Fun things to do in Sarasota, Florida today


Florida is very hot right now, and we’re not just talking about the weather. Across the peninsula, commerce and real estate are booming despite the pandemic – and the beach town of Sarasota is growing like a weed.

This gulf side getaway isn’t even in Florida’s top 50 when it comes to population size, but it’s easy to see how Sarasota has become such a contemporary gem. An abundance of world-class museums and cultural institutions, proximity to some of the country’s most popular shores, and a sophisticated food scene are just a few of the qualities that have made Sarasota a celebrity in recent years. As the winter chill sets in for the United States, a trip to this iconic city might be just what your Instagram feed needs. Here are 10 great reasons to drive in Sarasota.

Selby Gardens - Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Selby Gardens – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

For all budding botanists (pun intended entirely), Sarasota’s Marie Selby Botanical Gardens provide the perfect starting point in plant life. The trip begins with a tour of the 15-acre downtown campus, a green oasis that masters the delicate art of orchid conservation with thousands of flowers on display across the property. After buzzing with their beauty, step outside for a leisurely stroll along the Mangrove Walkway, a coastal path that features one of the state’s most fascinating ecosystems.

Haven’t got your fill of the outdoors yet? No worries — the Historic Spanish tip the campus offers double the size with an added historical touch to boot. This expansive reserve invites guests to discover a wealth of ancient artifacts ranging from the Guptill House – an old-fashioned mansion built in 1901 – to the Archaic Midden, an ancient archaeological site that was inhabited by the indigenous South Calusa people. -West Florida over 3000 years ago.

Mote marine laboratory and aquarium
Mote marine laboratory and aquarium

Manatees are renowned for their laid back nature and adorable faces, but few are known for their contributions to academia except, of course, Hugh and Buffett. Born at the Miami Seaquarium in the 1980s, these affable sea cows are the only two manatees on earth who have been specially trained to participate in research projects ranging from hearing tests to analyzing body temperature. As manatee populations across Florida continue to decline, Hugh and Buffett offer much needed hope for the future of this majestic aquatic mammal.

In addition to this beloved dynamic duo, Mote marine laboratory and aquarium is also equipped with a wide range of other fascinating, but admittedly less cuddly creatures. In the Shark Zone, guests can get up close and personal with the sea’s infamous toothy predators, while the nearby Sea Turtles: Ancient Survivors exhibit provides a glimpse of the Mote Marine Lab’s sea turtle rehabilitation hospital, a program that has treated over 600 different turtles since 1995.

Michael is in the east
Michael is in the east

While Miami tends to dominate the conversation when it comes to Florida foodie destinations, Sarasota is equipped with some truly spectacular venues for a chic and flavorful night on the town. Concrete example : Michael is in the east, an opulent haunt that has been serving upscale New American cuisine since 1984. With scrumptious dishes like Munich pork knuckle and pork-rubbed Colorado rack of lamb, it’s no wonder this place won the AAA Four-Diamond Award for 32 consecutive years.

SRQ sage
SRQ sage

Following the trend, newcomers to Sarasota can also spend a luxurious night at sage, a fine downtown restaurant that operates in the iconic 1920s Sarasota Times Building. While the venue itself may be historic, the dining program is anything but old-fashioned, with a plethora of modern cocktails and global dishes adorning the menu. If you’re in the mood for a more seafood-specific experience, don’t miss out Selva grill, Sarasota’s treasure for perfectly crafted Ceviche alongside a host of other Peruvian specialties.

Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key Beach | Suncoast Antennas / Shutterstock

From the western end of the Redneck Riviera to the ever-festive South Beach, Florida is a treasure trove of coastal getaways, but few can compare to the famous Siesta Key. Located 15 minutes south of downtown, this coastal getaway draws visitors from all over the world with one quality in particular: its blindingly white, powdery quartz crystal sand. While this long strip of shore is extremely gorgeous, be sure to pack a pair of sunglasses, lest you fall victim to the glare from the highly reflective grains.

Hotel Art Ovation, Autograph Collection
Hotel Art Ovation, Autograph Collection

Sarasota’s recent urban development has ushered in a new wave of upscale hotels, giving weekends the chance to experience their best Real Housewives of Sarasota life. For those who appreciate the good things, the Art Ovation Hotel highlights the city’s deep connection to the fine arts, with artistic and wine tours as well as weekly Meet the Artist events in the hotel’s decorated lobby.

