National Parks
Sailboat travels underneath bridge in Sarasota, Florida
Courtesy of Sarasota CVB

A sailboat travels underneath Sarasota's John Ringling Causeway Bridge.

Sarasota, Florida

Discovering Sarasota: on the Gulf Coast of Florida

The City of Sarasota and the surrounding area are known as the cultural hub of Florida. An abundance of sun, sand and water provide a stunning backdrop to museums, botanical gardens, wildlife sanctuaries and professional theater, dance, art and music. Officially recognized as having the finest, whitest sand in the world, beach life couldn't be better than here.

Year-round outdoor recreation and water sports abound, as the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota Bay, the Myakka River, Lemon Bay, and the Inter-coastal Waterway surround the area. The average daily temperature range is from 72 in January to 91 in August, which is one reason why this area is so popular with tourists at any time of the year. In any month, there are usually 22 sunny days, a real cure for the gloom of winter.

There are two international airports near the City of Sarasota: Tampa International (one hour north of Sarasota) and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (just northeast of town). There are buses, taxis, limousines and car rental services at both airports to get you into the city.


Ringling Circus Museum Courtesy of Sarasota CVB
Visitors admire artwork at the Ringling Circus Museum.

The Ringling Circus Museum is located here

Sarasota literally teems with places to see and things to do. The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art and the Circus Museum are located at the intersection of US 41 and University Parkway just south of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The Museum is open daily from 10AM to 5:30PM and closed all national holidays. The main building of this Venetian palace is Ca d'zan, the former winter home of the Ringlings, with 2-story vaulted ceilings, a crystal chandelier from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, and wall hangings depicting figures from mythology. The Ringling Museum is best known for its 17th-century Baroque paintings, in one of the world's most important collections. For a visual treat, take the opportunity to tour the outside of this unique and dramatic complex with its tropical palm trees, manicured lawns, and location on the bay. Admission is $9.00 for adults. Children are admitted free.

Are classic cars more your speed? Then don't miss the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, just south of the airport and across the street from the Ringling Museum on US 41, open between the hours of 9:30AM to 6:00PM daily. Admission is $8.50 for adults and children under four are free. This is the third oldest car museum in the United States. Three cars owned by the Ringling family now reside here.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Courtesy of Sarasota CVB
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is located on Sarasota's downtown waterfront and is best known for its live collection of more than 6,000 orchids.

There are over 6,000 Orchids at the Botanical Gardens

Experience nature in full bloom at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, a 9.5-acre tropical oasis on the sparkling shores of Sarasota Bay. Here you will encounter the world's most spectacular living collection of rare tropical plants in open-air and under-glass displays, including more than 6,000 orchids and 3,600 bromeliads in incredible living color. More than 150 scientific expeditions to rainforests around the world have contributed to their collection of more than 20,000 living plants, truly a wonder to see. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Christmas Day. Admission is charged.

Appreciation of the natural environment abounds in this tropical palm-treed community. The theme of the Pelican Man's Bird Sanctuary, located at 1708 Ken Thompson Parkway, is conservation and protection of birds along with providing a home for injured, rehabilitated and rescued birds. It is set on two waterfront acres and open seven days a week. Many native Florida birds as well as migratory birds from all over the world can be seen at this wildlife retreat. Admission is free but donations are encouraged to help care for the birds.

Next door to the bird community is the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, the Center for Shark Research and the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program, located at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway on an eleven-acre site fronting on Sarasota Bay. The facility is open from 10AM to 5PM daily. The marine aquarium has over 200 species of fish and invertebrates. The Mote Laboratories also conducts research and rehabilitation programs for marine life.

Many cultural activities and shopping opportunities

Opera and ballet lovers will feel right at home in the cultural hub of it all. On Sarasota Bay is the home of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, host to the symphony orchestras, jazz, opera, musicals, choral productions, and ballets. Additionally, there is the Asolo State Theatre, a fixture in Sarasota for over 40 years and home to one of the area's leading regional theatrical companies. These attractions are located at the Center for the Performing Arts at 5555 North Tamiami Trail (US 41) for your cultural entertainment and enjoyment.

After the beach, the golf course and the other attractions, head directly for St. Armands Circle for a real shopping treat. There are over 145 shops; boutiques and restaurants laid out in a circular pattern. Art galleries, jewelry and clothing stores, bookstores and much more are here to discover.

Beautiful sunset on Siesta Key Courtesy of Sarasota CVB
A beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico at Sarasota's Siesta Key.

Sarasota is near Tampa, Orlando and Disney World

Leaving Sarasota behind won't be easy. However, traveling one-hour north up the coast of Florida brings you to Tampa, home of Busch Gardens. At this African-theme park, kids of all ages can enjoy themselves on the newest and largest double-dueling, wooden roller coaster in the Southeast, christened Gwazi.

Two hours northeast from Tampa is Orlando, home of the ever-popular Disney World, where you can delight in being a kid again and where kids get to be who they are, kids.

Whatever your pleasure, the golden gulf coast of Florida has something for everyone.

Written by: Judith Stock
Top Photo Credit: © Gary Leive
Photo Description: Sarasota beach on Florida's Gulf Coast