Guide to Meeting & Event Planning in

St. Pete/Clearwater

Learn why you should host your next meeting, event or conference in St. Pete/Clearwater.

Why St. Pete/Clearwater for Your Next Meeting or Event?

Thirty-five miles of white-sugar sand beaches — ranked among the world's very best — underscore the meeting-destination celebrity of Florida's St.Pete/Clearwater. This locale is also renowned for its easy access from major U.S. destinations, hip Old Florida vibe, lively walkability, acclaimed public transportation and magical sunsets.

Travel Essentials
Taxes: Pinellas County room tax, 6%; state and local tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 13%

CVB: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, (727) 464-7200
 
Total Number of Hotel Rooms:
35,000 guest rooms in Pinellas County, which is made up of 24 communities including Clearwater Beach, St. Pete, St. Pete Beach and Dunedin
 
Convention Center:
Sirata Beach Resort & Conference Center; exhibit space, 30,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 14; (855) 318-4768

Only in St. Pete/Clearwater

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. Enjoined every July, St. Pete Grouper Week is highlighted by local restaurant happenings, chartered fishing adventures and — the topper — a food-truck rally featuring succulent grouper-inspired recipes, live music and endless libations.

Area Transportation

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 and Allegiant airlines, as well as several charter airlines. Transfer cost by taxi, $50; by Uber, about $20

2018 Stella Award Winners

 

Meeting & Event Venues

Looking to Plan a Meeting in St. Pete/Clearwater?
Learn everything you need to know about this Florida paradise at Destination Southeast, Northstar's premier event for meetings and incentive pros looking to book biz in the area.

New & Coming Soon to St. Pete/Clearwater

• A new 200-room Marriott Autograph Collection hotel is being planned in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg. The 50-story mixed-used tower also calls for 325 condominiums, dining and retail space. At press time, details on other offerings — including meeting and event space — as well as a projected opening date have not yet been announced. Stay tuned.

• The new Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement is nearing a summer 2019 completion in St. Petersburg. The 137,000-square-foot facility will showcase businessman Rudy Ciccarello’s extensive collection of furniture, pottery, tile, metalwork, lighting, photography and other decorative arts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The five-story museum also will house event spaces, a 100-seat auditorium and a 9,000-square foot-restaurant.

• TradeWinds Island Resorts is currently upgrading its two properties, the  211-room RumFish Beach Resort and 585-room sister property TradeWinds Island Grand, at a cost of $13 million. Both TradeWinds venues are being refreshed with new bedding, draperies, upholstery, sofa beds, carpeting and reappointed bathrooms. Even more is in store at the Guy Harvey Outpost, which is being further upgraded with new beachfront balconies, railings, exterior paint and new seating area club chairs. The Guy Harvey refurbishment will be completed by Feb. 2019; half of the rooms at the Island Grand have already been refreshed; the rest will be completed by late 2020. Read more here.

• 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 ideally suited and equipped for small meetings, group outings, team building and corporate events.

More Event Venues

• 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 reconstruction that in November will debut 83 luxe-level rooms, a new HEW Parlor and Chophouse, a rooftop bar that overlooks the St. Joseph Sound, and 11,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

• In St. Pete Beach, a renovation of the 13-acre Sirata Beach Resort has been unveiled. The major makeover included upgrades to all 382 guest rooms and suites, the three signature restaurants, the 30,000 square feet of function space, the beachfront swimming complex and the addition of a full-time activities staff.

• Major multi-phase renovations are continuing at Florida’s iconic Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach. In February, this 277-room National Historic Landmark completed a major modernization of its meeting and event facilities, which includes 22,000 square feet of indoor function space; 16,000 square feet of outdoor space; two ballrooms spanning 5,671 and 4,002 square feet, respectively, and 13 meeting rooms. The first improvement phase saw the renovation of public areas in both the main resort and its sister property, the 70-room Beach House Suites by the Don CeSar.

• North Clearwater Beach's Hotel Cabana is sporting a lavish new look following a total refresh and renovation. Accented by 29 Key West-inspired guest rooms and suites, property perks include a heated pool, complimentary Kahwa-branded coffee and WiFi, a landscaped courtyard, a sun deck and easy access to nearby restaurants, bars and beaches.

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.

• Paying homage to an era of easygoing coastal comfort, the Postcard Inn on the Beach has been restyled with individually decorated rooms and nostalgia-themed art that further define this 196-room casual St. Pete Beach property. Amenities include two restaurants, a beach bar, and multiple interior and exterior event spaces including a 2,280-square-foot ballroom.

The Inn on the Beach has completed an all-encompassing redesign and renovation of its 14 guest rooms. The property is in laid-back Pass-a-Grille near the historic 8th Avenue shopping district.

