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Discovering the Central Arts District
A lot of travelers now want to get “off the beaten path” and in St. Petersburg, the beaten path tends to be along the beautiful waterfront of Beach Drive and includes the incredible Renaissance Vinoy Resort, Chihuly Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of History, Salvador Dali Museum, Mahaffey Theatre and dozens of shops, boutiques and sidewalk cafes.
But the authentic St. Petersburg can be found in and around Central Avenue between Third and Eighth Streets a bit further from the waterfront. This is where eclectic and funky meets banks and where artist studios and galleries meet fashion boutiques for the youthful and where tatoo shops meet record stores.
There are at least a dozen murals created by some very talented artists throughout the district. It is anchored on one end by the Michele Teugel Gallery, Florida Holocaust Museum and Florida Craftsmen Gallery and on the other end the Morean Arts Center and Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop. In between you’ll find some of the unique independent shops that makes St. Petersburg have such a hip vibe. If this were New York, this district would be Williamsburg.
Start with a stroll in the 300 block and make your way up to the Morean or the other way around. The district is ever-changing so there may be some businesses that are no longer there if you read this long after it is published – nonetheless the district is well worth visiting in general.
There is Baubles and Bubbles and Michele Teugel Gallery in this block right along Central and both are highly suggested spots. The environs around this block also feature some great places to eat including Primi Urban Cafe. To the South you’ll find Wood Fired Pizza, the avenue and World of Beer amongst other things to do.
The imposing Snell Arcade Building at the corner of Fourth and Central is not only historic but home to Green Bench Florist, Appropos (a great restaurant open for lunch) and The Cupcake Spot. Around the corner is the historic open air U.S. Post Office. This block also includes a former McCrory’s and Kress store that both have been repurposed. There is the India Grill, Moscato’s King and I and La V for restaurants along Central Avenue in this block.
This block is loaded with restaurants too but also is home to Florida Craftsmen Gallery – the state headquarters of this organization. There is an incredible retail store and exhibition space. Above, there are artists lofts that are open to the public on the Second Saturday Art Walk when this district buzzes with activity. Just around the corner on Fifth Street is the Florida Holocaust Museum which is a must-visit in the city.
There are also a variety of restaurants and cafes in this block including, Dome Grill, St. Pete Brasserie, Acropolis, 9 Bangkok, Central Coffee Shoppe, Papa Angelo’s on First Ave North and others. The Emerald Bar and Sake Bomb are both bars and are also in this block. The Emerald is a bit of a time machine and hasn’t changed much for decades.
Probably the more famous of the blocks, this block once was very distressed and today teems with artistic activity with the fashion boutiques, artist studios and galleries and more. It is the home to several music venues including the historic State Theatre, Octave, Local 442 and FuBar.
The Crislip Arcade in this block is a fun place to go into as there are a variety of great businesses always located here – almost always with an arts twist. A small event space, Studio 620, located in this block on First Avenue South, has a lot of community oriented performances.
Almost the entire 700 block is covered by the Morean Arts Center and the Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop on First Avenue North. There are daily glass blowing demonstrations in the Hot Shop and the arts center itself features community oriented art exhibitions plus a lot of art classes. There is also a cafe located in the arts center, Fork & Cork.