If your perfect vacation includes digging your toes in the sand, perfecting your tan under the warm sun, swimming and playing in the ocean and watching stunning sunsets over the water, then it's time to book your next getaway to Clearwater Beach. This Florida hotspot is a favorite beach destination, and with good reason. Sandy beaches are idyllic spots to relax, but you're close enough to bigger cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg that you can enjoy that hustle and bustle as well.
While the shores are certainly a huge draw there, there's so much more to experience in Clearwater Beach. You're sure to appreciate the laid-back atmosphere here as you explore the fun, cultural attractions and sample the local flavors at the variety of awesome eateries. If you're not convinced, Clearwater Beach has been awarded a variety of achievements, including TripAdvisor's Travelers Choice Awards Best Beaches in 2011 and Washington Family Magazine Readers' Choice for Best Beaches for Families 2012.
Things to Do in Clearwater Beach
- Clearwater Marine Museum: Animals lovers, especially those with a soft spot for marine life, won't want to miss out on the Clearwater Marine Museum. It's dedicated to caring for injured animals, providing them with rescue and rehabilitation, and then releasing them back into their natural habitat. The museum is home to all sorts of wildlife including river otters, bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays, sharks and a whole host of colorful fish. Creatures with serious injuries become permanent residents here, and the most well-known is Winter, a bottlenose dolphin rescued in 2005 after her tail got caught in a crab trap. Her injuries were very extensive, so was given a prosthetic tail, and her story was turned into a movie titled "Dolphin Tale" in 2011. After a trip the the museum, your family can rent the movie and learn even more about Winter!
- Early Bird Dinner Theatre: For a fun and unique night out head to Ed Fletcher's Early Bird Dinner Theatre where you can see a live, professional performance while enjoying a buffet dinner. Not only do you get to experience great entertainment, but you get to dine on a delicious meal while you do so. What could be better? The 2014 season includes "Lend Me a Tenor," "A Bad Year For Tomatoes," "Cookin' With Gas" and "Greater Tuna."
- Moccasin Lake Nature Park: With Clearwater's awesome climate, spending time outdoors is a must. Nature enthusiasts should head to Moccasin Lake Nature Park, where you can observe native plants and animals, including rescued and rehabbed birds, fish and reptiles as well as plant and energy exhibits. Take a lovely stroll down a trail as you admire the stunning natural beauty all around you. There's also a grilling and pavilion area, so after exploring the trails you can enjoy a delicious meal al fresco.
- Sunsets at Pier 60: Enjoy Clearwater Beach like a local and take in Sunsets at Pier 60. This event runs seven days a week - weather permitting - from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Join in the nightly festivities as you watch the breathtaking sunset over the water. The celebration is free and perfect for families. You'll find artisans, musical entertainment, crafters and street performers here, or you can check out a film screening Friday or Saturday night with popcorn and drinks. Grab a blanket or some lawn chairs and watch a movie under the stars.
Dining in Clearwater Beach
- The Brown Boxer Pub & Grille: Dining out is always a treat on vacation, and The Brown Boxer is considered the premiere sports bar and grille in the Tampa Bay area with its full bar, great menu and tons of entertainment. In 2013, it was voted Reader's Choice for Top Bar and one of the Top 25 Bars in the area by its customers. You can be sure you're getting your money's worth here! Try the mussels, coconut shrimp, ahi tuna, chicken fried chicken or rib eye, and be sure to save room for dessert!
- Clear Sky Beachside Cafe: It'll be a pleasure to dine while taking in views of the water at Clear Sky Beachside Cafe, which is known by natives for having tasty gourmet food without the expensive price tag. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner here, so you can start your day with a hearty meal to keep your energy up as you explore the city or stop in when you need to refuel. The menu boasts flavors from the around the world and offers dishes inspired by Asian, Mexican, French, Italian and American cuisine. Some favorites here include French toast (in five different flavors!), eggs benedict, omelets, hand-tossed pizzas and fresh seafood. Enjoy your meal in the dining room or take it outside to eat on the patio where you can also listen to live music. Adults in the group can pair their meal with a libation from the wine list or fully stocked bar.