Used to be, the Sarasota area was synonymous with snowbirds and a slow pace. The snowbirds are still here (can you blame them?) but Sarasota is a serious cultural capital, with Florida’s state art museum (The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art); resident opera, ballet and symphonic companies; and eventful film and culinary landscapes.
Attractions are artful (see Towles Court Arts District); sea-inspired (in two aquariums and a historic fishing village); and beachy: islands and keys shelter million-dollar estates, unassuming cottages and posh resorts supported by sunny shopping villages, beach side restaurants and recreation at all speeds.
Play tennis on Longboat Key; hunt for shark teeth on the sands of Venice; go para sailing off of nearby Anna Maria Island; kayak the mangrove tunnels of Lido Key; horse-surf on Palma Sola Bay; or just let the surf lap at your feet as you savor a sunset from Dr. Beach’s best beach for 2011, Siesta Key.
Spend a day at the John and Mable Ringling estate, where ancient banyan trees, sparkling Sarasota Bay and formal gardens accessorize a Venetian Gothic mansion, art museum and two circus museums.
Spot wildlife in the swamps and marshes of Myakka River State Park. Reserve an airboat tour and traverse the tree canopy walkway.
View sharks, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.
See for yourself why Siesta Key was named one of America’s best beaches by the country’s authority, Dr. Beach (hint: fine white sand and warm Gulf of Mexico waters). Collect fossilized sharks’ teeth on Venice Beach; on Longboat Key, the prime catch is dinner and a sunset.
Commune with culture in downtown Sarasota, a hub for restaurants, playhouses, ballet, opera and Sarasota’s annual film festival. The orchestra performs nearby. Visit St. Armands Circle, a round of shops and restaurants just steps from the beach.
Visit the Sarasota tourism website