Thirty minutes west from Tampa sits St. Petersburg, Florida on the Florida coast of the Gulf of Mexico. St. Pete is a must-see, medium-sized town surrounded by many lovely beaches, but most people just drive through on the way to the water without giving the town itself a second thought. With its walkable downtown to explore and the St. Pete Harbor for boat-watching, take a day or two and check out some of its amazing museums.
Tampa has the Buccaneers’ football. Clearwater has the aquarium from “A Dolphin Tale”. And Orlando… everyone knows that famous mouse and killer whale. But what about St. Petersburg? Isn’t that a city in Russia? Nope.
As a homeschool family looking for every day opportunities for learning, St. Pete tourism provided my family a great day of education in its world-class museums. Family learning is so much more enjoyable when it’s taken out of the books and lectures. Soak in the real-life history and art appreciation before hitting the beach. Check out the schedule of events and festivals; this town has something for everyone!
The Morean Arts Center in downtown St. Pete encompasses several buildings, and I admit, I was a bit confused about this museum before our family vacation. It does a great job reminding its visitors that art isn’t just paintings. With free on-street parking, check out the Morean Arts Center and the Morean Center for Clay are worth a free walk around to see their contemporary painting and clay art galleries.
Visiting the Chihuly Museum should be on your list of places to visit in St. Petersburg, Florida. The permanent Chihuly Collection which, though not very large, offers an amazing permanent exhibition of Dave Chihuly’s distinct brightly colored, blown glass art. Start with the short video to make his glass sculptures more impactful. If your family hasn’t been introduced to the art of Dale Chihuly yet, take time to learn about him before the trip. Once you’re familiar with Chihuly glass, you’ll realize that you have seen his works all over in museum and gardens – even hanging from ceilings at hotels like the Bellagio in Vegas.
How to Visit the Chihuly Collection
The Chihuly museum will take less than an hour to visit and is an expensive stop for a family. Tickets to the Chihuly Collection will cost you $20 for adults/ $14 for kids. During busy holiday seasons, consider purchasing your tickets ahead of time. However, if you love Chihuly, go for it! Our visit to see Chihuly in Florida was free through museum membership reciprocity with the North American Reciprocal Museums (NARM) program.
Once you’re familiar with the famous artist Chihuly, head across the street to the Morean Glass Studio located behind the Morean Arts Center for a live glass blowing demonstration. Included in the cost of your Chihuly ticket (or reciprocity), this was our favorite part of the museum experience! The local artist demonstrates his art while another glass artist narrates the experience for the audience in the bleachers watching. My kids loved this so much that, after eating lunch, we came back and watched it again.
Take your Morean Arts experience to the next level by taking a class in glass, painting, or clay art. After experiencing the glass blowing studio, you’ll wish you could join in. Make sure you consider purchasing one of the studio-made glass art pieces for a souvenir of your St. Petersburg family vacation.
Wondering where to park for the Morean Arts Center? It’s free right in front of the building for two hours.
With building architecture as unique as the man himself, the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Pete is not to be missed. Spanning his career, this museum houses 2,400 paintings, clay creations, photos, and prints that will show you and your family why he is an artist you will not forget.
Although the building looks huge, the paintings only encompass one floor. It’s open and spacious and beautiful inside with a multi-story foyer. Stay on the bottom floor to watch the video about the artist before heading upstairs. Make sure you check the online calendar for special exhibits – we had just missed Picasso!
How to Visit the Dali Museum
Reserve your tickets online and plan to spend several hours here. Adults are $29, students are $20, and kids are $12. This could make for an expensive one hour stop, so make sure you show them your NARM membership card for free entrance with museum reciprocity! The museum is open daily 10 to 6 and until 8 on Thursdays. Note that backpacks and child carriers are not allowed in the museum so plan accordingly.
Where Should I Park at the Dali Museum?
The museum is located right on the harbor with a $10 parking lot. Bring your good shoes and walk around enjoying the all the yachts and sailboats. If you’re downtown on a Saturday from October to May, save several hours to hit the farmer’s market for snacks, fresh produce, and gifts.
The Florida Holocaust Museum in downtown St. Petersburg is a must-see museum for families with kids old enough to understand the seriousness of the subject matter. Make sure you download the museum app before your visit so that you can listen to a tour during your visit; each person will need a phone and headphones for this. (You could share iPhone ear buds if you stayed close together.)
The Florida Holocaust Museum is small but impactful. The bottom floor is packed with artifacts relating to Jewish history and tradition as well as stories of the Holocaust. This is a moving museum that isn’t the best for all families. Much of the museum is occupied with a Holocaust train transport car next to a large exhibit of the stories of the survivors.
Upstairs, we read through Anne Frank’s life and saw a replica of Anne Frank’s house. After reading many books about Anne, this was a great way to be reminded of her life. The rest of the second floor of the Florida Holocaust Museum exhibits was related to art and Holocaust propaganda at the time of our visit.
How to Visit the Holocaust Museum
It is suggested that you reserve your tickets online, but you may also purchase tickets at the door. This is a small museum; I suggest that you go during the week or during the less-visited season. At the time of our visit, bags were checked at the door. Two days after our visit, vandals sprayed hateful graffiti on the outside of the museum; given the subject matter, checking bags is a great idea. Large bags will have to be checked at the entrance.
How Should I Prepare My Kids to Visit the Holocaust Museum?
Read some books about World War 2 and talk about the significance of this museum before going. Your kids will have plenty of questions and will need you walking next to them to help them understand. There are a lot of words here, but also a great audio guide to help. My older kids were fine wandering off and understood enough to not need me. However, plan to catch up with them and ask questions about the exhibits to make sure they understand the artifacts and their significance.
This is a good museum to allow your little kids to just sit and play with the phone; the bigger ones will get more out of it and you should be available to answer their questions.
Where Should I Park at the Florida Holocaust Museum?
While there is a small, free parking lot attached to the museum, spaces are limited. If you are able to find a parking space, please be considerate and leave the lot at the end of your visit. If you are parked there after the museum closes at 5 PM, your car may be towed.
Bonus Tip: Ford’s Garage for Burgers
This restaurant has become the gold-standard for my kids’ dining. Since discovering this chain for the first time in Orlando in 2021, the kids mention their food frequently emphasizing the onion rings and macaroni and cheese. After exploring these fabulous St. Petersburg museums, do yourself a favor and walk a couple of blocks over for some delicious food in a super-unique environment.
Sites Near St. Pete to Explore
- Catch a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game at Tropicana Field in downtown St. Petersburg
- Museum of Fine Arts – It’s on my list! It looks to have a great permanent collection.
- Check out the walking tour of murals all over town. There are some walking mural tours you can join in or just wander expectedly.
- Come ready to eat and shop and walk around downtown.
Check Out These Other Florida Travel Posts
Reclaiming Wonders // Bobbie
With years of planning family road trips, Bobbie is an expert at incorporating amazing activities into her family travel plan which she shares on the blog, on Instagram, and through content creation for destinations and products. As a homeschool mom of four kids in Georgia, she strives to create a learning life full of adventures around the dinner table or throughout the United States. Learn Bobbie’s story to be encouraged to leave the busy life and reclaim the wonders of life.