FLORIDA

Exploring Clearwater Beach, Florida

It's easy to see why Clearwater Beach keeps getting ranked as one of Florida's top beaches. The brilliant white sands invites beach goers to remove any form of footwear so that the toes can experience a little slice of heaven that only this sand can deliver.  During a recent visit to the area we set up shop at the Hilton Clearwater Beach.  This hotel offers the perfect location if you like to minimize car time and take leisurely strolls.  Everything from dining to shopping and entertainment are within short walking distances.  The hotel offers breath taking views of the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Clearwater Beach skyline.  The room was spacious and I enjoyed taking in all the sights and sounds from the balcony.  Its in house Reflections Restaurant serves up mean Shrimp Po'boys and Fish Tacos.  The outside Tiki Bar was a popular hangout of many.  It was packed with folks laughing and enjoying conversation.

A short walk down the beach was the famous Pier 60.  This is must see and experience.  During the day it's your average non-pretentious beach pier that stretches ½ mile into the Gulf.  In the evening it comes to life with, what locals affectionately call, Crafters and Buskers.  Crafters design and create handmade items that range from handmade designer jewelry and personalized handcrafted guitar pick jewelry to hand made "palm" flowers.  If you hang around long enough you'll get the "Buskers" experience.  Buskers are street performers and could anything from magic acts, dance troupes, living statues or even an opportunity to get your picture taken with Capt. Jack Sparrow.  Watching the street performers is always free and no tickets are sold.

Since we were in the area, we checked out the Dali Museum in St Pete.  We had a great time strolling through the museum, enjoying the artwork.  The "Lincoln in Dali vision" was my favorite.  After your visit you can become a part of the exhibit by tying your armband to the tree in the "Melting Chair" garden outside near the garden maze. 

Located just down the road is, The Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge.  We stopped in for a little lunch before heading back to the hotel.  What a treat it was to sit out on the deck, eat "the not quite $100 hamburger club" while watching small planes taking off and landing.  I think it added a little time to our lunch, but we didn't mind.

A trip to the Tampa area wouldn't be complete without taking in a day at Busch Gardens.  We set out one day to take in the parks fantastic roller coasters and funnel cakes.  We took advantage of the Quick Queue pass that got you to the front of the line.  A bit pricey at $60, but it was well worth it.  We were able to ride rides in 15 minutes or less that had over an hours' wait time.

Overall, we enjoyed our Clearwater Beach summer vacation.  We had four days to pack it in and we were not disappointed! We're definitely going to find our way back real soon as the only thing lacking was more time.

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