Are you thinking of moving to Tampa Bay? Maybe you have a job offer, maybe you want to retire and spend your golden years on a sunny beach, or maybe you are just sick of shoveling snow. Maybe you are military and have been transferred to MacDill Air Force Base. Whatever the reason, Tampa Bay is a great place to buy a home. Personally, we're partial to the west side of Tampa Bay, Pinellas County, and it's beautiful beaches and laid-back lifestyle. So if you are considering moving to Tampa, we hope this St. Petersburg Relocation Guide will be helpful.
Ready to become a "Burger"? That's what the locals call themselves here, livin' in "the 'Burg", also sometimes abbreviated to St. Pete. Whatever you call it, if you're living in St. Petersburg, you are living in one of the best places to live in all of Florida. We have a low cost of living, a rich history going back more than 150 years, we invented commercial air travel, the shopping mall, and the express lane, and we are the birthplace of MLB Spring Training, Wikipedia, and the Home Shopping Network. This is a thriving city that residents take great pride in. Art, culture, beaches, nightlife, business, sports, entertainment, we have it all! If you are thinking about moving to St. Petersburg, here's 20 great reasons to do so.
We have pretty much everything here, but what we don't have is quickly and easily accessible in neighboring towns and cities. St. Petersburg is a planned city, founded in 1888. It is laid out in a logical grid, bisected east to west by Central Avenue; Avenues run east/west, and Streets run north/south. After you've lived here a while, if someone tells you they live near 24th Avenue North (north of Central Avenue) and 66th Street, you can picture where that location is in your mind. This grid makes getting around town easy, and if there is a delay on one street, you can take another north or south, east or west. Interstate 275 takes you from the iconic Skyway Bridge to near downtown, then north again, across Tampa Bay and into the city of Tampa in about 25 minutes with no stops. Traffic does build around the morning and evening rush hours, but three bridges spanning Tampa Bay makes this easier for those who commute to Tampa for work. Off-peak hours, the traffic in St. Petersburg is pretty easy to deal with.
The weather tends to be a significant factor for people moving to St. Petersburg, particularly the fact that snow here is an almost unheard-of event. For you Northerners, you are going to save a fortune on winter coats, and flip flops are much cheaper than snow boots. St. Petersburg is called "The Sunshine City" because on average, we have 361 sunny days per year. Long, rainy days with clouds all day just doesn't happen here much. Summertime is called "the rainy season" here, but that is typically an afternoon shower that passes quickly and cools off the temperatures ten or fifteen degrees. Here in Pinellas County, we are on a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. This geography serves to control our temperatures; cooler water and sea breezes keep us cooler in summer, and warm Gulf waters keep the temperatures up in winter. In fact, the record high temperature here in St. Petersburg is 100°. Growing up in Houston, I remember many broiling summers over 115°, but that can't happen here.
Warm sunny weather means great beach weather, and Pinellas County is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Living in St. Petersburg means you are literally minutes away from beaches that tourists pay big dollars to visit. These fantastic beaches are another great reason for moving to St. Petersburg. There are small strips of beach on the Bay side (or east side) of St. Petersburg, but you need to get closer to the Gulf of Mexico for the really breathtaking beaches. West and southwest of St. Petersburg are the barrier island communities of Tierra Verde, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, and Madeira Beach, each stunningly beautiful and loaded with old Florida charm. At the southern tip of Tierra Verde you will find Fort De Soto Park, largely unspoiled by man and popular for it's barren beauty and it's dog beach, a local favorite. For some reason, neighboring Clearwater Beach seems to get all the headlines and accolades, but trust me, you'll love all these beaches, famous for powdery-white sugar sand and calm, clear waters.
St. Petersburg has a very low cost of living, and home prices remain quite affordable. This in itself is a huge incentive for people moving to St. Petersburg, especially from coastal California, Chicago, and New England. There are nice homes for sale in this city with prices that are comparable to down payments in LA and San Francisco. It is still possible to buy a home close to the beach without drowning in debt, one with a manageable payment and some of the best interest rates in quite some time.
The most recent data as of this writing reveals that the median home price in Pinellas County is $266,375, which is a 7.2% change year-over-year. Prices have been on a steady rise over the last several years.
