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The coastal town of Sarasota is beautiful, laid back and offers a tranquil escape for beachgoers. Offering the perfect base for a weekend away, Sarasota is also just a short drive from some of Florida’s most alluring cities. Whether you want to shop, learn about history, ride a roller coaster or just relax on the beach, you’ll find a destination nearby that will suit your travel needs.
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Clearwater Beach has consistently been voted as one of the top beaches in the world for over 20 years, so it only makes sense that it tops our list. In addition to sandy white beaches with clear blue waters, Clearwater is also a great place to go on dolphin watching cruises or spend a day boating, fishing, jet skiing, scuba diving and snorkeling. The family-friendly town also has a quaint downtown district with shops and restaurants and is home to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where you can visit Winter, the famous bottlenose dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale.
St. Petersburg also has its own beautiful beaches, but this city’s real claim to fame is the cultural icon, the Salvador Dali Museum. Step inside to discover an interesting museum that features a large collection of paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and other objects from the unique artist. Downtown St. Petersburg is also home to lots of shops, restaurants, bars and art galleries, as well as the Locale Market, which is a 20,000 square foot marketplace with hundreds of local fine and artisanal foods.
Just under four hours away from Sarasota is the action-packed beach town of Daytona. Not only does it offer beaches where you can drive on the sand, but it’s also home to the famous Daytona International Speedway where you can experience all the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race up close. Plus, there’s a boardwalk and pier with shops, games, restaurants, a classic arcade and amusement rides like the Slingshot, which shoots riders 365 feet up into the air at 70 mph. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, there are plenty of parks, museums and galleries to explore, as well as the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Florida.
If you’re looking for an exciting weekend getaway, the colorful city of Miami is only three and a half hours from Sarasota and is packed with things to do and see. First, there’s the miles of beautiful beach for sunbathing and swimming and the famous Miami Beach Boardwalk that stretches alongside it. But, that’s just the beginning. There’s also the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, which features a large collection of European antiques from the 16th to 19th centuries, housed in an Italian Renaissance style villa; the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, which features a planetarium and a 500,000 gallon Gulf Stream aquarium; and Wynwood Walls, an outdoor street art park with more than 40 different murals from various artists. Plus, there are tons of shops, restaurants and nightlife to explore all across the city.
Everglades National Park
For a different kind of weekend getaway, Everglades National Park is only two and a half hours from Sarasota and offers a glimpse into Florida’s unique habitats that are home to several endangered species, including the American crocodile, manatee and even the Florida panther. During your visit to the park, you can take a ranger-led tour, go birdwatching, biking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and camping. Or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can give backcountry camping a try. If you want to extend your getaway, you can also visit other national preserves and parks in the area like Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park and Big Cypress National Reserve, which has been designated as an International Dark Sky Place that is uninhibited by artificial light pollution.
Walt Disney World
If you’re traveling with the kids, there’s a good chance you’ll want to visit the most iconic theme park in Florida, Walt Disney World. Less than two hours from Sarasota, both kids and kids at heart can enjoy the thrilling rides, live shows, annual festivals and character meeting opportunities that only Disney can provide. Make long-lasting memories as you take a tour of Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. You can even visit the brand new Toy Story Land.