Archive for the ‘Gulf Coast’ Category

Southwest Airlines Offers Savings up to $120, Plus Free Nights or Reduced Rates on St. Petersburg/Clearwater Packages

July 9, 2011

Seeing dolphin is just one of the many appeals of visiting Clearwater Beach of Florida's Gulf Coast © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Southwest Airlines is offering a deal on travel to St. Petersburg/Clearwater: book a flight plus hotel vacation package at any hotel Southwest Airlines Vacations offers in St. Petersburg or Clearwater, and save up to $120 per reservation when using promotion code SUN120 at the time of booking

  • SAVE $40 on a total package price between $500 – $999.
  • SAVE $80 on a total package price between $1,000 – $1,999.
  • SAVE $120 on a total package price of $2,000 or more.

Plus, enjoy these great offers when you book a flight + hotel package at the participating hotels!1

  • Sheraton Sand Key Resort – Save 40 Percent!
  • Doubletree Beach Resort Tampa Bay North Redington Beach – Fifth Night FREE!
  • Don CeSar Beach Resort, A Loews Hotel – Fourth Night FREE!
  • Alden Beach Resort – Save up to 40 Percent!
  • Sirata Beach Resort – Save 40 Percent!

Packages must be booked between July 8, 2011 and August 4, 2011 by 6 p.m. Central Time for travel August 1, 2011 through December 24, 2011. Blackout dates apply. One-day advance purchase is required.

Customized Vacation Packages Include:

  • Roundtrip flight via Southwest Airlines® to St. Petersburg/Clearwater via Tampa
  • Hotel accommodations (including taxes)
  • Rapid Rewards® points on the flight portion
  • 24-hour traveler assistance

First and second checked bags fly free (weight and size limits apply); even golf bags fly free, which represents a savings up to $120 per person.

For complete details on this offer, visit:
http://www.southwestvacations.com/Deals/Deal.aspx?deal=232

See also:

CLEARWATER BEACH AND SOOOOO MUCH MORE
Back-to-Nature Experiences Are Not Your Typical Day at the Beach

 NEWLY OPENED CHIHULY COLELCTION ENRICHES ST PETERSBURG’S RICH CULTURAL OFFERINGS

For more travel features, visit

www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin

 

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Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach is Perfect Getaway

July 26, 2010
Postcard Inn on the Beach

Picture postcard perfect place: the Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach © 2010 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

If ever you wanted a place to get away from it all, to an oasis of simple pleasures, visually pleasing, perfectly relaxing, laid-back, the Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast is the place.

It’s 1950s retro done with a hip flare. Kitschy and clever, and aesthetically marvelous – it’s amazing what design can do to create an atmosphere. Shapes, lights, colors – a chandelier is made from rope and sailors’ knots; painted skateboards and buggie boards provide the decoration, vintage lamps, 1950s photos of beach, a giant photo of waves breaking on the surf covers the entire wall..There is whimsy and humor which makes you smile a lot.

Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach

The Postcard Inn on St Pete Beach is 1950s retro combined with modern flare with a feel-good result © 2010 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Postcard Inn occupies prime beachfront in St. Pete Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast – you can walk for miles along the beach, or float in the warm, green waters of the Gulf, very likely a dolphin or two not too far away.

In addition to the Olympic-sized swimming pool (heated if necessary), there is a kiddie pool, two well-outfitted fitness rooms, a pool table and a ping-pong table, arcade room, beach volleyball court, and central garden areas where you can lounge in Adirondack-style chairs under the trees as music emanates from speakers.

Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach

The Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach is designed for relaxation © 2010 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

There is WiFi throughout; the rooms have flat-screen TVs; the rooms have views of pool, or Gulf, or garden.

