Located about half way between Tampa and Ft. Myers, Sarasota, Florida offers a glorious blend of beach town and urban community, offering something for everyone.
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Even if you don’t know much about Sarasota, you might know it was the winter home for many years of the Ringling Brothers Circus, and you might know it’s where the Orioles have their Spring Training. And you’ve probably heard of Siesta Key, voted the #1 Beach in the US by Dr. Beach in 2011 and Trip Adviser in 2015. But there’s much more to Sarasota.
Whether it’s art, music, museums, theatre, opera, shopping, fine dining, circus history, kayaking, or baseball, it’s all here.
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Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota is the Spring Training home of the Baltimore Orioles. While Spring Training is over for 2015, the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex in Sarasota hosts national and regional tournaments for amateur teams from April through December each year.
Major tournaments held there include the Prospect Wire Florida State Finals and the AAU National Championships. It’s a wonderful opportunity for youth, high school and college athletes to play on a major league field.
If golf is your game, there are numerous championship courses to choose from. Sarasota was home to the first course in Florida, built in 1905. In 1927, the Bobby Jones Golf Complex was opened, dedicated to Robert Tyre Jones, Jr.
Sarasota offers more than 1,000 holes at public, semi-private and private courses. You can purchase the Big Summer Golf Card, which allows you discounted greens fees at courses in the Southwest, South and Central Florida as well as automatic eligibility in The Big Money Tour.
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History buffs will enjoy visiting the Historical Society of Sarasota County in Pioneer Park. The Downtown Sarasota Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, with walking neighborhoods offering shops, restaurants, and historic buildings.
Hart’s Landing is Sarasota’s oldest saltwater fishing bait and tackle store, offering a glimpse of Old Florida. It’s located near the T.J.”Tony” Saprito Fishing Pier.
Museum lovers will obviously want to visit The Ringling, the State Art Museum of Florida. Originally built by John and Mable Ringling in the early 20th Century, the home Ca’ D’Zan, the museums, theatre, and the grounds were bequeathed to the people of Florida upon Ringling’s death.
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Through decades of struggles to maintain the property, in 2000 the state passed governance of the Museum to Florida State University, promising funding to maintain and improve the property, provided matching funds could be raised. Fortunately public and private support has ensured that the property will be restored, maintained and expanded to provide a magnificent cultural center.
If you’d rather look at the natural beauty when you visit Sarasota, numerous opportunities exist for explorations of the rivers and lagoons as well as the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico. Scuba, fishing, kayaking, paddleboards, sailboats – they’re all available, depending upon your interests.
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Save Our Seabirds offers an opportunity to visit the Wild Bird Learning Center, where birds that are unable to be released back into the wild are given permanent homes. It located next to Mote Marine Aquarium.
Myakka River State Park, one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks, provides an opportunity for bicycling, hiking, fishing, camping, kayaking, airboat and tram tours and wildlife observation.
Every Saturday, you can visit the Sarasota Farmers Market, celebrating 30 years of offering products and services of local farmers, businesses and artisans. They have more than 70 vendors and 5,000 square feet of produce and plants. Definitely worth a trip!
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To check out many of the top restaurants, you might want to take a Sarasota Culinary Tour, offered Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. It’s a great way to learn about the Historic District and surrounding neighborhoods. Advance purchase reservations are required.
But if beaches are top on your list, you have so many to choose from! One of the most famous, as well as the 2015 winner of Trip Advisor’s Best Beaches in the USA, Siesta Beach on Siesta Key is hard to beat. But there are more than 35 miles of beaches in the Sarasota area, including Venice Beach, Longboat Key, Osprey, Lido Key and many others.
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So if you hate the circus and everything it represents, you can go to the beach.
If sunlight makes you break out, maybe you’d prefer the 12th Annual Downtown Sarasota Craft Fair – it’s May 9 and 10.
There’s a wonderful way to explore why Sarasota County is called the Cultural Coast – it’s called 36 Hours of Arts.
Or you might enjoy an off-Broadway performance by the Westcoast Black Theatre Group, “Spunk,” a re-telling of the short stories by Zora Neale Hurston from the Harlem Renaissance. It’s playing through May 17, 2015.
There’s so much more to see and do when you visit Sarasota. Even if your primary interest is the beach, I do hope you’ll take an afternoon or two to explore the other opportunities available there!