Are you looking for a little Sarasota vacation fun and adventure?
Sarasota, Florida is known for its stunning beaches, but there is so much more to do in this vibrant city.
From exploring its rich cultural scene to indulging in its delicious food, there are plenty of things to do in Sarasota when you’re not at the beach.
Whether you are vacationing for a week at the beach, enjoying a monthly rental, or in Sarasota for the season as a snowbird, you will find so much to fill your days.
Having recently moved to this beautiful city we’ve been exploring all the fun things to see and do in Sarasota.
We’re about to share some of our favorite activities to help you plan your next trip to this beautiful destination. We’ll also share some of Sarasota’s best hotels, restaurants, and tours.
No worries. We will also give you that inside beach information you are looking for. Let’s go!
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Delight in the Sarasota Food Scene
Sarasota’s food scene is truly a foodie’s dream.
The city is home to a wide range of restaurants offering a mix of international cuisine and traditional Southern fare.
Seafood is particularly popular, given the city’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can enjoy fresh catches of the day, such as grouper and snapper, prepared in a variety of styles, including grilled, blackened, or fried. You are sure to discover many of the iconic foods Florida is famous for on your visit to Sarasota.
Other popular types of cuisine in Sarasota include Italian, Mexican, and Japanese.
Some of our favorite spots include Owen’s Fish Camp, a seafood joint that’s perfect for casual dining. This restaurant serves up delicious seafood in a rustic, laid-back atmosphere. The menu features traditional Southern dishes, such as fried catfish, and shrimp and grits, as well as fresh catches of the day.
They open at 4 pm and do not take any reservations, so be sure to get there early. They have a “backyard” with live music and a bar with snacks. So, if you need to wait for a table, no worries, the waiting is part of the fun. The outdoor seating area is perfect for a casual dinner with friends or family.
Indigenous, is a restaurant that offers an upscale, farm-to-table experience. The menu changes seasonally and features locally-sourced ingredients.
The restaurant’s cozy interior and intimate setting make it an ideal spot for a romantic dinner for two.
Make reservations far in advance as their famous mushroom bisque is off-the-charts delicious.
For something truly unique, visit Artisan Cheese Company, where once a month they have a class where you can taste and learn about the cheese-making process.
The Old Salty Dog is a casual seafood restaurant with a relaxed, beachy vibe. The menu features a range of seafood dishes, including fish and chips, clam chowder, and fresh fish sandwiches. The Old Salty Dog is a popular spot for families and groups, and it’s a great place to grab a bite after a day at the beach or the nearby Mote Aquarium.
Shore is a seafood-focused restaurant that offers a trendy, modern ambiance and an extensive cocktail menu. The restaurant’s location on St. Armands Circle makes it a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
For a romantic or special occasion meal head to Ophelia’s on the Bay. Ophelia’s is a fine dining restaurant located on Little Sarasota Bay.
The restaurant offers stunning views of the water and a romantic, intimate atmosphere. The cuisine is contemporary American with a focus on fresh seafood, including local fish and shellfish.
Popular dishes include lobster bisque, seared scallops, and blackened red snapper.
Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy a tropical drink and a snack at the iconic Oleary’s Tiki Bar and Grill. Overlooking Sarasota Bay, enjoy the live music with your toes in the sand and the breeze from the Gulf of Mexico on your face.
Best Sarasota Tours for Foodies
Experience the delectable highlights of Sarasota’s thriving dining scene on this small-group, dinnertime tasting tour.
4-hour tour through historical downtown Sarasota. Includes 3 stops at unique local restaurants, plenty of food, and nonalcoholic beverages.
Explore the Sarasota Art Scene
Sarasota is also known for its thriving art scene. There are endless opportunities to explore local galleries and studios, see performances, and indulge your love for the arts while on vacation.
The city has a range of art galleries and museums, including The Ringling, which boasts an impressive collection of artwork and offers regular exhibitions.
