things to do in Sarasota

Sarasota sits just south of Tampa on Florida’s sparkling Gulf Coast, a place well known as a coastal getaway for all ages. The city boasts an enticing cocktail of white sandy beaches, year-round great weather, fresh seafood, and a wealth of cultural venues.

As well as being home to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, the city and surrounding area is a paradise for lovers of nature and the great outdoors. With many parks, nature reserves, and gardens nearby, you won’t struggle to find fun things to do in Sarasota. Go kayaking among the mangroves, play a round of golf, or explore an adventure course high among the trees. Tampa Bay theme parks is just minutes away too if you’re looking to get your heart pumping.

When the weather forces you to step indoors for a while, visit the the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium or the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, step under the protective tarps of the Sarasota Farmers Market, or jump on a trolley for a haunted tour of the city. Day or night, Sarasota is filled with unexpected thrills.

1 – Explore the mangroves in a kayak

kayaking in Sarasota

To get the most from Sarasota’s Lido Key, it’s best to explore it slowly. Take a quiet paddle through the mangrove tunnels or enjoy a guided tour with knowledgeable locals.

Kayaking is one of the most environmentally friendly and tranquil ways to explore Lido Key. It is also quiet which means you are more likely to encounter the diverse wildlife that calls this area home.

Dolphins, manatees, rays and exotic birds are just some of the natural treasures to be witnessed in this part of Florida. It’s a must for nature lovers.

2 – Explore the many beautiful beaches in the area

best beaches in Sarasota

If you’re a lover of white cotton-soft beaches, you’re in luck — some of the best beaches in the country are in the Sarasota area. Made up of pure quartz sand, Siesta Key Beach is Sarasota’s premier family beach and the best destination for great views and water activities.

Less crowded but equally stunning is Lido Key Beach, which focuses in eco-tourism and it’s famous for its cruises. Located close to Leffis Key Preserve, Coquina Beach is perfect for more active pursuits, while nearby Turtle Beach offers great snorkeling.

Head to Manatee Public Beach on Anna Maria Island if you’re after a day of picnicking and grilling or try Cortez Beach for a more underdeveloped feel and tall trees lining up the long stretch of sand.

3 – See a game at the Ed Smith Stadium

Ed Smith Stadium, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium is the spring training ground for the Baltimore Orioles and former training ground for the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds.

What better way to pass an afternoon than by catching a game in this iconic, 7500-seat stadium?

4 – Be overawed at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota

The Museum of Art was commissioned in 1925 by circus entrepreneur John Ringling. It stands as a gift to the people of Florida and a memorial to its founders.

In their lifetimes, John Ringling and his wife Mable were some of the world’s most avid collectors. They amassed a huge collection of artworks from the medieval, renaissance and baroque periods, including works by the old masters.

The Ringling Museum was built to house the collection and serve as a cultural center for the state of Florida. This impressive European-style structure is also home to contemporary works and regular exhibitions.

5 – Grab a quick view of the city on a hop on hop off trolley tour

Trolley tours, Sarasota

Explore the city in an air-conditioned trolley and be entertained by informed guides. Visit Sarasota’s most important landmarks and cultural sites on these whistle-stop trips.

Choose from a variety of themed tours that stop at local tiki bars or take a historical tour to bring you up-to-speed on the city. A trolley tour will show you what should not be missed when in Sarasota.

6 –  Take a time out at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota

The Selby Botanical Gardens are an oasis of peace right in the heart of the city. The sprawling 15-acre site is especially devoted to the conservation of air plants and houses 6000 species of orchids.

You can find a museum of botany, historic buildings, areas for dining and a rainforest garden with interactive exhibits for children all inside the grounds. This is a great place to unwind.

7 – Get revved up at Sarasota Classic Car Museum

Sarasota Classic Car Museum

This Classic Car Museum is one of the oldest in the country. Its regular exhibits include an outstanding collection of pristine classics and muscle cars from the world’s finest automobile producers.

Expect to see over 100 years of motoring history represented by the likes of Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Cadillac, Ferrari and Edsel to name a few. This is a must-see for all car enthusiasts.

