Sarasota

Destination Location

  • 27.335041, -82.530794:primary
  • 27.395444, -82.554388:secondary

Overview

When you think Florida, you probably think beaches. The Sarasota-Bradenton Area offers beaches galore and so much more.

Sarasota and Bradenton area are two very distinct destinations that make up the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast region. Some of the state's best vacation spots are found here. From out-of-the way island villages and sophisticated arts to superb culinary experiences and year-round events.

Calling all beach aficionado's: Sure, one great beach is nice, but seven are way better. The coastline is dotted with seven separate islands, each with their own personality, and offering up a version of the true Florida getaway dream.

Sarasota's top-rated Siesta Key, offers near-perfect sand, combined with a quaint and quirky beach-town atmosphere. In the middle of the key, you'll find Crescent beach with fewer people and an even more laid back vibe. Shell collectors and those looking for additional solitude head for Turtle Beach, while Lido Key offers a tranquil beachside park with nature trails and great picnic spots.

Culture, shopping and dining: It all comes easy here. Sarasota-Bradenton's Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida, houses one of the world's largest collections of Baroque art, while the Sarasota Opera and the Sarasota Ballet offer a thrilling, evolving list of ongoing events. Shopping ranges from breezy, beachside boutiques to the exciting University Town Center, Florida's newest luxury mall. Incredible dining is only a bite away, with a plethora of outstanding seaside restaurants, as well as mainland dining ranked some of the best in the state.

Discover a range of possibilities in Sarasota's exciting downtown, including the nearby Michael's on East. The shopping and dining district of St. Armand's Key offers Café L'Europe and the popular Columbia Restaurant with regional Spanish cuisine.

The eco-nature experience: The Sarasota-Bradenton area is listed as one of the best in the state for birding and nature observation through its outstanding parks and preserves. The Myakka River State Park offers airboat tours, kayaking and canoeing, and miles of hiking trails. There's also Sarasota Jungle Gardens, where you can find tropical wildlife including birds, reptiles and mammals that are native to the area. This list barely skims the surface of all the Sarasota-Bradenton area has to offer. To truly get the flavour of this getaway destination, pack your sunscreen and see it for yourself.

Destination basics

As the saying goes, "It's always summer in Sarasota and her islands." With an average annual temperature of 23 C (73 F), and an average annual low of 16.6 C (61.9 F), you can safely pack your swimsuit and leave the woolies at home.

 

Weather chart

 

Sarasota’s epic waterfront is home to spacious restaurants that overlook the Gulf Coast, quaint, tucked-away cafes that deserve a visit, and numerous small establishments that are as light on the wallet as the air here.

Downtown Sarasota
Sarasota’s vibrant downtown is a crackling milieu of cuisines, ranging from native seafood specialties, to global picks. Those who love the quiet charm of cafes will find that downtown hosts quite a few good ones. Bijou’s on First street is quite a find, coupling its fine wines with refined Continental dishes. A stone’s throw away on Palm Avenue, Cafe Epicure is your quintessential Italian trattoria, satisfying patrons with stellar pizzas and home baked specialties. At C’est La Vie on Main Street, Francophiles can rejoice over perfectly baked croissants on its sunlit patio.

For those with a proclivity toward seafood, there is nothing better than Duval’s. On Main Street, MoZaic pushes you to expand your culinary horizon with their innovative rendition of Mediterranean cuisine. If you swoon over historic dining establishments, then the brunch spot Station 400, housed in a 19th century train depot, serves the best Southern breakfasts this side of town.

Sarasota’s popular watering holes such as Tavern on Main, Shamrock Pub and the Pangea Lounge are also located in the city center.

Laurel Park
Laurel Park’s leafy locale is home to a handful of cafes and modern restaurants.  While the Indigenous Restaurant near Payne Park is the top choice for excellent farm-to-table cuisine, the Garden Room cafe serves European bites in an outdoor garden. A little further away, sandwich maestros such as Mozzarella Fella and the Main Bar Sandwich Shop dole out Italian-inspired versions of this humble snack.

Bayfront
Sarasota’s breezy bayfront curve features a fine seafood dining scene. Popular picks with a casual ambiance include O’leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill, and Marina Jacks, both offering enviable water views. On Sunset Drive, Jack Dusty, at the Ritz-Carlton, is a tonier staple for delicious seafood and even more delicious cocktails. In the same property, the Terrace Cafe is a fine spot for modern healthy cuisine.

Lido Key/St Armands
Most restaurants on Lido Key circle around the bustling Armand Circle. Have Blueberry Pancakes right off the griddle at Blue Dolphin Cafe, which also serves comfort food for lunch. Italian picks include the rustic Le Colonne restaurant and 15 South, while Daiquiri Deck and the Terrace at Surf Shack serve delicious cocktails in a beachside ambiance.

