Our family vacation to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area was fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough as a place to travel with toddlers. The beaches are gorgeous and the vibe is laid back. There’s entertainment for little ones and amazing restaurants for adults.
Know Before You Plan Your Trip
Where to Eat?
What to Do?
Getting There and Away
Know Before You Go
Make sure your kids see the Dolphin Tale Movie before you go. It’s a great way to start conversations about the geography of the area, conservation, and all kinds of things!
AirBnB has numerous rentals in the area- this is what we used and it was successful, as always.
The St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area is mentioned as if it is one neighborhood, but it is several small towns spread out over many miles. St. Petersburg is about 30 minutes from Clearwater- just so you know if you have young kids traveling with you.
This area is famous for the sunsets! Make sure you are in a great spot to see it every evening.
Where to Eat?
Mad Beach Fish House
13205 Gulf Blvd. Madeira Beach, Florida
If you’re like me, one of the things you’re most interested in about a vacation is… what are we eating? We visited this place after several people recommended it and we ended up returning for our final meal.
For starters we had “Gator Bites” and crab stuffed mushrooms. They were perfectly crispy- even the toddlers loved them. The mushrooms were overflowing with a mixture of hot crab and cheeses- highly recommended.
I ordered the Butter Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese and everything about it was perfect- sweet lobster with melty cheddar cheese and sweet grilled onions- incredible! The Grouper Sandwich and Seafood Feast were also delicious. We savored homemade key lime pie for dessert.
The prices are reasonable, the casual vibe is inviting, and the food is awesome. Extra points for the Adirondack chair booths to fit the beachy theme. In addition, it was an extremely kid-friendly place. From the special kid cups to crayons as soon as we sat down, they were attentive and helpful with our three little ones. Oh! And the kid’s portions were HUGE- two kiddos could definitely split a plate. You must visit- it was our favorite restaurant of our trip.
454 Mandalay Avenue, Clearwater Beach, Florida
If you’re out “on the strip” in Clearwater, you HAVE to go here. A self-described Food Nirvana, this spot was a total hit with the kids and adults, too.
The Details: First, the inside is so much fun. The whimsical surfboards hanging in every direction delighted our little sharks. There are different signs devoted to travel and exotic beaches from Costa Rica to San Diego. They have an extensive beer list and a bunch of tropical themed cocktails on the menu. We enjoyed fish tacos and turf tacos, along with a bunch of appetizers like the Maui Poke Stack and Gnarly Nachos. The music was just loud enough to drown out the kids and we could still have a great adult conversation- if you have toddlers, then you know that is a win-win! You will love this awesome spot with the fun atmosphere.
What to Do?
Fort De Soto Park
3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde, Florida 33715
This park is incredible. In 2009 it was named “America’s Top Beach” by Trip Advisor. The water was calm enough here for all of the kids- even my one year old could easily play at the edge of the ocean. When you get there head to North Beach. You’ll want to rent an umbrella and chairs to enjoy the glittering white sand and crystal clear blue water. This beach rivals beaches of the Caribbean- you can clearly see fish swimming around your feet AND you can see dolphins swimming from the shore. We are still talking about those dolphins! We also saw pelicans that were the size of my two year old and lots of crabs scampering around.
You can also: rent kayaks and bicycles, walk a nature trail, and take a ferry to Egmont Key.
Honest note for traveling with kids: It’s a long drive to get out to the park, so be sure to have everything you need. There is nothing near the park. While there is a snack stand that serves hot dogs and lemonade, your best bet is to pack your own picnic of goodies.
A mom note: if you have small kids, I would skip the fort. (Ah! You are probably not supposed to say this! But it’s all concrete and it was HOT).
Clearwater Marine Aquarium:
We spent a morning at this aquarium and it is a great spot for kids older than five. Ours were a little too small to see most of the exhibits, but the adults enjoyed it. The dolphins here inspired the popular Dolphin Tale Movies. You can meet both Winter and Hope, the dolphins that were rehabilitated and saved by the aquarium and their story is incredible. *Teachers get in free with a teacher I.D.
Don Cesar Hotel and The Salvador Dali Museum- check out my post here about these MUST SEE spots in St. Petersburg!
Getting There and Away
You will fly into the Tampa International Airport (TPA) or St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
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