The 8 Best Things to do in Sarasota, Florida
If you’re planning a trip to Sarasota, Florida, get ready to experience a little bit of everything that makes this Gulf Coast city so special.
Culture vultures can explore the eclectic art scene, indulge in delectable cuisine, and take in a performance or two at the legendary Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Nature enthusiasts can marvel at the lush jungle gardens and catch a glimpse of an alligator or two at the Myakka River State Park. And if you want to experience more than just a beach, you’ll find the perfect sun-drenched spot at the one and only Siesta Key – voted the best beach in the United States. Catch a circus show at the Sarasota Circus Arts Conservatory. And watch the sky light up with hues of orange and pink during the incredible Gulf Coast sunsets. Start planning your trip to experience the best things to do in Sarasota.
Best things to do in Sarasota
- Sarasota Jungle Gardens is a must-see in Sarasota, with free-roaming flamingos, 200 animal species, and events such as the Jungle Bird Show and Wildlife Wonder.
- Siesta Key Beach – Experience the white quartz sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters which is said to be 99% quartz from the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
- Lido Key Beach offers a perfect combination of tranquility and entertainment, with powdery white sand just like Siesta Key but fewer crowds.
- Food lovers should try out fresh seafood like grouper or mahi-mahi from local restaurants, as well as Florida Bay Scallops and sweet clams from Cedar Key.
- The Ringling Museum of Art allows visitors to explore the legacy of this iconic circus show and to witness its impressive collection circus memorabilia.
- Tour Ca’ d’Zan, once home to John Ringling of Ringling Bros Circus fame, for a Venetian Gothic experience unlike any other.
- Delight in Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ unique collection of epiphytes and check out their Butterfly Garden or Children’s Rainforest Garden with
- For outdoor adventures, head over to Myakka River State Park for paddling down the river in canoes or kayaks and exploring its 50 square miles of wetlands
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Sarasota, make sure to visit the Sarasota Jungle Gardens. This tropical paradise is filled with picturesque lakes, mesmerizing waterfalls, and even a butterfly aviary. But the real stars of the show are the free-roaming flamingos.
With over 200 animal species from all over the world, you’ll get to see everything from reptiles to marine creatures. And the best part of it all? The Sarasota Jungle Gardens is committed to rescuing animals from all over Florida and the country. So not only will you have a blast, but you’ll be supporting a great cause.
During the day, staff members offer all kinds of shows. Including the popular Jungle Bird Show, Wildlife Wonder, and Meet the Keepers events. These shows are included in your admission, so make sure to get there early since they fill up fast.
For me, it was all about the flamingos. As someone living in Florida, where flamingos are one of the main symbols, not getting up close and personal with one just didn’t feel right.
Living in Florida, where the flamingo is one of the main symbols, it didn’t feel right that I had never even seen one up close, let alone feed one. But the private encounter made my dream come true.
It’s the only place in Florida where you can have this unique encounter. So add it to your bucket list and prepare for an unforgettable adventure.
Siesta Key Beach
When it comes to the best things to do in Sarasota, there’s no question that Siesta Key should top your list.
Siesta Key’s beaches are world-renowned for their pure white quartz sand, which is about 99% quartz. The sand stays cool to the touch, making it perfect for a walk or a day of lounging in the sun. The origins of the quartz are fascinating. It was carried to Siesta Key over the course of centuries from the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
If you’re wondering what the best things to do in Sarasota, Florida are, put Siesta Key at the top of your list.
Sure, it might be crowded, but the atmosphere is electric and joyous.
Home to the best beach in the United States, the number one thing to do here is to simply relax and soak up some rays on the powdery white sands.
When it comes to the best things to do in Sarasota, Florida, a lot of people automatically think of Siesta Key. But let me tell you, Lido Key is a hidden gem that shouldn’t be overlooked. This island offers a perfect blend of laid-back tranquility and lively entertainment
It’s just a short drive from downtown Sarasota so there’s no shortage of exciting activities to enjoy
Personally, I found Lido Key Beach to be even more enjoyable than its busier counterpart in Siesta Key. The sand is just as perfect and white, but the crowds are a little less overwhelming
It’s one of the most beautiful and spacious beaches in the area. With the same pristine white sand as its more well-known neighbor, Siesta Key, but with less crowds.
So if you’re planning a trip to Sarasota, don’t forget to add Lido Key to your itinerary.
