When Brit visitors make for the US, millions of us choose to combine a visit to Orlando for theme park fun followed by a relaxing week on the Gulf Coast beaches. St Petersburg and Clearwater are top choices for us, but there’s so much more to do there than just sunbathe.

The area not only has down-to-earth family fun, but is also acquiring an increasingly sophisticated reputation with many cultural attractions on offer as well as pristine wildlife areas to visit.

Here are just a few of the goodies on offer:

Top beaches

For the second year in a row, three beaches in the St. Pete/Clearwater area have made it into the Top 25 US beaches as rated on Trip Advisor’s Traveller’s Choice awards.

Ratings are compiled with a year of reviews and ratings by visitors. Leading the way was St Pete Beach - TripAdvisor's No. 1 Beach in 2012 - at No. 9. Not far behind were perennial favourites Dunedin’s Caladesi Island State Park at No. 11 and Clearwater Beach at No. 21.

Hot cars

While we may not be too familiar with IndyCar racing here, it’s a top sport in the US and now St Petersburg has its own Grand Prix, Monaco-style.

Held for the first time at the end of March 2014, the exciting event saw the F1-like cars racing around the streets against the stunning background of the blue waters of the bay with its many luxury yachts bobbing on the waves. With the added attraction of a Super Truck spectacular, making a date to visit the area at this time could bring an extra adrenaline rush. You can also then just lie down and soak up the sun on the beach to recover!

Dali and Picasso

No visit to St Petersburg is complete without going to the renowned Dali Museum.

The sight of the amazing new building, opened in 2011, is mind-blowing enough, but the collection itself is truly fascinating.

There are 96 oil paintings by Dali on show, as well as documents and other works and you can find out about the man and the artist through fascinating films and interviews.

You may wonder how Florida became a home for the Spanish artist’s work? This was originally thanks to the patronage of American Dali fans Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, who were friends of Dali over three decades and who built up one of the most impressive private art collections in the world. They were also amazingly generous in donating the collection to the state of Florida, which offered a permanent and suitable home. The collection has also been expanded over the years. Visit the shop to buy your must-have melting clock, or just sit in the garden and think surrealistic thoughts. It’s a fun place, where you can just enjoy a coffee and a snack in Cafe Gala (named after Dali’s wife).

From November 8 this year visitors will be given an extra-special treat with a joint exhibition featuring the works of Picasso and Dali. This runs until February 15, 2015.

Picasso / Dalí, Dalí / Picasso will feature works from more than 25 international art museums, as well as some from a private collection of the Picasso family.

Visit www.thedali.org for more information.

Thrill ride fun

Falcon’s Fury is the latest stomach-churning ride at Busch Gardens in Tampa, less than an hour away from St Pete. It’s the first drop tower of its kind in the world, mimicking the dive speeds of the fastest animal on earth - the falcon.

At 335 feet (102 metres) it sends riders plunging 60 mph straight down. Not for the faint-hearted, this ride pivots guests 90 degrees in midair to a face-down dive position. Compared to skydiving by its designers the experience has a special sequencing technology so that passengers can’t anticipate when they will drop each time. Totally cruel!

As the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America, passengers will be able to see as far as St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

The surrounding area of Falcon’s Fury is also being redeveloped into Pantopia.with other rides and attractions, new food and drink outlets, as and the newly renovated Pantopia Theatre.

Visit www.seaworldparks.co.uk for more information.

It’s The Don!

Talking of iconic buildings, you just can’t miss the pink palace that is the Loews Don Cesar, right on St Pete beach in the historic area known romantically as Pass-a-Grille.

It is very pink, very imposing and a very desirable place to stay.

It’s a celebrity favourite and guests have included Elton John, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. But it’s easy to see why it’s a favourite. It has so much style and a history that goes back to the Great Gatsby era of the late 1920s. Even Al Capone, Babe Ruth and F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed here. You can just imagine the fabulous lifestyle of the rich and famous with this as the backdrop.

Now, after a multi-million pound renovation in 2012, the luxury hotel is ready for its next phase of history, with its excellent facilities, including a spa, swimming pools and highly-rated restaurants.

If you’re just in the area for a short stay, you can even purchase a day pass at ‘The Don’ as its affectionately known, to pamper yourself in the fabulous atmosphere. Top tip: sample the excellent food and cocktails on offer for lunch at the Sea Porch restaurant - the appetisers are particularly imaginative and tasty.

More information at: www.loewshotels.com