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Some parts of Florida are filled with high-rise hotels, thumping nightlife, and more restaurants and cultural attractions than you could ever visit in a year — lively, sure, but hardly a relaxing day at the beach!
Others have remained almost totally wild and undeveloped — perfect, until you crave a meal that wasn't caught off the local dock this morning, or a shop that sells something other than flip-flops and seashells. The two faces of the Sunshine State each have their selling points, but if you're unwilling to choose sides, the Tampa Bay area is a welcome oasis for the noncommittal: Nowhere strikes the balance between urban and wild quite so perfectly. Starting on the mainland, in cities like Sarasota and St. Petersburg, you'll encounter surprisingly sophisticated cultural attractions, from the largest Salvador Dali collection in America to resident opera and ballet companies.
And then, in a matter of minutes, you could be moving westward on any of the area's scenic causeways, crossing over serene, protected bays, where swooping pelicans and leaping dolphins are practically as plentiful as pigeons and squirrels in other cities. From these causeways, you'll next encounter the string of barrier islands that stretch along the Gulf Coast, marked by their postcard-ready, white-sand beaches and quiet fishing piers. And if that's still not peaceful enough, you can always catch a ferry, private boat, or kayak out to one of the uninhabited sandbars or mangrove keys that dot the coast — where you're far more likely to encounter a manatee than a crowd of spring breakers. And to think, you're never more than a few miles from a big city!
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The best resorts Tampa Bay / St. Petersburg has to offer.