If you’re looking for an iconic place to stay or maybe just want a peek at hotels the way they used to build them, feast your eyes on the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club and Loews Don CeSar Hotel.
Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club
The 85-year-old Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, located in the heart of downtown St. Pete, serves up elegant Mediterranean Revival architecture and refined hospitality. It was named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the Historic Hotels of America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Construction for the Vinoy Park Hotel (its original name) began Feb. 5, 1925. The contractor set a construction record, completing the 375-room hotel in just under 10 months, just in time for a grand opening on New Year’s Eve 1925. The Vinoy quickly became a getaway for the world’s rich and famous, from Hollywood stars and celebrities to presidents and authors.
During the early 1940s, the Vinoy ceased operation as a hotel and was leased to the U.S. Army Air Force and subsequently the United States Maritime Service as housing and a training center for military cooks and bakers. After World War II, the hotel continued to operate through the 1950s and 1960s but eventually closed its doors in 1974.
The property stood vacant for 18 years before a two-year, $93 million reconstruction in 1990 restored the Vinoy to its original grandeur. It quickly regained prominence as a jewel of St. Pete’s downtown waterfront.
These days, guests at the resort still enjoy its regal elegance but with décor and amenities that offer a contemporary twist. You can take advantage of a private marina, 18-hole golf course, 12-court tennis complex, lush pool area and, of course, luxurious spa. Enjoy a signature meal at Marchand’s, the resort’s flagship restaurant, which is known for its fresh take on American cuisine with a Floribbean flair, or go for a tempting steak at the resort’s other fine dining establishment, Fred’s Steakhouse. For more casual fare, grab a bite at Alfresco’s or the Veranda Café.
The Vinoy is also perfectly situated to experience the art galleries, boutiques and dining of downtown St. Pete. The downtown area also offers a scenic chain of bayfront parks, perfect for a relaxing stroll after a long day exploring the city.
Loews Don CeSar Hotel
The region’s other signature pink resort sits on St. Pete Beach, voted TripAdvisor’s No. 1 Beach in the U.S. and No. 5 in the world for 2012. The Loews Don CeSar Hotel, locally known as the “pink palace,” was built in 1928. Its distinctive color and ornate architecture make it one of the most recognizable landmarks on the Gulf Coast, including as a point of reference on maritime charts.
Boasting 277 luxurious rooms including 40 suites, most with spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico or Boca Ciega Bay, the Don CeSar is listed among the Historic Hotels of North America, on the National Register of Historic Places and as a historical monument by the National Archives. It has also won AAA’s Four-Diamond award for more than 30 consecutive years.
Upon opening, “the Don” instantly attracted some of the era’s biggest stars, from F. Scott Fitzgerald and FDR to Al Capone. In 1931, The New York Yankees signed a three-year spring training contract, helping the Don through the Great Depression. Throughout World War II the hotel was used as a hospital and then as an Air Force convalescent center. Its changing cast of characters makes for an intriguing story, so be sure to ask about the history tour and its famous ghosts.
By 1969, the building had severely deteriorated, and it remained derelict until the early 1970s. It re-opened in 1973 after a $7.5-million restoration and has had several subsequent restorations. The Don celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2003, so guests here can expect a hotel experience that’s grounded in a long history of pampering.
Its 11,000-square-foot Spa Oceana offers a full menu of spa and salon treatments, a relaxing Whisper Room and rooftop garden overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, all of which will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, no matter if you opt for a day, an afternoon or just an hour of indulgence. The hotel’s enchanting beachfront pool will also leave you with a sense of calm and serenity.
For a unique dining experience, treat yourself to the Maritana Grille for a meal that combines local seafood, organic ingredients and expert culinary techniques. Plus, it features decor worthy of an iconic beachfront hotel: 1,500 gallons of saltwater aquariums filled with colorful, native Florida fish. Other hotel restaurants include the beachfront Sea Porch, the more casual Beachcomber Bar & Grill and Sunsets Tequila Bar, which offers a perfect location for toasting the end of the day.