Sun, sea, sand and…symphonies is what Sarasota is all about. Home to some of the best beaches and one of the hottest arts scenes that Florida has to offer, it’s a real cultural corner. That means long stretches of bright white sands, sparkling blue seas and endless sunshine – all backed up by the very best in museums, theatre, opera and more. So If you like your lazy beach days mixed with a little dash of something else, holidays in Sarasota make for the perfect cocktail.
Sarasota has more brilliant beaches than you could shake a conductor’s baton at. The main stretch at Siesta Key has dazzling powdery sand lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf – but it’s not quite as sleepy as its name suggests. Yes, you can kick back and simply soak up the rays or watch bewitching streaks of orange and pink spread across the sky at sunset. But if you’re itching to take to the waves, you can go sailing, kayaking, parasailing, fishing, rent a jet ski, or choose from any other number of enticing activities.
There’s plenty going on behind the beach, too. Funky Siesta Village is a tantalizing blend of outdoor eateries, bars, ice cream parlors and shops, and with its laid-back beachy vibe, makes for an excellent hangout day or night. St Armands Circle has a buzzy mix of shops, boutiques, restaurants and art exhibits, and is the perfect place for people watching – while if you fancy a slice of the high life, then head out to ritzy Longboat Key for cool cocktails.
And don’t forget the vibrant local arts scene. There’s productions aplenty all year round, meaning holidays in Sarasota won’t just earn you a tan – they’ll seriously up your cred in the cultural stakes as well.
Myakka State Park
Breathtaking vistas and captivating wildlife are the order of this glorious park, where the Myakka River meanders through mile upon mile of stunning wetlands, prairies and woodlands. Hiking trails abound, but there are plenty of other ways to drink in the scenery: by bike; kayak; on horseback; by air boat; or from walkways suspended eight metres above the ground.
There are plenty of beaches to explore, each with its own personality – but all with the same velvety soft sand and clear waters. Turtle Beach is quieter and ideal for families, with a secluded feel and picnic shelters. South Lido Park has nature and kayaking trails, and is the perfect spot for watching the sun set into the water through a ribbon of Australian pines.
Sarasota’s arts scene will have culture vultures drooling in anticipation. Two fantastic venues, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the FSY Centre For The Performing Arts, put on top-class productions in theatre, dance and music. Plus there’s the Opera House, the Ballet, a whole raft of theatres – and arts festivals galore.
Not Just Any Museum
The estate of circus magnate John Ringling provides a fascinating three-in one experience. First there’s the extensive Museum of Art, with its striking collection of works including Rubens and Gainsborough; then there’s the astonishing Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, built in the style of the Doge’s Palace in Venice; and to top it all a circus museum with miniature models.
At the aquarium branch of Mote’s world-class marine research lab you can explore the secrets of the sea through touch pools, viewable working labs and high-tech interactive exhibits. Sharks, manatees, sea turtles and 100 other species are all on view, plus you can take an explorer trip by boat into the Gulf.