The Ringling Art Museum is a must-visit for any art lover vacationing in Sarasota. It features a variety of exhibits showcasing everything from contemporary art to European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.
The museum also has a beautiful outdoor garden, which is the perfect spot to relax and take a break.
You can also stroll down Blvd of the Arts to head towards the downtown area. There you will pass the historic Sarasota Opera House known for its stunning performances and beautiful venue.
The Sarasota Opera is one of the most beloved cultural institutions in the city, and it offers a range of performances throughout the year. From classic operas to contemporary productions, there’s always something exciting happening at this historic venue.
To attend a performance at the Sarasota Opera visit their website for event dates and tickets.
Right beside the Opera House is the Art Ovation Hotel. This chic hotel features a stunning collection of contemporary art, including works by local artists.
You can even take a guided tour of the hotel’s art collection, led by an art expert who will provide insight and information about each piece.
At night, head up to the chic rooftop bar for yummy craft cocktails and an amazing view of Sarasota.
If Sarasota’s art scene doesn’t have enough for you to do, then head 20 minutes north to Bradenton. There you can stroll through the Village of the Arts. This vibrant neighborhood is home to an eclectic mix of galleries, studios, and shops.
It’s the perfect place to discover unique pieces by local artists. Many galleries in the area offer workshops and classes, so you can even learn new techniques or create your own art.
Best Sarasota Tours for Art Lovers
View the public art of Sarasota in comfort. Explore the over 60 murals around the city. Ride through St. Armand’s Circle and learn about its’ history as told by your guide. Relax in the cool air as you are transported to each location on an air conditioned trolley. A must for the art lover.
If you know Siesta Key in Sarasota, you may know one of our local Sarasota characters, lifeguard Scooter of the Beach. Here is a beautiful art print of the green lifeguard stand at Siesta Key Beach.
Experience the Local Sarasota Culture
Sarasota is a city rich in culture and history, including circus history. Take a tour of the Ca’ d’Zan, the historic mansion of John and Mable Ringling, which features breathtaking architecture and stunning views of Sarasota Bay.
For a taste of local history, visit the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, which showcases an impressive collection of vintage cars.
You might be surprised to learn that there is a vibrant Amish and Mennonite community in Sarasota. You can find Amish and Mennonite-owned businesses that sell everything from handmade furniture to fresh produce, baked goods, and quilts. Just another fun fact that makes Sarasota so interesting to visit.
You can also experience the city’s vibrant cultural scene by attending a performance at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. It’s the tall purple building down on the bay and hard to miss We recently attended a Blue Man Group performance at Van Wezel and it was a packed house with a fun audience.
Best Sarasota Culture Tours
For lovers of the circus and local history buffs. Tour on an air-conditioned trolley. Water provided. Hear stories and commentary about the city’s performing past and its quirky art and culture scene.
Learn about the history of Amish and Mennonite communities in Sarasota from a guide with deep ties to the culture. Taste some pie, watch quiltmaking, and enjoy the ride on an air-conditioned trolley.
See several points of interest around town including the Ringling Museum and College, Selby Library, and the Sarasota Opera House. While you ride in air-conditioned comfort, learn about the vibrant history and culture of Sarasota.
Outdoor Activities in Sarasota
For those who love the outdoors, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in Sarasota. Visit Nathan Benderson Park, where you can go kayaking, paddle boarding, or even try your hand at rowing.
Sarasota is a great place for sports enthusiasts, with several golf courses, tennis courts, and fishing spots.
Sarasota also offers a range of bike routes and hiking trails that are perfect for exploring the city’s natural beauty. Take a ride or walk on The Legacy Trail, 18 miles of paved pedestrian-only trail where you can skateboard, run, walk, or bike.
Visit the Celery Fields. This natural area in Sarasota features a network of trails, boardwalks, and observation areas for birdwatching and enjoying scenic views.
