Put on your walking shoes before visiting the new Pier in downtown St. Petersburg. The redesign has changed the footprint from one giant upside-down triangle to a series of places to play, shop and eat that are connected by a wide walkway.
The sprawling design begins with shopping at local vendors just off Bayshore Drive, followed by an enhanced Spa Beach area with a splash pad and picnic spots. There are then a series of places to eat, shop and play as you make your way to the Pier Point more than half a mile from the Pier entrance where you will find more places to eat and play.
Here’s what to know before you go:
Reserve a spot
With the coronavirus pandemic discouraging people from gathering in large groups, the city wants to limit the crowd size for the first week. A reservation system is available at stpetepier.org, where visitors can pick a day and time they plan to visit the Pier. It runs through next Sunday.
There is on-street parking at the Pier approach similar to the city’s parking meters that use the ParkMobile App. The Dolphin and Pelican lots have a pay station. Remember to jot down or take a picture of your license plate in those lots because you need it at the pay stations.
Keep an eye out for the bright yellow Pier signs that include an electronic message at the entrance to the Pelican and Dolphin lots that will indicate if the lot is full.
There are also several downtown parking garages and lots within walking distance and a tram that runs the length of the Pier approach. Parking starts at $2 per hour for the first four hours and a six-hour maximum costs $15. There are spaces set aside for scooter parking and six electric car spaces. Find parking rates and maps on the city’s parking information page at StPete.org.
The design is aimed at inviting you to have a seat, or spend a day fishing or playing with the kids. Here are features to look for:
Splash pad: Located next to the St. Petersburg Museum of History and Spa Beach, which both front Second Avenue NE, the wide open splash pad has fountains that kids can play in. At night, there will be lights and music. Next to the fountains are lounge chairs and umbrellas for shade that are free to use.
The playground: Just past the marketplace at the Pier entrance, look to the left for a park that includes a marine-themed playground. One section is meant for ages 2 to 5 and a larger section has climbing features and a lighthouse with tall slides. It has a spongy artificial ground covering and the structures are made of a compact wood called Robinia that has high oil content and is resistant to decay.
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Tilted Lawn: The playground is situated midway along the Pier between Spa Beach and what they call the Tilted Lawn, a broad green space meant for picnics. If you climb to the top of the Tilted Lawn you’ll get a great view of the city.
Promenade: By going with smaller features instead of one large building, the Pier District gained 5 acres of green space, a spokeswoman said. That means lots of space for walking and bike riding along the wide path overlooking the water.
Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center: If you need a break from the heat, hit the air-conditioned center devoted to telling the story of Tampa Bay and its unique ecosystem. There are educational displays, including a microscope that shows slides of plankton and water droplets, a demonstration of how oysters clean dirty ocean water and a touch tank stocked with horseshoe crabs and shrimp. Beautiful but invasive lionfish are in a special tank at the entrance, but the focal point of the exhibit hall is a central aquarium that showcases species found in local waters with an electronic pad that identifies the fish on display. Another fun place for kids is a giant sand box with projected images of turtles, sea urchins and other marine life. As visitors dig into the sand, new life forms surface from the projector. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids ages 12 and younger, and the center will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays.
Live music and special events: There were plans for close to 80 special events a year at the Pier, from 5K runs to festivals, but that was before the coronavirus pandemic. While the special events are off for now, there is a small stage area at the Pier head that will have live music every day at 5 p.m. There are also plans for roaming entertainers around the Pier District, said Ferdian Jap of Big City Events, which is programming entertainment at the Pier.
Fishing: At the very tip of the Pier Point you’ll find a fishing deck, a bait shop and fish-cleaning stations.
There are more than a dozen local vendors who will be set up in the Pier Marketplace. Some will be in clamshell-like permanent structures and others will have tents pitched, similar to St. Petersburg’s Saturday Morning Market.
There is also a sundry shop and Gator Jim’s Tackle, located on the ground floor of the Pier at the opposite end of the Pier District.
At the Pier Marketplace, located at the Pier District entrance, the vendors will be set up under a trellis that also sports solar panels, which help power the Pier. The overhead trellis won’t protect you from rain, but it does offer some shade. The vendors include:
- Lily Rose Jewelry: locally handmade jewelry
- Craft-Tee: custom T-shirts while you wait
- Planks: locally made signs featuring area landmarks
- The Merchant: a local collective of St. Petersburg-inspired souvenirs and handcrafted items
- One Community: a collective of various vendors
- Hey Mon Sauces: authentic Caribbean specialty sauces
- Sunshine City Arts: an art collective of various handmade items
- Flamed Copper: heat-treated copper jewelry and accessories
- Hats at the Pier: specialty hats
- Flaming Pearl: tie-dyed custom-printed apparel and accessories
- Kashien Chanterell: custom clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags from Ghana
- Land of Gaia: wood art-fashion-home decor from around the world
- Goofy Faces: caricatures
- Ancient Herbal Care: organic, plant-based skin care products
- 7 Sins Blood Caesar Mix: Bloody Mary mix and rim salts
- McTavish’s Cookie Shack/Highland Shortbread: locally made cookies, Scottish shortbread and scones
- Son’ni Boi and Petal: locally made gourmet confections
These businesses will have short-term leases and may rotate during the course of a year, a spokeswoman said.
There are five new places to eat, from sit-down restaurants to quick-serve kiosks. There are plans to have food truck rallies at the Pier, though none are scheduled at this time, a spokeswoman said.
Here’s where to eat and drink:
Spa Beach Bistro: This quick-serve bistro next to Spa Beach offers grab-and-go options with outdoor seating and picnic tables available near the playground and splash pad.
Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille: The Caribbean-themed restaurant and bar has indoor and outdoor seating, and there’s a man-made beach on the waterfront.
Pier Teaki: Located on the rooftop, it has a view of the water and specialty cocktails for “a modern take on the classic tiki bar.”
Teak: A sit-down restaurant on the fourth floor of the Pier Point, it will offer fine dining and waterfront views.
Driftwood Cafe: This casual walkup spot offers ice cream and snacks on the ground level of the Pier Point.
Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro: In addition to new places at the Pier, this landmark waterfront restaurant has been operating since 2004 near the Pier entrance. It features a spacious wrap-around deck with views of the water and marinas and it specializes in seafood, steaks, burgers and pastas.
Hops & Props: The cafe with a long list of craft beers on tap has been operating next to the St. Petersburg Museum of History since 2014. It’s named for the hops in the beer and “props” for the aviation and boat props in the museum’s exhibits.