Sarasota can appear to be a quiet town, where locals, as well as visitors alike, take time to watch the sunset. When I first started vacationing here years before I became a resident, I was surprised to see what an event the sunset was! Well, at first that didn’t set a precedent for Sarasota to be an exciting city or have nightlife. However, I have come to find I can keep myself quite entertained in this city. There are plenty of things to do in Sarasota!
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Sarasota is the town the circus built
- Ringling Circus Museum & Tibbals Learning Center, 5401 Bay Shore Road in Sarasota. Did you know that Sarasota was the winter home of John Ringling and the Ringling Circus? Mr. Ringling built a lavish mansion, Ca d’Zan, which is part of the museum grounds can be toured. While inside the museum, be sure to check out the exhibit of the miniature model circus that covers every aspect of the circus including behind the scene’s depiction of the lives of the performers to the big top show. The Ringling also hosts events throughout the year including yoga by the bay.
Hike, Bike or Kayak
One of the best things to do in Sarasota is to enjoy the outdoors and the wonderful weather, especially in the wintertime. Most of Sarasota’s bike paths are located in parks, the barrier islands, and preservation sites. State bike laws require that bicyclists must follow the rules of the road when they are on the road with other vehicles.
- Robinson Preserve, 1704 99th St NW in Bradenton. Almost 500 acres of nature preserve that has miles of bike trails and kayaking paths. There is a kayak launching area with a water station. The kayak paths can take you out to Tampa Bay. Be sure the check out the lookout tower while you are there.
- Manatee Riverwalk, 1005 1st Avenue West in Bradenton. Has over 1.5 miles of bike paths and runs along the Manatee River
- Legacy Trail, 303 E. Venice Ave. Starts at the Historic Venice Train Depot and runs for 10 miles with several areas having water and bathroom facilities. There are several trail heads along this paved path which enables you to do part of the path.
- De Soto National Memorial Park, 8300 De Soto Memorial Hwy, Bradenton. Located along the Manatee River, De Soto Park is a pet-friendly facility, includes a learning center and wonderful, shaded trails that include paths along the river. Bicycles are not allowed on the shelled trails, so this spot is just for the hikers. There are wonderful places to set a beach chair and watch the boats go by. My dog loves it there. Bathroom facilities are present.
- Lido Paddling Trail, Taft Drive, Lido Key, Sarasota. This is a kayak trail with a launch site on the bay side of Lido Key. There are a couple of mangrove trails that run through the park.
When you think about things to do in Sarasota, Beaches cannot be left out of the list. Sarasota and Bradenton are home to some of the best beaches in the US.
- Siesta Beach, 948 Beach Rd, Siesta Key. Home to the world’s finest and whitest beach, voted by travelers as #1 beach in the US. A vacation isn’t complete without a trip to this beach. Shops and restaurants are located in the downtown area of Siesta Key.
- Lido Beach, 400 Ben Franklin Dr., Lido Key. Nice flat beach. This is the main beach on Lido Key, with water sports rentals, lounge chairs and umbrellas can be rented as well.
- Coquina Beach, south end of Anna Maria Island. Beautiful, wide beach with public facilities, cafe, and lifeguard.
- Cortez Beach, Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria Island. Located at the end of the Cortez Bridge, this beach meets up with Coquina Beach. Along with this stretch of Gulf Drive, you will find several restaurants in Anna Maria Island.
- Palma Sola Causeway Beach, 9000 Manatee Ave, Bradenton. This is a narrow shallow area located between the mainland and Anna Maria Island. Popular with paddle-boarders and jet-skiers. This is also a pet-friendly area.
After spending a day outside, what is there to do in the evening in the Sarasota area? Let’s explore!
- Downtown Bradenton, Manatee and Main Street, Bradenton. Small area alive with sidewalk eateries, pubs, and a theater. There are always events planned throughout the year including live music and arts festival.
- Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 900 S. Palm Ave, Sarasota. 14 acres of gardens with a canopy boardwalk, a koi pond, bamboo and other tropical plants. Selby has over 6,000 orchards and is home to a rain forest conservatory setting.
- Ringling Estate and Rose Garden, 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota. Located on the Ringling estate, this a beautiful area to walk and see the large banyan trees, and over 1000 bushes in the rose garden.
- Adventure Course-Zip Lining, TreeUmph, 21805 E State Road 70, Bradenton. Looking for a fun outdoor adventure with zip lines and elevated bridges? This is your place!
- The village of the Arts, 12th and 11th Ave., West Bradenton. Over 33 artists are located in these bungalows displaying their creations in this revised artist colony.
Sarasota is truly an art town, from the Ringling School of Arts to various performing art centers, there are things to do in Sarasota that has even made the national papers.
- West Coast Black Theatre, 1646 W. 10th Way, Sarasota. Recently reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, this troupe puts on outstanding performances and is worth a trip.
- McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, 1923 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. This is a popular place and books up quickly. It is located close to great shops and restaurants. Funny, new talent weekly. There is a drink minimum. Smoke-free.
- Van Wezel Performing Arts, 777 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Headliners from ZZ Top to Josh Groban perform at this venue. Great location, just outside downtown Sarasota on the bay front.
- Jazz Club of Sarasota, 330 S. Pineapple Ave, suite 111, Sarasota. With over 600 members, the Jazz Club is one of the largest and oldest jazz clubs in the US. The Jazz Club plays at various venues throughout Sarasota and Bradenton. Be sure to go to the Jazz Festival which normally runs in March.
- Five O’Clock Club, 1930 Hillview Street, Southside Village, Sarasota. Located across from Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Voted 2015 by Sarasota Magazine as the best place to hear local bands. All genres of music can be heard there. Smoke-free.
- St. Armands Circle, 300 Madison Drive, Sarasota. St. Armands is known for unique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Pedestrian friendly and easy to get to, St. Armands has something for everyone.
- Downtown Sarasota, Main Street. A mix of upscale stores including spice and chef supplies, downtown Sarasota also is known for its antique and book stores.
- University Town Center, located just west of I75 and on University Parkway. This area is a shopping wonderland with an indoor mall, located on the south side of University Pkwy and several shopping strip malls with a diverse mix of shops and restaurants. Truly, something for everyone can be found in this corridor.
- Ellington Premium Outlets, I75, and US301. You can see the shopping center from I75. Over 100 name brand stores.
- Downtown Lakewood Ranch, Main Street, Lakewood Ranch. Lakewood Ranch brings back that small town feeling in their upscale shopping area. From wine tasting to small boutiques and restaurants, there is plenty to see and do. The movie theatre is located along the circle, adjacent to the mini golf.
Enjoy Sarasota and the Bradenton sunsets but know there are a lot more things to do in Sarasota. At least 26 things to do in Sarasota.
Sandy Williams is a licensed Broker Associate with EXP Realty and resides in the Lakewood Ranch area. Sandy’s roots to the Sarasota area go back to childhood when her grandparents would vacation during the winter months. Sandy and her team sell houses in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Anna Maria Island. Want to know more about the Sarasota/Bradenton area? Contact Sandy at 941-564-9491 or email Sandy@sandywilliams.com