Denise's Corner

Loews Don CeSar Hotel: Where History Meets Serenity on St. Petersburg Beach

Hi everyone!

Last month, we were invited to visit the historic Don CeSar hotel on St. Petersburg Beach for two nights. I’d lived in the St. Petersburg area in the 80’s and 90’s, and had some familiarity with what is known as the Pink Palace, but I’d only stepped inside the hotel once during that time.

Now owned by the Loews hotel chain, the Don CeSar hotel has a famed history. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald stayed here, as did Lou Gehrig and Al Capone. During the evenings we were there, live music would fill the lobby of the hotel, and it hearkened back to an earlier era. The Don was even converted to a military hospital during WW II, and then was part of the Veterans Administration for 20 years. In the early 1970’s, the Don CeSar was a hotel once again. Numerous renovations have occurred since that time, including the addition of Spa Oceana.

Even with the rainy weather, the Don CeSar could be seen from miles away as we drove to St. Petersburg Beach. It’s a beacon of pink that towers over much of the 7-mile strip of beaches. Valet parking is available, but we self parked – it looked further away than it really was at first glance. It took us only a few minutes to walk from our car to the front door of the Don CeSar.

We had unusually rainy weather during our 2 night stay at the Don CeSar hotel, and there were many experiences we hoped to try but couldn’t – such as the poolside pampering, which everyone raves about. However, during a break in the weather, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset on the beach; one evening we had what was one of the best meals of my life in the Maritana Grille; and I enjoyed a massage in Spa Oceana (the hotel stay and the Maritana Grille were given to us to write about; the spa and any other food and incidentals were paid for by us).

For as large as the Don CeSar is, it has a small and intimate feel once inside. The hotel was built in 1922, and the size of the lobby and rooms are smaller than what one would find at most newer hotels. However, the 250 square foot room we were given felt larger than it’s size. I’d liken it to going on a cruise ship, with every inch of the room being utilized to it’s fullest. We were given a beautifully appointed corner room, with windows that offered expansive beach and ocean views in two directions. Some rooms do have balconies, and there is a penthouse which we didn’t see (guests were staying there). The bedding is extremely comfortable, and 2 bathrobes were waiting in the closet.

We had a short break from the rain on our first day, and we spent some time at the beach, pools and spa. The Loews Don CeSar hotel is just steps from the beach, and we enjoyed sitting poolside while watching the waves crashing in the ocean. While the poolside pampering never happened when we were by the pool (the pampering includes smoothies and chilled towels), flavored water was always out when we were. It was a nice touch, as was the poolside sunblock.

The first night, we enjoyed a sumptuous meal at the Maritana Grille. When we arrived, our incredible waiter Brad told us that they wanted to show us what the kitchen could do. Instead of ordering off the menu, we would try a sampling of a number of different items. I’m not an adventurous eater at all, so it made me nervous – I’d never tried several of the items he mentioned. Jeff will eat pretty much anything put in front of him, so he was really looking forward to it!

We were seated next to a fish tank, which contained an eel named Cesar. He was quite active, which I’d never seen in an eel before. A neighboring fish tank included a unicorn fish and a sedentary zebra eel. Cesar may not be with the Don Cesar much longer, at 4 years old he’s outgrowing his tank. He’ll either be sent to an aquarium soon, or a larger tank is being looked at for the other side of the restaurant.

Each course we tried was paired with wine or champagne. We started out with Siberian Sturgeon Caviar on a tiny Crepes Napoleon, paired with Piper-Heidsieck champagne. I usually find champagne too dry for me, but really enjoyed the Piper-Heidsieck. I’ve also never had caviar before – it isn’t something I’d eat normally, but I’m glad I tried it.

I don’t really eat seafood, but Jeff really enjoyed his Chilled Seafood Bar – it included more caviar inside the oysters.

I won’t go through every course, since we tried 5 or 6 items each (not always the same). But standouts for me included the pork belly – I rarely eat any pork items, but it was delicious. And never in my life did I ever think I’d ever try venison – the Maritana Grille serves a New Zealand free-range venison, which tasted very much like beef to me. The filet with truffle-yukon puree was absolutely delicious, and we enjoyed a variety of different wines.



One of our desserts was called “The Reveal” and came in an egg, which dissolved when a warm sauce was poured over it. It was such a unique way of serving dessert! Our desserts were served with Innis Killin wine, and a 10 year Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port.

We talk about our stay at the Loews Don Cesar on our Mousesteps Weekly Show #72, including our dinner at the Maritana Grille.

This truly was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, in part due to the guidance of Brad to try new dishes. Now that I have, I think I’ll be just a little more adventurous with my dining in the future.

I booked a treatment at Spa Oceana for the second day. I picked an 85th Don CeSar Anniversary special, receiving a 50 minute massage for $85.00. There are a variety of rooms in Spa Oceana, some look over the ocean! During a tour after the massage, we learned that there was even a section set off for small groups (like for a bride and several bridesmaids) where they can have a private get-together, with a small seating area surrounded by several treatment rooms. My massage was very relaxing – it was later in the afternoon, not long before Spa Oceana closed. I would actually recommend a service earlier in the day, perhaps around lunch time. There is a lovely rooftop that looks out on the ocean, and it’d be a great place to order lunch and unwind. There is also an indoor whirlpool, which I didn’t have a chance to try. Due to the weather, I was offered a day pass to return and enjoy the spa (whirlpool, rooftop) in the future, and I look forward to going back! Spa Oceana is also going to be reaching out more to men as well, with new treatments.

That evening is when we finally saw the sun – just in time for sunset!

We treated ourselves on the last day to Uncle Andy’s Ice Cream Parlor. When I first heard that the parlor offered Working Cow ice cream, I knew we had to go! We first tried Working Cow ice cream at Kings Bowl Orlando during a media event – and even with just a small sample, I asked about the ice cream because it was different than any I’ve had before. It is actually made in St. Petersburg, and the only ice cream I think I’ve had that is as good or better is Berthillon in Paris.

Here are a few last photos we took before we left:

We had a wonderful time at the Don CeSar! Due to the weather, there are some experiences we couldn’t really tell about, and photos we couldn’t get (like the Beachcomber Bar & Grill while open). I was very happy, though, to be at this gorgeous hotel during the rain event that lasted the 3 days we were at St. Pete Beach. It is cozy and relaxing, with quite a bit to see and do under one roof – shopping, dining, board games and chess in the lobby and more! There was even a mixology event that happened some evenings – I believe inside the Maritana Grille – which we ended up not able to attend. Definitely ask for information on all activities at the hotel, there is so much to do here!

Thank you to Jeff at the Loews Don Cesar for inviting us!