Sarasota is a sprawling area that makes a great vacation destination or day trip. There is a huge variety of things to do for the whole family around Sarasota. You can drive between one of Florida’s largest state parks, a Venetian Gothic style mansion, and one of the country’s best beaches in under an hour. Living in St. Petersburg and Tampa for the last 8 years, we’ve traveled down to the Sarasota area quite a few times, and these are 10 of the best activities.
1. Ringling Museum
The Ringling is a must-do in Sarasota for lovers of art, history, architecture and gardens. Once owned by Circus mogul John Ringling and his wife Mabel, the estate is now beautifully kept and open to the public. There are multiple activities to do within the Ringling Grounds: The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, the Ca’d’Zan Mansion and beautiful grounds to walk around. You could easily spend hours strolling around the estate.
2. Sarasota Classic Car Museum
Right across the street from the Ringling is the Sarasota Classic Car Museum. The museum displays over 75 antique, exotic, European and one-of-a-kind classics within rotating exhibits. You’ll learn about the history of automobiles from early models to the present and beyond.
3. Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Have you ever wanted to hand feed a flamingo? Sarasota Jungle Gardens provides the opportunity to experience this unique, very Floridian activity! Besides the flamingos, there are many other animals to observe and beautiful jungle-like gardens to explore. This is one of the oldest operating attractions in Florida, so enjoy stepping back into a little slice of Old Roadside Florida. Other activities include animal shows, parrot photo ops, a playground, petting zoo, gift shop and more.
4. Myakka River State Park
This wild state park is one of the largest in the state of Florida. One of the biggest draws at Myakka River State Park is the Canopy Walk which is a suspension bridge you can walk among the trees. There is also a 74 foot tall observation tower that extends up above the tree tops where you can get a birds eye view of the surrounding area. Alligators, birds, deer and other wildlife are common sightings around the park. Other activities include camping, biking, and tram and boat tours.
5. St. Armands Circle
St. Armand’s Circle is the perfect place for some shopping and dining in the heart of Sarasota. We love that this area is walkable — park the car once and walk between your destinations. You can even walk to Lido Key Beach. There is also green space around the circle with statues and history to read about.
Some of America’s most beautiful beaches are located right around Sarasota. Longboat Key, Siesta Key, and Lido Key are all favorites in the area. Spend the day soaking up some sun or just catch one of the famous Gulf Coast sunsets.
7. Farms & U-Pick Produce
Just a short drive out of Sarasota you’ll find farms growing all kinds of fresh Florida produce. Some of them allow you to pick your own. Some of our favorites in the area are Dooley Groves for citrus, and Hunsader Farms for strawberries and more! Mixon Fruit Farms offers tours, family activities and fresh produce.
One of our favorite things to do in any city is to visit some of the local craft breweries. Some favorites in the Sarasota area are Big Top Brewing, Calusa Brewing, JDub’s Brewing, Corporate Ladder Brewing, and Motorworks Brewing.
9. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Another beautiful garden to visit in Sarasota is the Selby Botanical Gardens. The gardens features a wide variety of trees, flowers and tropical plants. They also have annual events including the popular Orchid Show each fall.
10. Anna Maria Island
If you’re looking for a small town beach day, consider driving over to Anna Maria Island. This is one of our favorite beach towns in Florida. There are fun activities for the whole family, delicious restaurants, and of course gorgeous beaches! We always found it to be less touristy and less built-up than other gulf coast beaches.