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St. Petersburg makes ‘Conde Nast Traveler’ list of America’s best cities

As tourism honors go, it’s a prestigious feather in the Sunshine City’s cap. A record 715,000 readers voted in the 33rd annual awards,
The new St. Petersburg Pier opened to the public July 6 and helps make St. Petersburg a readers' favorite in the annual Conde Nast Traveler survey.
The new St. Petersburg Pier opened to the public July 6 and helps make St. Petersburg a readers' favorite in the annual Conde Nast Traveler survey. [ BOYZELL HOSEY | Times ]
Published Oct. 6, 2020
Updated Oct. 6, 2020

For the first time, St. Petersburg was named one of the Top 10 large cities to visit in the Conde Nast Traveler 2020 Reader’s Choice Awards, unveiled Tuesday.

A record 715,000 Conde Nast Traveler readers voted in the 33rd annual awards, among the longest-running and best-known in the travel world. The poll, conducted online, takes into consideration categories including hotels, restaurants, attractions and value.

The magazine called the city “perfect for a weekend getaway,” highlighting the white-sand beaches and dolphin-spotting possibilities near the Don CeSar hotel and Fort De Soto Park, as well as downtown attractions including the Salvador Dalí Museum, “dozens of street murals” and the new St. Pete Pier.

“This kind of recognition is what we set out to achieve nearly seven years ago,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said. “Elevating St. Pete nationally and internationally was a priority, and I think we’ve succeeded. Today is certainly more proof of that.”

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater president and chief executive Steve Hayes called the Conde Nast Traveler awards “the best of the best of travel,” saying the honor “gives us, as a destination, something to hang our hat on."

“For our past visitors, the fact is that St. Pete remains appealing for them to come back and visit,” Hayes said. “And for those that are new visitors, what a way to discover the incredible destination that we have.”

Related: The new St. Pete Pier opens today. Here's all of our coverage.

Voting for this year’s awards took place entirely during the coronavirus pandemic. Both Kriseman and Hayes highlighted the area’s ample opportunities for outdoor activity.

“We have one of the largest waterfront park systems in North America, so you can walk from one end of the city to another pretty much on the water,” Kriseman said. “It’s not unusual to see dolphins and stingrays in the water, something you don’t see anywhere else.”

Tourism officials were mildly surprised that St. Petersburg, with a population of 265,000, competed as a “large city” in the “Best Cities in the U.S.” awards, alongside the nation’s Bostons and Chicagos. Last year, the threshold for “large cities” was 350,000, which relegated St. Pete to the “small cities” category — won this year for the 10th straight year by Charleston, S.C.

Perennial favorite Chicago finished No. 1 for the fourth year in a row, followed by Washington, D.C.; Boston; New Orleans; San Antonio, Texas; New York; San Diego; Nashville, Tenn; Tucson, Ariz.; and then St. Petersburg.

In the small cities category, Charleston was followed by Santa Fe, N.M.; Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.; Laguna Beach, Calif.; Alexandria, Va.; Greenville, S.C.; Aspen, Colo.; Savannah, Ga.; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and Key West.

Related: Coronavirus pandemic clouds future for Tampa Bay's downtowns

Elsewhere in Florida, the Faena Hotel Miami Beach was named the second-best overall hotel in America. Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo and Little Palm Island Resort and Spa in Little Torch Key were named the sixth and seventh best resorts in the United States, respectively.

The Don CeSar was picked as the fifth-best hotel in Florida, Tampa Bay’s only entry on the list. Clearwater Beach’s Opal Sands Resort and Sandpearl Resort and the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club all made the magazine’s list of Florida’s top 30 resorts. And Tampa International Airport came in at No. 5 on the list of best domestic airports.

Related: As airlines hit turbulence, Tampa airport pins hopes on coronavirus testing

The resorts will be spotlighted in Conde Nast Traveler’s November 2020 issue, hitting newsstands this week. Or find it at cntraveler.com.