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Reasons to visit St. Pete/ Clearwater this winter

From Dali to animatronic dolphins, here’s a side of Florida you neverknew existed.  David Downing, from the area’s convention and visitorbureau, shares what’s hot this winter.

From Dali to animatronic dolphins, here’s a side of Florida you never knew existed. David Downing, from the area’s convention and visitor bureau, shares what’s hot this winter.

Great for families

“Parents magazine just rated our Fort DeSoto Park the No. 1 Family Beach in the USA,” Downing says. He attributes this ranking to the fact the shallow beach is “almost like a swimming pool.” The picnic areas, campgrounds and bike rentals all add to the family-friendly destination.

Drink up!

Although St. Petersburg might have a reputation as a sleepy beach town, Downing boasts that the nightlife is world-class. “In a five-block radius, there are 25 bars, restaurants, nightclubs, dancing, live music — and most stay open until 3 a.m.” He tells us one of the best things about St. Petersburg is you don’t need a car. “If you stay in our downtown, you can just walk around or rent a golf car for a couple of bucks to hit all of the sites,” he says.

Pack your shades

Leave the umbrella at home. “We hold the world record for the most consecutive days of sunshine,” boasts Downing. “We had 762 days of sunshine — in a row.”

Meet Florida’s cultural side

“The Dali Museum just celebrated their first anniversary of a new facility,” says Downing of the Yann Weymouth-designed building. “It’s the most comprehensive collection of Dali’s work in the world.” Downing looks forward to the first major visiting exhibition by Jeff Koons in October. Also a must-see? The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg — the new director of its world-class collection led the education department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for 18 years.

Live the movies

You can meet Winter, the world’s most famous animatronic dolphin and inspiration for the film “Dolphin Tale,” at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The exhibit “Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure”?showcases Winter as well as sets from the film and interactive games.

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