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A Local’s Guide to Sarasota: 13 Must-Visit Spots

When someone says Sarasota, Florida, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the white sand beaches of Siesta Key, beautiful Gulf views and a small town vibe. But what about those lesser-known spots? The ones filled with locals, sometimes sandy floors and just an overall homegrown vibe. Luckily for you, I’m here to help! From fan favorite watering holes to rooftop views, things to do and beyond, here are some must-visit spots to feel like one of us rare Sarasota natives.

Gulf Gate Food + Beer

Gulf Gate Food + Beer

With a motto like “Eat Food. Drink Beer.” it’s no surprise this newcomer to the Gulf Gate Village has quickly become a local favorite. Home to some of the crispiest wings, a wide range of local craft beer and an amazing arcade area, it’s the perfect spot to catch a game, meet up with friends and have a great time. After all, Food + Beer came together because two local dudes decided to start cooking some great food, and does it really get better than that?

Local’s Tip: Opt for a Florida beer flight and savor some delicious local beers.

The Westin Rooftop Bar
Credit: by Mariott

The Westin Rooftop Bar

Boasting panoramic views of Sarasota’s downtown and bay front, The Westin’s rooftop bar is the perfect spot to start an evening out on the town. Home to a casual vibe, start off with some savory small bites and pair them with your favorite craft cocktail. One of the few rooftop bars in town, locals and visitors alike come for the views and stay for the good times.

Local’s Tip: Arrive just before sundown for some of the most picture-perfect views of the Sarasota bay.

Pangea Alchemy Lab
Credit: by Facebook

Pangea Alchemy Lab

This is a place where you truly need the inside scoop to know where to look. Located off of Main Street in the downtown area, you’ll have to head down the back alley to get to its front door. Don’t let appearances deceive you. Venture through a second set of doors and you’ll find a small, dimly lit bar filled with cozy couches, unique craft cocktails and some of the most knowledgeable “liquid chefs” around.

Local’s Tip: Get a spot at the bar to be mesmerized by the creation of the many hand-made cocktails they serve (some are even lit on fire!)

The Beach Club
Credit: by Beach Club

The Beach Club

A Siesta Key staple since 1947, The Beach Club has been serving good drinks, good vibes and good times for the past 72 years, and they aren’t stopping anytime soon. The perfect spot for some ice cold brews after a long day at the beach or hearing some of the hottest DJs on the gulf coast; no matter what type of night you’re looking to have, Beach Club is the spot for you.

Local’s Tip: Be sure to go on Tuesday and try your hand at the Beerlympics.

Low Tide Tours
Credit: by Facebook

Low Tide Tours

When you think of Florida, you probably think of tiki bars. Well, what do you think about a tiki bar that takes you on a sunset cruise through our beautiful gulf coast? That’s exactly what Low Tides Tours is known for. A friendly captain will guide you through our gorgeous waterways (and maybe prepare a shotski or two) as you sit back and sip on your favorite beverages.

Local’s Tip: Ask them to dock at the Spanish Point Tiki Bar so you can grab a rum bucket!

Siesta Key Beach Siesta Key, FL
Credit: Siesta Key, FL by ForthDude / Flickr

Siesta Key Beach

You really can’t have an article about Sarasota without mentioning Siesta Key Beach. Voted America’s #1 beach on many occasions, there’s nothing quite like digging your toes into the powder white sand and listening to the waves crash against the shore. Just be sure to get there early to get that prime sun-bathing spot.

Local’s Tip: For goodness sakes…PLEASE don’t feed the sea gulls!

Calusa Brewing
Credit: by Calusa Brewing

Calusa Brewing

It may surprise people knowing how many craft breweries can be found in this small Gulf Coast town, and while all are equally amazing, one that truly stands out as a local’s favorite is Calusa. Veteran-owned and family-friendly, this innovative brewery has a brew fit for just about every palate. From their flagship IPA “Zote” to porters, pilsners and lagers, Calusa has just about everything, even a brewery cat or two.

Local’s Tip: Go for the beer, stay for one of the delicious food trucks that are constantly on rotation.

La Dolce Vita
Credit: by La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita

This is one of those places that may appear ordinary from the outside, but once you walk through the doors of La Dolce Vita, you are greeted with mouth-watering aromas of authentic Italian cuisine. Owned and operated by a husband and wife, everything is handmade with expertise and love. You may arrive at La Dolce Vita as a customer but leave as part of the family.

Local’s Tip: Don’t skip dessert…I mean it!

O'Leary's Tiki Bar and Grill O'leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill, Sarasota
Credit: O'leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill, Sarasota by olearystikibar.com

O'Leary's Tiki Bar and Grill

This local spot is perfect for those wanting to enjoy the ocean view in a relaxed atmosphere. With live entertainment daily, delicious tropical drinks, fairly priced tasty food and a play area nearby at Bayfront Park for the kiddos, the whole family is in for a good time!

Local’s Tip: Don’t let your pup miss out on the fun – O’Leary’s is dog-friendly at its outdoor picnic tables.

Brew Life Brewery
Credit: by Facebook

Brew Life Brewery

Sarasota’s *smallest* brewery, Brew Life, is perhaps one of the best-hidden gems locals frequent. Tucked away in an unsuspecting strip mall, you will find some of the tastiest and most unique brews around, so don’t be afraid to taste a few and ask your bartender for recommendations. After all, beer is life, life is great, brew life.

Local’s Tip: Grab a beer and some quarters and try your hand at some retro-video games like Galaga.

The Ringling Museum
Credit: by The Ringling

The Ringling Museum

The Ringling Museum is an iconic Sarasota staple and makes the perfect daytime activity. Not only can you immerse yourself in beautiful paintings and sculptures from various generations, but you’ll also get an inside look at the amazing Ringling Circus laid down roots right here in this gulf coast community.

Local’s Tip: Take the tour of John and Mable Ringling’s house; it’s absolutely breathtaking.

Evie's Tavern On The Range
Credit: by Facebook

Evie's Tavern On The Range

You’ll find a few Evie’s locations throughout Sarasota, each with its own unique charm, but this particular local’s favorite is their flagship “On The Range” location. Inside you’ll find plenty of TVs to watch sports on, while outside gives serious tiki bar vibes. That’s not even the best part; Evie’s On the Range has BOTH a driving range and a mini golf course…can you say best of both worlds!

Local’s Tip: Get a table outside just before sunset and sit back with a cold refreshing drink.

Siesta Key Rum
Credit: by Siesta Key Rum

Siesta Key Rum

Did you know Sarasota is home to an amazing distillery? Family-Owned Siesta Key Rum, established in 2007, is one of Florida’s finest craft rum producers. Creating varieties from spiced rum to silver rum and even toasted coconut and coffee flavors, you’ll want to make a visit to their tasting room to sample their great options.

Local’s Tip: Book a tour and learn about their history and how they make their rum so good.

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