In the waterfront heart of Downtown St. Petersburg, Straub Park (Beach Dr. between 2nd Ave. and 5th Ave.) is home to several interesting pieces of modern sculpture but utilized more often as the locale for festivals and weekend picnicking and sunbathing. Large oaks provide plenty of shade, but there’s also lots of space for activities; the view onto the Vinoy marina, as the yachts come and go, is perfect.
Adjacent to Straub Park is the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts (255 Beach Dr. NE, 727/896-2667, www.fine-arts.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Sun., closed Mon., $12 adults, $10 seniors, $6 students and children, children 6 and under free). For a small Florida  city with one exceptional museum in the form of the Dalí , the presence of the Museum of Fine Arts is noteworthy indeed.
Permanent exhibits of 17th- and 18th-century European art and 19th-century American art are well-curated and hit all the expected notes, although they’re not quite extensive enough to provide any deep perspective.
Where Museum of Fine Arts shines is in its permanent collection of antiquities, ranging from pre-Columbian pieces to Asian fine art, and their dedication to photography. Bringing in a wide range of exhibits—from Ansel Adams to Weegee—the Museum shows a surprising fearlessness in balancing the old and the new.
The big highlight at the St. Petersburg Museum of History (335 2nd Ave. NE, 727/894-1052, www.spmoh.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Sun., closed Mon., $12 adults, $9 seniors, $9 students, $7 children, children 6 and under free) is a walk through the First Flight Gallery, dedicated to Tony Jannus’s historic first commercial airline flight. Similarly, the rest of the museum focuses closely on local history, with Native American artifacts and exhibits on the city’s growth since the arrival of the railroad.
There have been many piers in St. Petersburg  throughout the years, from the one that Henry Plant got when he bought the Orange Belt Railroad to the famous Million Dollar Pier built in 1926. As an era postcard proclaimed, the Million Dollar Pier had “automobiles from all sections of the United States…parked here on Sunshiny days throughout the Winter Months. At the end of the Pier is the Recreation Building where Tourists congregate at all times.”
Although the legendary structure was replaced in 1973 by The Pier (end of 2nd Ave. NE, www.stpete-pier.com , 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Sun.), which certainly cost more than a million dollars, tourists are still flocking to the area.
Whether it’s fishermen casting a line or families exploring The Pier Aquarium (727/895-7437, www.pieraquarium.org , 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–6 p.m. Sun., $5 adults, $4 students and seniors, $2.50 for everyone Sun.), the area is a bona fide tourist attraction in a town whose charms are somewhat more subtle.