Not only does St. Petersburg have a very low cost of living, Florida is a very low tax state. We have no state income tax in Florida, and each county imposes a modest sale tax that varies county by county. Here in Pinellas County, it is 7%. This favorable tax environment is a key reason people are interested in moving to St. Petersburg, especially if they are from high-tax states like New York and California. Property taxes vary by county too, with rural northern counties having the lowest rates, and the highest rates in South Florida, particularly Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. Pinellas County is somewhere in the middle of that range at an average 0.91%* of your home value. However, that can be offset in many cases by your Homestead Exemption. Florida's constitution provides for an exemption of $50,000 in the just value of your property. Also, veterans and their surviving spouses, widows, seniors, first responders, the disabled, and some other groups all receive additional exemptions. I would be happy to discuss this in greater detail if you need more info.
St. Petersburg is the cultural center of Tampa Bay and all of Pinellas & Hillsborough Counties. We have several world-class museums here that would be the pride of any city. Here's a handful of the best:
The Dali Museum is home to more than 2,100 pieces of Salavador Dali's work, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and photos. It's the largest collection outside of Dali's homeland of Spain. The museum opened in 1982, but came into its own with it's new iconic building, which opened in 2011. Unique art needs a unique building to showcase it, and you won't be disappointed. You can visit this mindbending collection in downtown St. Petersburg.
Founded in 1965 as the first art museum in St. Petersburg, the Museum of Fine Arts has more than 20,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years of human history, including work by O'Keefe, Monet, Rodi, Morisot, Corot, Pearlstein, Bellows, Barye, and more. They also have a staggering photographic collection and an amazing array of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, pre-Columbian, Native American, Asian, and African pieces.
Founded in 1989, The Florida Holocaust Museum features a permanent display of objects, photographs, documents, and personal testimonies of one of the darkest times in the world's history. Boxcar #113 069-5 that carried Jews to their death is on display just out of arm's reach, Haunting, harrowing, and unforgettable.
An amazing collection of molten sand transformed into colorful yet fragile works of glass art. You can watch glass blowers make exquisite pieces right before your eyes in the Glass Studio and Hot Shop. Definitely worth a visit.
A treasure trove of history of St. Petersburg and surrounding towns, going back more than 120 years. Photographs, posters, artifacts, and objects that reach back to the founding of St. Petersburg, and as a bonus, Schrader's Little Cooperstown, a collection of almost 5,000 autographed baseballs, signed by the giants and legends of the game, Hollywood stars, notable celebrities, and even Presidents. And on top of all that, there are dozens of small galleries, studios, and quaint art boutiques, some almost hidden from view, but delightful to discover, especially by accident. Numerous places, especially downtown, offer free or inexpensive art classes to the public.
Living in St. Petersburg is to surround oneself with art. If live theatre is what you enjoy, you’ll have a hard time deciding what show to catch in St. Petersburg! There are a number of venues in the area—including American Stage, The Mahaffey Theatre, The Palladium Theatre, St. Petersburg City Theatre, and the freeFall Theater where you can watch Broadway musicals, stand-up comedians, musical acts, contemporary plays, or the St. Petersburg Opera Company.
Downtown St. Petersburg is home to Tropicana Field and the World Series Champion Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. "The Trop", as the locals call it, is a city-wide landmark that kind of marks the southwest edge of the downtown entertainment district. If baseball isn't your game, drive 14 blocks east, take a right, and you'll be at historic Al Lang Field, now home to the venerable Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team. Scoot across Tampa Bay and you are about 15 minutes from Raymond James Stadium and the Superbowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Drive 10 more minutes east on Interstate 275, and you'll be at the Channelside District of Tampa, home to Amalie Arena and the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. So if pro sports is your thing, moving to St. Petersburg is a no-brainer.
With all this water, it follows that boating would be huge here; in fact, Pinellas County has more registered boats than any other county in Florida. Boating is in our blood, and downtown St. Petersburg is home to the venerable St. Petersburg Yacht Club. At over 100 years old, the SPYC is one of the oldest yacht clubs in the United States, and a very prestigious local boating and social organization. But you don't need a hundred foot sailing sloop to enjoy our local waters. There are a number of marinas and public boat launches for your pleasure boat, and hundreds of homes are directly on the intracoastal waterway or on canals feeding out to open water. You don't even have to own a boat to enjoy St. Petersburg's waters, there are a number of boat rental businesses, and many others that rent jet skis, kayaks, paddleboards, and other craft.
