25 Best Things to Do in Sarasota, Florida

Located on Florida's Gulf Coast, Sarasota is home to fascinating museums, beautiful gardens, romantic restaurants and a wide range of attractions that make it a fun weekend destination for couples and families alike. Some of the best recreational opportunities in Sarasota, FL include the Ringling Museum, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and the Big Cat Habitat. Theater, music and opera fans can visit the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota Opera House and Beatrice Friedman Symphony Centre. Photo by SeanPavonePhoto / Fotolia

The Ringling

The Ringling is an art museum on Bay Shore Road and one of Sarasota's best attractions. It was founded in 1927 from artwork donated by Mable and John Ringling and has been designated the State Art Museum of Florida by Florida State University. The museum consists of 21 galleries of American art, Asian art, contemporary art, European paintings and ancient artifacts from Cyprus.

The collection includes over 10.000 objects, including decorative arts, drawings, paintings, photographs, prints, and sculpture, ranging from antiquity to contemporary art. The museum contains works by Bernini, Boudin, Duchamp, Gainsborough, Poussin, Velaquez and more. Its collection of Rubens paintings is world famous. Contact: 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 941-359-5700 Photo: mariakraynova / Fotolia

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Located on South Palm Avenue on Sarasota Bay, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a large botanical garden in the Hudson Bayou neighborhood and one of the best things to do in Sarasota, Florida. The gardens span 7 acres and are located on the site of the former home of Marie and William Selby. Gardens focus on collecting and showcasing epiphytes like bromeliads and orchids and their ecosystems.

Gardens have the most diverse collection of bromeliads in the world. There are more than 20.000 plants, the 6.000 species represent. The gardens feature more than 20 different habitats including bamboo, live oaks, mangroves, succulents and many more. Facilities include a herbarium, greenhouses, a research library and other. Contact: 811 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 941-366-5731 Photo: sira stock / Fotolia

Ca d'Zan Villa, Sarasota, Florida

Ca d'Zan Mansion was the winter home of American circus owner John Ringling and his wife Mable. Built between 1924 and 1926, the waterfront mansion is five stories high and includes 36.000 sq. ft. The Ringlings were lovers of Venice and the waterfront reminded them of the lagoon in Venice.

The style of the house is called Mediterranean Revival and shows the influence of the Doge's Palace in Venice. The name of the villa is Venetian for "House of John". The mansion not only served as a residence, but also housed a large collection of art and artifacts. Docent-led tours of the mansion are offered. Contact: 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 941-359-5700 Photo: Steve Carroll / Fotolia

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is a marine research center on Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island in Sarasota. Founded in 1955, it was known as Cape Haze Marine Laboratory until 1967, when it was named in honor of benefactors Lenore and William R. Mote and his sister Betty Mote Rose was renamed. The lab deals with marine and estuarine research.

The aquarium is open to the public and houses more than 100 marine species, especially local marine animals. The aquarium opened in 1980 and contains jellyfish, manatees, rays, seahorses, sea turtles and more. Narrated shark feedings are a popular attraction at the aquarium. If you are wondering what to do in Sarasota with kids, this is a great place to visit. Educational programs include field visits, school visits and summer camps. Contact: 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida, Tel .: 941-388-4441 Photo by Frederic Prochasson / Fotolia

Siesta Key Village, Sarasota, Florida

Not far from downtown Sarasota, the small island of Siesta Key sits on the sparkling Gulf of Mexico and offers one of the best beaches in the country. In the heart of this quirky, fun island is Siesta Key Village, a colorful, lively village near the beach with lots of restaurants, stores, bars, spas, ice cream parlors and more.

The village is all about business, parties and fun, and its festive atmosphere is just perfect for bar hopping. The village is very busy during the many festivals it hosts, so if you can, plan your visit with one of them in mind. The Siesta Fiesta is one of the most popular events. Also check out the nightlife; There is something for everyone. Photo: Rob / Fotolia

Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary

Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary on Palmer Boulevard in Sarasota is a safe haven for big cats and other animals. Founded in 1987 by Kay Rosaire, the sanctuary became a non-profit organization in 2005. It focuses on rescuing and caring for exotic cats and other animals like bears, birds while educating the public about the importance of wildlife conservation.