8 – Cruise the Legacy Trail

The Legacy Trail, Florida

The Legacy trail follows the route of the old Seaboard Air Line railroad and runs from downtown Venice up to Sarasota. It is a great place to spot wildlife, skate or take a leisurely walk. The 12-mile-long route is also dog-friendly so no one has to miss out.

If bikes are your thing, the 600+-acre Robinson Preserve an hour away offers plenty of cycling trails going past mangroves, mud flats, and beautiful waterfront habitats. There is a kayak launch here too if you’re inclined to get into the water.

9 – Have fun with science at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota
credit to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

Mote is an independent, not-for-profit aquarium that strives to learn from and better educate us about our oceans. It offers exhibits and educational experiences for young and old alike.

Mote has an aquarium that is home to sharks, turtles, stingrays and manatees to name a few. It also has an animal hospital, virtual reality diving experience and fossils, including a replica of prehistoric sharks’ jaws.

10 – Enjoy the thrills and spills of Tampa Bay theme parks

Tampa Bay’s Busch Gardens

Tampa Bay has long been renowned for its world-class theme parks and attractions. The African safari-themed Busch Gardens has thrilling white knuckle roller coasters as well as rides for younger children and a zoo.

In the Tampa Bay area, you can also find the Florida aquarium which covers a huge 200,000 sq ft. You can see many species of fish and aquatic mammals and learn about the aquarium’s coral, shark and sea turtle conservation efforts.

If you are still seeking attractions why not visit the animals at Zoo Tampa or cool off at Adventure Island, Tampa’s largest water park.

11 – Cool off on a boat tour

Sarasota boat tours

Sarasota has some of the most beautiful white sandy beaches and turquoise sea in the country. Enjoy a thrilling speed boat ride or a leisurely sail around the local beauty spots and beaches.

Away from the beach, you can enjoy the cool sea breeze and most stunning sunsets Florida has to offer. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for curious groups of dolphins and manatees. A boat tour has to be one of the most fun things to do in Sarasota.

12 – Go shopping at St. Armand’s Circle

St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota

St. Armand’s Circle offers a unique continental shopping experience that feels both classic and contemporary at the same time. Contained within its own small island there is always something going on at the Circle.

Whether your interest is shopping, dining or culture you can find it all here. St. Armand’s has high fashion stores, independent boutiques, restaurants, cafes and museums all nestled within its shaded patios and walkways.

13 – Camp at Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park, Sarasota, Florida

Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s largest parks and covers 37,000 acres. It is a great place to spot wildlife and on a good day, you can expect to see alligators, herons, armadillos and a variety of fish and birds.

The park has extensive areas for kayaking, hiking, cycling and camping grounds located throughout. There are also cabins to rent if camping is not your thing. This expansive area of wetlands, prairies and forests is the real unspoiled and wild Florida.

14 – Soar with the gulls while parasailing

parasailing near Sarasota

Experience the thrill and freedom of parasailing around the local Siesta Key and Anna Maria islands. Parasailing is often thought of as a thrill-seekers sport but it can also be a very peaceful experience, much like gliding.

Feel the wind on your face and get a birds-eye perspective on the city, its beaches and azure seas as you float high above them. This is a must-do for daredevils in Sarasota.

15 – Admire Ca’ d’Zan

Ca' d'Zan, Sarasota

The Ca’ d’Zan is a huge Venetian-style gothic mansion in Sarasota. It was the private home of circus-mogul John Ringling and his wife Mable.

It was constructed in the 1920s, drawing inspiration from the couple’s love of Italian architecture and design, and took only two years to complete.

The house features a terrace that looks directly over Sarasota bay, a ballroom and solarium as well as its own bar. For a peek inside the lives of Sarasota’s most wealthy couple, the Ca’ d’Zan is well worth a visit.

16 – Raise your spirits at Siesta Key Rum

Siesta Key Rum, Florida
credit to Siesta Key Rum

The Siesta Key distillery produces outstanding, award-winning rums. Take a free tour of the distillery and visit the tasting room and gift shop afterward for a true taste of the Caribbean.

Discover an enticing range of flavored rums including spiced rum, toasted coconut, coffee and beer barrel-aged spirits. Nobody leaves without a smile on their face!

