Moving to Sarasota?
Sharing lots of helpful information on free things to do, things to do at night, things to do with kids and things to do this weekend.
If you enjoy walks on the beach, leisure activities like golf or tennis, fine arts, great dining, and a vibrant business climate, Sarasota is for you.
Being a native, growing up here, and living here for most of my life – I believe I have experienced all of Sarasota’s most popular and maybe even not so popular attractions. And I wanted to share with you my 10 absolute best things to do in this beautiful gulf coast destination.
10. Lido Key
Although many people love the world famous beach of Siesta Key – I personally love Lido Key.
If you like hunting for seashells, you’ll love Lido Beach. Additionally, families will appreciate this beach’s calm water, ample space and the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. What’s more, Lido Beach sits within walking distance of St. Armands Circle, a sophisticated outdoor dining and shopping area with distinct European flair, iconic examples of mid-century modern architecture. There are facilities galore at Lido Key Beach, so you can spend the whole day enjoying the sand and sun. There are always lifeguards on duty, and you can take your kids to the playground when they get too pruny from the water! There are also plenty of shaded picnic tables, so you can bring your own lunch or grab food from the concession stand.
9. The Ringling – The John and Mable Ringling Mueseum of Art & The Ca’dZan
There is so many things to do at Ringling! Growing up one of my most favorite places to visit was the art museum. The art museum portion of the Ringling may be the most prevalent, and its 31 galleries are definitely worth viewing. The museum, shaped like a U with a courtyard in the center, allows visitors to pop outside for some fresh saltwater between exhibits if desired.
The enormity of the pieces is unexpected. These are pieces that John and Mable Ringling purchased of their own accord, simply out of their love of art. Works of various types adorn the galleries, most permanent and some traveling.
Beyond the Art Museum, a short walk or tram ride towards Sarasota Bay brings visitors to the Ca’ d’Zan, home of John and Mable Ringling. Meandering through this mansion is not unlike popping into an episode of a Floridian Downtown Abbey.
Stopping on the terrace of the Ca’ d’Zan to appreciate the view you can’t help but reflect upon the fact that someone used to live there. It was their home, where they drank coffee, chatted with friends, read their mail, parked their yachts. And thanks to them, we get to live vicariously now.
If you are bringing the kiddos venture through the Circus Museum. Within, circus memorabilia abound with plenty of hands-on activities for those little curious hands.
The history of Ringling Circus and its performers gives a new perspective to this world of entertainers. The 3800-square foot model of the circus itself demonstrates the grandeur of the traveling show as well as the hidden challenges such as quarantined animals, feeding that many people daily, and laundry.
8. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
Another favorite thing to do in Sarasota, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium My prom was actually held in the shark aquarium exhibit area, can you believe that? Just dancing the night away surrounded by sharks – no big deal. This dedicated shark tank contains more than 135,000 gallons of water.
The exhibit features more than sharks, but other fascinating marine animals like turtles, manatees, eels, and otters. There are stingray touch pools, viewable working labs and high-tech interactive exhibits that showcase the world-renowned research of Mote Marine Laboratory. It truly is a family fun attraction. Every time I go they have up’d their game on the creating a fun marine learning environment.
7. Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Have you ever hand-fed a flamingo? How about pet a bearded Dragon? Well you can do both at Sarasota’s oldest, regularly open attractions, The Sarasota Jungle Gardens – it is truly an incredible place. The plant life diversity is its major attraction, with more than 3000 different flora species. Nevertheless, I consider the wildlife the most fascinating thing.
There are a variety of entertaining, interactive educational wildlife, bird and reptile shows for kiddos and adults to enjoy. Have you ever seen a parrot roller skate? If not, then you have to check out their beautiful luscious gardens and be sure to catch the show!
6. Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota Opera House, Sarasota Ballet & Palm Avenue
Unique in that its productions take place in three theaters, two of which are historic theaters in Florida and one of which is actually imported from Europe. The Mertz Theatre was restored and replicated, a turn-of-the-20th-century opera house with a 500-seat capacity and top-notch acoustics.
