Sarasota, Florida – Things to see and do when you go

Welcome to Sarasota, Florida, a picturesque coastal town located on the Gulf Coast in Central West Florida. With its warm weather, cool art scene, growing food culture, and abundance of outdoor activities, Sarasota has everything you need for a fantastic vacation. One of the highlights of the city is Siesta Key Beach, consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States for its beautiful white powdery sand and variety of water sports. Another must-visit is The Ringling, a 66-acre complex of museums and cultural attractions founded by the Ringling Brothers. You can spend hours exploring the grounds and galleries, including the Circus Museum and the Ringling Museum of Art. For nature lovers, Mayaka River State Park offers scenic hiking trails and bird watching opportunities, while Saint Armand Circle is a charming shopping and dining destination on a small island just off the coast. And if you’re a fan of exotic plants and animals, don’t miss the Marie Selby Botanical Garden or the Sarasota Jungle Gardens. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, Sarasota has it all.

Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key Beach, located on a Barrier Island along the Gulf Coast, is a must-visit destination in Sarasota. Consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the US, this stunning beach will take your breath away. Its white powdery sand, made up of 99% quartz crystals, is unlike anything you have ever seen. Not only is it beautiful, but it also stays cool to the touch even on the hottest days.

At Siesta Key Beach, you can enjoy a variety of water sports and activities. Whether you’re into parasailing, jet skiing, or stand up paddleboarding, there’s something for everyone. Imagine the thrill of soaring through the air or gliding across the sparkling waters. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

The Ringling

For a taste of culture and history, make sure to visit The Ringling. This 66-acre complex is home to museums and cultural attractions that celebrate the legacy of John and Mabel Ringling, the co-founders of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Take a step back in time as you explore the Circus Museum, which showcases a collection of artifacts and memorabilia from the circus world. From costumes to posters, you’ll learn all about the rich history of this beloved form of entertainment.

In addition to the Circus Museum, The Ringling also houses the Ringling Museum of Art, which boasts an impressive collection of European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. With its beautiful gardens and top-notch museums, The Ringling is a place to immerse yourself in art, history, and beauty. Don’t forget to visit the historic mansion, a 36,000 square foot winter home of John and Mabel Ringling, and experience the grandeur of a bygone era.

Mayaka River State Park

If you’re in the mood for outdoor adventure, head to Mayaka River State Park. As one of the oldest and largest parks in Florida, it offers a plethora of activities nestled in a scenic and relaxing atmosphere. Hiking, bird watching, and picnicking are just a few of the options available to you in this 37,000-acre park.

One of the highlights of Mayaka River State Park is the canopy walkway, which provides a bird’s-eye view of the park’s flora and fauna. Imagine walking above the treetops, surrounded by lush greenery and the sounds of nature. It’s a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, Mayaka River State Park is a place you don’t want to miss.

Saint Armand Circle

For a dose of shopping and dining, head over to Saint Armand Circle. Located on a small island just off the coast of Sarasota, this family-friendly destination has something for everyone. Originally purchased by John Ringling in 1917, it has transformed into a vibrant shopping district with a variety of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants.

As you stroll through the charming streets of Saint Armand Circle, you’ll discover unique shops offering everything from high-end fashion to locally made crafts. Take your time to browse through the boutiques, find that perfect piece of artwork, or indulge in delicious cuisine at one of the many restaurants. Throughout the year, Saint Armand Circle also hosts festivals and events, adding an extra layer of excitement to your visit.

Marie Selby Botanical Garden

Escape into a tropical oasis at the Marie Selby Botanical Garden. Spanning 15 acres, this garden is home to a wide array of plants, including orchids, bromeliads, and tropical fruit trees. Walking through the garden feels like stepping into a different world, with vibrant colors and intoxicating scents filling the air.

One of the highlights of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden is the children’s rainforest exhibit. Kids can explore and learn about the wonders of the rainforest in an interactive and educational environment. Additionally, the garden features an outdoor art gallery where you can admire unique sculptures scattered throughout the grounds. For those curious about botanical research, there is even a research laboratory where scientists study and preserve plant species. A visit to the Marie Selby Botanical Garden is a truly immersive experience that will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

If you’re fascinated by marine life, a visit to the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is a must. As a non-profit research organization focused on marine science and conservation, Mote Marine offers a unique opportunity to learn about the fascinating creatures that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico.

From sharks to sea turtles to dolphins, the aquarium features over 100 species of marine animals. Explore the various exhibits and get up close and personal with these incredible creatures. The popular shark tank exhibit, with its whopping 100,000 gallons of water, is always a crowd favorite. In addition to observing marine life, visitors can also participate in hands-on educational programs that provide a deeper understanding of the importance of marine conservation. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is a place where learning and fun go hand in hand.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

For a truly immersive animal experience, head to Sarasota Jungle Gardens. This 10-acre tropical paradise is home to a variety of exotic animals and plants. As you wander through the gardens, you’ll encounter flamingos, parrots, and even alligators.

In addition to observing the animals, Sarasota Jungle Gardens offers educational programs about the animals and their habitats. Learn about the fascinating behaviors and characteristics of these incredible creatures while gaining a greater appreciation for the natural world. Whether you’re a nature lover or just looking for a unique experience, Sarasota Jungle Gardens has something to offer for everyone.

Big Cat Habitat in Gulf Coast Sanctuary

If you have a soft spot for big cats and a passion for animal welfare, a visit to the Big Cat Habitat in Gulf Coast Sanctuary is a must. This non-profit organization is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of exotic animals, providing them with a safe and loving environment.

At the Big Cat Habitat, you can get up close and personal with lions, tigers, bears, and more. Learn about their stories and the work being done to protect these magnificent creatures. It’s a rare opportunity to witness these animals in a respectful and caring setting, while also supporting their conservation efforts. The Big Cat Habitat is not only an educational experience, but also a reminder of the importance of protecting our planet’s wildlife.

Central Sarasota Farmers Market

If you’re a fan of fresh produce, baked goods, and handcrafted items, a visit to the Central Sarasota Farmers Market is a must. This outdoor market has been a staple in the community since 1979, supporting local farmers and crafters.

As you stroll through the market, you’ll be greeted by an array of freshly picked produce, vibrant flowers, and delicious baked goods. Take your time to explore each vendor’s offerings and discover unique treasures. The Central Sarasota Farmers Market is not only a place to find high-quality products, but also a gathering place for the community. Enjoy the beautiful outdoor setting, soak up the sun, and indulge in the flavors of Sarasota.

Sarasota Opera

For lovers of classical music and the performing arts, a visit to the Sarasota Opera is a must. As a professional opera company, the Sarasota Opera presents a diverse range of operas and concerts throughout the year.

Known for its commitment to preservation and the performance of rarely heard operas, the Sarasota Opera is a cultural gem in the heart of the city. Attend a performance and be transported to a world of emotion, beauty, and artistic excellence. In addition to its regular performances, the Sarasota Opera also offers educational programs and events for all ages. Immerse yourself in the world of opera and experience the magic of live performance at the Sarasota Opera.

Sarasota, Florida truly has it all. From pristine beaches to cultural attractions, outdoor adventures to immersive animal encounters, this city offers a wide range of experiences for every traveler. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or excitement, nature or art, Sarasota is a destination that has something for everyone. Plan your trip today and prepare to be captivated by the beauty and diversity of this charming coastal town.