You can go for a swim in the Olympic-size pool in the morning or take a walk or a dip in the Gulf, before hopping on a trolley-style bus, to ride into downtown St. Petersburg in air-conditioned comfort, to enjoy the plethora of cultural and heritage attractions, including the Dali Museum, the newly opened Chihuly Collection, the Holocaust Museum, the Fine Arts Museum to list but a few (all linked with a charming system of trolley buses, the downtown ones offer a narrated commentary), then return to the Inn in time to linger on the sand beach, float in the warm Gulf waters (perhaps to see a pod of dolphins swim by, or pelicans diving for fish).

The trolley also goes to south to Passe-a-Grille, an absolutely charming beach village with the prettiest parcel of beach on the island, and north into Clearwater, hitting all the other beaches along the way.

For more ambitious exploring, you can visit Fort DeSoto or go kayaking at Weedon Preserve (rent from Sweetwaters Kayaks, 727-570-4844; www.sweetwaterkayaks.com).

In the evening, you might cross the street to the Cockney Rebel Pub where there is karaoke Friday-Sunday.

The Postcard Inn (the former Travelodge that was the first motel here in 1958)  is as casual as a motel, as swank as a boutique hotel, with the charm and personal attention of an inn – including a marvelous continental breakfast.

It also offers the Wildwood BBQ – a casual restaurant that brings BBQ to new culinary heights, specializing in multiple regional variations including Memphis-style, Carolina-style, St. Louis-style spare and baby-back ribs, dry-rubbed or wet, plus the most sensational nachos and skillet cornbread, as well as fish-of-the-day, burgers, sandwiches and salads, presided over by NYC’s Executive Pitmaster “Big” Lou DElrose. The bar is known for its Pina Coladas, Rum Runners and selection of Bourbon.

There is also a Beach Bar where there is live music, a snack shack, and a banquet room accommodating up to 150 people, as well as catered beach functions for as many as 750.

The restaurants and the inn, itself, is managed by BR Guest, which has more than a dozen restaurants in New York City (Blue Fin, Ruby Foos), plus two in Las Vegas, but this is its first in Florida.

The Postcard Inn is a partnership between BR Guest and Starwood Capital Group (we hear they are talking about another Postcard Inn in Key West, Las Vegas or California).

Rates are affordable: $99 in the summer, $189 at the height of tourist season.

For all the right reasons – charm, services, amenities, affordability/value, location – the Postcard Inn on the Beach is  becoming a wedding destination, and is superb family reunion place (they even accommodate pets, 50 lbs. or less, for a $50 pet fee per stay).

Locals can take advantage of its “staycation” deals – special discounts for Florida residents, and a day rate (half the regular rate), enabling you to rent a room up until 5 pm., to use while you are at the beach and enjoying the hotel’s amenities.

In another nice touch, there are vintage-looking postcards which they are happy to post for you.

Here’s mine:

Dear Family: The Postcard Inn is picture-postcard perfect. Wish you were here.

Postcard Inn on the Beach, 6300 Gulf Blvd, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706, 727-367-2711 main line, 800-237-8918 reservations, 727-369-4950 Wildwood, www.postcardinn.com.

See more of our coverage at www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

–Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate

Chihuly Collection Opens in St. Petersburg, Florida

July 26, 2010
Chihuly's Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier

Dale Chihuly's Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier is the signature piece for the newly opened Chihuly Collection in St Petersburg, Florida © 2010 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

The opening of the Chihuly Collection further cements St. Petersburg, Florida’s position as a Top Arts Destination.

There are only 20 museums in the world dedicated to a single artist, and St. Pete already has one of them: the Salvador Dali Museum. Now, with the opening of the Chihuly Collection, it has the 21st.

The Collection is housed on the ground floor of a new office/retail building on the north end of Beach Drive. (The Salvador Dali Museum is moving to a new building that is being constructed at the south end of Beach Drive, scheduled to open Jan. 11, 2011, so there will be wonderful end-to-end balance, with the Museum of Fine Arts in between.)

Dale Chihuly – the Louis Comfort Tiffany of our time – is a pioneer, a visionary, and a master of glass-making, the student of the legendary Murano glass works in Venice who returned as a teacher. The variety of techniques, the use of color and texture and shape, are marvelous to behold and are fabulously displayed here.

