Travel to Sarasota, FL – Tips from a Local

Why Travel to Sarasota?

Florida’s tourism has been booming, and one of the most notable gems on the Gulf Coast is Sarasota. The city is metropolitan, but retains a small town feel. It’s perfect for travelers wanting to vacation on beautiful beaches without veering too far from great food and an airport. Vacationers will find an abundance of activities, top-notch restaurants and bars, and a variety of shopping options. Relax on a beach, explore the arts at Ringling Museum, or hike through the gator infested Myakka State Park. If you’re planning a trip to Florida, travel to Sarasota and see for yourself.

Fun on the Water

This Gulf Coast city is not exactly small, but it’s very accessible and has a ton to offer for low-key vacationers. Take a sunset walk on one of it’s jaw-dropping beaches, like the world renowned Siesta Key Beach. Siesta is worth visiting once for its famous powdery white sand, but if you ask the locals where they like to go, they’ll point you to South Lido Key Beach or Turtle Beach. Not a big beach person? Take a ride on the beautiful Sarasota Bay on a boat rental from one of the many local options. If you don’t feel comfortable captaining your own vessel, Marina Jacks offers lunch and dinner cruises that combine delicious food and views you can’t get from land.

Dining & Entertainment

Make sure to take advantage of the wide array of restaurants in the area. Take a walk down Main Street downtown or veer off a bit towards State Street for a reliable culinary experience. Eating at a restaurant on the water is a must when you’re in Florida – The Old Salty Dog, Marina Jacks, and Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar are all fantastic choices for a local fresh caught fish sandwich and beer by the water – just be sure to ask for a waterfront table.

Avid shoppers will find plenty of interesting stores at St. Armands Circle (it gets busy on weekends) or University Town Center (a not-so-quaint, modern shopping mall). Main Street also has several unique boutique shops that are worth considering.

Points of Interest

Sarasota has a ton of activities and areas to explore. With an emphasis on the arts, beautiful water, and a historic downtown area, there’s no shortage of options for all types of travelers. Below you’ll find a few favorites, but it barely scratches the surface of the available options. For more detailed insights, check out our curated travel guides for Sarasota.

Pinecraft

Check out Pinecraft – a little Amish community in the middle of residential Sarasota. The buffet at Der Dutchman is a testament to simple Mennonite cooking and Big Olaf Creamery is a mandatory fix for any sweet tooth craving. The heart of Pinecraft, however, is Yoders Restaurant and Market where you can find fresh produce, all kinds of bulk snacks, an unassuming gem of a deli, and Yoder’s Restaurant. As featured in the TV show, “Man vs. Food,” they’re famous for their fried chicken, sweet rolls, and “homemade” pies. Their breakfast is the best, and whether you opt for an omelette, biscuits and gravy, or anything else, order a sweet roll to split with the table – they’re massive.

Myakka

The water is what makes the state so great, but if you’re looking to get in touch with the other side of Florida, explore Myakka State Park. There’s plenty of wildlife to see along the trails, including a huge variety of birds. Deer roam freely and if you’re lucky, you may see a bobcat. Look closely in the water. Usually you can spot one or two gators in plain site, but if you spend some time you can see 10+ from one vantage point.

Ringling Museum

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is a must-see for art enthusiasts visiting Sarasota. It’s the official state art museum of Florida and offers entertainment options for a few hours or a full day. The Ringling Mansion, or Ca’ d’Zan, is a standing testament to Roaring Twenties and the American Dream. Inspired by Venice and its canals, this mansion represents the romantic Italy that the Ringling brothers adored. The museum offers a variety of collections to explore and a beautiful courtyard to rest and ponder. Theater aficionados should book a show at the historical Asolo theater. For those more into nature and botany, navigate the Bayfront gardens for a relaxing afternoon stroll – the Banyan trees are truly magnificent.

For those wondering about the relationship between these Ringling brothers and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, look no further than the estate’s circus museum. It offers an impressive assortment of miniature circus replicas depicting the history of the iconic American Circus. Inside you’ll also find circus equipment, props, wardrobe, and more. It’s worth the visit!

Mote Marine Aquarium

Mote Marine is a great local aquarium to spend a few hours. It houses an assortment of indoor aquatic tanks, special exhibits, and opportunities to pet sting rays (stingers excluded). It also showcases Florida sharks, turtles, manatees, dolphins, and more! Mote Marine is also a research laboratory and facilitates rescue and rehabilitation services for local wildlife. Although aquariums are known for exploiting marine life, this is not the case with Mote. It’s a facility focused on education and protection of local resources and the life that inhabits it. They are currently building a larger aquarium near University Town Center in the Lakewood Ranch area, and are expected to complete it in 2023.

Sea Turtles at Mote Marine

The aquarium is located right next to a few parks where you can relax and enjoy the water. For those visiting around lunch or dinner, there are several dining options nearby. New Pass Grill offers a cheap but delicious low-key dining area. The aforementioned Old Salty Dog also resides on this street and is a great spot for fresh seafood with a spectacular view of the bay. There are also plenty of quality restaurants and shops nearby at St. Armands Circle.

Sarasota Travel Guides

This guide is just a taste what Sarasota has to offer. If you’re planning to travel to Sarasota, check out our curated travel guides and sample itineraries to get the most out of your stay. Get the best insights for hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, points of interest, and more!

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