Sarasota is located on the west coast of the state, on the Gulf of Mexico, and offers many activities and places to visit. Including the beautiful beach, but also museums, gardens, state parks and shopping areas.
A good plan, I recommend a weekend. Arrive on a Friday afternoon, quiet dinner at St. Armands Circle, Saturday at the beach and tiki night, and Sunday at the museums before saying goodbye to Sarasota.
Here I’m going to tell you a little more about these places that I enjoy and recommend for you:
Obviously all along the coast you will find beautiful beaches, but Lido Key is a paradise and the one I visit the most when in the area. Another very good option is Siesta Key, but it is a little further from all the options that I show you on this post. If you have an extra day, feel free to add Siesta Key.
Lido Key is located just past St. Armands Key, I will tell you about that area later. You will find several points to park or perhaps your lodging is on the beach, there are several hotels like Lido Beach Resort which is very good and has a small private beach.
White sand and very wide area, crystal clear water and depending on the season it can be very calm or with a bit of waves.
One time, while walking along the beach, we found an area with a lot of manatees just taking a break. If you see them, don’t bother or touch them (it’s illegal).
If you are not staying in a hotel in front of the beach, I suggest you bring an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun as it can be very strong and there are not many shaded areas.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
This place is beautiful and very interesting to visit as it tells you the whole history of the circus with many items and articles, especially from (obviously because of the name) “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus”.
They recommend about 4 hours to walk through the entire museum. They have some points to have lunch or a snack. There are even places where you can interact and feel part of the circus. There are areas that you might need to take some time detailing every inch of the models or reading about the history. I think we spent about 2 hours, we explored a lot, we learned a lot, but the circus is not something that catches our attention, but it is always interesting to learn about the history of everything.
I understand that on Mondays it is free, so you can save about $25 (price May 2022).
- Open daily: 10:00am-5:00pm
- Holidays: Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Right here is the next place that I recommend, so you need to buy a ticket for both places or just for the museum and visit the beautiful mansion from the outside.
I leave you the link where you can buy the tickets before arriving at the place and the options you have to visit: https://www.ringling.org/hours-and-admission
It is located after you pass the Ringling museum, so you do have to buy museum tickets to get here. But is it worth it! We only visited the exterior of the place and it was so gorgeous! (main pic)
The walk from the museum to here is also worth it. A path between the trees that probably have been there for many years..
Once you arrive at the mansion you will not stop taking photos. This was the winter residence of circus magnate and art collector John Ringling and his wife Mable. The property has been admired as an architectural gem since it was completed in 1926.
If your plan is to enter the mansion, I recommend you buy the tickets in advance (on the website that I mentioned recently) since the place has a limit, so you can make your visit reservation and not miss the opportunity if upon arrival, there is no longer available.
This was the reason we did a quick tour of the museum as we wanted to see this residence. And the view of the bay is also beautiful. We also had to go back home when we got out of here. So don’t leave this last if you want to spend more time.
St. Armands Circle
An area to walk at the end of the afternoon, enjoy lunch or dinner in one of the many restaurants, shopping and more.
On a very special occasion (my birthday😄) we had lunch at an Italian restaurant that was very good, Venezia. You’ll find Columbia Restaurant as well, although I have not tried it here, I have eaten at other locations (Tampa and Celebration) and it is a good Spanish restaurant with tapas.
At St. Armands Circle you will find restaurants of all kinds, from Italian to seafood, and quick stop for a coffee or an ice cream and, of course, bars like the famous Irish pubs.
You can also enjoy a walk through the area as you will find several statues.
Bahi Hut Tiki Cocktail Lounge
If you prefer to go one night to a specific bar, with delicious and fun drinks, this tiki bar is a great option.
It is located in a somewhat retro hotel that I also recommend you to stay, read more about it here, and it is the oldest tiki bar in Florida.
Here’s a link of their site for more info about their events and schedule.
They have outdoor sitting and indoor, and all the decoration is amazing.
If you want to share a drink, try a Volcano Bowl. I assure you that any individual drink will delight you.
Bayfront Park & O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill
It’s not a tiki bar like the previous one, different kind of ambience and really nice.
On our last visit to Sarasota, this was the best option since we had our dogs. It is outdoors, on the sand and they have music almost every day. Here you can see the schedules: https://www.olearystikibar.com/band-schedule/
I recommend going by the end of the afternoon, for dinner, a couple of delicious cocktails and a beautiful view at sunset.
This bar and fast food restaurant is located in Bayfront Park which is very nice. So don’t hesitate to go for a walk in the area before or after eating.
The truth is that Sarasota is a very good option to get away for a weekend. It’s not as touristy as other cities, so it’s worth it to escape the traffic for a bit.
I hope to return soon and discover more places.