• In downtown St. Pete, the new James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art has opened with a singular assortment of premium works from the personal collection of Tom and Mary James. Emeritus chairman of Raymond James Financial, Tom James has invested nearly $50 million into the 84,000-square-foot museum, which includes 30,000 square feet of gallery space, 9,300 square feet of meeting space and a 129-seat auditorium.

• Two years ago, USA Today ranked St. Pete/Clearwater as one of the five most underrated food cities of the East Coast. Helping lead that epicurean breakthrough are the home-cooked, handcrafted delicacies offered at The Mill; the new eatery has private event space for up to 60 guests.

• New restaurants are all the rage in St. Pete, with locally owned concepts popping up at a dizzying pace. Following are three to try:

• The Brass Bowl Kitchen & Juicery: Eating healthy has never tasted so good. The Brass Bowl serves a chef-driven, fully organic menu featuring fresh gluten-free food bowls that burst with flavor.

• German Knodle: Open from breakfast to late night, the Knodle offers everything from bratwurst to paninis, but don’t leave without sampling one of its succulent knodles (small German dumplings).

• No Vacancy St. Pete: Once you check in, you might never want to check out of the retro Florida-themed No Vacancy. Its “everyday vacay” décor is a sweet complement to the dynamite tropical cocktails and island-style bites.

• Beginning Dec. 15, the Dali Museum will offer a first-of-its-kind special exhibition of René Magritte and Salvador Dali, two of the world's most celebrated surrealists. "Magritte & Dali" will showcase exemplary works from the late 1920s to the early 1940s, a period when the controversial artists' careers overlapped. Read more here.

• Underscored by a nine-gallery, eye-candy collection of more than 500 pieces of American Studio Glass, the Imagine Museum has recently opened in St. Petersburg. The three-story downtown property is the latest of a series of regional, privately funded facilities that are turning the St.Petersburg/Clearwater area into a must-see art experience. The new venue accommodates private events for up to 150 people. Read more about it here.

• St. Pete's NOVA 535 is a meticulously renovated historic 1920 building with 7,000 square feet of event space, convenient interstate access, multiple full-service bars, VIP areas plus a private 4,000-square-foot brick and bamboo courtyard.

• Stay, meet and play at 362-room Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club. Located in the vibrant downtown district, guest perks include three restaurants, a spa, a health club, Ron Garl-designed golf and 60,500 square feet of total event space.

St. Pete / Clearwater Meeting Hotels

Things to Do in St. Pete/Clearwater

Getting Active & Outdoors

• Why settle for pedestrian experiences when you can literally take your event to the clouds in a historic biplane originally owned by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst? BiPlane Rides offers Nikon-prompting, open-cockpit tours of downtown St. Pete, St. Pete Beach, the Beach and Bay, and a thrilling Ultimate Tour that features dazzling Egmont Key and more.

• To explore some of Clearwater's prettiest parks, take a bike ride along the Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail, an off-road course connecting the Gulf of Mexico at Clearwater Beach to Tampa Bay at Safety Harbor. Be sure to take a break to look for wildlife around Alligator Creek!

• Take a late-day stroll or jog along the waterfront park and Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach to catch the spectacular, iridescent sunsets. Clearwater Beach recently took top honors in TripAdvisor’s “2019 Best Beaches in the U.S.”  

• One of the best ways to experience the destination is via the famed Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, a 40-mile-long walking/jogging/skating/cycling greenway built atop an abandoned railroad corridor that meanders across rivers and creeks, and through picturesque small towns. Start in downtown St. Pete and end with a calorie-replenishing reward at one of Tarpon Springs’ premier Greek restaurants.

Extending Your Trip in St. Pete/Clearwater

• Factor in some beach time to enjoy the area's world-renowned sand and surf. This year, Clearwater Beach ranked as the top spot in the United States by TripAdvisor’s annual top 25 beach ranking, while St. Pete Beach took fourth place.

• In nearby Bradenton, add to your must-see bucket list the Bradenton Riverwalk. Spanning 1.5 miles along the sparkling Manatee River, the Riverwalk is a great way to spend an few hours on Florida's Gulf Coast. After, replenish your spent calories with a sweet treat from Corwin's Ice Cream and Smoothies.

• Also in Bradenton, spend some quality time at the South Florida Museum. The intimate and highly esteemed facility features natural history artifacts, a second-stage rehabilitation aquarium for injured manatees, a 70-seat planetarium and a Spanish Plaza Courtyard with room for 225 guests.

