There are tons of spectacular tourist attractions in Sarasota, Florida. It was home to the family that ran the most famous circus, and they still have a large impact over the city today. The white sand beaches, outstanding shopping, and impressive art scene makes this city one you won’t want to miss!
10. Siesta Key Village
Siesta Key is an eight mile long barrier island, and a great place to spend a weekend while in Sarasota. The beaches are unmatched with their cool blue water and white sand. The island’s village has lots of great souvenir shops and restaurants to stroll through on a sunny afternoon. Keep your eye out for the island’s birds while you are here. The colorful parrots love to watch the activity from the trees, and the Florida Sand Hill Cranes grow to be four to five feet tall! There is something for everyone at the village, including an active nightlife after a day exploring the shops.
9. Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary
This animal sanctuary began in 1987, and has been taking in exotic animals in need ever since. The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary has tigers, lions, bears, birds, monkeys, and more! They are a non-profit organization that teaches visitors about the animals. Kids love the circus style shows. During your visit there is typically an opportunity to feed some exotic animals. This small family run sanctuary allows you to get up close and personal with large exotic animals in a safe and educational way that you will not find at a large zoo. Check their calendar for demonstration times.
8. Legacy Trail
Legacy Trail is just over ten miles long. It is a great trail to ride a bike, go for a jog, or take a leisurely stroll. The trail follows an old railroad line, and begins in Sarasota and travels to the nearby city, Venice. There are mile markers along the trail. Benches line the pathway for breaks, or as a spot to sit and observe wildlife living within the park. Bike rentals are available nearby for the entire family. This is a fun place to meet friends and discover some wildlife. This free activity is a great way to stretch your legs and see the city.
7. Sarasota Opera
The intimate Sarasota Opera house was built in the beautiful Mediterranean style in 1926 as a theater. It was later converted into an opera house. The elegant theater seats less than 1,200 people per performance, this smaller performance hall makes you feel like you are a part of the action. A show here can be the perfect end to a romantic date. Two hour tours are available on Mondays at 10:30 a.m. when the opera is in season. The opera house is beautiful, and ticket prices for performances are very reasonable.
6. Myakka River State Park
This is among the oldest and largest Florida state parks. It protects miles of diverse river habitats and wildlife. There is a boardwalk that extends out into the lake, and a canopy tree walkway in the treetops. This is such a fun area to explore, and kids love being amongst the birds up in the trees. Along with hiking there is also boating, canoeing, kayaking, and camping available at this wonderful park. They have two of the world’s largest airboats and offer daily park tours. Typically you can spot several alligators and possibly other more elusive wildlife such as; bald eagles, deer, raccoons, and more.
5. Sarasota National Cemetery
This National Cemetery opened in 2008, and it is expected they will hold ten funerals every day for the next ten years as WWII and Vietnam Vets pass away. The cemetery is a somber and patriotic place to visit and pay your respect to those who served. The design and style is very similar to the Arlington Cemetery. They have several large marble monuments with engraved pictures and stories to portray the life of those who served. There are also several statues around the plaza area to commemorate those who served.
4. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is first and foremost a research facility for marine wildlife and their habitats. They began researching sharks in 1955, and slowly expanded to include all marine life. Today you can visit their thriving aquarium. They have two touch tanks and a 135,000 gallon shark tank. View science in action in their research laboratory. They have over 100 marine species in the aquarium. Everyone loves exploring the aquarium, and it is a great way to cool off and escape the summer heat for a couple of hours. This is one of the best things to do in Sarasota, Florida.
3. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are a magnificent place to spend an afternoon. They have several different types of gardens, including a children’s garden to keep the little ones entertained. This garden specializes in orchids and bromeliads. The children’s garden is a tropical rainforest with canopy top bridges, a waterfall, and a 100 year old tree. Their different garden types include; fern, rainforest, bromeliad, bamboo, epiphyte with a koi pond, banyan, mangroves, and last but definitely not least is the butterfly garden. Besides the children’s garden this is another favorite. It is very colorful and sometimes the butterflies will land on you momentarily.
2. Ca d’Zan Mansion
Located at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art this 56 room mansion was their home. Built in 1924, Mable had a very active role in its design. They were one of America’s richest couples in the 1920’s and the house cost $1.5 million upon completion. It is six stories tall including the basement. After they both passed away the house was left to the city, but upkeep quickly fell behind. In 2002 a $15 million restoration project was completed and the house was reopened for the public. Self-guided tours around the first floor are included with museum admission; however, a more in depth guided tour is available for an additional charge.
1. The Ringling
The Ringling is the State Art Museum of Florida. It contains over 10,000 pieces of art and artifacts, and is cared for by Florida State University. Admission into the estate includes access to: Ca d’Zan Mansion, the Rose Garden, the Circus Museum and the Tibbals Learning Center, “The Wisconsin” a private wooded passenger train car used to travel with the circus, the Ringling Art Library, and the Secret Garden where John and Mable Ringling are buried. The Circus Museum, opened in 1948, was the first to document the history of the circus.
The city’s mild climate makes this a great spot to vacation any time of year. All the places to visit in Sarasota, Florida will draw you back year after year. This gulf coast paradise is perfect for the whole family. There is so much to enjoy around the city including: beaches, shopping, opera, art museums, and educational nature preserves and wildlife.