Indigo Sarasota Hotel (Sarasota)
Indigo Sarasota Hotel (Sarasota)

Just north of downtown in the Rosemary neighborhood, the Indigo Sarasota Hotel offers plenty of opportunities to explore one of the city’s most elegant neighborhoods. Grab a rental bike and head west to Waterfront Park to experience the natural beauty of Florida’s Gulf Coast, or cycle south to Bayfront Park, a bustling coastal space perfect for bird watching. pelicans. And after a long day exploring the city, reward yourself with a dip in the hotel’s two hot and cold outdoor paddling pools for maximum relaxation.

Circle of St Armands
Circle of St Armands | Suncoast Antennas / Shutterstock

Once you’ve had your fill of downtown Sarasota, venture out to the glittering John Ringling Causeway. Just above the bridge, the size of a pint Key of Saint-Armands packs a punch despite its small size, packed with all manner of dining and shopping possibilities. Step up your Vacation Dad game at Tommy Bahama, then head to the magnificent Blu kouzina for a night of succulent skewers of lamb and octopus accompanied by a bottle of Greek wine.

Rowboat key
Rowboat key | candy / Shutterstock

Saint-Armands certainly has its charms, but those looking for a more spacious hangout should turn their gaze to the north, where the sprawling barrier island of Rowboat key waits. Begin with a leisurely 15-minute drive from the southern terminus to the tip, home to the beautiful island of Beer Can, dotted with soft sand and masses of tangled driftwood. And while there is a plethora of dining options here, nothing compares to Euphémie Haye Restaurant, a revered fine-dining restaurant that has graced the coast since 1980.

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art | Mia2you / Shutterstock

What is the most iconic circus on the planet? The top spot certainly goes to Britney Spears’ sixth album, but the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus are a fairly close competitor. Although this once powerful empire officially closed its doors in 2017 after nearly 150 years of operation, its legacy continues today in Ringling Circus Museum. While costumes, props, and marketing materials can be found in abundance throughout the museum, arguably the most impressive exhibit is the Howard Bros. Circus Model, an incredibly complex scale replica of the Ringling Traveling Circus spanning over 44,000 individual pieces.

Perched outside the Circus Museum, one of Florida’s most coveted venues for art lovers exists in the form of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Founded in 1927, the beloved institution serves as the official art museum of the State of Florida, with more than 10,000 different paintings, sculptures and works of art, all housed within its walls. And a few steps west, visitors can take a guided tour of the Ca ‘d’Zan, a sumptuous Mediterranean Revival-style palace that once served as the winter residence of John and Mable Ringling.

Yoder Restaurant and Amish Village
Yoder Restaurant and Amish Village

Eat Your Weight Pie in Amish Country

Freed from the temptations of trashy reality TV and social media doomscrolling, America’s Amish communities have plenty of time to focus on more pressing issues, namely baking. For a deep dive into the realm of Amish cuisine, Pinecraft’s eastern Sarasota neighborhood is a must visit, with a local favorite by Yoder serve some of the best pies around.

Start your tour with a savory entree – meatloaf, melted roast, and fried country steak are all worthy options – before diving head first into the sugary depths. Whether you’re rushing for candy-laden chocolate peanut butter, keeping it simple with Cherry, or kissing your inner Floridian with a slice of lime, Yoder’s has your sweet tooth well covered.

Bahi hut
Bahi hut

Taste one of the best rums in the Sunshine State

Nothing pairs as well with Florida heat as rum, and luckily there are plenty of options for spilling a sugarcane elixir across Sarasota. Drum circle distillation really mastered the craft, with six different varieties of rum up for grabs. Spirits here range from cask aged beer to silver, but for best results grab a bottle of Drum Circle’s flagship product, the ultra-flavorful Siesta Key Spiced rum.

The Ritz Carlton, Sarasota
The Ritz Carlton, Sarasota

For those who prefer their rum in cocktail form, the Sunshine State’s oldest tiki bar is about 10 minutes west of Drum Circle Distilling. Founded in 1954, Bahi Hut Tiki Cocktail Lounge serves Blue Hawaiians, Beachcomber Mai Tais, and a host of other alcoholic concoctions in a colorful setting that seems frozen in time. And if you’re in the mood for a more modern take, head over to The Ritz Carlton Sarasota and post on Jack dusty, a charming seafood restaurant that concocts a smoky Painkiller that changes the game.

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Jared Ranahan is a Thrillist contributor.





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