Charter fishing is a really big deal around here, and there are a number of seasoned Captains that can take you to our expansive grass flats for redfish or snook, or out to deep Gulf water for tarpon, mackeral, and Florida's famous (and delicious) grouper. Or, let some one else take the helm, and enjoy a local cruise. There are nearby nature cruises, dolphin watching cruises, dinner cruises, and more. There's even a pirate galley that sails out of nearby Clearwater, guaranteed to thrill the kids!
St. Petersburg has amazing restaurants... it seems that almost anywhere you go, no matter what you try, the food here is just amazing. That's a function of competition; put simply, poor restaurants don't last, there's just too much competition here. The result is like a culinary arms race, where everyone is trying to outdo themselves and their competition with the latest creative dish or the newest taste sensation. St. Pete has French, Italian, Greek, Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Spanish, sushi, and Mexican restaurants, and that's just downtown! American fare like steakhouses, BBQ, and soul food are scattered all over town, but seafood is King in Tampa Bay, and you'll get some of the best seafood of your life here. And you never know when you will turn a corner and find something new and delicious being served from a food truck! Here's a short list of the MUST-TRY restaurants in St. Petersburg:
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse (pricey, but oh, my Lord)
St Petersburg brews some of the best beer on Earth, bar none. Craft brewing went from a fad and a novelty just a few years ago to a full blown industry in St. Petersburg. Fun Fact: Close to one-third of Florida's breweries are located in the Tampa Bay area, and almost one-fifth of them are located here in Pinellas County! Beer brewing is an old tradition in Tampa Bay; a company named Florida Brewing Company was operating here in 1896, and Fette Brewing, Southern Brewing, and DeSoto Brewing were operating in the 1930's. Anheiser-Busch opened in 1959, Schlitz, Pabst, and Stroh's had breweries here in the 80's, and Yeungling opened in 1999. But those were large factory-style breweries, not the small-batch and craft beers being created here today. And let me tell you, these beers are truly exceptional. And if your favorite downtown draft starts to get boring, you are walking distance from several other breweries where you can sample a whole new bunch of stouts, ales, IPA's, lagers, porters, and hefeweizens. Here are just some of the amazing breweries that make moving to St. Petersburg totally worth it.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I totally swiped the phrase "Gulp Coast"... sorry, not sorry, it was just too good to not swipe. If you'd like to see where I swiped that from, if you love craft beer, and if you would like to see a map of the St. Pete/Clearwater Craft Beer Trail, complete with videos of some of the outstanding breweries that are all within a 30 minute drive from St. Petersburg, click here.
My husband grew up in Sarasota, about 55 miles south of St. Petersburg, and the local joke when he was growing up was, "the elderly live in Sarasota, and their parents live in St. Pete." St. Petersburg was also called "God's waiting room." But over the last decade or two, the median age in St. Petersburg has plummeted to 41.8 years of age. The reason? More people moving to St. Petersburg to raise families, and the influx of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants that have brought downtown St. Petersburg back from the dead. 20 years ago there were very few restaurants and bars downtown, but they grew over time and seem to have snowballed. Now every weekend is jam-packed downtown, with all the great places to eat, the music venues, and everything from thumping dance clubs to quiet piano bars.
St. Petersburg hosts a monthly block party downtown called First Friday, on the first Friday of every month. The police barricade the streets, and Central Avenue turns into a concert venue where you can enjoy live music, have a cold drink, dance in the street, and maybe get some great food at one of the sidewalk bistros. The party isn't just on Central Avenue, though... the upscale restaurants on Beach Drive are packed, the quirky alternative, hipster, and rocker clubs further up Central are jammed, and the party really extends all the way to the Grand Central District further west. Bottom line, First Friday is the proverbial good time had by all, but please avail yourself of a taxi or an Uber if you have too many libations... St. Pete police take drinking and driving VERY seriously... just sayin'.
