Published on February 26th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
10 Things I Learned This Month From Visiting Clearwater, Florida
As situated on and along the Gulf Of Mexico, Clearwater is commonly-viewed as the crown jewel of the greater Tampa Bay area. Located within close proximity to two international airports — Tampa International and St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport — the Florida destination is not only conveniently-located, but it truly has something for everyone of all ages, backgrounds and interests.
Thanks to the wonderful staff at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort And Spa, I had the opportunity to visit Clearwater earlier this month. Located just steps off of Pier 60 and its nearby beach, the Hyatt Regency Clearwater has just about everything one would look for in a hotel. Besides all of its rooms being large and equipped for you to cook in, the hotel has a 24/7 gym, outdoor hot tub, beach-facing heated pool, award-winning spa, acclaimed dining facilities and meeting rooms. It is also within close walkable distance to just about everything on Clearwater Beach Island.
Praise of the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort And Spa aside, below are 10 things I learned from visiting Clearwater, Florida for four days in February 2019:
1) Its Public Transportation Is Efficient
As a native New Yorker, I am accustomed to taking public transportation on a regular basis. Even in my hometown of Long Beach, you will find a bike-share program, a Long Island Rail Road station, buses — some of which designed to look like vintage trolleys — and taxis. Clearwater is similar. Beyond Lyft and Uber being available, and many of the local resorts renting out bikes and motor vehicles on a daily and/or hourly basis, you can get around via the Clearwater Ferry and the Clearwater Jolley Trolley. So you do not “have” to rent a car when you are visiting Clearwater.
2) The Beaches Are The Real Deal
Clearwater Beach Island is the home to Clearwater Beach, which TripAdvisor ranked as the #1 beach in America in 2018. Also separated by from the main land of Downtown Clearwater is Caledesi Island State Park, a pristine barrier island. Caledesi Island. Caladesi Island has regularly been ranked as one of the nation’s top beaches by Stephen Parker Leatherman, “Dr. Beach” himself.
3) The Philadelphia Phillies Are There
Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees play at Steinbrenner Field in nearby Tampa. Meanwhile, the spring training destination for the Philadelphia Phillies is Clearwater’s Spectrum Field. After the Phillies make their way back to Pennsylvania, the field is host to the Phillies-affiliated Clearwater Threshers baseball team. Spectrum Field has also played host to the Big East Conference’s championship tournament, while continuing to host the American Athletic Conference’s tournaments.
4) Professional Wrestling Has History In Clearwater
Hulk Hogan — who is arguably the most famous professional wrestler of all-time — is a Clearwater resident. So is Bushwhacker Luke Williams of WWE Hall Of Fame tag team The Bushwhackers. And interestingly, Hogan and Williams have neighboring stores in Clearwater; Hogan’s Beach Shop is in the same shopping complex at the Bushwhacker Luke’s gym Clearwater Beach Fitness. Bars Wars is an on-the-rise wrestling promotion in the area, having recently hosted a packed event outside the recently-opened Vector Bar & Arcade featuring the likes of Snoop Strikes (a.k.a. MLW’s Kotto Brazil), “The Bionic Blonde” Jenna Van Muscles, Chris Silvio and Thee Technical Alchemist David Mercury.
5) Wrestlers Are Far From The Only Famous People With Ties To Clearwater
The Doors’ Jim Morrison spent some of his childhood in Clearwater; he lived near the Francis Wilson Playhouse in Downtown Clearwater. Evel Knievel spent the last years of his life in Clearwater, even marrying Krystal Kennedy there. WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman is a Clearwater native. If rumors are correct — as told to me “off the record” by some locals — Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Lisa Marie Presley all have (or recently had) homes in the area.
6) Festivals Happen Year-Round In Clearwater
As the weather is beautiful year-round in Clearwater — it was in the 80s for some of my trip — Clearwater always seems to have a festival event going on. This includes the Clearwater Sea-Blues Music Festival, Clearwater Super Boat National Championship, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, John’s Pass Seafood Festival, the Firestone Grand Prix, the PGA TOUR’s Valspar Championship, the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival, and the Coachman Park Concert Series. Also nearby are the Dunedin Highland Games, St. Pete’s Pride Fest — the state’s largest LGBTQ+ celebration — and GeckoFest.
7) Great Movies Were Filmed In Clearwater
The Film In Florida initiative — as marketed by the Florida Office Of Film & Entertainment — ensures the local Floridian entertainment business can compete with that of just about any other state. But not all of that filming takes place in Miami or Orlando, as one would assume. Some of the hit movies that were partially-shot in Clearwater, you ask? That list includes Cocoon and Lethal Weapon 3, while the neighboring area did include shooting for Ocean’s Eleven, Magic Mike and Edward Scissorhands.
8) There Is A Cool Aquarium In Town
As opened in 1972, the building of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium was originally a water treatment plant. As Wikipedia will tell you, the aquatrium is currently home to to North American river otters, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, green sea turtles, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, cownose rays, southern stingrays, nurse sharks, great white pelicans, and other fish. And speaking of movies, its Atlantic bottlenose dolphin Winter was the star of the Dolphin Tale movie and its 2014 sequel.
9) Clearwater Has Interesting Military History
During World War II, Clearwater was a major training base for American troops destined for Europe and the Pacific. Almost all of the area’s hotels at the time were used as barracks for new recruits. Local vehicular traffic was regularly stopped for companies of soldiers marching through downtown. In addition, evening blackouts occurred regularly in order to confuse potential enemy bombers. Dan’s Island, now known as Sand Key, had been utilized as a practice target by the U.S. Army Air Corps.
10) It Is Home To The Original Hooters
As opened on April 1, 1983 — April Fools’ Day, yes — Hooters was founded in Clearwater by Lynn “L.D.” Stewart and several business associates. Stewart predicted the early failure of Hooters, as story goes, placing tombstones bearing the names of previous tenants who failed in that location outside the entrance of his new establishment. But Hooters was profitable less than six months after opening, and the restaurant chain continues to operate over 400 restaurants in a dozen countries. Nearly all of Hooters’ original recipes came from Stewart’s test kitchen in Clearwater, while the aforementioned original location (as located at 2800 Gulf To Bay Boulevard) remains in business.