Clearwater, Florida has everything you could want for a perfect vacation: miles of sugar-white sand beaches, world-class restaurants, glamorous nightclubs, cozy cafes, and more shops, museums, galleries and parks than you’ll know what to do with. If you’re heading to the city for the first time, you’re likely to be wondering how, with so many awesome things to see and do, you’ll manage to pack it all in. Well, wonder no more. Here, in ascending order, are the 20 top things to do in Clearwater for 2020- fit this little lot into your itinerary, and we guarantee you’ll go home happy.
20. Captain Bligh’s Landing Miniature Golf
From scratch golfers to pros, toddlers to grandparents, no one can resist a game of miniature golf. If you and the family are looking for a great place in Clearwater to enjoy some good all-round family fun, you’ll find few places better equipped to provide it than Captain Bligh’s Landing Miniature Golf. Set over several acres of plush landscapes complete with caves, waterfalls, and tropical plants, the 18-hole mini-golf course is the perfect combination of challenge and reward. Once you’re packed up your clubs, there’s even a game room and huge wooden pirate ship to enjoy, not to mention a very well-stocked snack bar.
19. Pelican Walk Plaza
It may not have all the bells and whistles of Clearwater’s other big shopping destination, Westfield Countryside Mall (more on which coming up), but what Pelican Walk Plaza lacks in glitz it more than makes up for in a score of great eateries (including the only organic café on the island), some cute boutiques, and, to top it off, a life-sized statue of Hulk Hogan.
18. Cliff Stephens Park
The oasis-like Cliff Stephens Park occupies 44-acres of picture-perfect Florida landscape, providing a peaceful slice of heaven that’s as different from the hustle and bustle of the city as day is to night. As well as offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy the simple delights of nature, there are a plethora of recreational opportunities on offer, from boating to hiking, golfing to skating. There’s also a number of picnic tables and grills along the way, making it the perfect place to enjoy some al fresco dining, Florida style.
17. Clearwater Beach Uncorked
Granted, this is a seasonal destination, but it’s good enough to merit a mention anyway. Over two days in November or December (exact dates vary), Clearwater opens its door to thousands of gourmets looking to experience the culinary delights of the city. Sample some delectable delights from local producers, watch chefs pit their skills in face-off demonstrations, sip some heady wine, or just soak up the joyous atmosphere… whatever you do, you’re certain to have a memorable experience (although missing the dessert tent would be an inexcusable oversight).
16. The Florida Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking for a family-friendly destination that won’t cost you an arm and a leg for admission, The Florida Botanical Gardens ticks all the boxes. Boasting more than 25 gardens (including a glorious rose garden and a very tempting tropical fruit garden), a plethora of native wildlife, and more nature trails than you’ll know what to do with, it’s a great reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city. Best of all, admission is 100% free, making it a great day out for families on a budget.
15. Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill
A Clearwater institution since 1926, the Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill is a favorite with locals and tourists alike. Visit at sunset for some stunning views over the ocean… although whatever time you visit, you won’t be disappointed with the succulent homemade burgers served in toasted brioche buns, the awesome grouper sandwiches, and the too-die-for key lime pies.
14. Big Storm Brewing Company
Clearwater’s artisanal food and drink scene is flourishing, and nowhere is this more obvious than at the Big Storm Brewing Company. Fun, funky, and delectably affordable, it’s got everything you need for a few hours of boozy- entertainment: an amazing food truck, a pet-friendly outdoor area, an extensive collection of great beers to sample, and a good selection of games and slot machines.
13. Westfield Countryside Mall
If you’re looking for somewhere to indulge your retail habit, Westfield Countryside Mall has your name written all over it. With over 150 shops to its name, it’s the perfect place to grab a bargain, not to mention take in a flick at the state-of-the-art 12-screen movie theatre. Before you drop from all the shopping, head to one of the many restaurants and cafés on-site: with a great combination of local businesses and chains like P.F. Chang's and BJ's Restaurant, you can’t help but find something that appeals.
12. Moccasin Lake Nature Park
If your kids need to burn off some energy, the Moccasin Lake Nature Park is the perfect place for them to do it. Occupying a vast expanse of native forest, the park is overrun with hiking trails, picnic spots, streams, and wildlife spotting opportunities. Bald eagles, hawks, raptors, vultures, yellow sulphurs, zebra longwings. and owls have all made the park their home, while the variety of native plants is just as impressive. For a long, leisurely stroll in nature, it’s ideal.
11. Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail
Clearwater may be famous for its beaches, but there’s a lot more to its natural beauty than just sand. Case in point: Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail. The smooth, wide trail is easy enough to suit all ages and skill levels and provides the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs and enjoy some gorgeous natural scenery. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of benches, picnicking areas, golf courses, fishing areas, and streams, not to mention a heap of native wildlife. As well as being a feature in its own right, the trail serves as the connection between several of the parks in the area, including the lovely Kapok and Philippe Parks; if you can afford the time, take a whole day to appreciate the full extent of the treats on offer.