The Opera House, home to the Sarasota Opera is the venue for a broad range of musical performances. Its main claim to fame is the unrivaled 28-year run of the complete works of Verdi.
The Sarasota Ballet of Florida, of which my daughter danced at their school, is the only professional ballet company on the entire Gulf Coast of Florida. Behind these doors you will find dancers who are well trained and refined in their athletic ability and expansive artistry. Due to their dedication to this art form, they have been awarded with national and international acclaim.
And for those who enjoy art and live music, Palm Avenue is also a popular choice. Known as Sarasota’s “Gallery Row,” Palm Avenue is filled with artisans offering everything from hand-blown glass to sculptures and paintings. Every first Friday of the month, the First Friday Artwalk draws in people from all over the area as the galleries stay open until 9 PM and offer refreshments along with live music and other entertainment – if you love the art culture it’s a must-do thing-to-do in Sarasota.
5. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Selby Gardens is a living museum located on the shores of Sarasota Bay. Selby Gardens is perhaps best known for its living collection of more than 6,000 orchids. The property offers breathtaking views of Sarasota Bay just a few minutes from Siesta Key. The former Christy Payne Mansion, also on the grounds, is a unique example of eclectic Southern Colonial architecture. One of my favorite features of this museum is its frequent changing of botanical art and photography exhibits. Making it another must-do thing-to-do in Sarasota!
The Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden is a top family attraction with interactive exhibits and play areas for our youngest visitors. And the garden and exhibits are not all there is to do there, they offer family and adult classes are throughout the year, including water color painting, yoga in the gardens, photography and there is so much more.
4. Myakka River State Park
Covering 37,000 acres, Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s biggest and oldest parks. It is named after the Myakka River which flows through 58 square miles of a variety of habitats such as hammocks, pinelands, prairies, and wetlands. The more time that you are able to spend there, the more you will enjoy your time. Myakka River State Park is a wonderful park for a day trip or for an extended stay at the camp grounds.
Myakka River State Park has always been one of the best places to get a true taste of what little bit of “wild” Florida is left. You can spend days experiencing all the incredible activates that the state park provides us with. Your options are endless; hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking or canoeing and even enjoying the “canopy walk” where you walk on a rope bridge between giant trees.
3. Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary
So we have a MainCoon at home, we love us some BIG cats! And you can get up close with lions, tigers, bears, and much more at the Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary.
This non-profit sanctuary was opened in order to provide a safe home for big cats and other exotic wildlife in need of rescue. The sanctuary features three indoor/outdoor residences for the animals, with exercise habitats. There is a surprising variety of rescued animals, all wonderfully cared for as Sarasota has become the safe, loving and permanent home of over 150 exotic and domestic animals. There tiger and lion show is very entertaining and you can tell they are very well loved.
2. The Legacy Bike Trail
The Legacy Bike Trail an easily accessible 12-mile long route that attracts exercise enthusiasts wanting to enjoy the beauty of natural Florida.
The trail crosses through Oscar Scherer State Park and connects to the Venetian Waterway Park. My children and I love the ride because we can spot a variety of different wildlife and plant life in one ride. Gopher tortoises, foxes, bobcats and scrub jays are just a few of the creatures that can be spotted along the trail.
Since it’s opening, the trail has become a staple in Sarasota County’s local bicycling community. Can you imagine a 24-mile round-trip ride in-town?
1. Central Sarasota Farmers Market
There is nothing like strolling through a bustling market on a warm Saturday morning, checking the juicy, colorful fruits and veggies, grabbing a piece of cheesecake or a cup of coffee, and listening to the chatter of vendors and buyers and the music in the background. Every Saturday, year-round, the Central Sarasota Farmers Market opens its doors (figuratively) to local farmers, bakers, artisans, and musicians. I buy our produce, a bouquet a flowers, and snack on some goodies along the way while enjoying the beautiful weather. It’s a weekly Sarasota thing to do that makes you really feel part of the town.