Top 10 Things To Do In Sarasota Florida
Located just south of Tampa, Sarasota is one of the fastest-growing cities in Florida. It’s home to several memorable beaches, a bustling market, and countless recreational opportunities. Whether you prefer a quiet museum or an exciting club; you’re guaranteed to find something you enjoy in Sarasota. It’s a large city and there’s so much to do that it’s easy to get overwhelmed without an itinerary. Here are 10 popular destinations that you need to visit when you’re in the area.
Siesta Key Beach
The Siesta Key is an 8-mile barrier island situated directly against the Gulf of Mexico. The beautiful quartz sand beaches that surround the island attract millions of tourists every year. Anyone who finds themselves in Sarasota should feel obligated to take the time to visit the beaches of Siesta Key. You can sit on the sand, take a walk along the water, or dive in and peek beneath the waves.
The beach is most well known for its beautiful white sands. The sand on the Siesta Key beach is known as quartz sand or silica sand. Its lack of impurities gives it a white color that perfectly complements the deep blue waters. The quartz in the sand disperses heat allowing the sand to stay cool even during the hottest days.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
The Sarasota Jungle Gardens has been attracting thousands of visitors every year since the early 1940s. It is around 10 acres and consists of a large botanical garden, a variety of free-roaming animals, and various facilities for dining and souvenirs. There are daily shows that teach visitors about local plant and animal life with an interactive element.
The area where Sarasota Jungle Gardens currently sits was once a banana grove swamp that prevented any reasonable passage. The land was purchased in the 1930s and cleared to create a botanical garden. It was officially opened as Sarasota Jungle Gardens by the 1940s and hasn’t changed much since.
The attraction is most well known for its flamingos that walk freely through the gardens and even interact with visitors. There is also a large variety of reptiles, mammals, and birds on display. In addition to the animals, the Sarasota Jungle Gardens also house numerous native and exotic plants like the Peruvian apple cactus and bunya-bunya tree.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
There are over 14 square miles of land inside the Sarasota border and a lot of it is incredibly beautiful. That’s why there are several well-known parks and botanical gardens that attract visitors from around the globe. The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is another great example.
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has one of the largest collections of plant species in the country. There are more than 5,500 orchids and that is only a fraction of the roughly 20,000 different plants thriving in the garden. Some of their collection includes succulents, bamboo, banyans, and palms. There is also a large koi pond and butterfly garden.
The Bishop Museum of Science
Anyone interested in learning more about the gulf coast should consider visiting the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature. The museum was first opened in the 1940s with a large display of aboriginal pottery and stone tools. This collection would continue to grow over the coming decades with help from Smithsonian archaeological digs in the gulf coast area.
Today, the museum has a lot more to offer than just a pottery collection. It’s also home to the Bishop planetarium, which is regarded as one of the most advanced planetariums in the country. It has gone through several redesigns, upgrades, and disasters since it first launched in 1966. The most recent overhaul came in 2013 when most of the technology was upgraded and the quality was said to improve 25-fold.
The John and Mable Ring
Formerly known as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the John and Mable Ring is Florida’s official state art museum. It houses a massive display that has grown significantly since its start in 1927. The current collection features around 10,000 items that can be displayed in any of the 21 different galleries. The collection contains European paintings, ancient pottery, sculptures, and early photographs.
The estate is divided into several different museums in addition to the art museum. It also contains the Dwarf Garden, the Rose Garden, the Wisconsin railroad car, and the Circus Museum. The Circus Museum was the first institute in the country to display the history of the circus. It contains many unique items from the early 20th century that can’t be seen anywhere else.
Sarasota Classic Car Museum
Launched in 1953, the Sarasota Classic Car Museum is considered the second longest-running museum in the country that focuses on antique vehicles. The 60,000-square-foot facility displays anywhere between 75 and 100 unique automobiles at a time. It houses a variety of antique vehicles that don’t exist anywhere else. The exhibits rotate throughout the week so there’s always something different to see.
Some of the vehicles on display are over 100 years old and are nearly impossible to find elsewhere. They also have a display of exotic Italian vehicles from manufacturers like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. Anyone who enjoys classic cars won’t want to miss this one-of-a-kind experience.
Sarasota Opera House
The Sarasota Opera House is another long-standing attraction that has been entertaining visitors for nearly 100 years. The opera house was first opened in 1926 with the help of Sarasota’s first mayor. There were originally 8 shops, 12 offices, 12 apartments, and a large auditorium. It quickly became a popular entertainment destination during the 1920s and 1930s.
The historical building has gone through some major renovations over the decades and it’s only gotten better. A $20 million renovation near the start of the 21st century helped bring the building into the modern era. Today, it can house around 1,100 captivated hands in the newly designed auditorium. Its close proximity to other cafes, shops, and bars makes it a worthwhile visit for anyone in the area.
Sarasota Art Museum
While not quite as large as the John and Mable Ring, the Sarasota Art Museum still offers an impressive display that’s worth the visit. The building, which operated as a school until the 1990s, has roughly 15,000 square feet of display space. The museum is classified as a kunsthalle, which is a contemporary museum without a permanent display. The exhibits change frequently and encourage repeat visits from anyone who loves art.
Unlike the Ringling Museum, the Sarasota Art Museum does not focus on classic European art from the 15th and 16th centuries. Instead, they feature contemporary artists from the most recent century. There is also an outdoor exhibit for sculptures, a gift shop, and a bistro that attracts as many visitors as the museum itself.
Art Center Sarasota
It’s clear that Sarasota has a deep appreciation for the arts. They have several art museums that attract visitors from around the country. The Art Center isn’t exactly a museum, but they have curated a large collection of artworks that deserve to be seen. There are a total of four rotating exhibits and a featured sculpture garden on the grounds.
The real attraction of the Art Center Sarasota is the hands-on experience that visitors can enjoy. Their yearly schedule includes a variety of workshops, educational classes, and unique events. Depending on the time of year, a visitor might get to experience an art auction, a gift art exchange, or a hands-on painting class. Repeat visitors can purchase an annual membership that includes entry into specialized classes, summer camp programs, and juried art exhibits.
Sarasota Farmers Market
Anyone who plans on cooking during their visit or who simply wants to bring home a taste of Sarasota needs to visit the Sarasota Farmers Market. It’s been a regular occurrence every weekend since 1979. Dozens of local farmers, artisans, chefs, and vendors gather every Saturday to sell their wares. It’s a great way to find fresh, unique, or handmade items that aren’t available in major retail stores.
The market is highly organized and most of their vendors can be identified ahead of time through their website. It includes a list of vendors who sell produce, plants, food, beverages, souvenirs, and everything in between.
The weekly event is supported by a large number of non-profit organizations. The money spent at the market goes back into the hands of hard-working locals instead of a random Fortune 500 company. It’s a great way to support the local economy and engage with the local community.
There’s Always Something to Do
With so many parks, beaches, and cafes there is always something entertaining to do in Sarasota, Florida. You can easily spend an entire day shopping at the Sarasota Farmers Market, a relaxing dinner at a local bistro, and a romantic evening walking on the white sands of the Siesta Key beach. The large assortment of museums, art exhibits, beaches, and botanical gardens make this the ideal vacation destination for anyone who loves nature, art, and science.