Glass making goes back 5,000 years, and glass-blowing 3,000 years. Chihuly takes the art to new frontiers.

The Chihuly Collection is presented by Morean Arts Center, an arts-education institution, where there is a glass studio and hotshop that can also be visited (separately, as well as with a combination ticket).

Make time to see a DVD about Dale Chihuly which is more about the creative process than a straight-forward biography – and follows the development of four major installations around the world: Ireland, Jerusalem, Venice. The whole film takes about 90 minutes, but you can visit at any point and pick up the story. But here is where you get a much fuller appreciation for how he incorporates the culture and texture of different places.

Dale Chihuly Float Boat

Chihuly got the idea for "Float Boat" - a boat filled with glass-blown balls and objects after his "River of Glass" project, when kids picked the glass objects out of the river and put them into their boat © 2010 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Then you follow some 16 different major works – each one made up of as many as hundreds of separate pieces – so there are some 4,000 pieces in all.

The Collection – the basis is $6 million in acquisitions by Beth Ann Morean – includes Chihuly’s spectacular large-scale installations such as Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier, created specifically for the Collection, as well as several popular series works including Macchia, Ikebana, Niijima Floats, Persians and Tumbleweeds, which have been exhibited around the globe.

Each space has been designed individually to complement the installation – the lighting arranged to produce the most spectacular visual effects emanating from the glass, and best appreciate the artistic elements.

Some of the most marvelous works, Studio Edition Glass produced at his Portland Press factory, are available for sale in the shop (ranging in price from $4,500-$8,000; seven pieces were sold in the first week the Collection was open), as well as the stunning drawings that reveal Chihuly’s creative process as well as his extraordinary talent in this medium.

Chihuly Collection

Dale Chihuly's Studio Edition Glass is available for sale at the Chihuly Collection shop © 2010 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

The Collection is open daily (tickets are for timed entry); docent-led tours are available every half hour on the quarter hour, beginning at 10:15 a.m. (though these were still being put into place when we visited).

The Glass Studio & Hot Shop, housed at the Morean Arts Center, provides an opportunity to see working artists in the visually exciting process of creating lass pieces. The artists provide running commentary on the steps they are following, the science behind glass, and the artistic vision guiding the process. You sit in stadium-style seats watching the artist working in front of the furnace (extraordinarily hot, this is not recommended in summer). there are also opportunities to make your own glass piece, working with one of the Morean instructors (Morean Arts Center/Glass Studio  & Hotshop, 719 Central Avenue, 727-822-7872, www.moreanartscenter.org, $8/A, $6/Seniors, $5/students and children over 5).

The Collection is walking distance of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club (the hotel has a Chihuly chandelier of its own), the Museum of Fine Arts, a multitude of galleries, restaurants and shops, and soon, the Salvador Dali Museum.

The Chihuly Collection, 400 Beach Drive, St. Petersburg, Florida, 727-896-4527, www.chihulycollectionstpete.com ($15/A, $13/Seniors, $12/students & children over 5; combination ticket with the glass studio is $20, $16 and $14).

See our complete story at www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

–Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate

St. Pete Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast is as Glorious as Ever

July 26, 2010
Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach

From our room at the charming Postcard Inn on the Beach, we stroll out to St. Pete Beach © 2010 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Just back from St. Pete Beach, Florida, where we had the most delightful stay at the Postcard Inn, right on the beach (more in stories to follow). The Gulf Coast beach is as beautiful as ever.

One evening, as we were awaiting the nightly spectacular – the sunset – we saw a pod of dolphins swimming past just beyond where the buoys marked the edge of swimming area. Brown pelicans were diving for fish just near where we were swimming.

