Where to stay in St. Petersburg, FL area with 5 year old daughter?
March 10, 2013 8:57 PM   Subscribe

Help my family decide the best place to stay for the most awesome beach vacation ever in the St. Petersburg, FL area. Overwhelmed with choices + unfamiliar with area = help! Many snowflake details inside....

We are in the midst of the annual Plan The Vacation efforts, and my 5 year old daughter is getting her wish of visiting Harry Potter World in Orlando. But mom and dad want some beach time before we hit the park, and we've (basically) settled on the St. Petersburg area for said visit. We vastly prefer the Gulf side of FL (our "normal" beach trip is on the gulf panhandle around Ft Walton) but are overwhelmed with the choices for St. Pete. Can some kind Mefite help direct us to the best 3 days (middle of May) on the beach ever for my daughter? Hotel choice is the big worry right now...

1. On the beach, not near the beach. None of us want to have to drive to and from while wet and sandy.
2. Not shoulder-to-shoulder crowded...we don't need to be alone, but we also don't want to be tripping over 8 rows of chairs to get to the water.
3. Nice pool...there's only so long a 5 year old can handle the beach, even, and having a nice pool as an option is a positive.
4. Decent restaurants/food choices in the hotel or very close. We will have a car, so this isn't a dealbreaker, but the less we have to run around, the better.
5. Decent rooms in the hotel itself. Don't need marble bathrooms, just clean and neat and well kept up.

We aren't terrifically price sensitive, but it's hard to tell, for instance if staying somewhere like the Don CeSar is worth it, or if we'd be better off at mom-and-pop beach inn down at Passa Grille Beach or something.

Thanks for any help. Feeling overwhelmed with choices and the normal review sites (yelp, expedia, etc) aren't helping clear it up.
posted by griffey to Travel & Transportation around St. Petersburg, FL (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Anna Maria Island! Beautiful, relatively cheap, not that far from the airport, cute cottage rentals on the beach, great little restaurants.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:13 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have stayed at the Don CeSar. It's nice. A tiny bit worn, but nice. I am partial to the Atlantic side of Florida (this is where I live). When we stayed at the Don CeSar last year, the beach was eroded from recent storms and didn't look that great. It's probably nicer now. The Don is quiet. They have daily kid activities. Everything is pricey. Expect to tip often. There is towel service, expensive drinks poolside. It's quiet here. Very quiet. Nice if you want to relax. A little stuffy in my opinion.

I have stayed at the TradeWinds Island Grand twice. It's fun for kids, kind of packed with kids and families, and less expensive than The Don. This is a party place for kids. There are several pools and there are kids everywhere. There is a daily kids club and the kids are thick as rats. I don't mind this because I have two kids of my own. This is more of an economy resort if you want to call it a resort, which I wouldn't. When we stayed at the Island Grand, we had a room with a kitchen and kept food in the room. The kitchen rooms are the least expensive. There is a microwave, fridge, silverware, dishes, etc. Definitely recommend this place if you want a more casual family fun atmosphere. I would avoid it if you want to avoid crowds. We had no problems getting a chair poolside or on the beach, but we could never get the first row of chairs on the beach.

I have stayed in St. Petersburg area (Downtown St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach) for the last five years for Tampa Bay Rays games. St. Pete Beach is not good for food choices. It's not good for anything but the beach, really. There is a tapas restaurant that's supposed to be good on the beach but I didn't try it. We went to two breakfast places but I wouldn't go again. Everything else food wise is poorly rated. You can drive to restaurants. We drove to Chipotle, McDonald's, Subway. We drove downtown to eat at an Italian Place. If you stay at the Don Cesar, you can eat at the patio restaurant or the fancier restaurant. They also have an ice cream parlor. If you want something else, you'll have to drive. The same with Island Grand. They have a little lunch counter/store where you can get bagels in the morning and sandwiches for lunch. They have a Beef O'Brady's and a Pizza Hut counter. They may have more food choices that I'm forgetting.
posted by Fairchild at 9:36 PM on March 10, 2013

We have stayed in St. Pete's Beach with our kids (now 8 and 12) when visiting my wife's grandmother/their great-grandmother in Bradenton. We stayed at and liked The Alden Suites because it was reasonable and was right on the beach, had a couple of pools, etc. We've stayed their twice. It's OK, seemed well run, and will probably stay there again; it meets out needs. It's a little "faded," but it's clean and as I said, it met our needs. I think it would meet yours based on your description, but then I think a lot of resorts might.

