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An upscale beach community made famous by John and Mable Ringling, who built an Italian-inspired estate in the city in 1911, Sarasota beckons with a rich arts scene and brilliant white-sand beaches. For travelers who want to revel in the history of the Roaring Twenties while soaking up a bit of sun, Circus City delivers. There's a saying that "living in Sarasota is living in paradise," and it's easy to see why. Stroll the sun-drenched waterfront, cast for trophy fish in Sarasota Bay, or marvel at the manatees at Lido Beach—the options for things to do in Sarasota are endless.
Areas & Neighborhoods in Sarasota
Home to several of Southwest Florida's favorite cultural institutions, Sarasota offers something for everyone. World-class restaurants and museums brimming with Baroque art line the lanes in Downtown, while St. Armands Circle and Lido Beach appeal to resort-ready travelers on tropical holiday.
Those searching for cultural delights will find them in Downtown—the civic and artistic epicenter of the city. Setting out on foot, the Sarasota Opera, the Florida Studio Theatre, and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are all accessible in a matter of minutes.
Laurel Park Historic District
An idyllic enclave of Downtown, the Laurel Park Historic District offers a look at what life was like in the 1920s. Spanish moss grows on the region's oak trees and colonial revival and craftsman bungalows line the red-brick streets.
St. Armands Circle
With more than 150 shops offering everything from homemade fudge to designer clothing "the Circle," as locals lovingly refer to Sarasota’s seaside commercial district, is your destination for retail therapy.
Sarasota's top-rated beach isn't just a beach, it's a community built around a pearlescent strip of coast. Boutique hotels, seafood restaurants, and a plethora of sailing and dolphin-watching experiences spring up along the sand.
With its diverse cultural scene, Sarasota is a treat for the senses. To understand how the city's illustrious past plays a role in its current vibrancy, head to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Inside, find a stunning collection donated by the circus master himself. See European masterpieces by Rubens, Bernini, and Duchamp, and then travel a short distance to the restored Ca' d'Zan for a look at the Ringlings' former mansion. Longing to take in a show during your stay in Sarasota? Also owned by the museum, the Asolo Repertory Theatre stages up to 15 productions each year.
There are a bevy of things to do in Sarasota, from educational tours to outdoor pursuits that promise fun in the sun. Begin by diving headfirst into Sarasota’s underwater world during a visit to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, lauded for its trailblazing research into the connections between humans and the natural world. Back on dry land, venture to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens to admire its striking orchid and bromeliad exhibits. Avid golfers can hit the links at The Groves Golf Course, while little ones fall head over heels for the Sarasota Jungle Gardens, where parrots, flamingos, crocodiles, lemurs, and prairie dogs can be observed in their natural habitats.
Things to Do in Sarasota with Kids
There's fun for the entire family wherever you roam in Sarasota. Here are some family friendly experiences you can try together that will make your escape unforgettable:
Vacationing on a shoestring budget in Sarasota? Spend time, not money, on terrific experiences.
Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy - Approach the staff and find out about the interesting collections held here.
Nathan Benderson Park - Let your hair down and add some excitement to your stay here.
New College of Florida - Architecture lover or not, you'll be awed by this landmark's modern-day design.
Ringling College of Art and Design - Get to grips with some of the fascinating history of the region through this attraction.
Marina Jack - Hang out with the locals and discover the hidden character and vibrancy of this place.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital - Widely recognized among those who live here, this place is worth taking a look at.
St. Boniface Episcopal Church Labyrinth - Get in touch with your spiritual side or simply take in the serene atmosphere at this holy place.
Lido Beach - Go for a relaxing walk along the shoreline and perhaps even dip a toe in.
Sarasota BayWalk - Be treated to vistas that'll blow you away at this natural wonder.
Island Park - Rejuvenate your body, mind and soul by spending some time in nature.
Frequently Asked Questions
What to do in Sarasota on a sunny day?
What to do in Sarasota on a rainy day?
What should I not miss in Sarasota?
You just can't go home without ticking off the following list of sensational attractions:
- Venice Beach
- Siesta Key Beach
- St. Armands Circle
- Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Are there cheap things to do in Sarasota?
You'll find plenty of fun experiences here that'll catch your eye if you're watching your pennies:
What can you do in Sarasota for free?
You'll barely have time to pull your wallet out of your bag with so many wonderful free things to do:
- Venice Beach
- Siesta Key Beach
- St. Armands Circle
- University of South Florida Sarasota