St. Petersburg/Clearwater:
ROMANTIC THINGS TO DO & SEE

The beach has always been a favorite setting for romance, and what better setting than Florida's Beach - the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area. From candlelight dinners while cruising the open waters to Gulf of Mexico sunsets shared from the bow of a sailboat, or even just a tender stroll along a sugary-white sand beach, romance is at the heart of a vacation to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area.

Honeymooning in the area gained national attention in the 1940s when sweepstakes winners enjoyed a free honeymoon in a thatched hut on one of the area's deserted barrier islands. Today's quaint accommodations for honeymooners have all the modern conveniences while keeping the isolated, romantic feel. Florida's Beach has more than 90 "Superior Small Lodging" properties, most of which provide beachfront accommodations that specialize in romantic getaways.

The area also boasts three majestic properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Don CeSar Beach Resort & Spa hosts hundreds of weddings and honeymoons each year. Rising from the sugary sand of the Gulf of Mexico, the "Don" is as rich in luxury as it is in history. The Renaissance Vinoy Resort is another landmark structure filled with the ambiance of a bygone era. Built in 1925 and restored in 1992, the lavish property features a Mediterranean spa. Opened Jan. 15, 1897, the Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa is the oldest continuously occupied wooden structure in the United States. The resort offers genuine historical charm featuring Victorian accommodations with world-class amenities.

The St. Petersburg/Clearwater area offers all the ingredients for a memorable Florida visit -- ample amounts of sunshine and warm weather, 35 miles of picturesque beaches and an enchanting blend of art, culture, history, attractions and a lifestyle that will bring one back again and again. Here are some of the more romantic events and attractions:

BELLEAIR

Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa - 25 Belleview Blvd., Clearwater, FL 33757. Built in 1897 by railroad magnate and West Central Florida pioneer Henry Plant, the 292-room Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa holds an honored position on the National Register of Historic Places. Situated on a high coastal bluff near the Gulf of Mexico, the resort is reputed to be the largest continuously occupied wooden structure in the world. The Biltmore is also the oldest major resort in Florida. History tours are offered daily. 727-442-6171 http://www.belleviewbiltmore.com

CLEARWATER AND CLEARWATER BEACH

Show Queen - 25 Causeway Blvd., Clearwater, FL 34630. Located at the Clearwater Beach Marina, this boat offers narrated scenic cruises. Sightseeing and lunch cruises are $17.95 for adults and $7.95 for children. Dinner cruises are $26.95 for adults and $13.95 for children 4-10. Children under 4 are free. 727-461-3113 http://www.showqueen.com

Starlite Majesty Dinner Boat - P.O. Box 3335 Clearwater, FL 34630. Docked at the Clearwater Beach Marina, this ship offers three-hour (3 1/2 on Sat.) dinner/dance cruises Tuesday through Saturday at 7 p.m. Cruise admission is $13.80 Tuesday-Friday, $15.80 Saturday plus the price of dinner ($9.95 - $22.95). Two-hour sightseeing cruises are offered Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Optional lunch is available Friday and Saturday. Group rates are also offered. 727-462-2628 http://www.starlitecruises.com

DUNEDIN

Caladesi Island State Park - #1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, FL 34698. Accessible only by boat, this is one of the state's few remaining undisturbed barrier islands. Caladesi is ideal for swimming, shelling, fishing, picnics, diving and nature study. A three-mile nature trail winds through the interior. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. A ferry departs hourly from nearby Honeymoon Island. For ferry information, call 727-734-1501. Docks are available on the island for private boats ($4 per boat for up to eight people). A snack bar and shelters are also available. Rated in 2001 as having the fifth finest beach in the United States. 727-469-5942 http://www8.myflorida.com/communities/learn/stateparks/district4/caladesi/index.html

GULFPORT

Art Village - Beach Blvd. South, Gulfport, FL 33707. Enjoy more than 40 galleries, studios, boutiques and restaurants all within walking distance in this pedestrian-friendly historic district. Gallery Walks with free trolley service run from 6-10 p.m. the first Friday and third Saturday of the month. 727-321-7741

LARGO

Heritage Village -11909 125th Street North, Largo, FL 34644. This living museum features a fascinating collection of restored homes and buildings on 21 wooded acres. The historical museum is the centerpiece of this park and depicts the county's pioneer lifestyle. Spinning, weaving and other exhibitions are regularly held. Heritage Village also features a historic church that is available for weddings. On the fourth Saturday in October, the Country Jubilee is held at the park. The Village is free to the public. 727-582-2123 http://www.pinellascounty.org/heritag.htm

