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Top Things to Do in Sarasota

Destination(s): Sarasota

For a city of just 53,000 residents, Sarasota lives far bigger. Blessed with a subtropical climate, and considered to be the arts and culture center of Florida’s Sun Coast, with miles of barrier islands sporting magnificent white sand beaches, it also is the place where thousands of people come to work from miles around. It has one of the world’s outstanding hotels, the Ritz-Carlton, and a wonderful waterfront for boats and yachts. One of its best benefactors was John Ringling, of 20th century circus fame. But there are other who have left their names on places to go and things to do. read more about Top Things to Do in Sarasota

Mote Aquarium

Mote Aquarium

  • 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy
  • On City Island
  • tel:800/691-6683
  • Visit website
  • St. Armands, 34236

Curious about things that thrive in the Gulf of Mexico? Spend a few hours at Sarasota's Mote Marine Lab and Aquarium. It features dolphins, massive manatees, sharks, giant turtles and a hundred other sea creatures. You can watch as dolphins are trained to retrieve articles, even produce artwork. Following the 2010 massive deep sea oil rig explosion just below the Louisiana coast, the not-for-profit laboratory's scientists studied the Gulf's water, bottom-dwelling organisms, sediment, oysters, clams, and seagrasses. They normally study  sharks, red tide and other environmental toxins, marine mammals, sea turtles, coral reefs, fisheries, coastal ecology and aquaculture. While not the biggest or most luxurious aquarium in the nation, one finds Mote's volunteers, some retired teachers, to be both knowledgeable and helpful. Children love visiting the Mote aquarium. 

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Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

  • 3701 Bay Shore Road
  • tel:(941) 355-5305
  • Sarasota, 34234

What could be more irresistible to an innocent six or seven-year-old than having a dozen tall, pink flamingos wade out of shallow water and reach out to gently nibble seeds from an outstretched hand? It also is fun for mom and dad or grandfather and grandmother to take a turn. Because of their size, their long necks and bright coloring, feeding flamingos in the Sarasota Jungle Gardens can be more uplifting than offering corn to a hundred swooping pigeons that flutter near your head or at shoulder height in St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy. The presentation and explanation of the life and habits of a horned owl and red tailed hawk, nursed back to health from injuries, is enlightening. Many of the other creatures, such as brilliantly colored parrots and even some of the caged snakes are former pets donated by their owners. Golden sunlight filters down through the dense thicket of trees and shrubs to make the brick, winding jungle walk enjoyable and safe for toddlers. read more about Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

  • 13208 State Road 72
  • tel:(941) 361-6511
  • Sarasota, 34241

For those interested in safely watching alligators sun themselves on a river bank, visit the Myakka River State Park. Stop your car and get out near the concrete bridge on the way to the lake. Or take a lake ride on what is billed as the world's largest airboat for $12.  If you dare, you also can rent a canoe or kayak so you can view alligators face to face. Drive your car or ride your bicycle (or a bike you rent) to the long bird (board) walk, which extends out into the marsh. It's not unusual to spot bald eagles here and hikers often report seeing deer, raccoons, wild hogs and other forest creatures. But remember, it requires some effort to see wildlife. This is a park, not a zoo or a Disney production. The park is located nine miles east of Interstate 75 (turn off I-75 at the Clark Road exit and take State Highway 72 to the park. Park Rangers have been warning folks that a busy local flock of vultures have been ripping pieces of rubber off cars in the parking lot. The park can be especially busy during the Christmas holidays, Easter and spring break. People come long distances. In late November we met two men riding Harleys who hauled their bikes down on a trailer from Ontario, Canada. read more about Myakka River State Park

LeBarge Cruises

LeBarge Cruises

You know you have arrived at a special place as you as watch bottlenose dolphins skim along the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, then suddenly and happily soar above the water's blue surface. A two hour LeBarge Tropical Cruise will delight the family. Lebarge offers a variety of experiences. On an evening cruise you will understand why some early mariners and explorers believed the ocean ended with a steep drop-off, as you watch the sun quickly disappear as if it had tumbled down into a deep chasm.  You also can talk about how it would feel to live in one of the multi-million dollar mansions overlooking Sarasota Bay as you cruise along the shoreline, listening to tales of the city's rich and famous who helped create Sarasota's history. On some LaBarge cruises you also will be entertained by local musicians. A cruise in Sarasota Bay will produce long lasting memories for your family. read more about LeBarge Cruises

