POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

St. Pete beckons for summer fun

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Beaches of St. Petersburg

Quiet beaches are a perennial attraction in St. Petersburg. (ORLANDO SENTINEL / May 29, 2008)

The potential of oil washing ashore on Gulf Coast beaches has made this a difficult summer for the tourism folks on Florida's Gulf Coast.

Yet the resourceful tourism folks in St. Petersburg are doing an admirable job of making the best of it. The latest pitch to consider St. Pete for a late-summer getaway includes a nature attraction that has managed to come out of the Gulf oil spill disaster.

Here's the deal: Hundreds of Brown Pelicans rescued from the Gulf have been given new homes at Fort DeSoto Park, just outside St. Petersburg. The result of the pelican airlift by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Coast Guard is a chance to spot plenty of the rescued birds at the park.

Other diversions include the newly opened Dale Chihuly collection at the Morean Arts Center in downtown St. Petersburg. It's an expansive permanent collection of Chihuly's world-renowned studio glass artwork displayed in a 10,000-square-foot-setting specially designed for the exhibit.

Looking ahead in the arts realm, the new $35 million Dalí Museum is scheduled to open Jan. 11, just north of the current museum next to the Mahaffey Theater. The 66,450-square-foot facility was designed by architect Yann Weymouth, who assisted with the renovation of the Louvre in Paris.

There are also newly restored historic hotels such as The Postcard Inn on the Beach, a laid-back beach hotel with a bohemian edge that was originally built in 1957. Rooms — modernized with WiFi and flat screen TVs — feature vintage lamps, surf photos and old-school desks and couches.

For a more opulent experience, there's the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, appointed with Mediterranean Revival architecture that has earned it a spot on the National Registry of Historic Places. There's a Chihuly connection, too: The artist designed the chandelier, made up of 750 pieces of silver and amber glass, that hangs in the hotel's Grand Ballroom.

The newest hotel is the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa, with 250 guest suites with kitchens and rooftop terraces, a full-service spa and air-conditioned cabanas on one of the quiet beaches.
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