Siesta Key
Sarasota’s glorious keys are home to some of the best waterfront restaurants on the Gulf Coast. From fine dining picks like Ophelia’s on the Bay, to the casual Turtles Restaurant at water’s edge, Siesta Key is equipped with a varied waterside dining scene.  Over at the Old Salty Dog on Ocean Boulevard, Britain’s friendly pub vibe meets Caribbean cuisine to deliver fun times near the coast. While you’re living the breezy life, stop for a pitcher of margaritas and fiery Latin specialties at the Hub Baja Grill a few steps away. And don’t go home without shucking oysters and having a drink at Captain Curt’s near Stickney Point.

This sun-dappled city on Florida’s Gulf Coast is a mix of genteel neighborhoods and gorgeous white-sand beaches. The city’s appetite for culture, art and architecture is evident from the home-grown art museums, theaters, and colonial buildings that dot its sunny landscape. From the Sarasota Museum of Art in the city’s historic district, to seemingly limitless shorelines in the neighboring keys, Sarasota is a versatile destination to discover.

Laurel Park Historic District
Bounded by Orange Avenue and Lafayette Court, the brick-paved streets of Laurel Park are much like an architectural runway. Drive by this historic district to witness some of the most striking styles of architecture, from Mediterranean Revival, to Masonry Vernacular, and everything in between. Combined with an old-world charm, the streets of Laurel Park are quite a vision, dotted with idyllic homes from the 1920s. Venture into Downtown’s main streets from here, located not far away from the Laurel Park Historic District.

Downtown Sarasota
The heart of Sarasota comprises of the Laurel Park Historic District, with parts of the Bayfront neighborhood stitched into its boundaries. A thriving art and culture hub, Downtown Sarasota consists of cultural gems like the artistic colony of Towles Court, McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre and the Players Centre for Performing Arts. It is also home to small, green spaces such as Payne Park, Lukewood Park, and the Mary Selby Botanical Gardens that border the Bayfront area. Sarasota’s Main Street is a prime spot for shopping, entertainment and dining, with the inclusion of a smattering of offices.

Gillespie Park
Christened after the city’s first mayor John Gillespie, this emerging neighborhood is notable for its free-spirited vibe. Visitors will often see outdoor concerts, film screenings, festivals and cookouts taking place in its eponymous park, a tradition that sparks a sense of bonding among community members. Its close-knit communities reside in 1920s houses and ranch-style bungalows that wear the American flag proudly. The popular Breakfast House on Gillespie Avenue is an adored dining institution where you can see locals congregate for pineapple pancakes.

Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores
The Ringling Museum and circus maestro John Ringling’s estate form the centerpieces of this wealthy neighborhood that overlooks Sarasota Bay. Besides these prime landmarks, the Indian Beach area is also home to opulent mansions from the 1920s, besides smaller attractions such as the Secret Garden, the Historic Asolo Theater, and Sarasota Jungle Gardens. For views of the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, venture out to the Sapphire Shores Park or Stephens Point.

Lido Key / St Armands
Sublime beaches with memorable sunsets is Lido Key’s specialty, as is its fabulous dining scene. The South Lido County Park offers lush scenery, with breezy palm trees lining its sapphire waters. Its calm waters translate into ideal swimming conditions. Nearby, the South Lido Mangrove is an excellent spot for kayaking, as well as for spotting manatees and dolphins. For a taste of some beachside shopping, the bustling St Armands Circle features stellar shops and restaurants. The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is also located here.

Siesta Key
Home to glittering seascapes and soft sandy stretches, Siesta Key is vacation central. Incredible views over the Gulf Coast and relaxed lulls are a given when the name says ‘Siesta’, but also be prepared for entertainment at the Siesta Key Drum Circle, where Sunday nights are party nights. The Siesta Key Village offers an exciting nightlife, and nearby, staples such as the Siesta Key Oyster Bar and Daiquiri Deck merit definite visits. The keys are also home to the glorious beaches of Turtle and Siesta, perfect for mindless lounging. A walk along its golden sands will reveal snazzy resorts, condos and privately-owned mansions that make this a fine beachside destination.

Sarasota's thirst for entertainment is near unquenchable, as it pulsates with a heady mix of concerts, performing arts, festivals and museums.

Performing Arts
While you soak up the Florida sun during the day, Sarasota prepares for an impressive line-up of nightly entertainment. Witness some of the most exciting shows spanning genres of dance, music, theater and comedy at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Music stalwarts performing at the Sarasota Opera House guarantee goosebumps, while McCurdy's Comedy Theatre is known to tickle every funny bone in the body. Lovers of theater will adore the musicals at Players of Sarasota and the contemporary productions at the Florida Studio Theatre. Head to the Circus Arts Conservatory on Bahia Vista Street for some of the most riveting professional performances in the field of circus.

Movie Theaters
The city comprises of a thriving film scene, evident from its annual film festivals. Choose from modern chain cinema houses like Regal Cinemas, to independent theaters like Burns Court Cinema that plays foreign and indie flicks. Other options include the CinéBistro Southgate, Parkway 8 Cinema, and AMC Sarasota 12.