Pinewood Cultural Park and the Florida Botanical Gardens - 12175 125th St. North Largo, FL 33774. Pinewood Cultural Park combines a cultural, historic and botanical experience at a single destination. The 190-acre park is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Florida Botanical Gardens features walking tours and workshops allowing visitors to learn about the environment as they experience it. When complete in 2002, the $16 million project will be Florida's largest gardens and the centerpiece of the Pinewood Cultural Park. The Gardens also feature a Wedding Garden complete with function rooms for the bridal party. 727-582-2200 http://www.flbg.org

SAFETY HARBOR

Philippe Park - 2525 Philippe Parkway, Safety Harbor, FL 34695. (North of Safety Harbor off Hwy. 590). Philippe Park is a historical site that overlooks Old Tampa Bay. The park is named for Odet Philippe, who claimed to be a surgeon for Napoleon. Philippe settled there in the 1830s and introduced the New World's first successful grapefruit trees. Before Philippe, the area was a significant Native American settlement. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, a sizable ancient ceremonial mound exists today. The park also features an excellent picnic area, playground and nature trail. 727-669-1947 http://www.cyberfair.org/drexler/INDIAN.HTML

ST. PETE BEACH

Dolphin Landings - 4737 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, FL (Behind the Dolphin Village Shopping Center). This charter boat center offers dolphin watch sailing cruises, Shell Key Adventure trips and Sunset Sails. Dolphin watch cruises are two hours. The Shell Key Adventure takes visitors on a 3-4 hour trip to an undeveloped barrier island for beach relaxation. Two-hour sunset sails take visitors into the Gulf of Mexico for an unobstructed view of the sunset. Cruises are $25-35 and sailing times vary. Reservations are recommended and private charters are available. 727-367-4488 http://www.dolphinlandings.com

Don CeSar Beach Resort & Spa -3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, FL 33706. A longtime point of reference on maritime navigation charts, this "pink palace" features Mediterranean and Moorish architecture and includes numerous balconies and terraces. Original owner Thomas Rowe named the 340-room property after a character in the opera Maritana. The "Don" was a favorite of high society including F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, attorney Clarence Darrow, baseball great Lou Gehrig and even gangster Al Capone. Originally opened in 1928, the property was appropriated by the Military during World War II and eventually abandoned. It was restored to its original glory and reopened in 1973. A member of the Historic Hotels of North America and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Don CeSar has also been named a historical monument by the National Archives. History tours are available by appointment. 727-363-1881 http://www.doncesar.com

ST. PETERSBURG

Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club - Built by Pennsylvania oilman Aymer Vinoy Laughner in 1925, the $3.5 million Vinoy Park Hotel was the largest construction project in Florida's history. In its heyday, the Mediterranean Revival-style hotel was frequented by Calvin Coolidge, Babe Ruth, Herbert Hoover and numerous celebrities and entertainers. In the early 1940s the property was converted to a military facility, reopening as a hotel in 1945 and continuing operations until it fell into a state of disrepair and was closed in 1974. The Vinoy re-opened in 1992 after a $93 million restoration and expansion that added a guest tower and complete recreational facilities, including an 18-hole golf course designed by Ron Garl. The property is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. History tours are offered daily. 727-894-1000 http://www.renaissancehotels.com/TPASR

Steve & Doris Colgate's Offshore Sailing School 1110 3rd St. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 The School offers three-day learn-to-sail and six-day live-aboard sailing classes from the Harborage Marina in St. Petersburg that are perfect for honeymoon trips. Classes are available for everyone from beginners to experts. 904-381-1400 or 800-221-4326 http://www.offshore-sailing.com

TARPON SPRINGS

Inness Paintings - Universalist Church, 57 Read Street, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689. Features the largest collection of works by George Inness, Jr. the American landscape artist whose most notable paintings were done in this area. Open November through May, Tuesday through Sunday 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Final tour begins at 4:30 p.m.) 727-937-4682

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church - 36 North Pinellas Ave., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689. Patterned after St. Sofia's in Constantinople, this church is an excellent example of New Byzantine architecture with an interior of sculptured Grecian marble, elaborate icons and stained glass. The Cathedral was built in 1943, replacing a smaller structure built in 1907 by the community's early Greek settlers. Open daily. 727-937-3540 http://www.epiphanycity.com

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