St Petersburg, Florida
There are some of us that at one point in our lives have packed up our belongings and left for somewhere completely new. Usually people that have done this know that change is a good thing. Changing your environment can allow you to approach life with a whole new perspective. Moving to a new city will force you to break your old routines and help you forge new opportunities. Of course if you’re moving to a new city looking for good opportunities you need to move to the right city. Well good news is that if you’re reading this article you’ve found the right city. Haven’t heard much about St Pete? Don’t worry I’ll be your tour guide.
So maybe you’re from the midwest and you decided that life is too short to deal with brutal winters. Maybe you’re from the east coast and you finally realized that there’s more to life than living in the armpit of America . Maybe you’re from the west coast and you don’t want to have to sell another one of your children on the black market to pay your mortgage on time. More than likely part of you is like me and you are simply looking for a more exciting place to live. Regardless of your reasons for packing up your old life, here’s 15 reasons why you’ll be thankful that you started your new life in St Pete, Florida.
The very center of downtown is packed into roughly one square mile. You can walk to anything you need – bars, restaurants, grocery stores, art galleries, tattoo shops, coffee shops, USFSP, the beautiful waterfront, you name it. It’s also all very flat so walking takes minimal effort. St Pete is also a great city to bike around in. If you don’t have a bike you can utilize the new Bike Share Program which allows you to rent a bike by the hour. If you’re too lazy to walk or bike you can rent a segway, but then you would have to be seen in public on a segway. You could survive living downtown without a car but if you’re paying downtown rent prices you can probably afford a car.
Florida weather is great…..
….about half of the year. Being in the Florida summer heat isn’t bad for less than 5 minutes. Walking down the street in the sun for more than 5 minutes will result in the culmination of sweat, lethargy and dread. After 5 minutes you will start to feel like a sloth taking a sauna.
Being from Minnesota, I’m used to hibernating during the winter time. Now that I live in Florida, I have to hibernate in the summer while looking out the window at a sunny day feeling guilty that I should be outside. You will see people here that enjoy being outside all year long, you may recognize them if you’ve ever seen a piece of beef jerky. The good news is that about 6 months out of the year the weather is gorgeous. Those 6 months it’s nice out, you sit back and think about how lucky you are to live in Florida, you think about how the summer isn’t that bad, but it is.
3. Craft beer
Part of me loves the craft beer movement because there is an amazing variety of good beer and fun places to drink them. The other part of me hates the craft beer movement because I’ve been working hard at the gym for the past 6 months and I still resemble a marshmallow. I’m in the process of starting a new diet trend- Substituting beer for meals. I feel pretty confident that it will catch on because drinking some of these heavy beers is almost like eating a porkchop.
The craft beer scene really took off in 2013 when the pioneers like Cycle Brewing, 3 Daughters and Green Bench opened up. Since many of these microbreweries have expanded for distribution, you’ll have no problem finding good beer anywhere in St. Pete whether you’re out to eat or at the grocery store. I have to give a shout out to my current favorite microbrewery – Cage Brewing. Do yourself a favor and stop by here for a flight of beer. Usually I’ll find a brewery with 1 or 2 beers that will be my favorites but Cage has a surprising amount of really good beer for one place. Here’s a tidbit of advice – Get yourself a bicycle and spend an afternoon with a friend cruising around St. Pete to tour the microbreweries, they’re all within about a 3 mile radius of downtown.
4. Progressive Culture
When you think of cities that fit the description of ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’ you may think of cities like Austin, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis or San Francisco. Typically cities like this that are progressive have a few tell tale signs; they embrace artistic culture, they value local music, and there’s an acceptance and integration of gay culture. St Pete has all of this and more. Here’s a summary of how these concepts play out in St Pete.
A new tradition was started in 2015 and has become an annual event – Shine Mural Fest brings in artists from all over the country to put their creations on the sides of buildings turning the whole city into a local art gallery. Many of these murals are even more intricate and creative than something you would see in a museum, and every year about a dozen more are added around the city. There are also a ton of talented artists in this city. Whether it be glass blowing, clay throwing, a portrait painting or mural creating, you will not only be able to see the end product that these artists create but many times you can actually see these artistic works in progress. A great place to get your feet wet with artistic culture is The Second Saturday Artwalk which takes place on the Second Saturday of every month. I’ll go more into detail about this in the Art section.
Any night of the week you will be able to find live music whether it be downtown, at the beach or somewhere in between such as the charming little waterfront city of Gulfport. If you’re feeling snazzy, take a recommendation from me – Live Jazz at Ruby’s Elixor every Thursday night. Go get yourself a cigar and some whiskey to sip on, put on your fancy vest and fedora and do it big. Disclaimer- fancy vest and fedora not required for a good time.
