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WATCH: The perfect beach in Clearwater, Fla. that you NEED to visit

Posted: 11:56 AM, Mar 26, 2013
Updated: 2013-03-27 13:38:39-04

After a winter that felt like it was never going to end, I think we all need some sunny warm Travel Therapy of the beach kind and I found the perfect beach in Clearwater, Florida. For my Travel Therapy segments, I always search for unique places to profile, those hidden gems many people haven’t discovered yet, and I think Clearwater is one of those special places.

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Yet, with USA Today readers recently naming Clearwater the Best Beach Town in Florida this great destination isn’t going to stay off the radar for much longer so now is an excellent time to visit, especially with the new Frenchy’s Sugar Sand Festival, coming up April 19-28, where you’ll find some great hotel, restaurant and activity deals and discounts. More on that coming up, including how you can score some of the best savings!

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For my visit to Clearwater for this Travel Therapy TV segment, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa where there are 250 deluxe rooms and one and two bedroom suites…many with amazing views of the Gulf of Mexico. I had a great dining experience at the Hyatt’s SHOR American Seafood Grill feasting on all kinds of fresh seafood. I also blissed out at the resort’s Sandava Spa that’s all about using organic ingredients and takes inspiration from the sun, sea and surf. I had a hot shell massage that turned all my tense muscles into butter. I found another great way to relax is by getting a private air-conditioned cabana at the pool.

There are so many things I fell in love with in Clearwater, where to begin? I was charmed by how this beach town is full of tradition but also has new and exciting things happening all the time. The locals in Clearwater are also one of the town’s best assets as they couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming. It’s easy to see why so many people come to visit and then never leave!

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I also appreciate how this is a beach town where you can walk to a lot of places and often don’t need a car. There’s a beautiful Beach Walk Promenade that winds along the beach where you can walk, run or bike while soaking up the sensational scenery. If you want a ride, you can hop onto one of Clearwater’s cute Jolley Trolleys that have been taking passengers around Clearwater for years, or you can try the newest way to get around, Florida Free Rides , where you have environmentally friendly jazzed up golf carts and some minivans zipping around. Like the name they’re free, the drivers work for tips.

I was really impressed by all the unique and delicious places to eat in Clearwater with many restaurants overflowing with good food and lots of character. I found you can never go wrong at any of the four Frenchy’s restaurants , a locally owned Clearwater institution when you want a fun atmosphere with great food at a great price.

At Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, that’s right on the beach, I tried the signature frozen Rum Runner drink that went down way too easy and the She Crab Soup, a locals favorite. Also not to miss the ceviches served up a giant margarita glass. I told you this place was fun! Also to note, Frenchy’s has their own fishing boat so their catch of the day is really their catch of the day.

Another local’s favorite right on the beach with live music is the Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill and Bar that has been in Ken Hamilton’s family for decades. Ken knows everyone who is anyone on the beach so he’s a great source for insider information that he’s happy to share. Don’t miss the burgers here, they’re famous for them, along with the Grouper Sandwich and fun tropical cocktails.

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For breakfast, my favorite meal, I love the Clear Sky Beachside Café with its cool Bloody Mary Bar and where I wanted everything on the menu from gourmet crepes, waffles and pancakes, to creative omelets and signature French toast, to a Lobster Brie Eggs Benedict to die for.

For a four-star beachfront dining experience head over to the Sandpearl Clearwater Beach Resort to Caretta on the Gulf where Chef Sean shared their focus is on using fresh, local, organic ingredients. Some of my favorite dishes here include the succulent Diver Sea Scallops, the Gulf Black Grouper and any of their juicy steaks.

Another classy seafood stunner is Island Way Grill where I had some amazing fresh oysters, tuna ceviche, stone crab, calamari salad and sushi. Yes, I was spoiled and loving every minute of it.

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Right next door to Island Way is a place you have to visit no matter how busy you are because it’s truly inspiring and that’s what TRAVEL THERAPY is all about. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium , which is really more like an animal hospital, is home to Winter the Dolphin who is now a movie star after being featured in the movie Dolphin Tale. The movie tells the story of how she was caught in a crab net and lost her tale and was nursed back to health by the folks at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and given a prosthetic tail to allow her to swim again. The movie was filmed in Clearwater at the Aquarium.

Winter’s story has inspired people around the world, especially children with disabilities, who have come to see Winter, feeling a kindred spirit. There are also other animals at the Aquarium you can see that are being helped, some adorable dolphins, otters and turtles, who have great survival stories of their own, so be sure to stop by and meet them, it’s truly a special experience.

Also on the dolphin theme, in Clearwater they have this great Dolphin Trail you can take where you’ll find more than 100 6-foot fiberglass dolphins that have each been decorated by local artists.

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Another fun highlight in Clearwater, that’s known for its glorious sunsets, is the nightly Sunset at Pier 60 Festival where there’s entertainment outdoors creating a fun and lively atmosphere where everyone’s celebrating the end of another sensational day in this very special Florida beach town.

The Aquarium is just one of dozens of things you can do in Clearwater. The best way to see all that this award-winning beach town has to offer go to http://www.visitclearwaterflorida.com where they city has put together a great website to easily help you find all that you’re looking for, including some great deals. The website is updated all the time so keep checking back for all the latest news.

My TRAVEL THERAPY Favorite Picks:

CLEARWATER HOTELS:
Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa
Sandpearl Clearwater Beach Resort
Sheraton Sand Key Resort
Pier House 60 Marina Hotel
Palm Pavilion

CLEARWATER RESTAURANTS/BARS:
Island Way Grill
Clear Sky Beachside Cafe
Caretta on the Gulf
Frenchy’s (4 Locations)
SHOR American Seafood Grill
Rusty’s Bistro
Palm Pavilion
Jimmy’s Crow’s Nest
Cooters Restaurant and Bar

FRENCHY’S SUGAR SAND FESTIVAL INFO:

For ten days in April, the 19th through the 28th, Clearwater’s beach community is holding a new cool festival that celebrates what makes Clearwater so special, the beach and it’s sugar white sand.

The City of Clearwater’s Fun ‘n Sun Festival and Sunsets at the Pier 60 Daily Festival have joined together to showcase Clearwater’s award-winning beaches during 10 sugar sand days. The festival will be located just south of Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach where one-thousand tons of Clearwater’s world famous sand will be creatively carved into a special Sugar Sand Walk Exhibit displaying amazing sand sculptures and so much more.

During the festival, there will be sand sculpting competitions, clinics and classes and different demonstrations. There’s also going be a cool Camp Hyatt Sandbox for kids to do their own creative work and a Clearwater Marine Aquarium Night at Sunset Cinema, a red-carpet meet and greet with Winter Mascot and Dolphin Tale movie.

During this 10 days local business will be having special deals on everything from discounted hotel rooms to savings at restaurants and various activities. To find the latest Clearwater deals and discounts check out the Frenchy’s Sugar Sand Festival website at http://www.sugarsandfestival.com where new savings are being added all the time.

Other Clearwater festivals to check out include:

Clearwater Jazz Holiday – 3rd Weekend in October

The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is a yearly highlight with nationally and internationally acclaimed jazz artists performing at downtown Clearwater’s picturesque Coachman Park, overlooking the water.

Clearwater Sea Blues Festival – February

Clearwater Sea Blues is heavenly pairing of blues music and seafood with nationally recognized artists performing while vendors serve up delicious seafood fresh from the Gulf.

Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training

The Philadelphia Phillies have called Clearwater their spring training home for more than 65 years. The town literally turns red when the Phillies are in town!