Early pioneers made their homes here, aided by the arrival of the railroad in the 1900s. The Ringling Brothers founded their famous circus here and John and Mable Ringling built their summer home in Sarasota.
Today, its beaches are a popular vacation spot and St. Armand’s Circle is well-known for its shops and restaurants. The city is also a hub for the performing arts, including theater, opera, and dance.
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What to Do
Ringling Museum– Visit the sprawling complex that includes the Ringling Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, and Ca’d’Zan, the Ringling’s summer home, with its sprawling waterfront grounds. Guided tours are available of the home and entry is free on Mondays for the art museum. Visit with the Ringling Mansion, Siesta Key Rum Factory, and Sarasota History tour. 5401 Bay Shore Road
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens– Wander the “living museum” at these botanical gardens, showcasing tropical species, including orchids and other bromeliads. There’s also an art museum with works on plant life. 900 South Palm Avenue
Sarasota Jungle Gardens– Open since 1939, this old-school attraction features ten acres botanical gardens as well as bird and animals, including flamingos, crocodiles, and parrots. 3701 Bay Shore Road
South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium– The planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum specializes in the history of the Gulf Coast of Florida from prehistoric times to the modern age. 201 10th Street West, Bradenton
MOTE Marine Laboratory and Aquarium– Unlike others in the area, this research-based aquarium is a non-profit facility. It has over 100 species of marine life, including sea turtles, sharks, and manatees. 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway
Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary– The non-profit facility is a home for rescued big cats and other exotic and domestic animals. Over 150 creatures call the habitat home, which offers educational demonstrations that promote animal welfare. 7101 Palmer Boulevard
Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy– Brightly colored sculptures welcome visitors to this seasonal attraction. They have self-guided tours and host artist and author events. 2121 North Tamiami Trail
Where to Eat
SOB Burgers– The bar doesn’t look like much, but they have some of the best burgers around. Build your own or choose one of their options, paired with hand-cut fries and local craft beers. 5866 14th Street West, Bradenton, (941) 755-1998
Motorworks Brewing– One of Sarasota’s craft breweries, this spot has a beer garden and a rotating array of food trucks, including barbecue, burgers, and sandwiches. 1014 9th Street West, Bradenton, (941) 567-6218
Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill– For the best Asian fare in town, Tsunami has a little bit of everything, from fresh sushi to dumplings to fried rice. The decor is chic and includes items made from chopsticks. 100 Central Avenue #1022, Sarasota, (941) 366-1033
The Hyppo– St. Augustine’s beloved popsicle shop has a location in Sarasota that helps you cool off with flavors like riesling pear, papaya lemongrass, and espresso almond. 438 St Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-3330
Columbia Restaurant– An outpost of the original in Tampa, this open-air restaurant has a menu of Spanish paella, Cuban sandwiches, and sangria. 411 St Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-3987
New Pass Grill– Located alongside a bridge connecting to St. Armands, this former 1929 tackle store still operates as such but serves an award-winning burger with views of the water. 1505 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, (941) 388-3050
Michael’s on East– The restaurant is the city’s only AAA Four Diamond winner for its extensive wine menu and classic American fare. 1212 S East Avenue, Sarasota, (941) 366-0007
Where to Stay
Lido Islander Inn and Suites– Sleep at these self-contained rooms only four minutes walk to the beach. The inn has its own parking lot and bike rentals as well as free WiFi and full kitchens as well as affordable rates. 528 South Polk Drive, Sarasota
Art Ovation Hotel– The funky Autograph Collection hotel is inspired by the local art scene with art exhibits and workshops as well as a rooftop bar, a restaurant, and stylish rooms and suites. 1255 North Palm Avenue, Sarasota
Hotel Indigo– Stay in downtown Sarasota at the stylish boutique property. It’s pet-friendly, has a pool, bike rentals, and locally roasted coffee. 1223 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota
Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club– A part of the Autograph Collection of hotels, this stunning resort takes its decor inspiration from the coastal communities. They have an in-house restaurant, marina, and spa. 5325 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach
Ritz-Carlton Sarasota– For a luxurious stay, there’s nowhere quite like the Ritz. All rooms have private balconies and guests have access to a private beach, pool, spa, and restaurants. 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota
Sun N Fun Resort– This luxury RV resort has two pools, a fitness center, two dog parks, a playground, and sports courts. The facility offers tent and RV sites as well as cabin rentals. 7125 Fruitville Road, Sarasota
Tiny House Siesta– Adventurous types can stay the night at this tiny house village in Siesta Key, each with its own unique design. Some are pet-friendly and others can accommodate up to three people. 6600 Avenue A, Sarasota
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I received admission into the Ringling Museum.