St. Pete is about as gay as it comes. Home to the biggest gay pride festival in all of Florida, there are a lot of fabulous individuals in the area and also plenty of gay bars peppered throughout the city from the EDGE district to Grand Central. Kenwood is one of the most desirable areas in St. Pete and part of that is due to the contributions of the gay community. Years ago Kenwood was a rundown neighborhood but gradually it became a hot spot for gay folks and others with a sense of style that helped rejuvenate the neighborhood by restoring the 1920’s Bungalows and creating a strong sense of community in that area. Now Kenwood is more of a community than a neighborhood – Many of the folks that live there know each other and frequently host porch parties and other events that make Kenwood a welcoming place to live. Kenwood has an event every November called Bungalowfest where 15 or so homes open their doors to the public to tour the inside of these beautiful historic homes. Here’s a video from the 2015 Bungalowfest showcasing a few of these beautiful homes.
Yeah it’s pretty good here. Sushi, Latin Fusion, Thai, Vietnamese, even a gourmet grilled cheese place, there’s all sorts of restaurants in St Pete. The first thing you’ll notice is that the majority of restaurants in downtown St Pete have sidewalk seating. If you’ve been to Europe before it will remind you of many of the sidewalk cafes that are so popular over there. In my opinion, sidewalk seating adds to the excitement of the city. Just by passing through you get to experience the lively nature by seeing lots of folks outside enjoying their day. To get you started on your St Pete dining experience, let me introduce you to my top 3 favorite restaurants.
Starting with Red Mesa Cantina. There are 3 Red Mesa restaurants in St Pete all owned by the same family. Red Mesa Cantina is located downtown in a old brick building which was formerly the original fire station in St Pete. They have a beautiful courtyard with a fountain as well as an inside and outside bar. Cantina serves up Latin Fusion type food and some awesome drinks. Usually when I visit I am at one extreme or another, let me explain. You can eat healthy and get something like the Salmon Ala Planche which is a nice salmon filet served on a bed of sauteed veggies. On the other end of the spectrum, you can order the El Gordo and attempt to eat a burrito the size of a small child. Similarly, if you’re looking to keep your composure you can enjoy a fancy handcrafted margarita or you can come in on half price pitcher night and order an entire pitcher of margarita to yourself if you’re looking to get MC Hammered.
Second on my list would be the Vietnamese Fusion restaurant La V. The food here is really good but the real reason I like it so much is that everyone who works here is really good looking. I feel like any of the wait staff, bartenders and managers could be models in a JC Penney Catalog. My friend and business partner Ryan likes this restaurant so much, almost too much. Every time without fail that he comes downtown, he wants to eat at La V. Ryan is a pretty man that would also fit right into a JC Penney Catalog so I guess it makes sense.
Third, I would have to say The Canopy. Honestly I’ve only had the food here a few times which has been great but it’s the atmosphere you come here for. The Canopy is a rooftop restaurant & bar with a Miami South Beach kind of vibe. You will notice that not only the decor has a South Beach style, but also there are many folks with a pretentious demeanor similar to what you would find in South Beach. The good news is that this is St Pete, not South Beach. The bartenders are happy to take your money regardless of what you look like. Even though this place comes off as upscale, it’s also not a problem to stop in for a casual visit.
6. The Beach
Are you like me and self conscious about taking your shirt off in public? Then maybe the beach isn’t for you. But seriously, go enjoy the beach here. The nice thing about living here is you can go enjoy the beach when it’s not spring break season. If you enjoy being loud, obnoxious and sloppy drunk then for sure come down for spring break and you’ll fit right in. Regardless of the time of year you decide to come down, it will be really hard to find parking and it’s expensive when you do find it. I would highly recommend taking an Uber or Lyft to the beach if you’re not within walking distance. Once you’re at the beach there is actually a free taxi service that operates on tips that you can take up and down Gulf Blvd. There are many popular places to hang out and have a good time at. Here’s a few of my favorites –
Hotel Zamora 360° Rooftop Bar – Hotel Zamora decided last year that they weren’t using their roof for much so they might as well turn it into a rooftop bar. This was a great decision because this bar has gorgeous views and a great atmosphere. They have valet parking and if you spend $25 at the bar they’ll validate your ticket and it will be free. As my girlfriend found out, they are even kind enough to put a dent in your car and not take responsibility for it. Besides that incident, I have really enjoyed going to this place.
Postcard Inn (PCI) – Many times referred to as PCI, Postcard Inn is a great hotel/beach bar open to the public. There are volleyball courts, live music, a pool and they are located on a prime spot right on the beach. Seeing how PCI is a pretty basic 3-star hotel, it is the go to place for many younger folks coming to have a good time down here. This is especially true during spring break season when it is the epicenter of loud drunken 20 something year olds.
