St. Pete Beach is the closest town to Fort de Soto Park -- home to miles of lifeguard-patrolled white-sand beaches along with nature trails, fishing piers, a fort, and playgrounds, as well as kayak and bike rentals. "The North Beach area is like nature's wading pool," says Jim Wilson, park supervisor. "The gentle gulf water and gradual slope makes it perfect for little kids." St. Pete Beach itself also has 6 miles of beaches but no lifeguards on duty.
The Dali Museum's treasure hunts, stories, and craft projects occupy the kids so you can appreciate the nearly 100 paintings by the famed artist. The outdoor waterfront garden adds to the kid appeal ($21 for adults, $7 for kids 6 to 12, children 5 and under are free; thedali.org).
Drive ten minutes to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium ($20 for adults, $15 for kids 3 to 12, children 2 and under are free), home to Winter, who was featured in the movie Dolphin Tale.
For a sure hit with preschoolers, go to the Great Explorations Houghton-Wagman Children's Museum ($10 admission, babies under 1 are free).
Eat at Snapper's Sea Grill, which has outdoor seating, free baked pita chips and hummus, and a kids' menu.
Take your family on Captain Memo's Original Pirate Cruise setting sail along the Gulf of Mexico.
Only a 30 minute drive from St. Pete Beach is the Tampa's Lowry Zoo ($24.95 for adults, $19.95 for kids 3 to 11, children 2 and under are free) aka the number one zoo in the country, where you can feed giraffes, rhinos, and Australian parrots.
Book a room at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel -- aka the "pink palace." It has a new oceanfront pool area with a splash pad; chic, child-proofed guest rooms (just request a kit); and loads of loaner baby and toddler equipment. (Rooms with two queen beds start at $249 per night; loewshotels.com.)
Right on the beach, the budget-friendly Postcard Inn offers a kiddie pool, free loaner sand buckets, and rooms decorated in surf-style retro. (Rooms with two queen beds start at $99 per night; postcardinn.com.)
TradeWinds Island Resort will keep the kids entertained with offerings like Splash Island Water Park, paddle boats, and dive-in movies. (Rooms with two queen beds start at $167 per night; tradewindsresort.com)
Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.