What to Do and Where to Stay in Sarasota
This past summer we visited Orlando, Naples, and Sarasota and found each destination offered its own unique style, culture, and activities. This is the 4th and final article in the current series on Florida travel and it’s in two parts. This is Part 1. For information on Orlando and Naples, please click on the links at the bottom of the this article.
Sarasota, Florida. The Gulf coast of Florida is known for fun and sun on its spectacular beaches, but Sarasota has so much more to offer. The arts, museums, fine dining, festivals, boutique shopping, and of course a myriad of leisure activities make Sarasota a vacation destination that has something for everyone.
Located approximately an hour south of Tampa and close to smaller beach towns like Venice and Lido Key, the downtown area of Sarasota is youthful and lively with its Bayfront Park and marina where you can take a stroll along the water, stay active with a bike ride, or enjoy sailing, canoeing or kayaking.
It’s fair to say that the circus made Sarasota. John Ringling brought his circus, Wringling Brothers, to Sarasota and made his home there. He was one of the wealthiest men in the United States and invested heavily in Sarasota and the surrounding area.
Today, you can visit the The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Ringling personal mansion, both gifted to the State in 1936 at the time of John Ringling’s death. The Ringling complex includes: Ca’D’Zan, the Ringling’s 56-room mansion on Sarasota Bay built by the family in the 1920s; the Circus Museum; the Historic Asolo Theater; Educational Center; and 66 acres of Bayfront Gardens. In addition to the famous works of art (Masters such as Rubin, Van Dyke, and El Greco) in the permanent art collection, this complex also hosts many traveling art collections, special events, music, and theater. A trip to Sarasota is not complete without immersing yourself in what the circus built.
After a day under the big top, it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy the fun and sun that Sarasota is most known for. Just a short drive away, you can be sunning on Siesta Key, the top rated beach in the United States. An 8-mile long barrier island across the bay from Sarasota, this beautiful stretch of white quartz sandy beach on the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico is comprised of four little communities where you can stay, dine, and shop. If you love watersports, sailing, fishing, and parasailing, then this is the perfect beach lovers’ destination. Bring your swimsuit and flip-flops and enjoy one of nature’s gifts to Sarasota. Even in the summer, the breezes off the Gulf will keep you comfortable and a quick dip in the sparkling blue water will cool things down even more.
Other Suggestions for Things to do
If you’re in town on Saturday morning, stop by the Sarasota Farmers’ Market located in the heart of downtown to get a taste of the local music, artisans, and food producers. It’s also the perfect time to visit one of the bakeries or cafes for coffee and a pastry or a light breakfast.
St. Armands Circle
For a great ½ day trip, take the quick drive to St. Armands Circle on neighboring Lido Key for an afternoon of shopping at local boutiques followed by lunch. This upscale area features art galleries, clothing stores, jewelry dealers, and both casual and fine dining options. While there are a number of restaurants in the area, perhaps you’ve heard of the Columbia Restaurant. Known for its famous 1905 Salad, this Spanish restaurant is one of seven of the family’s locations in Florida. Ask for a table on the outside patio for great people watching while the server prepares your salad tableside.
Indoor & Outdoor Activities
When it rains and its time to head indoors, Sarasota’s got you covered. Home to the Mote Marine Laboratory, this is an amazing indoor facility where you can see marine animals and learn about efforts to protect their future. For those interested in music and theater, the Wan Wezel Performing Arts Center and the Sarasota Opera House offer performing arts throughout the year. A little less serious but serious fun is the Sarasota Classic Car Museum and in spring, it’s time to play ball at Ed Smith Stadium, the training camp for the Baltimore Orioles. For more outdoor fun, be sure to check out the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Where to Stay
There are a number of properties from casual beach locations to condos to Airbnb rentals to waterfront luxury properties. For full-service luxury hotel options, these are our choices.
The Hyatt Regency Sarasota
The AAA Four Diamond Hotel and 2015 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Winner, Hyatt Regency Sarasota, is situated on the bay just outside the downtown area. With its modern interior, comfortable rooms, private marina, lagoon-style pool, and outdoor activities (such sailing, fishing, boating, kayaking, eco-tours, and scuba diving), this property is ideal for couples wishing to relax or active families. Enjoy drinks by the pool bar, the Hurricane Hut, or dine at Currents, the hotel’s waterfront restaurant.
There’s plenty do on site, but the hotel is also close to the beaches, museums, restaurants, and other nearby towns where you can shop, dine, and play. For a romantic weekend or family vacation, the Hyatt Regency Sarasota is an excellent choice.
Another favorite property in Sarasota, this luxury waterfront hotel has just undergone a multi-million dollar “reimagination.” The older classic Ritz-Carlton look and feel has been replaced by a new, updated color palette in the hotel, particularly in its guest rooms, suites, and club level rooms. Several year’s ago, the property replaced its formal dining room with a more casual and comfortable dining concept, Jack Dusty, that is more typical for Florida. After a long day of shopping, sun worshipping, and sightseeing, Jack Dusty is a great choice for enjoying small bites and handcrafted cocktails outdoors overlooking the waterfront.
It is often said people that live in Sarasota arrive the same way. It all starts with a vacation that leads to a condo and ultimately people either move here or retire here. An active life style filled with fun and sun and something for everyone. It will entertain you, unwind you, and dine you. That’s Sarasota.
For more information on Sarasota, here is Part 2 of the article – Where to Dine in Sarasota.
For more articles on Florida, please refer to these links:
* These photographs are courtesy of VisitSarasota.com
** This photograph is courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.
Disclosure – We were assisted with part of our travel plans by VisitSarasota.com. We have in no way been compensated and the opinions expressed regarding our experience are our own.
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