If you are looking for a vacation destination that not only boasts picturesque beaches but also has an abundance of beautiful land-bound activities to enjoy, look no further than Sarasota, Florida. A year-round vacation destination, Sarasota boasts a string of eight stunning islands tucked away into the Gulf coast of Southwest Florida, each with its own charms and adventures waiting for you to explore.
Take a look at our list of the best things to do in Sarasota!
Run away to the circus at The Ringling
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (The Ringling) is the official state art museum of Florida. Its story begins nearly a century ago, with the circus impresario, John Ringling and his beloved wife’s shared love for Sarasota, Italy, and art. Today, the museum is a unique portal into a fantastical era of architecture and culture and boasts more than 150,000 square feet and 21 galleries.
Aside from the art museum, the estate also contains the Ringling’s mansion, Ca’ d’Zan, Mable Ringling’s rose garden, the Circus Museum and Tibbals Learning Center, the historic Asolo Theater, the Ringling Art Library, the Secret Garden, gravesite of John and Mable Ringling and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.
Smell the orchids at The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens provides 45 acres of bayfront sanctuaries connecting people with air plants of the world, native nature, and the regional history.
Take a relaxing hour-long stroll or spend a morning or afternoon exploring on your own or take advantage of the docent-led tours to help you explore and discover the rich history of the site.
Bury your feet in the quartz sand at Siesta Key Beach
A short drive from downtown Sarasota, Siesta Key sits adjacent to the glittering Gulf of Mexico and its Siesta Public Beach has been named the nation’s best — twice. In a nod to its namesake, Siesta Key beaches are an invitation for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Its nearly 100% quartz-crystal sand is like walking on a cloud that never gets hot under the Gulf Coast sun and tropical weather. With everything from water sports to fine dining to kid-friendly activities and entertainment, there is something for everybody in the family to enjoy during a day at Siesta Key Beach.
Feed the flamingos at Sarasota Jungle Gardens
One of the oldest continuously operating attractions in Florida, Sarasota Jungle Gardens evokes memories of Florida days gone by, full of flora, fauna and fun, yet remains current and exciting for today’s families, locals, and tourists alike.
A wide variety of birds and animals – many of them rescued – includes Florida’s noted pink flamingos, parrots, crocodiles, lemurs, snakes and more. All nestled within 10 acres of lush, tropical landscaping connected by winding jungle trails. It’s one of the only places you can walk up to and feed free roaming flamingos.
Explore the ocean at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Mote’s motto “We are guardians of the sea and all living things that depend upon it,” tells you where the heart of Mote Aquarium lies and what it wants you to experience with a visit to the facility.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is your gateway to the ocean you’re surrounded by in Sarasota, featuring hundreds of marine animal species.
Kayak Tour through Mangrove Tunnels
A trek through the mangrove tunnels at Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach Nature Park gives kayakers and stand up paddleboarders unique routes for exploring a unique ecosystem.
Paddling a mangrove tunnel is a magical venture. Whether on a kayak or paddleboard, it is a quiet and cool, almost ethereal, escape where the light is subdued, the breeze flows through the shady overhang, and wildlife, above and below the waterline, flourishes.
Bike the Legacy Trail
This popular asphalt-paved multi-use trail is more than 10 miles long and extends from Sarasota to Venice. Formerly a railroad corridor, the trail passes through a variety of unique habitats and includes a series of interpretive signs and stop stations.
The Legacy Trail offers several areas to stop, rest, learn about its history or just enjoy the natural beauty surrounding the trail. The rest stops include seven trailheads which offer access points with free parking.
Canopy Walkway at Myakka River State Park
The Myakka Canopy Walkway provides easy access to observe life in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. As an outdoor laboratory for research and education, it is a place for discovery and provides an opportunity for visitors to see canopy inhabitants up close.
Completed in 2000, this structure is the first public treetop trail in North America.
The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy. The taller tower soars 74 feet in the air to present a spectacular view of treetops, wetlands and the prairie/hammock interface. You can look down on eagles, hawks, vultures, and the tops of Live Oak and Sabal Palm trees.
Eat a meal at MADE
After all the Sarasota adventure, you’ll have worked up an ocean-sized appetite so make sure to eat a meal at MADE. With an award-winning brunch and a food and drink menu that boasts both traditional and Sarasota-inspired American cuisine.
This award-winning restaurant is dedicated to old-school hospitality and accommodating parties and events of all sizes. So, make your reservation online to ensure you’ve got a seat at the MADE table.