Coconuts Comedy Club – I actually just found out about this place a few months ago when I attended the 30th anniversary show there. There is virtually no advertising and barely even a sign for this place. Coconuts is basically a living room sized venue which provides an opportunity for the comedians to interact with the audience. They have a two drink minimum which is necessary to actually laugh at the acts they can afford to put on there. Just kidding it was a good time.
In my experience, most of the people that currently live here have lived somewhere else and because of that they can really appreciate what we have here in St Pete. If you’ve ever traveled and met other travelers on your journey, you know that everyone you meet has a different background and a different story. Now apply that to the majority of the population of a small metropolis. Everyone has a unique story and is also happy to be here. That aspect of the culture coupled with the amount of things to do here makes it a great place to make friends. There are also plenty of people in this city that are the type to just start talking to you, usually they want money but hey at least they’re friendly.
You might be thinking “Well how do I make friends as an adult when I don’t want to be friends with my co-workers and/or I’m new in town?” This is a question many people are faced with when moving to a new city. Luckily with the advent of meetup groups there are plenty of ways to meet people with similar interests. One meetup group in particular that I would like to give a shoutout to is The Pinellas County Meetup Group which was founded by yours truly and my business partner Ryan the JC Penney Model. We are currently the most active Meetup group in Pinellas County and do a variety of events to satisfy all your social needs. Meetups include, meet and greets, bar adventures, boat charters, comedy club meetups, local events, fitness meetups and anything else we think people will enjoy. Currently weighing in at over 2100 members, this group has expanded rapidly in the past two years since we started it resulting in many good times and new friendships.
8. The Local Culture
The first thing I noticed when I came through Downtown St Pete was the lack of chain restaurants. In fact I don’t think there is a single chain restaurant downtown except for a couple of Subways. Everything is local here and it really spices up the culture. There is a lot of competition for restaurants so they have to be top notch to survive. Besides restaurants, St Pete really values local culture which shows in the abundance of local craft shops, artist studios, microbreweries and more. For a better understanding of the local culture surrounding St Pete, I would recommend reading through the website of the non-profit group called Keep St Petersburg Local. There you will learn how keeping St Pete local impacts our culture and local economy.
9. Cost of Living
So I’m not usually one to brag but I recently bought my very first property in St Pete, a townhouse under 100k, all renovated and my total payment is only about $100 more/month than I was paying for a 1 bedroom apartment half the size. If you come from pretty much anywhere else in the country, your money will go farther here. Another plus is that Florida does not have a State income tax. If you live in Downtown St. Pete you will be paying a premium but there are plenty of nice places to live outside of downtown where your money will go further. If you are considering buying a home in St Pete, you need to make sure you know all the variables of buying a home. These can come in the form of flood insurance, HOA fees, construction of the home and more. Here’s a great place to start your research to be fully informed during the home buying process. As you can see in the chart below, cost of living in the Tampa Bay Area is at the bottom of the chart. Granted this chart is from 2013, the statistics are still very similar.
10. The Commute
It’s pretty amazing that there is so much packed into such a small place. Even with so many people, businesses and things to do packed into a small area, it’s surprisingly easy to get around. Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in Florida, you would assume that it would be difficult to drive around with a lot of traffic. The beautiful thing is that this city is built as a grid with multiple throughways going north, south, east and west. This prevents traffic from building up on just one road and makes it a lot easier to commute around town. The worst traffic you will see is commuting on i-275 to and from Tampa. If you have the option, choose to work and live in St Pete to cut down on your commute and live where the fun is at.
For those of you who have looked at a map, Pinellas is a big peninsula. For those of you who didn’t take 3rd grade geography, a peninsula is a mass of land mostly surrounded by water but still connected to the mainland. Naturally having access to a boat has it’s benefits when you live somewhere surrounded by water. There is more than one way to appreciate boating culture around here. I’ve had a few friends that have bought sailboats to live on. If you own a boat, you can pay a few hundred dollars a month to rent a slip out at a boating club. That will buy you a boat slip and access to community bathrooms. Some people really enjoy this lifestyle, I personally need more than 200 square feet of interior space to be comfortable.
A second way to enjoy boating culture is of course to buy a boat. Unfortunately if you can’t afford to live at a waterfront house, you will still need to pay to keep it somewhere and of course pay for all the maintenance.
The third way is to get yourself a boat club membership. Organizations such as Freedom Boat Club will allow you to pay an upfront fee along with monthly dues to take out any boat in their fleet whenever you want to. You show up, jump on the boat, go enjoy yourself and bring it back when you’re done. If you’re looking for a worry free boating experience, boat clubs are the way to go.