10. Ruth Eckerd Hall
As one of Clearwater’s top performance venues, a visit to Ruth Eckerd Hall is a must-do. With its gorgeously sumptuous décor, superb acoustics, and never-ending line up of great entertainers, it's one of the best places in town to enjoy a performance.
9. Clearwater Beach Marina
Located on the beautiful Clearwater Beach, Clearwater Beach Marina is a fun destination for the whole family. Whether you decide to rent a boat yourself or just soak up the sight of the hundreds of fishing charters, sight-seeing boats, dinner cruises, and personal watercraft bobbing around the dock, the vibrant atmosphere is sure to infect you. Boats aside, there’s no shortage of things to do… although regardless of what usually floats your boat, the one thing you really shouldn’t miss is stopping by The Bait House Taverna for some ridiculously good seafood.
8. Aspirations Winery
If all the sightseeing’s left you with a thirst, Aspirations Winery might be just what you need. Voted #1 winery in the State of Florida by House Beautiful Magazine and 2018 Clearwater small business of the year, the winery produces 25 handcrafted, low sulfite wines every year, including some fabulous, fruit-infused varieties that have managed to win just about every award going. Whether you want to make a quick pit stop or take the extended guided tour, it’s a must for anyone with a taste for grapes.
7. Beach Walk
Enjoy the beautiful beaches of Clearwater while getting some healthy exercise by taking the Beach Walk. Shaded by a line of palm trees, the walk leads you along a path marked by a host of quirky local businesses, including vintage ice cream parlors, artisanal arts and craft shop, and quirky little trinket stores. Don some comfortable shoes, slap on the sunscreen and prepare to soak up Clearwater’s distinctive atmosphere.
6. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Clearwater Marine Aquarium might be on the small side, but the glimpse it offers into the inner world of Florida native sea animals makes it well worth a visit. Operating more like a rescue and rehabilitation center than a typical aquarium, it's home to a number of marine creatures, including dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays, and the like, who’ve sustained the kind of injuries that prevent their return to the wild. Kids will be intrigued to know that Winter, the bottlenose dolphin star of Dolphin Tale, is one of the home’s permanent residents, while the two North American otters, Walle and Boomer, will steal the whole family’s hearts.
5. Pier 60
If you’re looking to snap up some trinkets at bargain prices before you leave, head straight to Pier 60. The 1,080-foot fishing pier is the ideal place to take a stroll and admire some street performances (not to mention pass a few words with the lines of fisherman on either side). Stop by the Pier 60 bait house to pick up some T-shirts and souvenirs (or even some fishing tackle if you’ve been tempted to give it a go yourself) before heading to the huge playground on the far side: with two separate playing areas, water slides and trampolines, its heaven for kids.
4. Sand Key Park
If the screaming kids and hustle and bustle of Clearwater Beach are driving you to distraction, take the hop, skip and jump over to the divinely serene Sand Key Park. Its facilities and amenities might not be on the same scale as Clearwater (expect parking space and a restroom, and nothing more) but if you’re willing to sacrifice ice cream on tap for a little slice of peaceful beach paradise, it won’t disappoint.
3. Clearwater Beach
If you’re heading to Clearwater, it’d be frankly remiss not to take full advantage of its stunning natural beauty. In a state of beautiful beaches, Clearwater might very well be the most beautiful (and it’s not just us who think so; in 2013, USA Today readers voted Clearwater Beach "Best Beach Town in Florida"). Sugar-white sand, crystal-clear, shallow waters, and acres of bright blue sky… if that sounds your kind of thing, then grab a towel and follow the line of tourists all heading for some fun in the sun. As well as the natural attractions, there’s plenty of recreation on offer, with scores of boutiques and ice cream parlors lining the front, and vendors hawking equipment and services for every type of water sport you can imagine.
2. Capital Theatre
As one of the oldest theaters in Florida still in operation, Capital Theatre stands as a monument to old school Hollywood glamour. Since an elaborate $11 million restoration in 2013 returned the building to its former glory, it’s become the place in town to take in a performance from one of the many artists, comedians, and entertainers who pass through…. although regardless of how good they are, they’ll be hard-pressed to steal your attention away from the gorgeously elegant interior.
1. The Dali Museum
If you’ve even the vaguest interest in modern art, you won’t want to miss a visit to The Dali Museum. Home to the biggest collection of Salvador Dali pieces outside Europe, this iconic building boasts more than 2,000 pieces, from oils and watercolors to sculptures and sketches. While pride of place goes to the 8 paintings wildly considered to by his “Masterpieces”, there’s just as much to be enjoyed elsewhere, particularly in the exhibits that show his progression from the landscape and portrait artist of his youth to the surrealist genius of his later years. The building itself is almost as impressive as the art: designed in homage to the man himself, the blend of the fantastical and the classical is a wonder to behold.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson