Well, my big birthday plans fell through. I had planned for a buddy and I to travel to the other coast of Florida and spend the weekend exploring a few skateboard parks, attend a concert and relax in a hot tub at a hotel. My pal had taken off work and it seemed like an exciting weekend ahead of us. That was until I got a preemptive refund from Ticketmaster for my tickets. The concert was canceled. What to do now?
My friend and I decided to make lemonade out of lemons and started brainstorming for how to make this trip even better than we had imagined. My wife came up with the perfect plan. How about a stay at The Vinoy® Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort? The Vinoy® has long been synonymous with luxury and comfort. Originally opened in 1925, it is the only historic luxury hotel on Florida’s West Coast that boasts a private marina, 18 hole golf course, and a 12 court tennis complex.
“Say no more,” I said to her. We would craft our man’s weekend getaway around this hotel since this hotel is one of the very reasons why you would want to visit St. Petersburg. The hotel blends the historic charm with the modern luxuries and a view to-die-for overlooking Tampa bay.
St. Petersburg is the home to many parks and nature preserves, musical and sports venues, golf courses, dog parks, skateboard parks, and many other attractions including Sunken Gardens, The World-famous Salvador Dali Museum and many other museums and galleries.
I pulled up a map on my computer and started planning a couple of skateboard parks I would be checking out that day. I had foolishly planned to be skateboarding for many hours not realizing the limitations of my old, weary body of a dad. My friend and I got an early start and by lunch time, we were ready to find out what The Vinoy® Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort was all about.
As we pulled in, we were impressed with the beautiful location of the hotel. Parking was simple, easy and it was no headache to find a spot right away. Smiling to ourselves, we grabbed our luggage and walked through the halls of the resort to check in. It was an absolute snap to check in and unlike most hotels I stay in, there were no miscommunications, mistakes, or any eyes rolling from an uneducated member of the staff. Immediately I was thoroughly impressed with how accommodating, intelligent, welcoming, and on top of their game this hotel was. I was given a brochure about the hotel and areas of interest and went off to my room.
The room was absolutely fantastic. On the seventh floor of the hotel, I was able to head right to the balcony and take in the view. The room was impeccably clean, comfortable, and large enough to accommodate two burly guys that had been skateboarding all morning. Unlike any hotel I had ever been in, in my entire life, the bed and the pillows were both comfortable. This is the first time I ever had a good night sleep in a hotel. Usually my back ends up aching and I can’t wait to get home. This was not the case at this resort.
Within walking distance of the hotel, on beach drive, was a delicious restaurant called “the moon under water”. It was a reasonably priced restaurant with a wide selection of British colonial foods.
What does that mean, you ask? It means they have Bangers and Mash on the same menu alongside Curry Chicken. It makes absolute perfect sense and the Jerk Chicken Sandwich I had was absolutely delicious. After lunch, we strolled the strip that the restaurant was on and found a little coffee shop. A triple shot of espresso would get me back to the hotel with enough energy to hit the pool.
There were many shops, and museums along Beach Drive. This made me realize I had to bring my wife and daughter with me next time. Such a beautiful location on the waterfront and so many things to do.
The room was nice enough to sit in all day, but I was ready to soak away some of the injuries I had received from the skateboard parks in the area. I put on my bathing suit and made my way down to the area where I figured The pool and hot tub would be. As I ventured through some doors, I must have looked lost as my companion and I were whisked to the side where a very helpful lady named Rachel gave us a quick tour and showed us exactly where everything was. Rachel went out of her way to show us where the fitness center was, where the fitness classes would be held, she gave us directions to the large pool, and also the sauna and steam room.
I figured before I hit the pool I would love to check out the sauna. Having never really spent much time in a men’s sauna room, as I am normally with my family I didn’t quite know what to expect. It was very large and accommodating! We had a chance to visit the steam room AND sauna. It was exactly what I needed to soak my old bones in that hot tub. It wasn’t until a very large and naked man tried to slide in the hot tub next to me that I decided it was best I head straight for the pool. For a moment I thought perhaps I had stumbled into a Turkish bathhouse. Apparently this is something that is very common. News to me! After all I am a “Modern Day Dads” not a modern day nudist. I was done soaking anyway.
The pool was beautiful, and crystal-clear. Large enough to swim across, there were many places to sit and an extremely attentive staff to make sure I didn’t need any food or drink. After another hour or so we decided to get ready for our dinner at Marchand’s.
Marchand’s Bar and Grille feature local seasonal cuisine, and boast an ever-changing monthly Farm to Fork menu highlighting fair from 12 area Farms. Executive Chef Mark Heimann has over 20 years experience as a culinary expert. For more than ten years, he has worked at St. Petersburg’s Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in leadership roles ranging from Marchand’s Restaurant Chef, Banquet Chef and Executive Sous Chef. He is currently the Executive Chef of the award-winning resort.
“In order to have success in the kitchens of the Vinoy restaurants, you must be in tune with your clientele and be able to spark creativity in yourself and your associates to keep things interesting,” comments Heimann.
Service, as I have learned to expect from this hotel, was absolutely on point. I was able to delight in an amazing six course dinner while my knowledgeable and friendly waiter explained each dish to me. Now I am a bit of a foodie. I love to eat, I love to cook, and it takes a great deal to impress me. Color me impressed. In fact one of the courses I ate was Scallops and Basil Linguini. When I was asked how I liked them, I honestly was able to reply that this is the last meal I would like to eat in my life if I had the chance. If I was on my deathbed I would have to be wheeled into Marchand’s for this dish. Though everything I ate was impressive from the BBQ Pork Cheek and Grilled Baby Octopus to the Tomato Gazpacho and Watermelon and Arugula Salad. Chef Mark is also the co-author of a coffee table-style book titled Taste the Vinoy without Reservations and traveled to the prestigious James Beard House in New York City to help launch the Vinoy’s debut cookbook in 2004. Chef is also responsible for having created a grilling cookbook named Fire It Up.
Vinoy also just rolled out their Paul’s Landing craft brews. The inspiration started with Miss Hallie Fedowich, she worked at the Vinoy Park hotel in 1959 as a server in Marchand’s. In May 2013 The Vinoy’s senior manager of food and beverage operations, spent an hour or more listening to her stories of The Vinoy and how guests and hotel employees spent their days. During the conversation she shared that it was always said an orange grove was once where The Vinoy Park Hotel stood and when Vinoy Laughner signed the contract for the property to build the hotel, he stood in the orange grove with the farmer and penned the contract on the back of the developer.
Fast forward to a few months ago when The Vinoy started exploring a “Chef Crafted Beer” with 3 Daughters Brewing. Wanting to create something that told a story and fit the history of The Vinoy, the orange grove tale was a perfect tie in. The Vinoy’s local Historian, Elaine Normile, worked with Museum of History in St. Petersburg on a fact finding mission where she uncovered the story of William Paul and “Paul’s Landing,” confirming it was William Paul who helped pioneer not only the location where The Vinoy now sits but also planted the first 50 orange seedings in the fall of 1854 — the perfect inspiration to get started on a craft beer.
The Vinoy invites guests to discover the refreshing citrus, wheat local Florida flavors of Paul’s Landing and sip on a little bit of St. Pete history.
Not only would I return to this resort again, but I absolutely will return to this resort. I was made to feel completely welcome in their hotel and not like a guest but more like a revered member of their family. This is the perfect hotel for people that are interested in having an amazing experience in a historic and Elegant resort with modern comforts.
On the way out of town, we stopped at the amazing “Harvey’s 4th street grill” which hosted a great brunch where I indulged in “Eggs Sardo”, a Benedict with artichoke and spinach which was about as healthy of an Eggs Benedict as you can get.
See you next time St. Pete!