Welcome to the new land of baseball, World Series fans! If you are from out of the area and are staying in North Pinellas County during your visit, our local tourism officials hope you have saved some time for sightseeing. We have a few things we are proud of in addition to the exhilarating Rays.
For example, great beaches! Clearwater Beach has been named one of the best urban beaches in the United States. It's wide, with bright white sand. And it is sporting a new amenity just recently opened: Beach Walk, a paved pedestrian plaza with landscaping, seating and an up-close-and-personal view of the surf and sand. You'll notice some construction around the beach. Pardon our dust, we're changing to what tourism officials hope will be a resort destination.
If you like a less urban beach, you can't beat Caladesi Island north of Clearwater Beach. Except for a few minimal park facilities, it is undeveloped, and it consistently appears on Dr. Beach's list of best beaches in America. The best way to get to Caladesi is by boat from Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, another of our favorite tourist destinations. The ferry ride is short, and it's a nice way to relax after an afternoon in the sun on Caladesi Island.
While you are in Dunedin, check out its downtown. People come from all over to visit Dunedin's unique Main Street, which is built around the Pinellas Trail and has been thriving in its own low-key way for years. The collection of shops is interesting, and the restaurants offer some great eating. The small city of Safety Harbor on the east side of North Pinellas also has a unique and busy downtown, a picturesque marina and pier, and one of the county's best parks, Philippe Park, along Old Tampa Bay.
If you are in the mood for a walk or bike ride, try out the 50-mile Pinellas Trail, which circles Pinellas County. Opened in 1990, the paved trail built along an old railroad right of way was just inducted into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
All the way north is Tarpon Springs, a unique community built around the tradition of Greek sponge diving. The Sponge Docks feature some small shops, plus restaurants and cafes that offer Greek food, Greek pastries and seafood. The city has a historic district and a downtown history museum.
Also in the north end of the county is the Brooker Creek Preserve, an 8,000-acre natural area preserved so future generations of Pinellas residents will be able to see what natural Florida looked like. The preserve has hiking trails and a great education center set in the middle of woods. The education center shows a well-done multimedia presentation about Pinellas history that you and your children may find interesting.
If you are looking for things to do with the kids, don't miss the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, located off the beautiful Memorial Causeway that leads to Clearwater Beach. The aquarium has fish and otters, turtles and RAYS on view, but its most famous resident is Winter, the little dolphin fitted with a prosthetic tail. Check the aquarium's Web site for details, www.cmaquarium.org, or call (727) 441-1790.
Another interesting activity for a family is to visit Heritage Village, a 21-acre living history museum in Largo where historic homes were moved and restored. Admission is free, and details can be found at www.pinellascounty.org/heritage.
Of course, we know that the centerpiece of your visit is baseball. It's the highlight of our week, too! But if you have a little time to look around in North Pinellas County, you may find we have a lot to offer.
And in this economy, we would appreciate your business.