The Sunshine State & I have a long history. I lived there a shorter time than I’ve lived anywhere else (only seven years), yet I consider it home. I’m a Gulf Coast girl, through & through (the east coast of Florida never seems to treat me very well). Landing at Tampa International Airport – what I consider to be the most efficient airport in the country – brings a big smile to my face.
A lot of business travel & a rather emotionally exhausting start to the year with the death of my beloved grandmother has left us spent not even six months into the year. So when B & I decided a warm-weather weekend was needed for Memorial Day, there was only one place I wanted to go: home.
After a bit of indecision, we decided to splurge & chose a property in neighboring St. Petersburg. When I lived in Tampa, St. Pete (as it’s known locally) was the down-on-its-luck, only-go-there-for-a-ball-game-or-to-get-to-the-beach neighbor of Tampa. But a miraculous thing has happened since I left in 2002: redevelopment, resurgence & re-invigoration. Downtown St. Pete is now a chic shopping & dining area, anchored by the historic Vinoy Hotel. Now part of the Renaissance by Marriott group, the Vinoy has been beautifully restored to its glamorous past when movie stars & presidents came to visit during the December – April season.
If you’re arriving at the Vinoy by taxi or if you plan to valet park, your entrance into the hotel is as glamorous as it was in the 1920s. But if you choose to self-park, like we did, your introduction to the hotel is through a back entrance from a parking garage. You’re in the historic lobby after a rather lengthy walk from your car with luggage. I really wish the hotel would improve on this arrival experience – it was quite underwhelming!
We were checked in by two of the friendliest front desk agents I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with. John & Jennifer checked us in & enrolled me into the Marriott Rewards club all at the same time. Our King Bay View room was located in the hotel’s old, historic building & looked out over the marina, the St. Pete Pier & Tampa Bay. The room was a little cookie cutter for my taste; I think a historic properties should have rooms to match. But it was large enough for two people to be comfortable & the bed was insanely comfortable. The bathroom had double sinks (always a nice touch when traveling in pairs) & a standard hotel shower & tub with a great shower head.
The hotel has several restaurants & bars on property. Our room package included breakfast, which meant we enjoyed a huge breakfast buffet at the beautifully restored Marchand’s Dining Room every morning (except Sunday morning when we were too lazy to make it down before formal brunch started & grabbed breakfast at a different restaurant – Alfresco). The buffet has everything you could possibly want, including made-to-order omelets, sweet little raspberry & chocolate pastries, & giant, plump, fresh Florida strawberries. Pancakes & waffles are also included in the buffet & are ordered directly from your server – something we didn’t know until out second morning of breakfast, when we promptly inhaled several fluffy blueberry pancakes.
The hotel’s pool is popular & (luckily) large enough to accommodate a number of people without feeling overcrowded. There’s a full service bar poolside, with many of the drinks created by the waitstaff. I had a refreshing, light berry concoction & a frozen Arnie (yes, exactly what it sounds like) – both invented by my excellent server Brock. The pool was always full of families when we were there during the day, but we had the place to ourselves when we went for a swim after dinner one night. In addition, there are lots of umbrellas on the pool deck, which means we never had trouble finding shade.
Overall, it was an excellent stay. The service was top notch, the location great & the property very relaxing. There were five weddings & a conference going on during our stay, yet every staff member I interacted with was friendly, smiling & chatty. Next time you’re in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, give the Vinoy a try. It’s not right on the beach (about 20 minutes away), but it’s darn near Florida perfection.
Know, if you go….
– self parking is $14 per day in the hotel’s parking garage, & includes in & out privileges. We never had trouble finding a spot, even on a busy Saturday night. Valet parking is $20 for overnight guests.
– the rooms in the old part of the hotel don’t have balconies & are a little smaller. The rooms in the new(er) guest tower have balconies, but lose the romantic feeling of being in the old historic property. Besides, if you’re in the new part, how will you keep an eye out for ghosts?
– if you’re a baseball fan, & staying here during season, keep an eye out for your favorite player: the Vinoy is often the hotel of choice for visiting teams playing the Tampa Bay Rays. While we were there, the Rays were playing the Yankees & the Marlins – we met a Marlins starting pitcher while waiting for an elevator (coincidentally the Marlins lost the game he was pitching… I’m going to pretend this was not our fault).
– speaking of elevators: there are two located on each end of the floor in the main building. They’re small & old & slow. But that’s part of the charm, right? (I think so – I love old fashioned elevators)
– the spa is hit or miss: the Vinoy Relaxing Foot Ritual had was excellent, but it’s not really a spa. There’s no relaxation room & the locker room is shared with the health club, which was definitely the antithesis of relaxing. If I was in the area again, I’d probably only use the spa if I was a hotel guest.