of epic Instagram shots or photo backdrops you don’t have to look very far. Make it a scavenger hunt to hit all these hotspots!
The Pastel Palace – The Don Cesar
Like any good architectural marvel, The Don Cesar was built in the 1920s as a tribute to unrequited love, and like any good love story, its romanticism has withstood the test of time despite falling on times. Its had many former lives as everything from a VA hospital to a playground for high society and A-listers including the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and friends. Finally restored to its original glory in the ‘70s, the pink hotel has been an iconic landmark of St. Pete’s beachfront ever since.
One of the founding members of the Historic Hotels of America and on the National Register of Historic Places, the Pink Palace’s opulent front entrance and slanted driveway is my favorite spot to photograph. Many also use the back staircase (where weddings are held), the green and pink beach chairs, or the pool as a backdrop (and with a pink drink in hand, you can’t go really wrong anywhere).
Beach, Please – The Waterfront
Time to make all your friends stuck in cold weather jealous. Clearwater regularly racks up accolades for being one of the best beaches in the country, touted for its sugary soft sand, idyllic water, and lively boardwalk. Head to Pier 60 for plenty of retro lifeguard stands and rainbow umbrellas. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, photoshoots under the pier are popular — extra points if you bring a hammock. A few miles up the road, Indian Rocks Beach is home to the iconic “leave only footprints” sign.
If you’re looking to diversify your shots with a change of perspective, enjoy the breeze blowing through your hair and the saltwater on your skin on a speed boat ride through the harbor. It’s great fun to pilot the two-seat low riders which drive like a go-cart on water — just a motor and a steering wheel. Or for an even bigger rush, parasailing is another popular way to get a bird’s eye view of the bay. Who needs a drone when you can get really high in the sky?
Street Art – Downtown St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg’s street art scene is exploding with color and creativity with more than 70 murals within a few block radius of downtown. Some not to miss photo spots include “Space Rainbows” (600 1st Ave. N), a bright geometric printed backdrop, “Time to Think” (501 Central Ave.), St. Pete’s largest and quirkiest robotesque mural, and “You Are My Sunshine” (719 Central Ave.) and the citrus wall at Green Bench Brewing Co. (1133 Baum Ave. N), both perfectly representative of the Sunshine State.
For an insider’s perspective on the history and inspiration behind the art, St. Pete Cultural Tours leads privately guided mural walking tours led by one of the local street artists himself to give you insight into the ever-evolving art scene.
Architecture Porn – The Dali Museum
Dali is one of my all-time favorite artists for his provocative surrealism, mysticism, and anti-establishment pieces that continuously challenge convention. But as impressive as the artwork inside the museum is — the building itself is an architectural marvel. Housed in a reflective waterfront dome, the best photo op is actually on the spiral staircase looking up or looking out from the geometric glass windows upstairs. While you’re there, spend some time browsing the permanent collection, but be sure to take in the special exhibitions, which boast interactive photo elements including a trippy 3D cloud room.
Food Porn – Edible Art
Eating for the ‘gram is an art unto itself and for the ultimate in St. Petersburg food porn head to the Reading Room. Tasty, veggie-centric dishes are the star of the show. Beautifully plated, many items are made with edible flowers and accented with a pop of color (pro tip: the shishito peppers were the prettiest but the beets and the quail the tastiest).
Decadent desserts also get a lot of likes and the colorful DIY donut creations at the Donut Experiment are great to pose with. Highly-stacked scoops of ice cream on a bright, sunny day are always a hit and thankfully, there’s an ice cream, gelato, or froyo shop just about everywhere you turn.
Botanic Gardens – Sunken Gardens
It’s a little known secret that if you’re ever in need of a good photo backdrop, just head to the local botanic gardens. St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum, Sunken Gardens is nestled in the middle of the urban oasis and a green reprieve within the city.
With acres of landscaping, the lush green overhangs and flora and fauna make a beautiful place to get wanderfully lost. Keep an eye out for naturally formed archways for framing, the koi ponds, water features, and flamingos.
Start Planning Your Trip: Places to Stay in St. Pete/Clearwater
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