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2 Florida Beach Towns Are Seeing Record Visitors Numbers:  Which One Should You Choose?

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With summer just around the corner, all eyes are turning to Florida.

But as travelers grow more and more tired of the same ol’ overcrowded hubs, smaller, quieter cities are growing in popularity right along with all-time favorites like Orlando and Miami.

Clearwater Beach

That’s why two quieter cities nestled in the Tampa Bay Area are seeing record visitor numbers right now, but since they’ve long been overshadowed by their more popular neighbors, we’ve yet to discuss – what makes them so great, how different are they really, and, more importantly, which one should you choose for your next summer getaway?

You’ll get the answers to all of that and more below.

Travelers Are Flocking To St. Petersburg And Clearwater

St. Petersburg and Clearwater are just coming out of a record-breaking tourism season.

Aerial view of Clearwater, Florida

These past months, both cities have seen a surge in visitors that puts even last year’s all-time high to shame, and as the weather gets warmer, the numbers are only bound to get even higher.

In fact, local officials expect this wave of growth to extend well through the rest of the year and into 2025, so with that in mind, let’s see why St. Petersburg and Clearwater both make such excellent summer hotspots.

Starting with the obvious first – the white-sanded beaches are gorgeous and the water is warm and inviting, not to mention the balmy weather lets you soak in that famous Floridian sunshine almost year-round.

Beach in St. Petersburg, Florida

Not only are the beaches here consistently ranked among the best in America, but the cities also boast two lively downtown areas complete with theaters, museums, restaurants, bars, and anything else you can think of.

But you’re planning to stay put this summer, so let’s see which one you’d like better, starting with what to see in each.

What’s There To See In Each?

Both places promise to keep you busy, though St. Petersburg is a bit more diverse in its offerings, so let’s start with it first.

Aerial view of St. Petersburg, Florida

Some of the top St. Pete attractions (either in the city or very near it) you won’t want to miss out on include:

  • Salvador Dali Museum
  • James Museum (focused on Native American art)
  • Imagine Museum (modern art)
  • A Mural Tour
  • Weedon Island Preserve
  • Tropicana Field
  • The Sunken Gardens
  • Farmers Market (Opens every Saturday morning)
  • Fort De Soto
Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

Clearwater, on the other hand, offers the following gems:

  • Clearwater Beach
  • Sand Key Park
  • Moccasin Lake Nature Park
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • Florida Botanical Gardens (18 min drive)
  • Pier 60
Clearwater Beach, Florida

Now that you’ve gotten a feel of what you can expect from each city let’s move on to costs.

Which Is Cheaper?

This is a tricky question since there really isn’t a big price disparity between St. Pete and Clearwater – it all depends on who you ask and what you consider to be your biggest travel expense.

As far as hotels go, St. Petersburg is generally cheaper – even comparable hotels under the same brand (take Hilton, for example), are priced roughly 30% less here than they are in Clearwater.

JW Marriott Hotel, Clearwater, Florida

When it comes to attractions, though, in Clearwater, you’ll find more free/budget-friendly places to spend your days, so if you’re big on sightseeing, that’s something to consider (plus Clearwater Beach is famously more walkable).

Eating out is pretty much a toss-up.

In both cities you can expect to pay anywhere between $16 and $28 per person on a meal out, it all depends on the specific restaurant you’re going to.

A waitress taking a couples' order

Both are good-value destinations where you’ll get your money’s worth, but generally speaking, St. Pete might be a bit cheaper.

Where Should You Go?

While very important, attractions and prices are far from the only factors to take into account when choosing a destination, so let’s break down how the two cities compare in terms of atmosphere, nightlife, family-friendliness, and so on.

When it comes to that last one, St. Pete takes the cake.

Aerial view of downtown St. Petersburg

It has consistently been named one of the best cities for families in all of North America, and its relaxed old-Florida-beach vibe makes it easy to see why.

The beaches are a bit less crowded and the nightlife, while lively enough, isn’t anything too crazy.

The abundance of attractions, parks, and museums also makes it easier for parents to keep their little ones entertained, not to mention it’s a pretty safe place where you’ll feel at ease walking late at night, so no worries there.

Clearwater, on the other hand, is more touristy but in a more grown-up kind of way.

Clearwater Beach, Florida

It still has a relaxed atmosphere overall – the beaches can get pretty crowded but at night, the city gets calmer and perfect for a relaxing stroll along the shore.

There’s also no shortage of great hotels and resorts scattered throughout the city where you’ll get to just sit back and get pampered, so this is the perfect place to leave the stresses of day-to-day life behind and relax.

So, there you have it.

Think about what you’re looking for in your next vacation, and the choice should be crystal clear.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Quinn Pareti

Wednesday 22nd of May 2024

Wow totally agree! I splurged on a special mother-daughter trip in Clearwater this past November, but injured my knee a few days before we left, and couldn't cancel. Besides, I was looking forward to our trip - our first time there! There were parties, concerts, and events everywhere - even in November! Everything was vibrant and beautiful. We ate lunch at a cool place overlooking the harbor area, and a great little Italian restaurant, and sampled everything in between. During sunny days we were out on the beach. Walking everywhere was a BIG problem for me though, since I needed a cane and was limping badly by the end of the day. It was awful to visit a beach like that! We ended up renting a scoot coupe for a few days from Fun Ride Rentals, which was a few blocks from Clearwater beach. They also had a wheelchair specifically for sand in case I needed it. Shout out to them! This end up saving our trip (and they were great folks btw, and gave us some insider tips on other places to check out while there). We rented a super cute, small convertible coupe. This totally saved the day since I couldn't go anywhere without my cane - and pain! The fun mini rides and surrey bikes were hard to choose from. Driving that little couple made it a fun memory in itself, and saved my knee during that trip, and made me much less of a bummer to be with for my daughter's trip. I have never thought about renting a little car or scooter while on vaca - but it really saved the day. Anywho, aside from the shout-out, I just wanted to mention that folks with sports injuries, disabilities, or just bad joints like myself can also enjoy Clearwater beach this way. Don't let anything stop you from seeing this highly rated beach! This rental place turned a possible waste of a trip into a really good time.

Kashlee Kucheran

Saturday 25th of May 2024

Wow thanks Quinn, that is such a great tip that Clearwater is friendly for people with disabilities, we appreciate the detailed insight