The sanctuary has three large indoor/outdoor habitats with pools and plants to create a natural environment. Training demonstrations with the big cats are presented to help visitors understand conservation and preservation of the habitat. Contact: 7101 Palmer Boulevard, Sarasota, Florida, Tel .: 941-371-6377 Photo: sims 7501986 / Fotolia

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium is a baseball field and the home of the Baltimore Orioles spring training operations. Built in 1989 to replace Payne Park as a minor league baseball site and spring training location, the stadium was the spring training home for the Chicago White Sox from 1989 to 1997; the Cincinnati Reds from 1998 to 2008; and the Baltimore Orioles since 2010.

The stadium was completely renovated and opened for spring training in 2011. The seats in the newly renovated stadium are refurbished seats from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Oriole's home stadium. The seating capacity of the stadium is 7.428 spectators. Contact: 2700 12th Street, Sarasota, Florida, Tel .: 941-954-4101 Photo: nd 700 / Fotolia

Marietta Art Museum & Whimsy, Sarasota, FL


The Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy is sure to put a smile on your face. Marietta Lee, an artist herself, has been organizing this fun, eclectic collection of art from all kinds of media since 2006 to "preserve works of artistic and whimsical significance". What Marietta is trying to tell us with her colorful and bright collection is to cheer up a bit and not take ourselves so seriously.

Artwork in the gallery, halls, garden, entryway and even the bathroom will lift your spirits and, like Marietta's hope, inspire your own creativity. In fact, the museum invites any artists who think their work would fit the museum's philosophy to bring in some of their work. Admission is free. Contact: 2121 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 941-364-3399 Photo: Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy

Sarasota National Cemetery

Sarasota National Cemetery was established in 2007 as a resting place for the nation's veterans. This new 295-acre cemetery can accommodate about 18.200 gravesites with 15.200 Crypts, 9.000 underground spaces and nearly 7.200 above-ground niches for ashes. The cemetery also has a public information and administrative center.

The center is equipped with an electronic locator for gravesites, restrooms, a maintenance building, a flag installation area and a memorial walkway. Patriot Plaza, donated by the Patterson Foundation of Sarasota, is an amphitheater with 2.800 seats, where all the ceremonies take place. The space has a number of commissioned works that can be seen during a guided tour. Contact: 9810 State Road 72, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 877-861-9840 Photo: Wollertz / Fotolia

Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota Jungle Gardens is a garden and animal attraction on Bay Shore Road. Established in 1939, it is one of the oldest continuously operating attractions in the country. The gardens began with 10 acres of land planted with thousands of tropical flowers and trees from around the world. In the 1970s, the first Exotic Bird Show was created with cockatoos and macaws.

Gradually, more animals and shows have been added. Today, the gardens are home to a wide variety of animals, including parrots, small mammals and primates, as well as many reptiles such as alligators, crocodiles, iguanas, lizards and snakes. There are also many pink flamingos in the garden. Contact: 3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida, Phone: 941-355-5305 Photo: Susan / Fotolia

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, Fla

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is an architectural landmark and a popular venue for comedy, dance, music and theater performances. Built between 1968 and 1969 with donations from Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel, the hall was renovated in 2000. It can accommodate 1.736 people and the Grand Foyer can accommodate up to 350 people.

This opens onto the patio and bayfront lawn, which 1.500 additional seats added. If you're looking for romantic date ideas, attend a performance at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The hall has its own education center and offers a variety of educational programs for young children to seniors. Contact: 777 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida, Phone: 941-953-3368 Photo: peych_p / Fotolia

Westcoast Black Theater Group

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe produces mostly musicals, from familiar Broadway hits to completely by WBTT's artistic director and founder Nate Jacob. Nate, director, singer, actor and playwright founded WBTT in 1999 as a grassroots organization and has seen WBTT grow into a respected and popular nonprofit professional theater.

The troupe produces five shows a season in its own theater. WBTT is the only Black theater on the west coast of Florida. In addition to musicals, WBTT is known for producing relevant, thought-provoking dramas written by well-known playwrights such as Lorraine Hansberry and August Wilson. The troupe also participates in a number of educational and community outreach programs. Contact: 1343 Main Street, Ste 402, Sarasota, Florida, Tel .: 941-366-1505 Photo: Alexander Zhiltsov / Fotolia

Central Sarasota farmers market

There's nothing quite like strolling through a bustling market on a warm Saturday morning, checking out the juicy, colorful fruits and vegetables, grabbing a slice of cheesecake or a cup of coffee, and listening to the chatter of vendors and shoppers and the music in the background . Every Saturday, the Central Sarasota Farmers Market opens its doors (figuratively speaking) to farmers, bakers, artisans and musicians.