Just beyond where a couple swims in the Gulf of Mexico, a pod of dolphin pass by © 2010 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

From our room at the  Postcard Inn on the Beach, chic, remodeled 1950s-era motel with the charm of an inn and the amenities and service of a boutique hotel, we stroll out to the beach.  (More on the Postcard Inn, 6300 Gulf Blvd, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706, 727-367-2711 main line, 800-237-8918 reservations, www.postcardinn.com, to follow).

There are scores of phenomenal beaches all along this spit of Florida, between St. Petersburg Beach, with Fort DeSoto (you can visit the Spanish-American War era fort) and Pass-a-Grille which is a quaint, historic village with what I considered the most beautiful, white-sand beach of all,  at the southernmost point, up through Treasure Island, Indian Shores, Clearwater Beach, Caledesi Beach, and Tarpon Springs.

A delightful way to visit is by the trolley bus that goes from Pass-a-Grille in the south, up to Clearwater Beach.

Pass-a-Grille turned out to be one of our favorite places to idle away. You follow Gulf Boulevard passed the famous “pink castle” of St. Pete Beach, the 1920s era Don Cesar hotel, and find yourself in Old Florida – charming houses lining a narrow street that ends in a historic village. Four miles of undeveloped public beach along Gulf Way on the Gulf of Mexico wrap around the end of the key to meet Boca Ciega Bay on the harbor side of Pass-a-Grille. You can go on a shelling or snorkeling excursion to Shell Key, watch the dolphins play; or enjoy gentle sea breezes on a sunset cruise. Take a stroll on 8th Avenue, where you’ll find galleries, boutiques, and restaurants and an adorable ice cream shop, Paradise Sweets.

To plan a trip, contact St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau,  13805 58th Street North, Suite 2-200, Clearwater, Fl 33760, 727-464-7200,  877-352-3224,  http://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/.

See our full coverage of St. Petersburg and the Gulf Beaches at www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

–Karen Rubin/Travel Features Syndicate

Gulfcoasttravelupdate.com Keeps Travelers Apprised of Gulf Beach & Travel Conditions

July 1, 2010

Tripatini.com, a social network for travelers and travel experts, has launched the Gulf Coast Travel Update (www.GulfCoastTravelUpdate.com), an online group that provides convenient, centralized information on travel conditions in all the Gulf states affected by the BP oil spill disaster as well as extreme weather such as hurricanes.

Unlike other online resources which cover the spill, GulfCoastTravelUpdate.com focuses only on how it affects travel to the region, thus helping potential visitors find what they need quickly and efficiently. The group, which forms part of the Tripatini.com social network for travelers and travel experts, is accessible via its own URL.

Group visitors will discover a comprehensive list of tourism resources, beach status reports, and oil spill/weather monitoring for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and where applicable Mexico, thus avoiding the need to check multiple Web sites when planning a trip. An aggregated Twitter feed provides minute-by-minute news from Gulf state tourism boards and travel professionals. The group’s discussion forum and comment wall allow travelers to cut through the clutter of the Internet and dialogue with fellow travelers, travel professionals, journalists and locals to get reliable information on Gulf Coast beach conditions and travel in general.

“Not only does this online group provide reliable Gulf Coast information all in one place, it allows direct dialogue between experts and concerned travelers,” says Tripatini founder and CEO David Paul Appell.

Tripatini President José Balido adds, “In today’s busy media landscape, many travelers don’t know where to begin searching for reliable information about current conditions on the Gulf Coast. Gulf Coast Travel Update helps travelers and travel professionals cut through the misinformation and the static.”

Dubbed “Facebook for travelers” by the New York Post, Tripatini.com is a social network for travelers and travel experts that boasts a unique international membership base and more than 350 specialized groups. Launched in summer 2009 to eliminate the traditional barriers between travelers, travel journalists, publicists, agents, vendors, and savvy insiders, the site gains new dynamic content, groups and membership daily. Tripatini.com’s community combines travel content such as destination spotlights, user-generated blogs, image galleries and news feeds with a fast-growing network of members to provide travel information.

Read our story, Florida’s Magnificent Gulf Coast Beaches: See Them Now