Thirty-five miles of white-sand beaches -- ranked among the world's best -- underscore the meeting-destination celebrity of Florida's St. Pete/Clearwater. This locale is also renowned for its hip Old Florida vibe, easy walkability, acclaimed public transportation and magical sunsets.
• After an extensive renovation, the 34-room Avalon has reopened in downtown St. Petersburg with retro interiors, a restaurant and a 21-craft-beer bar.
• The 196-room Postcard Inn on the Beach has been restyled with individually decorated rooms and nostalgia-themed art. Amenities include two restaurants, a beach bar and multiple indoor/outdoor event spaces, including a 2,280-square-foot ballroom.
The Dali Museum launched a first-of-its-kind special exhibition of art by Salvador Dali and René Magritte, two of the world's most celebrated surrealists, last month. The show will run through May 15.
BEST OF THE WEST
The new James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art offers a singular assortment of premium works, along with 9,300 square feet of meeting space and a 129-seat auditorium.
St. Pete/Clearwater is regarded as the "Grouper Capital of the World," so much so that the wickedly tasty and flaky white fish has earned its own festival. Each July, St. Pete Grouper Week is marked by local restaurant happenings, chartered fishing adventures and a food-truck rally featuring succulent recipes, live music and endless libations.
• The TradeWinds Island Resort is upgrading its two hotels, the 211-room TradeWinds Guy Harvey Outpost and its 585-room sister property, the TradeWinds Island Grand, at a combined cost of $13 million. Guest rooms at both venues are being refreshed with upgraded soft goods, while the Guy Harvey Outpost also is being outfitted with new beachfront balconies, railings, exterior paint and seating-area club chairs. Work at the Guy Harvey should be completed by 2020, while the Island Grand project should be completed by next month.
• Marriott International's Autograph Collection flag now flies over Dunedin's Fenway Hotel. Neglected and shuttered for years, the historic property has undergone a $30 million salvage, restoration and re-construction that debuted in November 2018 with 83 guest rooms, a new HEW Parlor and Chophouse, a rooftop bar that overlooks St. Joseph Sound, and 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
• In St. Pete Beach, a $15 million renovation at the 13-acre Sirata Beach Resort was scheduled to premier in late 2018. The major makeover includes all 382 guest rooms, the three signature restaurants, enhancements to the 30,000 square feet of function space, a rebuild of the beachfront swimming area and the addition of a full-time activities staff.
• The iconic St. Pete Pier, which backdrops the 34-acre St. Petersburg Pier District, is under construction. When completed in early 2019, it will anchor the third-largest waterfront park system in North America and will further enhance St. Pete's vibrant downtown and treasured waterfront.
• Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter, the Tailless Dolphin, has begun an expansion that will allow the marine hospital to care for more injured sealife, including turtles and dolphins. In addition to its mission to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife as well as being a must-see family attraction, the aquarium is suited and equipped for small meetings, group outings, team building and corporate events.
• North Clearwater Beach's Hotel Cabana is sporting a new look following a total renovation. Accented by 29 Key West--inspired guest rooms, property perks include a heated pool, complimentary WiFi, a landscaped courtyard, a sundeck and easy access to nearby restaurants, bars and beaches.
• In celebration of its 90th anniversary, the 277-room Don CeSar has completed a multi-phase renovation of the public areas of both the main resort and its sister property, the 70-room Beach House Suites by The Don CeSar. Since 1928, the award-winning "Pink Palace" has welcomed the world's elite -- from gangsters to movie stars to U.S. presidents. Meeting planners can reserve nearly 33,000 square feet in multifunction venues, including two expansive ballrooms and a full conference center.
MEETING HOTELS: To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit Northstar Meetings Group's new venue finder.
CONVENTION CENTER: Sirata Beach Resort & Conference Center; exhibit space, 30,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 14
AIRPORT TRANSIT: Tampa International Airport, about 18 miles east of Clearwater and 20 miles northeast of St. Pete. Transfer cost by taxi, $50; by Uber, about $20
St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport, about 19 miles from downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Clearwater, which is served by low-cost Allegiant airlines, as well as several charter airlines. Transfer cost by taxi, $50; by Uber, about $20
TAXES: Room tax, 6%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 13%
CONTACT: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater