March 8, 2023
This past weekend I had the opportunity to fly from Indianapolis down to “The Sunshine City,” St. Petersburg, Florida, to grab some sun and attend the 1st race of the 2023 IndyCar season. Below are some of my favorite stops when in the lovely downtown of St. Pete.
ST. PETERSBURG GRAND PRIX
This IndyCar specific race is the current season opener for the series and has been held in St. Petersburg most years since 2009, though history dates to 1985 for other race series, such as IMSA, SCCA, Trans-Am and the Champ Car World Series. Taking place on the waterfront streets of downtown St. Petersburg, this race offers a unique viewing experience.
This race is hosted by Green-Savoree Race Promotions who also owns and operates the race property of Mid-Ohio Sports Course in Lexington, Ohio, as well as the Honda Indy Toronto, and the Grand Prix of Portland.
There are several ways to enjoy this race depending on your budget. A General Admission tickets gets you in the gate and there are many places you can catch the on-track action of the cars. My favorite spot is to take the bridge between turn 11 and 12 over to the Waterside Club, or Pit In Club. This is open to the public and is essentially a floating beer garden with a large tent for shade, TV screens, and fantastic bartending service.
On a larger budget, I would suggest the VIP Club. This club is located at Pit In of the Pit Lane Suites, and offers 3 days of amazing views, both in front of you in pit lane, and behind you of the straight between turns 10 and 11. This pass also includes a paddock pass (garage) and food and beverage all 3 days. The views and the breeze are worth the cost of this pass.
The great thing about St. Petersburg, is there are two great airport options to fly into. Tampa Airport (TPA) offers your standard airlines, while St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport (PIE) offers discounted airlines such as Allegiant and Sun Country.
If you are lucky enough to snag a downtown St. Petersburg hotel room, ditch the rental car, as you will not need it. Both Uber and Lyft are great options and range from $35 – $60 each way, depending on the time of day.
Downtown St. Petersburg is not lacking great options to stay, but you have to get your reservations early.
Location-wise, you cannot get closer than the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, which is located between Gate 1 and Gate 5 of the street circuit, followed by the Hyatt Place.
Just across from the Hyatt Place, a newly opened (March 1, 2023) AC Hotels by Marriott St. Petersburg towers down on 2nd St. N.
The most luxurious stay in St. Petersburg, is at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club. It is still technically walking distance to the track, if you don’t mind a little sweat in the morning.
St. Petersburg has no shortage of great places to catch a bite to eat, but make sure you grab those dinner reservations for any of the standard go-tos on Beach Ave. including Bella Brava, Bacchus Wine Bistro, Cassis, Beach 400 and Ceviche
A few years ago, a fully remodeled St. Pete Pier gave visitors the amazing food and view at Teak, located at the end of the pier. But do not fear the long walk, there are complimentary shuttles.
A few off the beaten path places I tend to visit when in town are the Tap Room at the Hollander Hotel, which offers 3 meals a day, and the option to sit at the hidden pool bar and grab a meal. My new favorite is the Bier Boutique, which serves candied bacon as an appetizer. Lastly, if you just need a coffee, a breakfast sandwich, or a quick Cuban Sandwich, and also need to grab some sunscreen, post cards, etc., located on Beach Ave. close to the Vinoy is the Annex.
If you have any spare free time between eating and watching race cars, the North Bay Trail offers the option to run/walk along the water.