Florida's Cultural West Coast

  • Start: Fort Myers, Florida
  • End: Tampa, Florida
  • Last Modified: 2014-08-15 20:42:23
  • Total Mileage: 117 Miles
  • Number of stops: 15


Western Florida’s sandy shores, Gulf waters, and warm days attract vacationers year-round. But it’s more than just sun, sand, and surf that sparkle in this region. There are also many shining cultural, art, and historical attractions. Among the icons you’ll encounter on this journey are Hernando de Soto, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and John Ringling.

In Fort Myers and Sarasota, you can tour elegant gardens and grand estates, get inside the heads of two of the country’s greatest 20th-century innovators, step right up to see what life was like behind the scenes and in the rings of the greatest show on Earth, and follow in the footsteps of early Spanish conquistadors.

Saint Petersburg has a trio of world-class museums. One showcases everything from master American photographers, like Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz, to Europe’s grand masters. Another contains the largest American collection of works---across all media---by master surrealist Salvador Dali. A third highlights the colorful, awe-inspiring sculptures of master American glass blower Dale Chihuly. Along the way, you can sample Southern fare and seafood, stay in a hotel that’s been the property of choice since the Roaring Twenties, dance the salsa, sip sangria, and bask in all that sparkling sun, sand, and surf.

Worth Noting: Northeast of downtown Tampa, roughly 30 miles across the bay from St. Pete, is the historic district of Ybor City, established in the 1880s as a cigar manufacturing community and populated by Cuban, Spanish, Italian, and other immigrants. It’s now considered Tampa’s Latin Quarter and makes a great side trip from St. Pete, thanks to its coffee shops, where you can small the beans roasting; restaurants, including some classic Cuban and tapas spots; and clubs where the salsa music begs you to dance.

Travel Tips: To reach St. Petersburg from Bradenton (via Terra Ceia), you’ll no doubt follow I-275/US 19 across the magnificent 4-mile Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Additionally three bridges connect St. Petersburg with Tampa, though if you’re heading directly to Ybor City, the Howard Frankland is your best bet. This trip is a great complement (or alternative) to visits to central Florida’s theme parks. Sarasota is only about 130 miles southwest of Orlando, with its Disney and SeaWorld theme parks---a really quick trip along I-4 to I-75. Tampa, home to Busch Gardens, is a straight 85-mile shot from Orlando along I-4.

Stop #1:

Edison & Ford Winter Estates
Fort Myers, Florida

Stop #2:

Fancy's Southern Cafe
Fort Myers, Florida

Stop #3:

Ca' d’Zan Estate at The Ringling
Sarasota, Florida

Stop #4:

Circus Museum at The Ringling
Sarasota, Florida

Stop #5:

Museum of Art at The Ringling
Sarasota, Florida

Stop #6:

Historic Asolo Theater at The Ringling
Sarasota, Florida

Stop #7:

Lido Beach Resort
Sarasota, Florida

Stop #9:

De Soto National Memorial
Bradenton, Florida

Stop #10:

The Dali Museum
St. Petersburg, Florida

Stop #11:

Chihuly Collection
St. Petersburg, Florida

Stop #12:

Morean Arts Center
St. Petersburg, Florida

Stop #13:

Museum of Fine Arts
St. Petersburg, Florida

Stop #14:

The Vinoy Renaissance
St. Petersburg, Florida

Stop #15:

The Moon Under Water
St. Petersburg, Florida

Stop #16:

Columbia Restaurant
Tampa, Florida

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