Best Sarasota Tours for Outdoor Fun
For nature and wildlife lovers. Walk the canopy and hop on your bikes. See alligators, hawks, eagles, and maybe wild boar! All from a safe distance with your guide. The original Florida landscape.
Vacation Fun at Sarasota County Beaches
Sarasota is famous for its beaches, each with its own unique vibe and activities. Parking is free at all Sarasota beaches where you can spend the day swimming, sunbathing, or beachcombing.
Siesta Key Beach– This world-renowned beach boasts soft, white sand that feels like powder under your feet. It’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and playing beach volleyball. The beach also has a playground, concession stands, and picnic areas. In the evening, catch a stunning sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t miss the Drum Circle at Siesta Key Beach on Sunday evenings.
Turtle Beach- This quieter beach is located at the southern end of Siesta Key and is a great spot for families. It has a playground, picnic areas, and a horseshoe pit. The beach is also known for its excellent shelling opportunities, and visitors can often spot sea turtle nests in the sand.
Lido Key Beach– Located on a barrier island, Lido Key Beach offers a relaxed vibe and plenty of activities. Swim in the turquoise waters or go for a walk. Rent a kayak, or paddleboard to explore the nearby mangroves at South Lido Key Beach.
Longboat Key Beach is a quieter, more secluded option, with opportunities for snorkeling and fishing.
Nothing says Sarasota vacation fun more than the beach!
No matter which beach you choose to visit in Sarasota, you’re sure to have a great time. The area has plenty of amenities nearby, including shops, restaurants, and hotels. So grab your sunscreen, beach towel, and a good book, and head to one of these beautiful beaches for a day of relaxation and fun in the sun.
Best Sarasota Tours for Water Activities
Your very own boat tour for up to 6 people. You can spot manatees and dolphins in Heron Lagoon and Casey Key, see a historic swing bridge, stop at a tropical beach for shelling, pause at a tiki for drinks and snacks (own expense), and more. Both morning and afternoon starts are available.
Get the best views of Lido Key from the water during this 2-hour kayak tour. Bring your camera! Kayaking with a guide increases your chances of spotting wildlife, think dolphins, birds, and manatees. A great option for families and first-time visitors because you can choose to paddle solo or in tandem with your companion.
Small-group excursion with a kayak or paddleboard, you choose.
Follow your guide through the Jim Neville Marine Preserve observing mangrove islands and local wildlife while you paddle towards a secret beach. 2-hours.
Book your own captained boat with a slide! Stop at a sandbar or beach to swim/slide/paddle board. Stop at a tiki bar/restaurant to grab a frozen drink. The boat is BYOB. Coolers with ice and water are provided.
Catch trout, tarpon, grouper, and snapper. Charter your own private fishing boat. No prior fishing experience is necessary. Up to 5 people in a group.
Sarasota Vacation Fun for the Kids
Visit Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium on Lido Key. This research and education center features a variety of marine life exhibits.
The kids will love the sharks, sea turtles, and manatees. Specific animal encounters are available for advance booking. Go to their website for details. Visitors can also participate in additional interactive programs and boat tours.
Explore the Sarasota Children’s Garden. This whimsical garden in downtown Sarasota features a variety of play areas, including a pirate ship, a butterfly garden, and a musical maze. There’s also a cafe and gift shop on site.
Explore the Sarasota Jungle Gardens. This family-friendly attraction features a variety of animals, including flamingos, alligators, and parrots. Visitors can also enjoy the botanical gardens and a playground. The Flamingos will eat right out of your hands so go early in the day when they are still hungry.
Visit the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary. This non-profit organization offers a home for rescued exotic animals, including lions, tigers, and bears. Visitors can watch animal shows and interact with some of the animals.
Head down to the newly developed Bay Park and let the kids have fun crawling over the giant ibis play structure.
Bay Park hosts all kinds of free outdoor activities such as yoga and concerts.