Historic Spanish Point

Historic Spanish Point

  • 337 N Tamiami Trl
  • tel:(941) 966-5214
  • Osprey, 34229

Southwest Florida hasn't always consisted of gated communities, towering hotels, Olympic swimming pools, posh restaurants, beautiful attractions or shopping centers. There was life on the Sun Coast for thousands of years before Mickey Mouse headed here. Enjoy the "real" Florida at Historic Spanish Point — an outdoor museum on 30 natural acres overlooking Little Sarasota Bay in Osprey, just beyond the Sarasota line. Visit an Indian midden (burial ground) and the Guptil House, circa 1901. There is even a small chapel where you can be married or renew your vows. The concept is a bit similar to that of Strubridge Village in Massachusetts, or a small scale Colonial Williamsburg. You will need your walking shoes. read more about Historic Spanish Point

Amish Restaurants in Sarasota

Amish Restaurants in Sarasota

  • 337 N Tamiami Trl
  • Sarasota

It may surprise you that Amish and Mennonite families charter buses in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and other states to winter in the Pinecraft neighborhood of Sarasota. They have been coming to Sarasota since the 1920s. Despite the heavy traffic on Bahia Vista St. and Beneva Rd. men and women wearing traditional clothing often ride their three wheel bicycles, some with boxes attached behind the seat, to carry things. There are several excellent Amish style restaurants – Yoder's Amish Village and  Troyer's Dutch Heritage lead most local's lists, along with Mom's Amish Country Cooking, Der Dutchman, Dutch Haus, Dutch Oven, and out on Cattlemen Rd. Sugar & Spice.  All offer wholesome, traditional Amish meals, such as chicken and dumplings, liver and onions and meatloaf. Yoder's 25 varieties of pie includes shoofly, key lime, rhubarb, and many berry and creme pies.
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Shark's Teeth on Venice's Beaches

Shark's Teeth on Venice's Beaches

  • 337 N Tamiami Trl
  • Sarasota

Wander on a white sand beach beside by the warm, gentle Gulf of Mexico waters, in Venice, Florida  and you will undoubtedly want to join locals and out-of-towners in their search for prehistoric, fossilized sharks teeth. The fossilized teeth, which range from smaller than the nail on your little finger to three or more inches long, are brown, grey or black.  Fossilized sharks teeth can be attached to a gold or silver chain to create an  attractive pendant necklace that will remind you of your delightful trip for years to come.  Over the centuries, when an elderly shark expired, his remains would sink to the floor of the Gulf and be covered with sand. In time there would be little left but the teeth, which absorbed minerals and were eventually washed ashore by storms or left from the days when much of Florida was under water. People travel great distances to Venice to find shark teeth treasures. read more about Shark's Teeth on Venice's Beaches

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

  • 811 S. Palm Ave
  • South of U.S. 41
  • tel:941/366-5731
  • Visit website
  • Sarasota, 34230

Not since the high school senior prom has anyone seen so many orchids under one roof. It is our guess there are few places in the world with such an extensive collection of living, blooming varieties. But the orchids are only a small part of the Selby Botanical Gardens, located directly on the bay just steps from downtown Sarasota. Members benefit from the many educational programs. Want to learn to paint with water colors? Try various techniques at the gardens. Want your child to grow up loving nature? Plan your trip and enroll her or him (ages 2-6) in the Little Sprouts Club, even if your stay is brief. The hands-on group meets under the spreading banyon trees from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. the first Tuesday of every month. If you are intent on creating amazing bonzi specimens the Sho Fu Bonsai Society meets on Wednesday evenings. If your fancy leads you to ancient yin style Tai Chi where you connect mind, body and spirit through simple breathing techniques and fluid movements Selby Gardens has frequent sessions. There are several Selby parking lots just off U.S. 41.

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Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach

  • 948 Beach Road
  • tel:941/861-7275
  • Siesta Key, 34242

Siesta Beach, in Sarasota, is often ranked among the top two or three beaches in the United States. Wider than a football field is long, it stretches for roughly half a mile beside the sky blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The pure white sand gives visitors the sensation of walking on finely ground sugar. Sarasota County points out that "at the Great International White Sand Beach Challenge, Siesta Beach was recognized as having the whitest and finest sand in the world."  The shallow Gulf waters are ideal for wading. Life guards are on duty year round. Located on Siesta Key, it is an easy drive from downtown Sarasota, from the Sarasota/Bradenton Airport, or from Interstate 75. The free parking lot can accommodate 800 cars. Shade trees tower over 50 or 60 or more picnic tables with grills, ideal for family gatherings. There also is well designed playground equipment for younger children, lighted tennis courts, nets for beach volley ball and a soccer field. Be sure to bring your sun glasses and/or a baseball cap or a straw hat because the sand is 99 percent pure, brilliant white granulated quartz that reflects the sun.

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