Tarpon Springs is just 20 minutes north of St. Pete/Clearwater, but the experience feels like you've been transported to a coastal village in Greece. Head for riverfront Dodecanese Boulevard to shop for specialty gifts like natural sponges and olive oil soap. Then wander over to Tarpon Avenue, celebrated for its authentic Greek restaurants like Mama's Greek Cuisine (don't miss the live belly dancing show every Saturday night), Hellas, Parthenon and Mykonos.

• Festival time: The Clearwater Super Boat National Championship, a mega-fueled race attracts over 50,000 fans who line the shoreline of the 2.5-mile-long Clearwater Beach course, be it for VIP watch parties or the thrills-a-minute competition of offshore power boats capable of producing more than 6,000 horsepower and speeds up to 180 mph.
 
SHINE St. Pete Mural Festival is a showcase for the vibrant, creative and inspiring murals crafted by artists from down the block and around the world, transforming walls and even entire street intersections.
 
On Treasure Island, masterpieces are crafted from piles of sand, buckets of water and tons of imagination during the Sanding Ovations Master’s Cup. Competitors from throughout North America, Europe and Asia vie for the annual title and $12,000 in cash prizes, the contest bookended by live music, arts and crafts, fireworks, sculpting lessons and more.. 

St. Pete/Clearwater Sports Scene

• The 2019 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, regarded a must-do event held during Florida’s popular spring-break season, takes place this year March 8-10. The 15th annual running utilizes a 1.8-mile, 14-turn city-street configuration backdropped by picturesque Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg Harbor and Marina.

• The St. Pete/Clearwater area has been hosting Major League Baseball spring training since 1914, when the St. Louis Browns lost to the Chicago Cubs 3-2 at Coffee Pot Park. This generational tradition continues every season, beginning in February, with Grapefruit League matchups between 15 MLB teams including the Philadelphia Phillies, the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees.

• Meeting planners are advised to highlight early February 2021 on their calendars. That is when nearby Tampa will host the National Football League's Super Bowl LV. The city also hosted the pigskin championship in 1984, 1991, 2001 and 2009.

Best Breweries

In nearby Dunedin is Florida's oldest microbrewery, Dunedin Brewery, producer of the aromatic and scrumptious Apricot Peach Wheat Ale. Launched in 1996, the popular watering hole hosts group tours four days a week and headlines an anthology of 40 area craft breweries that collectively define the renowned St. Pete/Clearwater Craft Beer Trail. Other on-tap brewpubs worthy of a crawl:

• Dunedin's intimate and dog-friendly 7venth Sun Brewery has a stellar reputation for small-batch IPAs, oak-aged sour beer and spirit barrel-aged beers. Start your stop with a Graffiti Orange Creamsicle Wheat, a 5.9-percent crowd pleaser.

• An outpost of New England's award-winning Sea Dog Brewing Co. has emerged in Clearwater. Featuring more than a dozen specialty drafts from Maine, the facility furthers its celebrity with a 125-guest-capacity private event space where aficionados are regaled with palate pleasers like the Blood Orange Belgian Wit.

• Downtown St. Pete's own Cycle Brewing has earned cult-following celebrity with barrel-aged stouts that regularly earn listings on world's best beers listings. Request a sample flight, or go all in with a Cream and Sugar Coffee Porter, which — red-flag warning — has an eye-popping 6-percent alcohol kick.

• Craving something light and refreshing? Order a pint of Berliner Weisse at De Bine Brewing Co. in Palm Harbor. The industrial-style tasting room features a generous bar and communal tables for gathering with friends and colleagues.

• On the north end of the Trail in Tarpon Springs is Two Frogs Brewing Co., housed in a circa-1895 former drug store that specializes in all-American ales. Saddle into the saloon-like setting and order up the Snowmass, a chocolate-coconut brown ale with a heady 5.8-percent kick.

Top 10 Restaurants in St. Pete

After you've had some brew, head to these hotspots for a delicious bite to eat.

  1. Jacks London Grill - British
  2. Brick & Mortar - American, Asian
  3. Chiefs Creole Cafe - Crole
  4. Noble Crust - American
  5. Parkshore Grill - Seafood, American
  6. Annata Wine Bar - Italian, Mediterranean
  7. Rococo Steak - American Steakhouse
  8. Trip's Diner - American
  9. Engine No. 9 - America
  10. La V - Vietnamese  
Top 10 Restaurants in Clearwater
  1. Cafe Ponte - American
  2. Marina Cantina - Mexican
  3. Salty's Island Bar & Grille - American, Seafood
  4. Cristino's Coal Oven Pizza - Italian
  5. Rumba Island Bar & Grill - Caribbean 
  6. Sandbar Restaurant - American
  7. Wildflower Cafe - American
  8. Bait House - American
  9. Sea-Guini - Italian, Seafood
  10. Blinkers Beachside Steakhouse & Lounge - American Steakhouse