17 – Do wild Yoga at the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary

Big Cat Habitat, Florida
left: credit to Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary

This Big Cat Sanctuary is home to all kinds of wild and exotic creatures including tigers and lions (as well as ligers and tigons), bears, primates, birds and wallabies.

It is primarily a rescue center for animals in need but also offers the chance to do yoga with some of the park’s residents. A variety of classes can be taken with tigers, lemurs and foxes all while surrounded by the soothing sounds of nature.

The sanctuary also has a restaurant and gift shop and offers the ability to sponsor its animals.

18 – Relive history at the Unconditional Surrender Sculpture

Unconditional Surrender Sculpture, Sarasota

This 25-foot sculpture on Sarasota’s bay-front is based on an iconic photograph taken in New York’s Times Square on V-J day, 1945. It is one of a series of computer-generated sculptures created by American artist Seward Johnson.

The sculpture has been at the center of numerous controversies in its short life in Sarasota and has been vandalized and even hit by a car on one occasion. It’s big – and in some opinions tacky, but it’s certainly a conversation starter.

Directions on Google Maps

19 – See the curiosities at the Ringling Circus Museum

Ringling Circus Museum, Sarasota

You shouldn’t miss the Ringling Circus Museum it is by far one of the most fun things to do in Sarasota, FL. The museum celebrates the rich traditions, quirks and history of the great American circuses.

Founded by the head of one of the nation’s greatest circus empires, John Ringling, this place has it all. Clown cars, cannons, ornate parade wagons, posters, a huge 44,000 piece model circus and a life-size replica of a tiger. Roll up, roll up!

20 – Get creative at Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy

Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy, Sarasota

After the Circus Museum, the Museum of Art and whimsy has to be the most cheerful place in Sarasota. It’s home to a collection of playful and fun paintings, sculptures and crafts, generously collected by the museum’s founder, Marietta Lee.

It’s bright, colorful and devoted to its message that art should be a positive force in people’s lives. Take a visit to soak in the friendly atmosphere, be inspired and bring out your creative side.

21 – Go crazy at Jumpin Fun Inflata Park

Jumpin Fun Inflata Park, Sarasota
credit to Jumpin Fun Inflata Park

This one is fun for all the family. Think giant inflatable playground with climbing walls, zip lines, wrecking balls and enough silly fun to leave you totally exhausted.

Ever fancy yourself as a ninja warrior contestant? Test your skills at Jumpin Fun Inflata Park against friends or family members, through a series of obstacles that’ll bring out the competitive side in all of you.

22 – Monkey around at Myakka Canopy Walkway and Observation Tower

Myakka Canopy Walkway and Observation Tower, Sarasota

The Myakka Canopy Walkway offers a unique opportunity to witness life up in the tree canopy. It reaches 74-feet at its highest point and offers a panoramic view of the wetland, prairie, and palm and oak hammocks below.

The structure first opened in 2000 and was the first public treetop trail in North America. Access is included with the Myakka park entry fees.

23 – Tee off at the unique Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf

mini golf in Sarasota

Forget “regular” mini golf. In the unique Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf 18-hole course, you’ll get a chance to practice your shots among pirate ships, waterfalls, and very real alligators in the course’s educational alligator exhibit. Navigate through the obstacles, enjoy the tropical setting, and walk around the well-kept grounds. Then end your day with a chance to feed the alligators.

Get ready for lots of stairs, unique challenges, and some maneuvering to score. Great for the entire family, including kids! And since the course has 18 holes instead of the usual 9, you’ll end up spending more time out and enjoying the surroundings.

24 – Comb the city with a scavenger game

scavenger games, Sarasota

Looking for a novel way to explore the city, solve clues and compete against others at the same time? It sounds like a scavenger game is right up your street.

Use an app to find objects, score points and complete challenges, all under the supervision of a local host. Try to get the most points and make it to the top of the leader board. Will you take the challenge?

25 – Go wild at the Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Florida

The Jungle Gardens is one of Sarasota’s oldest attractions, first opening in the 1930s. Originally conceived as a botanical garden it has since come to be home to a variety of domestic and exotic creatures also.

As well as the many varieties of tropical plants and flowers you will also find species of parrots, primates, lizards and alligators as well as the star attraction, the native Florida flamingos. The Jungle Garden is a Sarasota institution.