St. Petersburg has a number of annual events, some really huge, some on a smaller scale, but awesome nonetheless. Folks moving to St. Petersburg will be surprised to find how many events there are every month, and even more great events and festivals that are close-by in neighboring towns like Clearwater, Gulfport, St. Pete Beach, and Treasure Island. St. Pete hosts the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and the new (but wildly popular) Skyway 10K, running across the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the annual college football East-West Game at Tropicana Field, a massive Independence Day fireworks display on the waterfront, and St. Petersburg hosts the largest Pride Week celebration and parade in the State of Florida every June. Classic car shows, music and craft fairs, boat shows, art shows, the list goes on and on.
From October to May, St. Pete holds a weekly event, the Saturday Morning Market. Downtown St. Petersburg is your morning destination for fresh, organic veggies and fruits, local arts and crafts, street performers, and live music. This feels more like socializing, rather than grocery shopping, just hanging out and having a great time with about 10,000 of your closest neighbors.
Here's a few of the biggest events of the year in St. Petersburg, all of which take place at the beautiful Vinoy Park on St. Pete's downtown waterfront:
In November when the temperatures are cooling down, it's time for hot BBQ. Award-winning BBQ masters gather for 3 days of ribs, rubs, and rock and roll, to benefit some two dozen local charities, to the tune of almost 5 million dollars. Live music for nationally known acts and local favorites, plus local artisans and crafters. A must-go event.
Live music and Florida's astounding fresh seafood- what could be better? Come down in March and sample grouper, sea bass, trout, shrimp, mahi-mahi, oysters, stone crabs, and more, fresh from the sea and fresh cooked to order. Meat and vegetarian choices are available, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Be sure and check out the artisans and craft displays.
In April, it's the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in Vinoy Park. Nationally known artists converge on downtown St. Petersburg for three days of amazing live music, great food, cold beverages, and dancing in the grass before the summer heat arrives. Lots of pre-parties, after-parties, meet-and-greets with the performers, VIP parties, and other special events always surround this St. Petersburg tradition.
For more than 40 years, the Mainsail Art Festival has combined great food, live music, and hands-on children's exhibits with fine art, right on the waterfront. This staple of the St. Petersburg arts scene happens every April, and draws upwards of 100,000 people to downtown St. Pete.
This is hard to explain. You are driving down the street, and suddenly you see Nikola Tesla's face more than 15 feet tall, painted on the side of a building. And then you start noticing there are funky murals all over downtown, many hidden in backalleys, that are truly stunning works of art. They are an odd blend of street graffiti and fine art, like Dali, Warhol, Rembrandt and some street taggers got together in a crazy collaboration. These murals are all over downtown, dozens of them, and more get painted every year. It's weird, it's quirky, and it's beautiful, it's something that makes St. Petersburg unique, and it's something you just have to see for yourself.
If you love racing, this will get your heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing. Every spring, the quiet downtown streets of St. Pete with 25 MPH speed limits are overtaken by Indy cars ripping down the road at speeds approaching 200 MPH. What started in acrimony and noise complaints years ago has turned into a crown jewel of the Indy circuit, with drivers comparing it to the Indy 500 and Grand Prix of Long Beach. It has truly turned into America's version of Monaco, and the locals have come to embrace it whole-heartedly. We had record crowds over the last few years, and the tourist draw is amazing.
Yeah, it snarls traffic downtown a little for a few days, but the economic impact is tremendous, and city officials consider the televised race as a three hour commercial for St. Petersburg. People around the globe watch the Indy cars scream race past our beautiful waterfront, and the B-roll shots of our beaches, restaurants, and local scenery lure visitors and new residents from across the world. It's 4 exciting days of racing and ancillary affairs, race parties, and other events, guaranteed to thrill young and old alike. For more info, click here.
Ranked 17th on Golf.com's Top 50 Golf Cities in America, Tampa Bay outranks other major areas in Florida like Jacksonville and Miami-Ft Lauderdale. My first house overlooked a beautiful golf course, and there are several public and private courses all across St. Petersburg. Local favorites include the Vinoy Golf Club, Mangrove Bay, St. Petersburg Country Club, and Isla Del Sol. Furthermore, there are a number of fantastic courses in neighboring towns just minutes away in Seminole, Clearwater, and Largo. And you are only a short Drive from Palm Harbor and the Innisbrook Golf Resort, home to the PGA Tour Valspar Championship. This event attracts 100,000 attendees, not just for golf, but for family fun zones and games, concerts, food trucks, and more family-friendly activities. If you are a golfer, moving to St. Petersburg will provide you years of challenging play.