All vendors are growers or farmers who enjoy sharing their farming experiences with customers.The place is lively and crowded, and the number of vendors as well as shoppers is steadily increasing. The market is located in front of the Sarasota County Technical Institute. Contact: Florida House, 4454 S Beneva Rd, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 941-677-0078 Photo: Chuck Place / Fotolia

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Sarasota Paddleboard Company

It's very tempting to do absolutely nothing in Sarasota except lie on the beach and drink large beverages. But, if you're not that kind, one fun thing you can do is rent a kayak or paddleboard.

Sarasota Paddleboard Company uses only the best equipment possible and will deliver a kayak or paddleboard to your hotel or home if you feel like going it alone. If you are a beginner, they will provide an instructor to guide you, teach you and show you around.

You can visit Ted Sperling Nature Park, explore mangrove tunnels, watch manatees or dolphins in their natural habitat, or just paddle along the beaches and enjoy yourself. Contact: 690 Ben Franklin, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 941-650-2241 Photo: EpicStockMedia / Fotolia

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Drum Circle Distillery, Sarasota, FL

Drum Circle Distilling was born as a product of too many rum drinks consumed while the sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico. We'll never know if it was too much sun, the beautiful sandy beaches, or really good rum, but the idea for an artisan rum distillery was born, and it resulted in the purchase of a custom still.

The still was small but beautiful with shiny copper parts known for making rum so smooth. Great still, local sugar cane and natural spices resulted in Siesta Key, a very fine rum that has earned stellar reviews even in magazines from the Caribbean. Check out their tasting room for free samples and a chat with the makers – they're always willing to talk about their product. Contact: 2212 Industrial Blvd, Sarasota, Florida, Tel: 941-358-1900 Photo: drum circle distillation

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Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota, Fla

Nathan Benderson Park began as a pretty but ordinary park with a large man-made lake in its center. It was great for a run, a hike, a walk with dogs or paddling a kayak or paddleboard. Then rowers discovered it. Apparently, this unique 600-acre park with its 400-acre lake has been declared one of the few facilities in North America with all the necessary natural features for a first-class rowing facility.

As a result, the park began regular regatta competitions and it acquired a number of facilities necessary for the sport: Race lanes, coach paths, straight banks, wave mitigation, a boathouse, a training center, start and finish huts and towers, grand stands for spectators and a modern boat maintenance facility. Don't worry, you can still ride your bike around the lake or bring a picnic basket for a Sunday lunch on the lawn. Contact: 751 Cattlemen Rd, Sarasota, Florida, Tel .: 941-358-7275 Photo: Edelweiss 086 / Fotolia

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Myakka River National Park

Myakka River State Park spans 37.000 acres and is one of Florida's largest and oldest parks. It encompasses parts of Sarasota County as well as parts of Manatee County. It is named for the Myakka River, which flows through 58 square miles of a variety of habitats including hammocks, pines, prairies and wetlands.

There is a boardwalk for viewing wildlife and a canopy walkway above the treetops. Next to the river there are two lakes: here visitors can go canoeing, fishing and kayaking. There are also hiking trails through the park's dry prairies. Photo: Edelweiss086 / Fotolia

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Legacy Trail

Legacy Trail is a paved path that runs south from Sarasota to Venice. The 10.8-mile trail opened in 2008 along a historic rail corridor and is considered one of the best bike trails in Florida. The original rail line was built in 1911 and operated until the early 2000s.

The trail starts in the north near Palmer Ranch and goes through Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, where it connects with other trails in the park. The trail continues south through Nokomis, Dona Bay, and connects to the Venetian Waterway Park in Venice. Memories of the former railroad include the original milepost system. Photo: Etrayne04 / Fotolia

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Sarasota Opera House, Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota Opera is a professional opera company and is located in the Sarasota Opera House on North Pineapple Avenue. Originally founded as the Asolo Opera Guild, the opera acquired the Sarasota Opera House, formerly known as the Edwards Theatre, in 1979 and opened it in 1984. The Opera House was renovated and reopened in 2008.