26 – Dine in style at the Sarasota Farmers Market

Sarasota Farmers Market

For the best in local foods and ingredients don’t miss the Sarasota Farmer’s Market. This spot is a great place to try new things. With a choice of freshly prepared dishes as well as the finest local seafood, breads, olive oils, jerky and dried goods.

It also offers a space for local artisans and merchants supplying everything from soaps and musical instruments to bicycle repairs. The Farmer’s Market is a great place to meet up with friends and even has weekly live music at either end of the market. The market is open every Saturday from 7 am to 1 pm.

27 – Dine with the locals on a food tour

Sarasota food tours

Experience Sarasota nightlife with a guided tour of some of the best local eateries. The city’s diverse culinary scene offers a variety of unique local flavors with a particular emphasis on seafood.

Visit a selection of family-owned restaurants and try dishes from the city’s most cutting-edge chefs. The best wines, local foods and in-the-know guides will surely make it a night to remember.

28 – Take a picnic to South Lido Park

South Lido Park in Sarasota

South Lido Park, and the conjoined Ted Sperling Park, offer a peaceful respite from the more bustling parts of the city. This protected park is a great place for a quiet picnic, a bit of kayaking or a place to quietly spot wildlife.

Hidden within the mangrove tunnels you can often see manatees, dolphins, clams, crabs and osprey. The Park is situated at the very tip of Lido Key and kayak and paddleboard rentals are available nearby.

Directions on Google Maps

29 – Learn to row at Nathan Benderson Park

Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota

This park has a huge artificial lake that is ideal for rowing and is often used for regattas and triathlon events. If you fancy learning to row, lessons are available for groups and individuals.

Nathan Benderson also has a couple of gentle cycling trails and paths surrounding the lake which make it a great, scenic place to walk and grab some fresh air. On any given Saturday you may be lucky enough to see radio-controlled yacht races taking place on the lake.

30 – Relax with a spot of fishing

fishing in Sarasota

If you love to fish, you’re going to love Sarasota. With miles of beaches, coves and inlets there’s an almost endless variety of places to fish. You can expect to catch redfish, flounder and mackerel throughout the summer months.

For the serious fisherman, why not charter a boat and take the sport offshore. Barracuda, sea bass, snapper and amberjack are all to be found lurking about the reefs. Sarasota also has year-round competitions for the competitive angler.

31 – Take the kids on a magical garden adventure

Sarasota Children’s Garden
credit to Sarasota Children’s Garden

Traveling with little ones? The Sarasota Children’s Garden offers a multi-sensory experience where kids can pretend to be fairies, become Pirate kings or queens, climb into forts, or hide under giant magical mushrooms.

There’s plenty to do here – from building mud pies to identified – while surrounded by beautiful and colorful nature. Meet fantastic dragons, dare to enter the Monster Garden, or skip down the yellow brick road.

For those wanting a more structured visit, there’s a number of art and nature programs available, including doing some gardening, having a “plant safari” through the gardens, or creating art using sticks and rocks.

32 -Try not to scream on a haunted tour

ghost tours in Sarasota

Learn the grisly history of the city with a fun and ghostly tour. These guided trolley tours will show you all the most haunted sites of Sarasota. Learn all about the city’s disreputable history of murder, mystery, and unsolved crimes.

Meet shadowy characters and enjoy a theatrically spooky experience. This is a lot of fun but not for the faint of heart. Come along if you dare!

33 – Play a round of golf or two

University Park, Sarasota
credit to University Park

Sarasota is home to a number of impressive public and private golf courses. University Park, The Meadows, Sara Bay and Founders are all excellent members-only clubs.

The TPC Prestancia is in the Siesta Key vicinity and has often hosted PGA championship events. It is open to TPC members. Capri isles, Waterford and Calusa are all excellent courses that are open to the public.

34 – Enjoy water and land activities at Oscar Scherer State Park

Oscar Scherer State Park in Sarasota

Best known for its scrubby flatwoods, the large Oscar Scherer State Park  attracts plenty of wildlife, including a large population of Florida scrub-jays as well as more than 200 other bird species, cotton-tail rabbits, bald eagles, and American alligators.

