When you hear historic hotel, you might begin to think musty smells, small rooms and more layers of paint than a Paula Dean cake. So when I tell you that the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Fl., is more than 85 years old, let me also say that like Dolly, Cher and Joan, this grand dame doesn't show her age.
Originally opened on New Year's Eve in 1925, the Vinoy with her Mediterranean Revival architecture was the belle of the ball of her day. Unfortunately, she fell on hard times, closing in 1974 and coming close to being demolished. Fortunately, a three-year, $93 million dollar investment, started in 1989 and finished in 1992, restored her to her previous glory while adding all the modern amenities expected by today's frequent traveler.
As part of that renovation, old rooms were combined to make the current rooms more spacious (the standard room is 330 to 405 square feet). In addition, a new tower of rooms was added to make up for the lost rooms, giving the Vinoy a total of 361 rooms, many of which have views of Tampa Bay.
And while the hotel now has large flat screen TVs, resort wide WiFi and a modern 5,000 square foot fitness center that rivals most private gyms, it has retained much of the original elements that made the hotel so special when it first opened.
It still has its massive veranda that is the perfect location to enjoy a morning latte from the hotel's coffee shop or an evening cocktail from the indoor-outdoor lobby bar. There is also a grand lobby recently redesigned and expanded by the award-winning architecture and interior design firm of Leo A Daly.
A highlight of the lobby is the exposed decorative cypress beams that were part of the original designed and painstakingly saved.
Just off the lobby is the beautiful grand ballroom. It looks similar to its original design and features a stunning 1,250 pound Chihuly "Isla de la Luna" chandelier fashioned from 750 individually hand-blown glass pieces.
The hotel's other offerings include a private 72-slip marina, 18-hole private golf course and 12-court tennis complex. A salon and day spa provide excellent services despite their cramped space (an expansion is expected in 2012 or 2013).
The Vinoy has five restaurants, ranging from the casual Alfresco’s, adjacent to the resort pool, to its signature restaurant, Marchand’s Bar & Grill, known for its "early bird" three-course dinner (a bargain at $19.25) and its exceptional Sunday brunch.
The Vinoy's waterfront location not only offers picturesque views but is perfect for exploring St. Petersburg's active downtown. Guests can easily walk to the city's many world class cultural attractions including the Chihuly Collection, The Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Mahaffey Theater.
The Renaissance Vinoy Resort is operated by Marriott and is a gay-friendly TAG Approved property. Historic tours are offered Wednesdays through Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. for only $5 for resort guests and $10 for the public. A three-course lunch at Marchand’s is available following the tour for $25 per person, including the tour, tax, gratuity and parking.
For more information on St. Petersburg, including upcoming LGBT events, visit www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/experiences/glbt.
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