For families in want of water sports, white sand, and warm weather, St. Pete Beach is the place to be. The Florida resort town is chockablock with family-friendly resorts, but here are the ones with the best activities and atmospheres for kids.
From the get-go, kids may be wowed by the lavish, bubblegum-pink facade of the luxurious Don CeSar, the iconic "Pink Palace" that looks like a grand birthday cake on the sand. The historic hotel's elegant interiors and opulent Gatsby-era vibe doesn't mean it holds back on the family-friendly front: in addition to two beachfront swimming pools (where G-rated "dive-in" movies are shown at night), the hotel offers kids' menus in the restaurants, an ice cream parlor scooping out homemade frozen treats, a library of games, and even kids' yoga and a camp for children. Teens can access free music downloads.
The 584-room TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, located on 20 beachfront acres, isn't on the same luxury level as Don CeSar, but it is immense and filled with fun features. There are 10 restaurants and five heated swimming pools, but the standouts for kids are the 60-foot blow-up slide on the beach and 15,750-square-foot Splash Island Water Park floating in the ocean. Jetpacks, paddle boards, and wave runners -- among other water sports -- are all included in the resort fee. All rooms have convenient kitchenettes (refrigerators, microwaves, toasters, coffeemakers, and dishware), as well as flat-screen HDTVs with premium channels and free Wi-Fi. We've heard multiple complaints of annoying timeshare pitches, though.
Located about a block away from TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, the 211-room Guy Harvey Outpost offers its guests full access to the amenities at that nearby sister property. The mid-range hotel also has family-friendly features of its own, including daily kids' activities and a 33,500-gallon fish tank (created by the stars of Animal Planet’s “Tanked”), where you can swim with more than 30 species of fish for a fee. Like the rooms at the other TradeWinds, rooms here come with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs with premium cable channels, and a wet bar with mini-fridge or full-size refrigerator, coffeemaker, toaster, microwave, and dishware.
Sirata Beach Resort's three pools, three full-service restaurants, and 382 rooms earn it a place among St. Pete Beach's large beachfront hotels, but it is considerably more dated than the three hotels we've listed so far. Still, there's a distinct family-friendly atmosphere here, thanks in large part to an iguana rehab center that children love, as well as a game room with prize machines, air hockey, and ping-pong. The hotel stands out for its beach activities, which range from Jet Ski rentals to dolphin-sighting boat tours. All rooms have mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, and free Wi-Fi. Studios and Suites have kitchenettes with microwaves, small dining areas, coffeemakers, dishes, and utensils. Suites also have separate living areas with couches (sofa beds in some rooms), and a few have bunk beds and hot tubs. Beachfront rooms are worth the extra money for the ocean views.
Laid-back Florida kitsch is alive and well at this simple family-owned property on the beach. It offers nowhere near as many features as Don CeSar, the TradeWinds, and Sirata, but Plaza Beach Hotel caters to vacationing friend groups and families with kids with things like a heated pool, free mini-golf, and tiki-hut-style covered tables and barbecue grills. Each evening, the hotel's beachfront bar (which happens to have gorgeous sunset views) holds a lively happy hour. The 39 emphasize practicality over style: simple tiled floors allow for easy cleanup, and kitchenettes with full refrigerators, microwaves, cutlery, and two-burner stoves are convenient for self-catering.
With a dated exterior and bare-bones balconies, this 140-suite property isn’t much to look at from the outside -- especially when compared to Don CeSar and the TradeWinds resorts. However, Alden Suites is appealing to families for its on-site activities, low rates, convenient rooms, and coin laundry room. Each suite includes a living room area, four-person dining table, and full kitchen or kitchenette stocked with appliances, pots and pans, and dishes. Common features include a beachfront bar, two lighted tennis courts, basketball, shuffleboard, volleyball, and ping pong. Water-sports rentals, including windsurfing, sailing, jet-skiing, and parasailing, are available for a fee. The outdoor space also has a cookout deck with grills, a 12-person hot tub, and a no-frills heated pool. The Grab and Go convenience store sells snacks and occasionally discounted attraction tickets.