Best Shopping in Sarasota
Scale up your Sarasota vacation fun with a little retail therapy. No matter what your shopping style or preferences are, Sarasota has something to offer. From high-end boutiques to charming local shops, there’s always something new to discover.
St. Armand’s Circle is a charming, outdoor shopping district located on Lido Key, just a short drive from downtown Sarasota.
The circle offers a mix of high-end designer boutiques, art galleries, and gift shops, as well as casual beachwear and souvenir stores. There are over 130 boutique shops and restaurants in total.
Visiting St. Armand’s Circle will be a unique and memorable shopping experience to include in your Sarasota vacation fun.
The Sarasota Farmers Market, held every Saturday morning year-round in downtown Sarasota, is also a popular spot to find fresh produce, local crafts, and artisanal foods. It’s a great kick-off to send you wandering around the many shops you’ll find on and near Main Street in the downtown area.
University Town Center, locally known as UTC, is a popular open-air shopping center that offers a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
UTC is known for its upscale shopping experience, with high-end stores and luxury brands, but there are also options for more budget-friendly shopping. You’ll find Target, Old Navy, and Marshalls right alongside Brighton and Kate Spade.
From upscale dining to casual eateries and food specialty shops there are over 20 dining options and occasionally food trucks. also, you can count on regularly scheduled events such as live music.
UTC is located in northern Sarasota County on University Blvd. just off Interstate 75.
If you are looking for fun and interesting art pieces, check out Sarasota Trading Company. They offer a variety of upscale consignment items, including home decor, furniture, and art. The shop’s inventory is constantly changing, so you’re sure to find something new every time you visit.
If thrift shopping or vintage is your thing, Sarasota is filled with dozens of resale and consignment shops. You could easily make an entire day or weekend trip just thrift shopping. Perfect for a girl’s trip to Sarasota.
Relax and Unwind
Finally, don’t forget to take some time to relax and unwind during your trip.
Pamper yourself and indulge in a spa treatment at one of the city’s most luxurious resorts. The Ritz Carlton offers a full-service spa menu.
Zen out with some yoga. Offered for free to the community at Bay Park on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. A beautiful newly developed space offering a mangrove walk and a whimsical playground for the kids.
You can also enjoy a peaceful afternoon at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, which offers beautiful views and a serene atmosphere.
Take a stroll through the gardens, which feature a range of exotic plants and beautiful sculptures.
Don’t miss the sunset!
Sarasota has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world, and the best part is that they’re free to watch. Head to one of the beaches or Bay Park in downtown Sarasota for a front-row seat.
Catching the sunset on a Sunday evening at Siesta Key Beach is a very special event. Sunday evenings are special because you can observe, and even participate in the Drum Circle at Siesta Key Beach. Open to everyone, the Siesta Key Drum Circle is a musical, dancing, celebration of life.
To wrap it up, you will find that Sarasota is a city full of surprises and offers a wide range of activities.
With its beautiful beaches, cultural attractions, and outdoor activities, Sarasota is a great destination for all types of travelers.
From trying out the local cuisine to exploring the city’s vibrant art scene and getting active outdoors, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Plan your next trip to Sarasota and experience all this amazing city has to offer.
Let your Sarasota vacation fun begin!
Frequently Asked Questions
Sarasota has a subtropical climate and can be visited year-round. However, the best time to visit is generally from November to April, when the weather is mild and dry. This timeframe also falls outside of the hurricane season.
Some of the top attractions in Sarasota include the Ringling Museum of Art, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, and St. Armands Circle.
The best way to get around Sarasota is by car, as many attractions and beaches are spread out. However, visitors can also use the Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) bus system or ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
There is also a free trolley called the Bay Runner that operates between downtown, Lido Beach, and St. Armands. It runs continuously until midnight.
“Museum of Art.” The Ringling, https://www.ringling.org/museum-art. Accessed 17 Feb. 2023.