There is really something for everyone here. From run down fixer uppers to waterfront mansions, you will be able to find something that works for you. We also have downtown condos, 55+ communities, affordable townhomes, historic homes from the early 20th century, new construction modern homes and more. If you live here and plan to stay for at least a few years, I would highly recommend buying instead of renting. When I first moved here in 2013, I rented a two bedroom apartment about a mile north of downtown for $750 a month. That same apartment three and a half years later is renting for $1350, almost twice what I originally paid. This goes to show how quickly this city is developing. If you are lucky enough to be able to qualify for a mortgage and have money saved for a downpayment, you can own for cheaper than you can rent in many instances. On top of owning your own home, you can have a predictable payment for years to come and also gain equity in the process. Buying is not always the better option, however the majority of land in Pinellas is appreciating because of the development and demand here. If you’re interested in buying in an appreciating market and want to know more about local trends, take a look at this article that outlines appreciating neighborhoods in St Pete.
There are so many events going on in this area that it’s hard to keep up. I see events happening all the time and wonder why I didn’t know about it. To best keep track of everything that’s happening I would recommend following a few of the local facebook pages and groups to keep yourself informed. Some recommendations to add to your list are I Love The Burg, St Pete, I Love St Pete, Florida, DowntownStPete and Real Live St Pete. There are also many unofficial events put on by meetup groups like I mentioned before. Seeing how there’s so much to do in this city, there are many people organizing events to go see it all. Here are some of my favorites –
Running For Brews – “A drinking club with a running problem” – Multiple times every week this group meets at different bars to run / walk a 5k and then drink beer and socialize after. Since it’s pretty obvious who is at the bar in their running clothes, it’s pretty easy to strike up a conversation with other folks in the group. A cold beer tastes pretty amazing after a hot sweaty run.
St Pete Beer & Boardgames Meetup – This was the first meetup I went to in St Pete. Every Tuesday a group meets at the Old Northeast Tavern and as you would expect they drink beer and play boardgames which is a pretty solid combination for meeting new people.
The Pinellas County Meetup Group – Yes I’m giving our own meetup group a second shout out in the same article. We actively organize fun events and also encourage our members to schedule their own events that others might enjoy. We started this group because most other groups on Meetup are very specific to a certain niche. We wanted to create an all around fun group to encourage people to get together and take advantage of all the fun events in Pinellas, all while making it an easy way to form friendships.
This whole city is packed with both residential and commercial development. Thankfully someone had the foresight to plan some parks to break up the space and provide this city with a more relaxing feel. St Pete has over 150 parks with a wide variety of activities. What better way to go have fun for free than to check out some of the activities these parks have to offer. Want to go spend a nice afternoon downtown on the waterfront? Go check out Vinoy Park overlooking Tampa Bay, where many times you see dolphins swimming right off the coast. Looking to take your furry companion to a dog park to make friends? Be sure to check out Crescent Lake, Vinoy or the dog beach at Fort Desoto. Maybe you are just looking for a wide open field with a ocean view for a nice afternoon picnic, if that’s the case be sure to check out Lassing Park.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, art plays a major role in the cultural significance of St Pete. It has got to be hard to be an artist in this town because there is a lot of competition. Anywhere where there is a lot of competition there is bound to be some talent. If you’re looking to scope out the talent in this town, be sure to go check out the Second Saturday Artwalk. This event happens the second Saturday of every month and serves to showcase the talented artists that reside in and around Downtown St Pete. (DTSP for you hip folks). There is a trolley that takes guests on a loop of anywhere from 20-30 artist galleries in which each features their own unique art form. The event only lasts 3 hours so it’s impossible to see every single artist studio on the loop. I’ve been to two of these events and have only seen about 10 galleries total. What’s interesting is that many times the artist will be there to showcase their art, or in some instances they will even make the art in front of you. Even if you’re here for a visit, be sure to check out the Artwalk for a good time.
If you’re looking for a waterfront city in Florida that has a growing economy, lots to do and an affordable cost of living your options are a bit limited believe it or not. I had the chance to move to any city I wanted before I ended up in St Pete. I felt like Goldilocks when I was doing my research. When considering staying in Pensacola, I decided the city was too small and didn’t have the potential I was looking for. When considering moving to Miami, I decided it was too big of a city and the cost of living was too high. When I found St Pete, I realized that there was just enough going on, it felt just right.
Chris and his business partner Ryan are Real Estate agents on a mission – Their goal is to help improve the local community by connecting people and giving back. Chris loves finding out about the newest ventures happening in St Pete and the people running them. As fate would have it, Chris & Ryan are like minded aspiring entrepreneurs looking to connect people in a way never seen before and one day take over the world. Call Chris at 727-307-1111 or email him at The727Team@gmail.com for any Real Estate inquiries or if you just want to say hello.
Have any further questions about these neighborhoods or any other areas in St Pete? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 727-307-1111
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