In addition to 15 miles of hiking trails, it’s also possible to rent a canoe or kayak here, have a picnic, visit the nature center, or go fishing. The beach offers great swimming and it’s even possible to spend a night at one of the park’s campsites. Guided nature walks and guided paddling adventures are also available.

35 – Visit the Amish experience

Amish experience, Sarasota

In the mood for something completely different? Why not head up to Pinecraft and take part in a tour of the local Amish community.

Try traditional foods in an Amish kitchen restaurant and learn about the craft of quilting and what it symbolizes.

A knowledgeable community guide will lead you through the history of Amish and Mennonite groups in the area. There is also a gift shop which offers unique souvenirs.

36 – Spend a relaxing day paddleboarding

SUP in Sarasota

Great fun for first-timers as well as the more experienced. Paddleboarding offers an unrestrained way to explore the waters around Sarasota. The gentle tides of Ted Sperling Park are a great place for beginners to learn the ropes.

Explore at your own pace or take a two-hour guided tour through the mangroves and backwaters. Experience a truly laid-back taste of Florida life.

37 – Go skydiving

go skydiving in Sarasota

See the West Florida coastline from above, from St Petersburg down to Port Charlotte. If you’re seeking a truly exhilarating escapade, skydiving could be for you. No need for lengthy training, just come along and enjoy the ride.

Take a tandem skydive with highly trained instructors over the beaches and glimmering waters of Sarasota, Venice, and Tampa. Skydiving in Sarasota is a truly unforgettable experience.

38 – Immerse yourself in culture on an art tour

art tour in Sarasota

Sarasota’s history is interlinked with its love of art. Between its wealthy patrons, private collectors, museums and creators there is art on display in the city almost everywhere you look.

Why not take a guided tour around some of its best-loved public art pieces and sculptures. Visit more than 50 different sculptures and landmarks and gain knowledgeable insights from local informed guides. This is a deep look into the cultural soul of Sarasota.

39 – Take an escape room challenge

escape games in Sarasota

Ever fancied testing your puzzle-solving skills to decipher clues and free yourself from a locked room? Of course, you have! Work in teams of 2-10 people to solve a series of mental and physical puzzles.

Choose from a number of themed escape games including a 1930s mafia club, a London townhouse, a cabin in the woods murder mystery or a modern-day Sarasota nightclub. This is a really fun thing to do while in Sarasota.

40 – Have a swinging time at TreeUmph! Adventure Course

TreeUmph in Sarasota

TreeUmph! is one of Sarasota’s most adventurous attractions. A high-flying course of tree-top zip-lines, platforms, climbing walls, ladders and bridges, this place has fun in spades.

Whether you are a total beginner or a regular Indiana Jones there is a course here for you. Guides are on-site at all times to help navigate the tougher parts of the trails. Push your limits with this exhilarating forest adventure.

41 – Meet the ancestors at Bishop Museum of Science and Nature

Bishop Museum of Science and Nature in Sarasota
credit to Bishop Museum of Science and Nature

The Bishop Museum is the largest museum of natural history on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It has a rotating schedule of temporary exhibitions as well as a large permanent collection.

The museum covers the history of life in the region with prehistoric fossils from the very earliest land creatures to the native Paleo-Indian cultures.

The building also houses an all-digital planetarium and manatee rehabilitation center. This is a must for kids and adults who are enthusiastic about science.

42 – Book a table at the best restaurants in town

Duval’s Fresh Local Seafood, Sarasota
credit to Duval’s Fresh Local Seafood

This popular Owen’s Fish Camp restaurant serves up the best of local seafood in eclectic and non-pretentious surrounding. Aside from the freshest fish dishes this place offers a selection of the best wines and regional craft beers.

Award-winning Duval’s Fresh Local Seafood serves only the best of local fish and ingredients, it is one of the fancier seafood eateries in town and its popularity means that you should book to avoid disappointment.

Vegetarian and vegan food are at their best in Lila, which specializes in noodle bowls, while Made is famous for its Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich filled with bacon, spicy sauce, and cheese.

43 – Pay your respects at the Sarasota National Cemetery

Sarasota National Cemetery

The Sarasota National Cemetery was officially opened in 2008 and covers 295 acres. The space is one of seven national cemeteries in Florida at the service of veterans. There is a flag assembly area and memorial walkway to visit.

