Often seen as a sleepy town geared toward senior citizens, St. Petersburg (Florida, that is) is stepping up its game. While nearby Clearwater draws travelers in search of premier Gulf beaches, St. Petersburg is attracting the younger set with an invigorating downtown scene centered on cultural attractions, craft brews, and a bevy of new bars and eateries. Ranked one of the “52 Places to Go in 2014” in The New York Times, St. Petersburg today is not the one you knew 10 years ago. We saw that first-hand when Recommend revisited the town last summer on a weekend getaway at the historic Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club.
piece of history
On the roster of Historic Hotels of America, the 361-room Vinoy Renaissance is a regal structure with a history dating back to the Roaring Twenties. Attracting a mix of Hollywood starlets, celebrities, presidents and authors, the Vinoy was the playground of the rich and famous and has undergone a variety of transformations over the years. During the Great Depression and World War II, the hotel served as a housing and training center for military cooks and bakers, and in the 1970s, became a low-rent boarding house.
The spot sat silent for 18 years and then in 1990, it began a 2-year, $93 million transformation modernwizing the resort and adding the amenities guests can find today, like the Ron Garl-designed, 18-hole golf course, a new guest tower, two outdoor pools and three spas, and a 74-slip marina. History buffs can learn more about the hotel’s past with tours led by the in-house historian, or stop by the photo archive in the lobby to see images of the hotel’s restoration dating back to its opening on New Year’s Eve in 1925.
“Our mission [when we renovated the lobby] was to stay true to the Vinoy’s historic roots and at the same time be relevant to current and future travelers; we feel we’ve accomplished that,” says Doug Fisher, director of operations.
old world meets modern times
Walking through the hotel, guests will find a delightful blend of 1920s Mediterranean Revival architecture with modern touches and pops of color. Cozy lounges and nooks in the lobby look like a Jonathan Adler display with colorful rugs and pillows, exposed beam ceilings, rounded entryways and custom art by Dale Chihuly and Renee Dinauer.
The front patios are classic Florida, perfect for enjoying a coffee and reading a newspaper on one of the rocking chairs, with views of the marina. Elegant touches are spread throughout the resort, such as the stunning chandelier in the grand ballroom designed by Chihuly, and the quaint Tea Garden and fountain, where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were once spotted (it also serves as a stunning setting for a wedding ceremony).
The resort is made up of two buildings that are separated by the pool and spa area: the main historic building and the guest tower that was added to the original resort back in 1992. The recently renovated rooms include fourteen 1-bedroom suites with private spa patios, whirlpool tubs and sofa beds, as well as the presidential suite with a terrace and bay views. If your clients are interested in views of the Tea Garden, recommend they stay in the main building. Our room for the weekend was in the guest tower with a terrace overlooking the pool and bay, perfect for watching the sunset. Rates start at $289 per night.
pick your sport
At the Vinoy, your clients will feel like they really are at a resort with everything at their fingertips. If they want to spend a day in the sun, they can pull up a lounge chair at the pool complex and enjoy a margarita or take a dip in the whirlpool. If it’s a spa escape they’re after, the intimate spa near the pool offers five treatment rooms and a variety of treatments; we tried the seasonal Bahama Mamamanicure and pedicure that was pure bliss with delicious-smelling creams and scrubs, and even included a Bahama Mama cocktail. And for those hoping to squeeze some sport into their stay, they can choose from morning or evening tennis clinics on the 12 championship clay courts; a round of golf at the Vinoy Golf Club; and fitness classes ranging from spinning to water aerobics, and Pilates to yoga.
- Down the street from the Vinoy is the Chihuly Collection, the first museum dedicated to glass artist Dale Chihuly, set in a building specifically designed to house the glass sculptures.
- Attracting travelers from around the globe, The Dali Museum building is just as impressive as Salvador Dali’s artwork inside. Triangular pieces of glass make up the glass bubble erupting from the sides of the museum that houses a collection of 96 oil paintings, drawings, sculptures and films.
- If your clients want to hit the water, the Vinoy can arrange a sailing excursion leaving from the private marina.
- Travelers can sample craft brews at Green Bench Brewing Co.—inspired by the green benches in downtown St. Petersburg—in its tasting room and beer garden.