Museums & Galleries
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art takes centerstage when it comes to Sarasota's museums, and for good reason. Besides featuring a multitude of art galleries, it also details the history of the circus in the city. Sprawled over a 150,000 square feet (14,000 square meters) campus, the museum complex also constitutes Cà d'Zan, circus doyen John Ringling's opulent estate and mansion. There is also a visitor's pavilion, a library and a learning center to boot. Nearby, the Sarasota Classic Car Museum and the Marietta Museum of Art don't quite match up to the excellence of the Ringling Museum, but are nonetheless interesting. On the art front, the Art Center in the city features four exhibition galleries and a sculpture park. For a more eclectic perspective on art, browse through the many galleries of Towles Court - a historic artists colony located on Morrill Street.

Festivals
This sun-drenched city has lots to offer in terms of vibrant festivals that light up the city all year round. January heralds the onset of festival time, with the Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival inviting culinary connoisseurs from near and far. In April, the Sarasota Film Festival pays homage to the the world of movies, inviting movie buffs and eminent personalities from the industry to attend screenings, discussions and seminars over 10 days. The similarly themed Sarasota Film Society's Cine-World Film Festival commences in November at the Burns Court Cinema. Not far away on Burns Square, the Sarasota Chalk Festival fills the city streets with colorful chalk paintings rendered by more than 250 artists. On sandy shores, the flat beaches teem with towering sand castles and sculptures at the Crystal Classic Sand Sculpting Competition in Siesta Key, also held in November.

Nightclubs
Home to the New College of Florida, Sarasota hosts a fair share of young students that flock to its nightclubs for revelry. The Gator Club in Downtown Sarasota is a clubbing hotspot located in a historic building, and hosts DJ nights and live music bands. Further north, the Sarasota Sky club hosts dance nights, local concerts and open mic nights for an eclectic crowd. Further away in St Armands, the 15 South NightClub appeals to a slightly older audience, with jazz nights and Latin music. For a more relaxed scene, head to Captain Curt's Backroom Saloon and tiki bar that hosts BINGO on Saturdays, courts the audience with Beatles music every Monday night, and serves varied libations until 2a.

Concerts
Sarasota is known for its astounding variety of clubs that host home-grown music bands that dabble in various musical genres. The Five O'Clock Club on Hillview Street is a popular hangout for jazz and blues lovers, and has been entertaining patrons since 1955. The vibrant Mattison's City Grille is also a favored haunt for upbeat live music. A little outside of main city limits, J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe features a sweet country charm and entertains audiences with blues, acoustic folk, and bluegrass music on weekdays.

Outdoors
With nearly 40 miles (64.37 kilometers) of uninterrupted shoreline, Sarasota is a prime spot for outdoor activities. Lido Key's beaches are known for its unrushed outdoor activities, from canoeing and kayaking in the mangroves, to fishing and picnicking along the balmy borders of South Lido Park. The busier beaches on Siesta Key also makes a great spot for parasailing, paddle boarding, water skiing, boating and fishing.

Sarasota

State: Florida

Country: United States of America

Sarasota by the Numbers
Population: 53,326
Elevation: 16 feet / 7 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 53.01 inches / 134.64 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 63°F / 17°C
Average July Temperature: 82°F / 27.7°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT-5 (GMT-4 Daylight Saving Time); Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 941

Did You Know?

Sarasota is home to an Amish beach resort, perhaps the only one of its kind in the world.

Sarasota was ranked as the ‘Best Small City in the US' by TIME Magazine in 2015.

Orientation

Sarasota rests within Sarasota County, on the southwestern coast of Florida. It is located 61 miles (98 kilometers) from Tampa, which is to the north, and 75 miles (122 kilometers) from Fort Myers, which is to its south.

Sarasota’s emergence began with the arrival of the Spanish explorers Ponce de Leon and Hernando de Soto in the 1500s. Their landing at Little Manatee River in Florida’s Gulf Coast was spurred by the hunt for gold and silver in the area. At the time, they christened the South Bay as Zarasota, or ‘radiance of Soto’, which ultimately evolved into its present-day name, Sarasota. A few centuries later, the United States Army procured the Florida territory, igniting a war with the native Seminoles, who were not allowed land ownership as per the Armed Occupation Act of 1824.

The American settlers emerged victorious from the war, setting a precedent for the city’s future victories. Wealthy American families and certain Scottish aristocrats expressed interest in the city. One of them was John Gillespie, who went on to build one of the nation’s very first golf courses right here in Sarasota. Following suit was Chicago’s Bertha Palmer, who purchased several acres of land in the city that later led to development.

By now the city was seeing a surge of development in both economic and cultural aspects, sparked by John Ringling’s settlement in the area. The circus king constructed a legendary estate in the Indian Beach area, followed by an art museum with Italian influences. The Ringling estate had quite an impact on the city’s business, with the town being labeled the ‘Circus Capital of the World’.

Points of interest in Sarasota

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