In the center of the cemetery is the Patriot Plaza amphitheater where visitors can receive guided tours of the artworks every Tuesday at 10 am.

44 – Spot rare birds at Celery Fields

Celery Fields, Sarasota
Roseate Spoonbill

The Celery Fields is another of Sarasota’s lesser-known gems. A great place for bird-spotting, the Celery Fields is home to breeding bird populations with species of owls, sandpipers, meadowlarks, bitterns and sparrows.

As well as being a habitat for local wildlife it is also an important stormwater collection area for the city. These 400-acre wetlands are an ideal place to hike, bike, fish and picnic.

45 – Take in the view at Dry Dock Waterfront Grill

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, Sarasota
credit to Dry Dock Waterfront Grill

As well as fantastic food the Dry Dock also offers a beautiful location. With indoor and outdoor seating you can really make the most of the long summer nights as you take in the view over Sarasota Bay.

This restaurant specializes in local seafood but also offers a variety of other dishes including pasta, pizzas, snacks, and a children’s menu. The service is friendly and really adds to the atmosphere.

46 – Indulge yourself at the Mall at University Town Center

The Mall at University Town Center, Florida

Opened only recently in 2014, The Mall has luxury department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillard’s and Macy’s among a host of other popular brands.

You can find a variety of stores selling home and furniture items, electronics, sportswear and health and beauty items.

There are also well-known food and beverage outlets and even a store selling arcade games, pinball machines, and memorabilia. Shop till you drop.

47 – Burn off some energy at Bayfront Park on a segway tour

Bayfront Park, Sarasota

The well-positioned Bayfront Park is a great place to spend the afternoon. The Park has a couple of restaurants, including a tiki bar and grill, and also offers an outstanding view of the bay.

It has waterfront benches to sit and watch the sunset on warm summer nights. With playground facilities for children and an array of fountains, sculptures, and native plants there’s enough to keep everyone entertained.

A two-hour Segway tour is a great way to explore the area. You’ll start at Bayfront Park before moving towards downtown Sarasota, where you’ll visit Ringling Bridge and Lido Beach before stopping by Island Park for panoramic views over the water.

48 – See birds up close at Save Our Seabirds, Inc.

Save Our Seabirds, Sarasota

Save Our Seabirds is a rescue center for sick and injured birds. The organization rehabilitates and releases thousands of injured birds each year. It offers a permanent home to 120 birds who could not be returned to the wild due to their injuries.

The facility runs a wild bird learning center which it describes as a living museum where visitors can meet these fascinating creatures face to face. Save Our Seabirds is open to the public every day.

49 – Go camping at Lake Manatee State Park

Lake Manatee State Park, Florida

Despite what you might expect, there are no manatees in Lake Manatee. The Lake was created in the 1960s when the Manatee River was dammed. This blocked the manatee’s route up the river, so it is  Lake Manatee in name only.

It’s still a beautiful place to visit and an excellent place for freshwater fishing, swimming and other kayaking. the park covers 3 miles along the edge of the lake and has facilities for camping and boat launching.

50 – See a production at Florida Studio Theatre

Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota
credit to Florida Studio Theatre

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Sarasota, FL, the Florida Studio Theatre should be high up on your list. the FST began life in 1973 and has since grown into a small village of five intimate theatre spaces in downtown Sarasota.

Showcasing a diverse range of productions, the organization aims to make theatre accessible and affordable to all. It offers the best in contemporary theatre, cabaret, children’s theatre and improvisation.

51 – Catch a concert at Sarasota Opera House

Sarasota Opera House

As well as a cultural center, the Sarasota Opera House is a historic institution in its own right. Opened in 1926 as a multi-use cultural space it has hosted performances from some of the biggest stars of yesteryear, including a young Elvis Presley in 1956.

The superb acoustics are its crowning jewel, making the audience feel like they are not just witnessing a performance but are enveloped by the sound.

The building has been tastefully revived by the Sarasota Opera Association which hosts a program of concerts throughout the year.

52 – Have a night of culture at Asolo Repertory Theatre

Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota

The Asolo Repertory Theatre is another cultural staple of Sarasota’s artistic community. The company was originally based in an 18th-century Italian theatre, reconstructed near the Ringling Museum of Art.

