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Save & Splurge: Clearwater, Fl.

Enjoy a family vacation in warm Clearwater, Fla., with our advice on where to stay, what to do and where to dine.

Clearwater, Fl.

Clearwater Beach is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the country.

(Photo: sreenath_k / Thinkstock)

Consistently ranked as one of America’s best beaches, Clearwater Beach feels much more like a throwback to another era, with its small-town feel, lively boardwalk, family-friendly attractions and casual cafes. The white sand beach, located on the Gulf of Mexico, is a stunning 3-mile-long playground with gorgeous blue waters and a legendary sunset.

Clearwater, Fl., is known as a popular Tampa Bay vacation spot, which will be apparent when you see all of the attractions, hotels and restaurants in the area. The amount of things to do makes the city a great destination for a family. The kids will never be bored, and the adults will have plenty of opportunity to have their fun, too.

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Are you saving, splurging or staying somewhere in between? See our suggestions for where to stay, what to do and where to dine in Clearwater, Fl., based on your preferred spending level below.

Budget

Stay: Barefoot Bay Resort & Marina is a family-owned 16-room motel located on Clearwater Bay. It’s just a five-minute walk to the beach, restaurants, shops and Pier 60. The motel has a heated outdoor pool and guests can cook on the gas grill. Rooms, which feature kitchenettes, full-size refrigerators and sinks, are ideal for families.

Do: Every night, 365 days a year (except for the Fourth of July), Clearwater Fl.’s Pier 60 turns into a free party full of street performers, artists and musicians. Best of all: It’s completely free (except for access to the end of the pier, which costs $1). Crafters also set up shop on the pier, selling handmade jewelry, makeup, souvenirs, paintings and more. On most weekend nights, family-friendly movies play on a portable theater screen set up on the beach.

Dine: The family-owned Tin Can Cafe is a favorite with Florida locals. The menu features breakfast skillet dishes, such as the country skillet with eggs, potatoes, peppers and onions, as well as pancakes and waffles. Burgers, sandwiches and heartier dishes like country-fried steak and chopped sirloin dominate the lunch menu.

Mid-Range

Stay: The 400-plus room Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa overlooks the water, with many rooms offering balcony views. Guests can enjoy the hotel’s private beach or take a dip in the pool, then walk over to Pier 60 for the night. Other draws include the Hibiscus Spa and Tommy’s Tiki Bar, the ideal place to enjoy a fruity cocktail and watch the Florida sunset.

Clearwater, Fl.

If you’re looking for dolphins in Clearwater, head to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. (Photo: Clearwater Marine Aquarium)

Do: Made famous by the movie “Dolphin Tale,” the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a must-see for families. For those not familiar with the movie, staff members rescued Winter, a dolphin, when she was hurt and made her a prosthetic tail. Winter now lives at the aquarium, which is a leader in marine rescue and rehabilitation. While at the Clearwater Marina, take a two-hour dolphin tour called Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise. The tour also includes a treasure hunt, face painting, water gun games and more for all ages.

Dine: There are five Frenchy’s restaurants in Clearwater. But at each one, diners will find the immensely popular super grouper sandwich, which Frenchy’s is said to have made famous. Start with a rumrunner drink and signature dishes like she-crab soup and the smoked fish spread before dining on the grouper.

Luxury

Clearwater, Fl.

The Opal Sands Resort is a good option for Clearwater visitors interested in luxury. (Photo: Opal Sands Resort)

Stay: Opal Sands Resort, which opened in 2016, is one of the most innovative properties in Clearwater, Fl. All 230 rooms face the water and have floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies. Amenities include a beachfront pool, hot tub, spa and four eateries. Sea-Guini, one of the on-location restaurants, serves fresh caught seafood and Italian handmade pastas. On the beach, guests can borrow bicycles and rent paddleboards, kayaks and jet skis for an adventure out on the water.

Do: Clearwater, Florida is known for its excellent fishing, with grouper, snapper and mackerel making up the most common catches. Outfitters like FishEye Sportfishing offer custom fishing trips and supply everything you need, including a fishing license, rods, reels and bait. Some will even fillet and bag whatever you catch.

Clearwater, Fl.

The Sandpearl Resort offers luxury dining with a view. (Photo: Sandpearl Resort)

Dine: Caretta on the Gulf, located in Opal Sands’ sister property, Sandpearl Resort, is a AAA Four Diamond rated restaurant situated beachside. Diners can sit indoors in the glamorous dining room or dine al fresco on the patio. The menu focuses on seasonal ingredients, fresh seafood and all-natural beef. The restaurant also features a Sunday brunch with made-to-order omelets, sushi, salads and more. Once the kids go to bed, Caretta Lounge is a good place for parents to hang out, listen to live music and unwind at the end of a long day.

Have you ever been to Clearwater, Florida? What did you like about it? Tell us in the comments!

Want to get away? Book a stay in Clearwater, Fl. by visiting AAA.com/Travel

 

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