In the first half of the 20th century, St. Pete’s claim to fame in tourism was a bunch of green benches lined up in long rows downtown, where visitors could experience the thrill of . . . sitting in public? This being the Jim Crow era, an unwritten code of racial segregation prevented Black residents from using the seats, a petty cruelty that forever soured nostalgia for the benches after they were removed in the 1960s.
Today, the downtown vibe is less sedate and more truly community-minded along the main thoroughfare, Central Avenue, which stretches westward from the waterfront. A similar atmosphere prevails in the Edge District, a trendy shopping, dining, and entertainment area flanking Central between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and 16th streets.
Amid dozens of vibrant murals, you’ll find inviting coffee shops, craft breweries such as 3 Daughters Brewing (222 22nd St. S) and Cage Brewing (2001 1st Ave. S), and decidedly independent businesses, some of which find novel ways to combine booze with other mood improvers like fashion (at Brutique, 648 Central Ave.) and dogs (The Dog Bar, 2300 Central Ave.).
Pictured above: Diversity in Democracy mural by John Gascot and James Hartzell