A vacation on the West Coast of Florida is a fabulous way to unwind and enjoy some of the best views of the tranquil Gulf of Mexico along the Atlantic coastline. And when home base is The Don CeSar, a luxury hotel in St. Pete Beach, with the magical Salvador Dalí Museum a mere 20-minute drive away in nearby St. Petersburg, it’s truly a gift from the tourism gods.
The Don CeSar
Incredibly, modern travelers might not have had the chance to stay at the Don CeSar had it not been for a group of concerned residents, who took it upon themselves to save the hotel from the wrecking ball in 1971. Today, the iconic resort is popular among tourists and opens to a vast and expansive beach that is hard to match. The consistently dramatic views from the hotel’s many vantage points solidify “The Don” as the crown jewel of Florida’s Gulf Coast.
So, what does The Don have to offer besides sweeping beachfront vistas? Spa Oceana, a respite from the sun and those pesky beachside cocktails, stands at the ready for guests in need of trading one luxury for another. It’s also oceanside and only a short walk from the resort’s rooms and pools. The spa features 16 treatment rooms, a full-service salon and a stunning rooftop terrace overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
The food and beverage choices at The Don range from the award-winning Maritana, a modern and stunning restaurant that serves Mediterranean fare, to the Sea Porche Café, The Rowe Bar and The Beachcomber Bar and Grill. All but the Maritana offer a more casual beach vibe. The newly remodeled lobby bar is my favorite place to sit and people watch. With my expertly made martini in hand, I relax and let my mind wander to the days of genteel cocktail hours and pianists providing the entertainment.
The hotel rooms range from stunning views of the Gulf to lively views of the manicured street and property surrounding the hotel. I dare you to find a room at The Don that you won’t swoon over.
The Salvador Dalí Museum
Just a short car ride from The Don is the waterfront Salvador Dalí Museum, an unparalleled collection of art by the famed Spanish surrealist. The museum displays expertly curated collections of Dalí’s work, and through its Dalí-inspired events, exhibitions and experiences, serves as an active resource in the cultural life of St. Petersburg and the world at large.
At the museum, visitors can stroll, enjoy and contemplate one of the most celebrated artists of all time—and perhaps even argue (which Dalî would have loved) for or against the merit of the man and his prolific work. He is undoubtedly an artist and a character that provokes many emotions. More than 2400 Dalí works—including nearly 300 oil paintings, watercolors and drawings as well as more than 2100 prints, photographs, posters, textiles, sculptures and objets d’art, reside within the walls of the dramatic modern structure.
Interactive opportunities are on hand, too, as a rare occasion to get personally involved with both the artist and his work. These can be an entertaining diversion for anyone—even reluctant museum-going family members that may be in tow.
No trip to the Dalí Museum would be complete without spending some time in its funky “Avant-garden.” I believe Dalí would’ve enjoyed this whimsical tribute to Florida flora and modern art. The garden is innovative yet calming—and sits opposite the waterfront. There are benches to view Tampa Bay and even a wishing tree. And as it is the Dalí Museum, also taking center stage in the garden is a gigantic mustache sculpture–a fitting ode to the artist and a perfect place for a photo op.
Editors’ note: At press time, the Dalí Museum was temporarily closed, and all non-essentials travelers were warned not to travel, per the CDC, because of the COVID-19 virus. Please check crlmag.com for more up-to-date information.