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, visitors will find an abundance of sporting and cultural events in addition to upscale shops, restaurants, and powder white beaches for visitors to enjoy. From appreciating fine art to enjoying circus thrills, discover the top things to do in the Sarasota area.
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Explore Art at The Ringling
Synonymous with the must-be-seen-to-be-believed type of entertainment, the name Ringling conjures up images of exotic animals and unique performances. Creating this special allure was John and Mable Ringling, who also had a passion for art. Now a top Sarasota attraction, here visitors 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, visitors will also be enthralled with the Circus Museum where visitors can walk the wire, squeeze into a clown car, and explore memorabilia dedicated to the “Greatest Show on Earth.” It is also home to Bayfront Gardens, an Art Library, the Circus Museums and the Historic Asolo Theater.
View Colorful Displays at Marie Selby Botanical Garden
Peace and tranquility are what visitors will find at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. With 9 acres of breathtaking and colorful displays and more than 20,000 exotic plants, visitors 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. Visit one of their many educational events or come to gaze through their massive kaleidoscope of flora and fauna.
Soak in the Sunshine at Siesta Key Beach
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. 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. 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.
Observe Marine Life at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
An impressive marine research center in Sarasota, the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is focused on Florida’s marine and estuary research. Home to over 100 marine species, visitors 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. Make sure to visit the narrated shark feedings, as it is often the highlight of a visit to the aquarium.
Spot an Alligator at Myakka River State Park
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. One of the oldest and largest state parks in the Sunshine State, here visitors can adventure through lush wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands and across the popular boardwalk and canopy walkway that stretches over the Upper Myakka Lake. 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
A 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. 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. Translated as the “House of John,” the Ca d’Zan Mansion welcomes visitors to explore its opulent interior, lush landscaped grounds and their large collection of art and artifacts.
Take a Day Trip to Lido Key
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. Watersport enthusiasts will be in heaven on Lido, as deep sea fishing, dolphin watching, and sailing are top activities. 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.
Catch a Baseball at Ed Smith Stadium
Home to the Baltimore Orioles spring training, the Ed Smith Stadium is a must see for sports lovers and baseball enthusiasts. 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. 2017 marks the eighth consecutive Spring Training for the Orioles in Sarasota, where this “Birdland South” will make visitors feel like they’re in the big leagues.
Cruise on Two Wheels at Legacy Trail
A paved trail that runs from Sarasota to Venice, this enjoyable 11-mile trail is perfect for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. 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. 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.
Shop Til You Drop at St. Armands Circle
Located on St. Armands Key, St. Armands Circle is a roundabout area is known for a marketplace booming with shops, restaurants and treats. Indulge in homemade chocolate, fudge, and ice-cream shops or explore the abundance of tobacco shops, clothing stores, and retail outlets. Shop for trinkets or splurge on high-fashion, St. Armands is a bustling area that puts on exciting year-round events.