Folks moving to St. Petersburg find the lifestyle is laid back, compared to other cities its size. The Tampa side of the bay is more urban and feels more like "big city living" but that comes with congestion and heavier traffic. Some people like that metropolitan feel, I understand. But the Pinellas side of Tampa Bay is slower, a little "beachier", more artsy and hip. But there is an undeniable electricity downtown that intensifies as the sun goes down, when the street bistros and the sidewalk seating outside the gastropubs and microbreweries downtown fills with people and starts to hum. Great beaches, beautiful parks, cool art galleries, fantastic weather, amazing food, artisan beers, friendly people... St. Petersburg is truly an amazing place to live.
Local government has taken note of the amazing economic turnaround of the downtown area over the last 20 years, and is open and receptive to getting behind local business where it can. The service and hospitality industries are a large segment of the local economy, and tourism affects almost every business here, but there are significant players in banking, investment, aerospace, electronic, light industrial, and medical fields in St. Petersburg as well. If you happen to be a female business owner like myself, you’ll find Tampa Bay a great place to set up shop. In fact, Business.org recently ranked the Tampa Bay area the #1 Best City for women to start a business. With more boats registered in Pinellas County than any other place in Florida, boating, fishing, and marine-related businesses are another big industry across the entire county. St. Pete and Tampa Bay is a fantastic market to start, grow, or expand your business, no matter what your field.
St. Petersburg is a great place to raise kids, and there are several outstanding schools in every grade level around the area. Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties were both awarded "B" ratings overall by the Florida Department of Education, but in that overall B rating, there are several truly outstanding public schools at elementary, middle, and secondary levels. There are 42 private schools in St. Petersburg alone, and many more in close-by neighboring communities, and a wide array of charter, fundamental, religious, Montessori, and magnet-program schools to choose from. My daughter is enrolled in an excellent charter school, and is immersed in a rich curriculum.
On the college level, St. Petersburg is home to the USF St. Petersburg campus, St. Petersburg College, Eckerd College, and the Pinellas Technical Education center, as well as Stetson University College of Law in neighboring Gulfport. Of course kids love the beaches and the parks of St. Pete, all one hundred thirty-seven of them, and there are a number of rec centers, public pools and waterparks, athletic facilities, nature trails, skate parks... plenty of stuff to keep those kids occupied. There's also the famous Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail that begins in St. Petersburg and winds for 38 miles through 7 different towns, all the way to Tarpon Springs. and remember, there is more to explore in neighboring towns like Gulfport, Pinellas Park, and Clearwater, all just minutes away.
Over the last few years, this town has gone to the dogs... literally. St. Petersburg is a town made for dog lovers, and it shows. In my neighborhood in nearby Clearwater, I see a surprising number of people walking their dogs every evening, and people seem to use their dogs as an excuse to say hello or strike up a conversation with folks in the neighborhood. There are no less than 6 dog parks in St. Petersburg, and several more in nearby communities. Beyond that, the St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department offers numerous obedience classes and programs to help your pooch learn to mind his manners. Then we up the ante, with not one, but two dog-friendly beaches! Take your dog to the Gandy Bridge Causeway for free, or out to Ft. De Soto Paw Playground and Beach, where you have to pay for parking. St. Petersburg even has dog-friendly restaurants and bars, where you can both get a cold drink (water only for Rover).
So you’ve made up your mind and you are definitely moving to St. Petersburg- now what? That’s easy. My name is Debbie, and I’m very easy to talk to. Pick up the phone and call me. Let me find the perfect home for you, whether it is a starter home, a larger home in an area with great schools and parks for your growing family, or the perfect little beach condo that frees you from yard work and allows you to retire in comfort and soak up some sun. No matter what your situation, I am ready to help you find the perfect home, the home that you love. Buy your home the Wright way, and call me today!
And remember, Tampa Bay's geography and bridges make lots of great attractions in neighboring cities just minutes away, so be sure to check out my other guides!