Where ever you stay, I do want to pass on one great tip: St. Pete Beach Produce and Deli (FB link). Truly awesome Greek deli and fresh produce market right on the main drag. Fantastic homemade humus, salads, sandwiches, desserts, etc. We got very tired of the various fried-food options in the area, and this place was a life saver. Fresh, tasty, healthy food. Super friendly owner, family run, and just really great!
posted by mosk at 10:35 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

St. Pete resident here. I consulted my fiancé, who grew up in St Pete and he says this:

"Tradewinds is a great place for kids -- lots of activities to keep them busy and all-around a very nice resort. Don ceSar is a bit expensive and not particularly kid-oriented so probably not worth choosing, all other things being equal."

And here's a tip from me. We went to Spinner's rotating rooftop restaurant on the beach a couple weeks ago. It has wonderful views but the food is not good, especially for what they charge. We are the farthest thing from food snobs but our meals were really marginal at any price. I'm not saying don't go, but just know that you're paying for the view and not the food. Also, dine during daylight or at sunset, otherwise you'll spend 40 minutes looking at the blackness of the Gulf until you spin back around to the land side.

MeMail me if you need additional info about the area. We're happy to help.
posted by _Mona_ at 6:59 AM on March 11, 2013

It is hard to get cottages anywhere in the area for less than a week. For a three day visit I recommend the Marriott Residence Suites on Treasure Island. Free breakfast, laundry en suite, decent kitchen, pool, and right on the beach.

Don CeSar is neat but tired. IMO its biggest selling point is its more residential location and the old-timey ice cream parlor. Mosk recommend the Alden - IMO it is ok, but like the Don CeSar its a little ragged around the edges.
posted by tidecat at 7:13 AM on March 11, 2013

The beaches are better slightly north, in Clearwater, and you can stay right on the beach there, too. But being a (former) native I wouldn't know what hotels are good or bad. If you're looking for a quiet beach you just won't find one where there are also places to stay, but you can walk to some less crowded spots on the north side of clearwater beach (the south is the meat market / tourist side of things), especially if you're there in the late spring and early summer (winter is the worst time of year for crowds). If you really want a quiet beach, the best beach in florida is Caladesi island, a few miles more north in Dunedin, but you'll have to drive up there and then take a ferry to the island. Also no booze on the island. It is really beautiful, though.

Some good food on Clearwater beach too (the Beachcomber is upscale-ish and good, Palm Pavilion my longtime favorite for a laid back place, although I don't recommend the alligator).
posted by dis_integration at 7:57 AM on March 11, 2013

Oh and you can also walk to caladesi "island" from the north side of clearwater beach, but its a decent hike, especially with a five year old in tow.
posted by dis_integration at 8:05 AM on March 11, 2013

Look into Indian Rocks Beach. It will definitely be quiet and you should be able to find a place right on the beach. Not sure of any particular place with a pool, though.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:10 AM on March 11, 2013

Seconding Anna Maria Island!!! My family has spent many vacations there in a little condo place call the Nautilus - with a pool and on the beach. Also wonderful and right next door is Longboat Key, but it's a little more expensive. Plenty of restaurants and shops all over!
posted by matty at 9:41 AM on March 11, 2013

« Older Can I downgrade Android 4.1.1 to 4.1 on a Motorola...   |   Cabin cats or cargo cats? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.