I remember the first time I visited the Don CeSar beach resort. It was the summer of 1998, and I was spending my days in the cool air-conditioned indoors of the Poynter Institute at USF. I had accidentally applied to summer Writer’s Camp at the wrong campus, confusing the “Northeast” in our St. Petersburg home address to mean we lived on the north side of the county. My directional challenges only grew worse with time; but my mom, in true graceful optimist form, never once complained about the extra 30 minutes — even though traffic did suck. Some mornings we’d even pop into the nearby Einstein Bros., where I discovered my love for the potato bagel with fluffy white whipped cream cheese. The summer before, Mom had spent months in the hospital on bed rest while awaiting my youngest brother’s arrival, so our daily drives to Writer’s Camp were an extra treat for me.
That summer I learned about potato bagels and the special small sacrifices moms make in order to give life a little magic. I learned how to look for alliteration in advertising and couldn’t help but point out that “jumbo shrimp” was an oxymoron every single time I saw it on a menu (which, in Florida, is all of the time). Writer’s Camp taught me words like “hapless” and lessons about how outside of the classroom, nobody cares if your jeans are a little too short since your last growth spurt.
And, even though I was at the wrong end of Pinellas County, I also — on one field trip — learned about the Don CeSar.
The “Pink Palace,” as the resort is often called, was built in 1928 and is the stuff dreams are made of. With its striking architecture swirling above white sand beaches, the Don gave an intimidating welcome to my fellow Writer’s Campers and I the day we arrived to explore it on field trip. We learned about the history of the building, the rumors of it being haunted and the fact that it is actually someone’s job to make small shell imprints in the sand on top of the trash cans strategically placed near elevators and lobby doors.
Today, the Don CeSar still holds the same appeal to anyone with a love of history, the beach or both.
It also creates waves by diving into its newest marketing effort: catering to traveling fitness junkies. This fall, the iconic Pink Palace launches a brand new wellness program with fitness classes and modern health retreats. Whether you are visiting the area on business or live here year-round, the Don CeSar now hosts classes and retreats to help keep your health in check.
Among other things on the list, the 24-hour fitness center is upping the ante on classes. Offering restorative yoga, Zumba and body pump, there is also an outdoor beach track for running and even water yoga classes available. In addition to regular classes, the newly dubbed “Pink Fitness” has added Tabata and LaBlast workout routines, trendy and butt-kicking workouts to dance your heart out.
As for health and wellness retreats, the Don CeSar boasts an array of scheduled getaways. Beautiful Money: Holistic Wealth and Detox Retreat with Leanne Jacobs is first on the list, giving attendees the chance to experience “deep healing on all levels.” According to their website, “You will be treated to yoga, detoxing, juicing, ultra clean eating, seven-figure wealth strategies and all things beautiful money.”
Another wellness retreat — Sugar Strike Challenge with Tosca Reno — is scheduled for March of next year.
The price tags on these retreats are hefty. Considering a night at the Don CeSar costs north of 300 bucks for just a basic room, this should come as no surprise. But if you’ve got the cash or you are saving up for a big occasion, this may be the one for you.
The new and improved Don CeSar may be a bit lighter and healthier than the one I toured some years ago at my Writer’s Camp field trip, but it still holds the same appeals of mystery and history. Visit the Don Cesar's website for more information on upcoming wellness retreats – or just to book a much-needed long weekend to restore and rejuvenate. Go explore the haunted Mediterranean architecture and head to the smooth sands for some beach running.
And hey, pick up a potato bagel on your way there. Extra fluffy cream cheese.