They have since moved to larger premises at the Mertz Theatre within the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts. They have a year-round schedule of productions taking place.

53 – Be entertained at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota

For a more easy-going night out, why not try the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. At any given time you are likely to catch world-class Broadway productions, live music, comedians, contemporary dance and even the odd ballet and orchestral performance.

The venue’s website has an up-to-date guide on what is showing throughout the year. The building is located directly on the bayfront and its bright colors and seashell design make it a popular local landmark.

54 – Laugh along at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre

McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre in Florida
credit to McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre

You can find McCurdy’s at the intersection of Ringling Boulevard and Washington Avenue in downtown Sarasota. It has been putting on side-splitting shows in the city since 1988 and is dedicated to the art of stand-up comedy.

Aside from a place to see world-class comedy, there’s also a bar and restaurant with a full menu to savor before the show.

How to get to Sarasota?

Sarasota has its own airport, but many travelers arrive at the larger Miami International Airport or the Orlando (MCO) Airport instead. Rather than worrying about organizing how to make it from there to your hotel, why not have a pre-arranged airport transfer waiting for you?

Choose from a number of private transfer options, all with your very own driver who will meet you and greet you at the gate and bring you straight to your hotel. You’ll save yourself the hassle of finding a taxi and received personalized attention the entire time.

Where to stay in Sarasota?

Featuring its own stretch of private beach and stunning views over turquoise waters, the Hyatt Residence Club Sarasota tops the list for luxurious stays in Sarasota. It offers units with a living area, their own kitchen, and a spa bath. Guests can BBQ on the premises, play shuffleboard, and enjoy the outdoor swimming pool.

Another high-end option is the Resort at Longboat Key Club, which features its own golf course, a full-service spa, and modern luxurious rooms overlooking the Gulf Coast.

If you’re looking for a downtown location close to major attractions, the Art Ovation Hotel is a great choice. It offers in-house art installations, an outdoor pool, and a great restaurant that doubles as an art gallery.

For the ultimate in privacy, book a room at the Lido Beach Resort, which offers a stretch of private beach, a poolside bar, and elegant rooms with fully equipped kitchenettes. Or escape to the minimalist The Sarasota Modern in the heart of downtown to enjoy its relaxed atmosphere, spacious rooms, and many amenities.

After a busy week of sightseeing, why not unwind at The Ritz-Carlton Resort? With beautiful seafront pools to relax by and a variety of drinks and snacks for a high-quality al fresco dining experience. The resort also has an 18-hole championship golf course, spa, gym, and numerous restaurants to sample the highest quality food and drinks around.

Where to go next?

There’s plenty to see and do nearby when you’re ready to keep exploring beyond Sarasota. Just an hour away is St. Petersburg, filled with things to do that include more beautiful white sands, a thriving downtown, a chance to hike the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve at night, and a series of unique indoor attractions like the world-class Dali museum.

Also about an hour away along the coast is Tampa, home to thrills and screams at Busch Gardens, plenty of culinary delights, a chance to zipline over a natural preserve, and lots of parks to explore.

A little farther away is Clearwater, best known for its dolphin-watching opportunities and the many chances to enjoy the waterfront. Keep going down the coast and you’ll get to Cape Coral, where you’ll find water parks, great golf courses, and giant manatees.

Another great destination less than two hours away is Fort Myers, where sailing, parasailing and taking a day trip to the Everglades National Park is just the beginning of your fun adventures!

Final thoughts

From burying your toes in white-sandy beaches to adventures that take you deep into mangrove forests, there are plenty of things to do in Sarasota.

No matter if you’re up for a day of outdoor fun or want to grab a drink or taste some local cuisine, you’ll find something that fits your schedule and your budget in this beautiful coastal city.

Are you ready for a visit? Then get packing!

Benjamin Halliday is a seasoned content writer for TourScanner. Based in the UK, Benjamin's wanderlust has taken him across Europe and the US, with a transformative 7-year sojourn in Portugal adding depth to his tales. Beyond his written words, he's a gifted musician who revels in sampling, creating, and playing enthralling tunes. Whether through captivating articles or mesmerizing music, Benjamin's creations always promise an unforgettable journey.