5 Things You Must Do in Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota is a city lying South of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf coast. Its most well-known claim to fame is that it was once the winter home of the Ringling Brothers circuses. Today, while no longer the Circus Capital of the World, it prides itself on being a fashionable city with world-class attractions and is the gateway to some of Florida’s finest sugary-sand beaches, including Lido Key, Siesta Key, and Longboat Key. Aside from visiting the beaches, here are five things you must do in Sarasota.
#1 Explore The Ringling
A beautiful collection of all things Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey® Circus lives on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. This one-of-a-kind attraction showcases circus life through the years with dazzling displays, hands-on exhibits, and gorgeous waterfront property. It was once the winter home to John Ringling and his wife Mable. John was the most well-known of the five Ringling brothers who formed the Ringling Bros World’s Greatest Shows. Whether strolling the immaculate grounds (66 acres), soaking up the relics of the Circus Museum, or roaming the Ca’d’Zan (56-room mansion on the bay), you are in for a real treat, visually and figuratively.
Fun fact: The Ringling was the first official museum in the state of Florida.
Don’t miss a stroll through the Museum of Art, which houses colorful, vibrant works—the personal collection of the Ringling. New performances and educational platforms are always in the works. My personal favorites are the clowns, acrobats, and announcer’s costumes from past shows as well as the 3800 square foot small-scale Howard Bros. circus model recreating circuses from 44,000 pieces. It is amazing.
#2 Shop in Downtown Sarasota
Downtown Sarasota (Five Point) is the civic and cultural district of the city. It is located at the intersection of Main Street, Pineapple Avenue, and Central Avenue. Here you will find restaurants, art galleries, and plenty of shopping (including high-end fashion) mixed in with other businesses. Historic Burns Square is the most popular area, with eateries ranging from upscale Italian to local seafood. They also have a plethora of interesting antique shops and even a foreign film cinema. The Sarasota Opera House lies in downtown Sarasota and offers four operas in the winter season plus concerts and recitals year-round. Kids will love playing at Paynes Park, a circus-themed playground with a skateboard park next door.
#3 Smell the Flowers at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Marie Selby Botanical has over 22,000 plants to enjoy. A unique offering is the rare orchid garden and the only one in the world that is dedicated to the study and display of epiphytes and their ecosystems. This attraction will give your senses a workout! The Selby Gardens are devoted to research, education, and conservation, apparent in the daily practices. Signs display information about every type of flower that you come across on the pristine grounds. Have your camera ready when you reach the Butterfly and Bromeliad Gardens.
My favorite part was the Baywalk, giving you an up close and personal view of the mangroves, a tidal swamp ecosystem that thrives in Florida. You can also see a wide array of bamboo, fern, and Banyan groves. Have lunch at the Selby House Café, offering delicious salads, sandwiches, and other grab ‘n go items. Beer, wine, coffee, and tea are also available.
#4 Foster Your Holiday Mood Year-Round
I love a good Christmas store and especially appreciate when it has knick-knacks and decor that represent multiple holidays as well. That is what you will find at Shelley’s Gifts and Christmas Boutique, a unique locally owned shop that is filled with holiday treasures. Shelley’s gift and seasonal items are found in a whimsical purple house on the Tamiami Trail. You will be amazed by how many lovely pieces are inside this shop. Shelley’s has a huge baby and wedding gift selection, too.
#5 Treat Your Taste Buds at Simon’s Coffee House
I might have discovered Sarasota’s best-kept secret at Simon’s Coffee House, a whole foods restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch. Local friends recommended it and it was one of the best meals of my trip. Breakfast and lunch never tasted so good as at this organic culinary gem that focuses on raw foods, vegan, and vegetarian fare. Salads, sandwiches, soups, gluten-free, vegan, smoothies…pick your poison, they are all healthy and good for you! Everything here is homemade and the taste is obvious with every bite. Go for the crepes (I prefer the Costa Rican) or the decadent soups.
Sarasota Will Satisfy
Sarasota is a beautiful Florida city with a host of fun things to do. Its lovely skyline and bay views are a visual stimulant while its laid-back vibe will satisfy locals and tourists. I hope you will make your own special memories at the places listed above like I did.
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