At its simplest, Central Avenue is the beating heart of St. Pete’s downtown. This walkable avenue is packed with chef-led restaurants pushing the culinary scene to glass blowers making a name for themselves as part of Florida’s “Glass Coast” and one-of-a-kind stores.
Central Avenue is the nexus of St. Pete’s local culture and you can easily spend an entire day exploring all the shops, restaurants and art institutions. In fact, we’ve gathered together a day itinerary with stops up and down the avenue to show you what makes this beloved area so special.
Coffee, Art and Eats
First stop, coffee. Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails is the perfect wake-up call with its open and airy decor and carefully sourced coffee. You’re likely to have a new roast every time you visit as the origin of the beans for their coffee changes weekly.
Caffeine acquired, walk east a few blocks to the Morean Arts Center. This organization has supported arts in the area for years and their gallery, which focuses on works by local artists, is free and open every day of the week. After you’ve gotten a look at the local art, head over to the Chihuly Collection, located across the street from the Morean Arts Center. The collection showcases Dale Chihuly’s masterful blown glass artwork. The scale of the pieces is impressive. Installations fill the rooms with vibrant colors and shapes that will make you question how the artist managed to do that with glass. If you’re feeling inspired, hop back across the street to the Morean Glass Studio where you can watch live glass blowing demonstrations and even take a class.
By this point, you’ll be ready for some food and luckily, you don’t have to go far for good eats. Bodega on Central is always a good choice for simple-but-delicious Latin-American sandwiches. Buya Ramen is another local favorite where patrons fill up on homemade ramen bursting with umami flavor. The dishes at Datz – Downtown St. Pete could be called American, but they’re really a mash-up of flavors that work deliciously well. Datz is known for their double-d burger, which comes with two whole glazed donuts as the buns. And if you’ve somehow saved room for dessert, try the Frozen Mojito Pie, which is a minty twist on the classic key lime pie.
Related Content: Eats with a View: Restaurants, Bars & Breweries in St. Pete/Clearwater – foodie stops with outdoor seating
Boutiques, a Museum and Ice Pops
Refueled, it’s time to stop into some of the fun shops and boutiques in the area. Bar and boutique combo Brutique will pour a glass of beer or wine for you to sip while you shop. Crislip Arcade is a historic throwback to the 1920s when arcades, sheltered walkways with small stores set into alcoves, were more common. The Merchant is one such store at Crislip Arcade and it bills itself as a “funky fun” general store. You’ll find handmade soaps, local crafts and unique housewares. Walk through Crislip Arcade to discover more shops and grab a pick-me-up at The Crislip Cafe. Cool off with a treat from The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops. Their fun flavor combinations include watermelon hibiscus, horchata, strawberry basil and peanut butter pie. While you’re shopping, check out Hawthorn Bottle Shoppe where you can browse hundreds of beers, a large selection of wine and deli goods.
Next, take your explorations over to another one of Central Avenue’s art institutions: the James Museum. This museum’s collection is focused on art of the American West and it features contemporary pieces. Explore how artists from around the world interpret, reinvent and are inspired by Western themes. The collection includes many pieces by Native American artists and has an entire gallery of Native American jewelry.
Bars, Brews and Dinner Spots
As the sun descends, Central Avenue starts buzzing with a different kind of energy. Friends meet at their favorite watering hole, dinner spots open their doors and live music can be heard pouring out of bars and breweries.
Stop into Green Bench Brewing Company for a pre-dinner drink on their spacious lawn or visit The Cider Press Café for a cocktail and vegan appetizers. If you’re willing to walk a little further west, Grand Central Brewhouse is a great spot to grab a craft beer. The front patio is perfect for people-watching and the rooftop has some great photo-ops with its bright murals and strands of lights.
You won’t want for options when it comes to dinner. Many restaurants combine a casual atmosphere with an elevated culinary experience. Brick & Mortar is a staple with a seasonal menu of handmade dishes and a carefully curated selection of wine. The Mill crafts American dishes with a southern influence and the interior was designed by local artist Istvan Torok. Share tapas or sushi rolls at The Lure and sip on one of their handcrafted cocktails. For a fine dining experience, head to Il Ritorno where owner and executive chef, David Benstock, builds the menu based on in-season products.
If you’re not ready to leave yet, pop into one of the bars or catch a show. The Mandarin Hide is a go-to spot for craft cocktails or head to Floridian Social Club for live music every Tuesday through Sunday. Enjoy the intimate setting at Ruby’s Elixir, a speakeasy-style experience with live jazz, blues and rock.
Something you’ll notice right away on Central Avenue are the murals at every turn. The best way to enjoy the art is to walk around and see what catches your eye, but here are just a few of the area’s many murals:
1720 Central Ave., St. Pete, FL 33712
This eye-catching mural combines abstract shapes and bright colors to create a striking portrait.
Pride & Love
2437 Central Ave., St. Pete, FL 33713
Two local artists teamed up to create this Lego-themed piece. From a distance, the heart and hands look like pixelated renderings, but get in closer and you’ll see the Lego details.
Central Ave. 5th St., St. Pete, FL 33701
Quite literally street art, this piece is painted over an entire intersection.
You Are My Sunshine
719 Central Ave., St. Pete, FL 33701
One of the more well-known murals in the area, this work plays with St. Pete’s nickname “the Sunshine City.”