With fall weather here, it's OK to admit that now, not July, is your perfect Florida beach weather. If you're looking for a weekend getaway, here are four resorts within a few hours of Tampa Bay — some closer — where you can relax. So go ahead, take a road trip and relax in a Florida beachside resort for a day or two, because before you know it you're going to be making turkey for 20 at Thanksgiving.
Close to home: The Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach. If Tampa Bay beaches had a flagship beach, it'd be Clearwater Beach. The strip has everything: miles of white sand, every sort of watersport known to man (seriously, if you want to watch dolphins surf the wake of a tugboat, they've got that), no shortage of seafood restaurants daring you to eat your weight in stone crab claws (they're in season!), and a sunset celebration that rivals Mallory Square in Key West.
The Sandpearl, a luxe resort fronting those sunsets, draws crowds from all over Florida — and the world — and it has its own sunset celebration to complement the one just south at Pier 60: Beachside s'mores and swim-in movies. They also have morning meditation, sunrise yoga and explore-a-tour interactive boat tours. If you have mini-humans with you, they can hang at the resort's daycare, cleverly couched as "Camp Ridley" — and it sounds pretty cool, TBH: Kids get to go on scavenger hunts and make art that teaches them about Florida's natural environment. Man, add beer and that's about perfect.
Of course, the beer's for the grownups (that'd be us): While the kids are getting all Totch Brown with the arts and crafts, adults can take advantage of the Sandpearl's VIP Craft Beer Trail Chauffeur Service. Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like: You get your own driver, who will take you to any (and all, if you're ambitious) of craft breweries in St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
After all that, there's a spa, if you need it.
Pumpkin Spiced Deal (for real): Ask for it and get up to 20% off the rack rate and free breakfast for two every day you wake up at the Sandpearl.
Get art-y south of the skyway at Art Ovation in Sarasota. Look, we're just gonna say it: If your hotel room doesn't come with a ukulele, you're missing out. Truly. Every room at this artsy hotel comes with one, plus a sketchbook, so you can unleash your inner artist. Need a little help? Take one of their art classes — they offer, among others, painting, drawing, origami, music and art-inspired yoga (yeah, we're not too sure what that last one means, but we're game to try it). Do you view art as a spectator sport? Fine. Let yourself explore the hotel, because — like Winter Park's The Alfond Inn — they have art exhibits throughout.
Art Ovation, part of Sarasota's bustling downtown, puts you close to Sarasota's culture hub (and one of our favorite theaters, Urbanite)
Go coastal at Lido Beach Resort (also in Sarasota). So maybe you — like me — have celiac and don't love the gastronomic "adventure" that comes with trying new restaurants. Maybe your budget doesn't allow for three meals out every day. Or, hell, maybe you simply prefer to cook. The Lido Beach Resort has kitchenettes (don't worry, you can still get eats of every ilk, from a poolside Tiki Bar to upscale dining and yes, they have a Sunday brunch, because what are we, animals?) so you don't have to leave your room if you want a late morning in reading the paper and pretending you don't have to go back to work in a day or two. If you're not a fan of kids, you'll love their adults-only pool (they have a pool for the kiddos, too) — but don't forget, the beach is also right there.
Escape to the east coast at Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa in Jupiter. Sometimes, you need to get away, and for us Gulf coast junkies, nothing feels as foreign as the deep blue of the Atlantic, with its crashing waves and optimal surfing conditions. This is the only oceanfront hotel in the area and it offers sublime views of coastal dunes and cobalt waters. There's watersports and golf and all that jazz, of course, but really, why wouldn't you grab a book and a drink and head for the beach to unwind. P.S.: They have a hammock garden, and it's adults only. Too much sun? No problem, head to the spa to heal your skin — and your soul.