During the months of February and March, the company performs four operas for the Winter Opera Festival. The opera house is known for its Verdi cycle, a presentation of all the operas of the famous Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, as well as his orchestral works, chamber music works and his Requiem. The company has many educational work programs. Read more Contact: 61 North Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, Florida, Phone: 941-328-1300 Photo: VTT Studio- Fotolia.com

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South Lido Park

South Lido Park is a Sarasota County park located on Benjamin Franklin Drive. It is a water park located on Lido Key north of Big Sarasota Pass. The park is located on the former land of Otto Schmidt Zoldan, a pioneer who applied for a homestead on the southern tip of Lido Key in 1904. His claim was granted in 1910 and included most of the land that is now South Lido Park.

Lido Key was originally known as Sarasota Key until the development of the Ringling Islands in the 1920s, when it was renamed. The park was established in 1974 and offers hiking trails, picnic areas, bird watching, kayaking and swimming. Photo: magdal3na / Fotolia

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Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota, Fla

Florida Studio Theatre is a non-profit theater that produces contemporary plays in a variety of venues, including the Green Room Cafe and Bar, the Bowne Lab Theatre, the John C. Court Cabaret, the Goldstein Cabaret and the historic Keating Gompertz Theater. The theater operates several programs including Stage III, New Play development, the Cabaret Series, the Mainstage Series and more.

Florida Studio Theatre Improv is a popular comedy troupe that performs humorous sketches at the Bowne Lab Theatre. The theater offers a variety of educational programs. Contact: 1241 North Palm Avenue, Sarasota, Florida, Tel: 941-366-9000 Photo: Lapandr / Fotolia

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Save Our Seabirds, Sarasota, Fla

Save Our Seabirds is a conservation center on Ken Thompson Parkway adjacent to the Mote Marine Aquarium. The center rescues and cares for sick and injured wild birds, then returns them to their natural habitats.Any bird that cannot be returned to the wild will remain at the Wild Bird Learning Center, part of Save Our Seabirds.

Located on three acres of land, the center is home to more than 150 birds. This serves as an outdoor museum that is part of the center's education outreach program. Educational signs are posted around the open-air museum and there are live exhibits. The center also offers field trips and summer camps for children. Contact: 1708 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida, Tel .: 941-388-3010 Photo: Save Our Seabirds

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Sarasota Vintage Museum

The Sarasota Classic Car Museum is located in a 60.000-square-foot building and is the second oldest continuously operated vintage museum in the United States. The collection contains more than 75 classic, exotic and unique cars and the displays rotate regularly.

Some of the cars were owned by famous people like John Lennon 1965 Mercedes Benz, John and Mable Ringling collection of Rolls Royce cars and many more. The Italian Car Collection includes marques such as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Rivolta. Contact: 5500 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 941-355-6228 Photo: photocontour / Fotolia

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Sarasota Orchestra

The Sarasota Orchestra was founded in 1949 as the Florida West Coast Symphony and is the oldest orchestra in the state of Florida. The home of the orchestra is Holley Hall at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Centre. The orchestra consists of 80 members and performs over 100 classical, family and pop concerts each year in Sarasota County and Charlotte and Manatee counties.

The orchestra's education program includes the Youth Orchestra, which was founded in 1959. This orchestra consists of seven ensembles: the most advanced ensemble, the Youth Philharmonic, debuted in 2008 at New York's Carnegie Hall. Contact: Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, 709 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 941-953-3434 Photo: Anna Jurkovska / Fotolia

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The celery fields

Celery Fields is a wetland owned by Sarasota County. The wetlands are located on the Great Florida Birding Trail and offer an observation mound, hiking trails and ponds. With more than 360 acres, the area is also the main stormwater harvesting zone in Sarasota County.

Restoring 100 acres of the wetlands included planting more than 200.000 aquatic plants and the construction of two boardwalks so the public can see the wetlands and wildlife. The place is a popular spot for bird watching and 217 species of birds have been observed here. Contact: 6799 Palmer Boulevard, Sarasota, Florida, phone: 941-861-5000 Photo: len3c / Fotolia

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