Last Updated June 21, 2021 6/21/2021

10 Best Things to Do in Sarasota, Florida

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A year-round vacation destination, Sarasota boasts a string of eight stunning islands tucked away into the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida. In the heart of the city, you will find an abundance of sporting and cultural events in addition to upscale shops, restaurants, and powder-white beaches for you to enjoy. From appreciating fine art to enjoying circus thrills, discover the top things to do in the Sarasota area.

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Soak in the Sunshine at Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key Beach

Soak in the Sunshine at Siesta Key Beach

What Is It? Consistently ranking in the top spot as the most beautiful beach in the US, Siesta Key Beach is only a short drive from downtown Sarasota. 

Why Do It? An 8-mile barrier island that runs along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Siesta Key Beach is most notably recognized for its pristine sugary white sand, often described as the finest in the world. 

Good to Know: Perfect for a romantic getaway, family vacation, and outdoor adventure, beach-goers can revel in the magical quartz sand while soaking in the breathtaking views of turquoise blue waters and pristine coastline.

View Colorful Displays at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Marie Selby Botanical Garden

View Colorful Displays at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

What Is It? Peace and tranquility are what you will find at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. 

Why Do It? With nine acres of breathtaking and colorful displays and more than 20,000 exotic plants, you can explore the most diverse collection of bromeliads and orchids in the world. This botanical garden has it all, with an impressive 20 different habitats such as bamboo, live oaks, mangroves, succulents, and much more. 

Good to Know: Visit one of their many educational events or come to gaze through their massive kaleidoscope of flora and fauna.

Explore Art at The Ringling
The Ringling

Explore Art at The Ringling

What Is It? Synonymous with the must-be-seen-to-be-believed type of entertainment, the name Ringling conjures up images of exotic animals and unique performances. 

Why Do It? Creating this special allure was John and Mable Ringling, who also had a passion for art. Now a top Sarasota attraction, you will find a fine art museum with 21 galleries of American, Asian, European, and Contemporary art, all maintained by Florida State University. In addition to a world-renowned collection of artwork, you will also be enthralled with the Circus Museum where you can walk the wire, squeeze into a clown car, and explore memorabilia dedicated to the “Greatest Show on Earth.” 

Good to Know: It is also home to Bayfront Gardens, an Art Library, the Circus Museums and the Historic Asolo Theater.

Observe Marine Life at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, Sarasota

Observe Marine Life at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

What Is It? An impressive marine research center in Sarasota, the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is focused on Florida’s marine and estuary research. 

Why Do It? Home to over 100 marine species, you can visit the aquarium and observe jellyfish, manatees, rays, seahorses, sea turtles and much more in entertaining touch pools, viewable working labs, and high-tech interactive exhibits. 

Good to Know: Make sure to visit the narrated shark feedings, as it is often the highlight of a visit to the aquarium.

Take a Day Trip to Lido Key
Lido Key in Siesta Key

Take a Day Trip to Lido Key

What Is It? A stunning barrier island just off the coast of Sarasota, Lido Key is a favorite for its ecotourism philosophy and out-of-this-world sunset views. 

Why Do It? Watersport enthusiasts will be in heaven on Lido, as deep-sea fishing, dolphin watching, and sailing are top activities. 

Good to Know: You can dine on some of the freshest seafood in the Sunshine State, cool off in the emerald waters or unwind on the soft sandy beaches at this Florida gem.

Spot an Alligator at Myakka River State Park
Myakka River State Park

Spot an Alligator at Myakka River State Park

What Is It? Offering a true Florida experience, Myakka River State Park is home to 58 square miles of wilderness preserve where visitors regularly spot deer, bobcat, red-shouldered hawks, and cottontail rabbits in their natural habitat. 

Why Do It? One of the oldest and largest state parks in the Sunshine State, you can adventure through lush wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands and across the popular boardwalk and canopy walkway that stretches over the Upper Myakka Lake. 

Good to Know: For the truly adventurous, sign up to be one of only 30 people allowed per day to “Deep Hole,” a 200 foot wide and 130-foot deep sinkhole where an impressive amount of Florida alligators mysteriously like to congregate.

Travel to Venice at Ca d'Zan Mansion
Ca d'Zan

Travel to Venice at Ca d'Zan Mansion

What Is It? The winter home for the American circus owners John Ringling and his wife Mable, the Ca d’Zan Mansion is a stunning five-story Mediterranean Revival home overlooking Sarasota Bay. 

Why Do It? Built between 1924 and 1926, this 36,000 square foot waterfront masterpiece was inspired by the Doge’s Palace in Venice. The Ringings greatly admired the architectural style of Venice and designed the home to replicate the romance and Gothic style of the palazzos and canals. 

Good to Know: Translated as the “House of John,” the Ca d’Zan Mansion welcomes you to explore its opulent interior, lushly landscaped grounds and a large collection of art and artifacts.

Shop Til You Drop at St. Armands Circle
St. Armands Circle

Shop Til You Drop at St. Armands Circle

What Is It? Located on St. Armands Key, St. Armands Circle is a roundabout area is known for a marketplace booming with shops, restaurants and treats. 

Why Do It? You can indulge in homemade chocolate, fudge, and ice-cream or explore the abundance of tobacco shops, clothing stores, and retail outlets. 

Good to Know: Shop for trinkets or splurge on high-fashion, St. Armands is a bustling area that puts on exciting year-round events.

Catch a Baseball at Ed Smith Stadium
Ed Smith Stadium

Catch a Baseball at Ed Smith Stadium

What Is It? Home to the Baltimore Orioles spring training, the Ed Smith Stadium is a must-see for sports lovers and baseball enthusiasts. 

Why Do It? Come here to see spring training practices, which are typically free and start in mid-February. Spring Training games are held in March.

Good to Know: Built in 1989, the stadium has been the training location for the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. With refurbished seats from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, this renovated stadium can hold up to 7,428 spectators.

Cruise on Two Wheels at Legacy Trail
Legacy Trail

Cruise on Two Wheels at Legacy Trail

What Is It? A paved trail that runs from Sarasota to Venice, this enjoyable 11-mile trail is perfect for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. 

Why Do It? Consistently rated in the top 10 bicycle trails in the state of Florida, the Legacy Trail has 15 well-appointed rest areas, making it ideal for bike riders, rollerbladers, and pedestrians to enjoy a day out on the trail. 

Good to Know: It’s hard to beat if you’re looking for an easy and relaxing ride through Florida’s lush landscapes, this trail is where locals like to cruise through nature.

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