Discover the Historic Beauty of Ca’ d’Zan
With its Venetian Gothic-style architecture and lavish design, this stunning historic building is sure to capture the attention of any curious visitor. Once the home of John Ringling (yes, of Ringling Bros. Circus fame) and his wife, Mable. Ca’ d’Zan boasts a roof made of 16th-century tiles and a marble terrace that overlooks the breathtaking Sarasota Bay. For those who love history and design, this is a must-see.
Experience a Unique Fusion of American Gothic and Venetian Architecture
If you’ve been to Vizcaya gardens in Miami, Ca’ d’Zan will feel similar in vibe but with a vibrant, American Gothic twist.
Pro tip: If you want to beat the Florida heat and have this gorgeous place all to yourself, visit an hour before the museum closes.
When it comes to the best things to do in Sarasota, Florida, there’s no denying the allure of Ca’ d’Zan.
Enjoy Delicious Seafood from Local Restaurants in Sarasota
Let’s be real, a vacation without trying out different restaurants and tiki bars isn’t really a vacation at all!
Fresh Florida Bay Scallops and sweet clams from Cedar Key are a must-try during the summer months. While they might be a bit smaller than their Massachusetts counterparts, they’re packed with unparalleled freshness and deliciousness. And if scallops aren’t your thing, don’t worry, there are plenty of other local seafood options to choose from.
If you’re a seafood lover, then you’re in for a real treat. From grouper to mahi-mahi and fresh snapper, the seafood here is second to none. And the best part is, there are tons of local restaurants serving up all of these delicious dishes and more. So if you want to truly experience the best things to do in Sarasota Florida, then make sure you don’t miss out on the incredible local cuisine!
If you’re planning a trip to Sarasota, Florida in the summer, then you simply cannot miss out on trying the fresh Florida Bay Scallops and sweet clams from Cedar Key.
Discover the history of the Legendary Ringling Bros. Circus in Ringling Circus Museum
If you’re trying to escape the sweltering Florida heat, there’s no better afternoon activity than checking out the Ringling Circus Museum.
Sarasota was home to one of the most iconic traveling circuses in history – the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey. For over a century, this legendary circus dazzled audiences across the country with their breathtaking performances and awe-inspiring acts. Today, visitors can delve into the circus’s rich history at the renowned Ringling Museum of Art and witness the legacy firsthand.
You can still soak up the magic of the circus by visiting the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. It houses an impressive collection of circus memorabilia.
One highlight is the Circus Miniature, which replicates historic circuses with eight tents and 42,000 circus-related objects on display. It’s impossible not to be amazed by this incredible recreation that Howard Tibbals has handcrafted.
From 1871 to 2017, this circus took America by storm and was rightly dubbed The Greatest Show on Earth. Although the tents have been replaced by indoor arenas and showplaces over time, the memories of this legendary show live on.
Explore Florida’s oldest and largest state park: Myakka River State Park
When people think of Sarasota, they often picture white sandy beaches and warm sunshine. But what many don’t know is that just a short drive inland lies one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks: Myakka River State Park.
With over 50 square miles of wetlands, pinelands, prairies, and waterways, this park has something for everyone. Water activities are especially popular here ! Paddle down the river in a canoe or kayak, or take a tour of the two lakes on the world’s largest airboat. And for those who prefer to stay on land, there are nearly 40 miles of hiking trails to explore – including a unique, 25-foot-high suspended walkway! Wildlife enthusiasts will also love spotting alligators, armadillos, and roseate spoonbills.
The Hidden Oasis of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Once the personal oasis of amateur gardener Marie Selby, this charming garden opened to the public in 1975 and boasts an impressive collection of plants that grow on other species (aka epiphytes). With over 20,000 plants scattered throughout its eight greenhouses and outdoor gardens, this attraction is a must-see for any plant enthusiast. And for families, there are plenty of kid-friendly areas to explore. the Butterfly Garden and the Children’s Rainforest Garden with rope bridges, a field research station, and caves. Don’t miss out on other notable spots like the Epiphyte Garden with its koi pond. And the Banyan Grove, and the peaceful mangrove-lined boardwalk. While a few visitors thought the grounds could use some improvement, most travelers praised the serene atmosphere and stunning views of Sarasota Bay.
Explore the Best of Sarasota’s Shoreline
You don’t have to limit yourself to just Lido Key to find some incredible shoreline to explore. Take a short drive over to Longboat Key and experience the beauty of Whitney Beach. There you can take a leisurely stroll through the white sand and keep an eye out for that perfect seashell. Or take a quick boat ride over to Beer Can Island for even more stunning beachfront views. Anna Maria Island also boasts some unbeatable stretches of sand for you to enjoy.
With so many amazing sights and experiences to discover, you’ll never run out of the best things to do in Sarasota