A sprawling botanical garden – Set on the waterfront of Sarasota Bay, a trip to these lush botanical gardens means strolling under expansive banyan trees to admire flora and fauna from Florida and around the globe. Located on South Palm Avenue bordering Sarasota Bay, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a large botanical garden in the Hudson Bayou neighborhood and one of the best things to do in Sarasota, Florida. Covering seven acres, the gardens are located on the grounds of the former home of Marie and William Selby. The gardens focus on collecting and presenting epiphytes such as bromeliads and orchids and their ecosystems.
The gardens have the most diverse collection of bromeliads in the world. There are more than 20,000 plants that represent 6,000 species. The gardens feature more than 20 different habitats such as bamboo, live oaks, mangroves, succulents, and many more. Facilities include an herbarium, greenhouses, a research library, and others.
Home to State Art Museum of Florida, the historic Ca d’Zan Mansion, Bayfront Gardens, an Art Library, the Circus Museums and the Historic Asolo Theater. The Ringling is a fine art museum located on Bay Shore Road and one of the top Sarasota attractions. Established in 1927 from the artwork donated by Mable and John Ringling, it was designated as the state art museum of Florida and is maintained by Florida State University. The museum is made up of 21 galleries of American art, Asian art, contemporary art, European paintings, and ancient artifacts from Cyprus.
The collection consists of over 10,000 objects including decorative arts, drawings, paintings, photographs, prints, and sculptures that range from antiquity to contemporary art. The museum contains works by Bernini, Boudin, Duchamp, Gainsborough, Poussin, Velaquez, and more. Its collection of Rubens paintings is world-renowned.
The Ca’ d’Zan is one of the venues at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The home of the circus king and his wife, a couple from humble mid-western origins, Ca’ d’Zan stands as a testament to the American Dream of the Roaring Twenties. Inspired by and designed in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzos that ring the Venice canals, this dazzling palatial mansion perfectly captures the splendor and romance of the Italy the Ringlings so loved. Ca d’Zan Mansion was the winter home of the American circus owner, John Ringling and his wife, Mable. Built between 1924 and 1926, the waterfront mansion is five stories high and contains 36,000 square feet. The Ringlings were lovers of Venice and the waterfront site reminded them of the lagoon in Venice.
The style of the house is called Mediterranean Revival and shows the influence of the Doge’s Palace in Venice. The name of the mansion is Venetian for “House of John.” In addition to serving as a residence, the mansion also housed their large collection of art and artifacts. Docent led tours of the mansion are offered.
Located at the Mote Marine Laboratory, this is home to a 135,000 gallon outdoor shark tank and many other marine species. Mote Aquarium is home to two of these giant beauties, alongside sea turtles, sharks, and a variety of local and international displays of sea life. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is a marine research center located on Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island in Sarasota. Founded in 1955, it was called the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory until 1967 when it was renamed in honor of benefactors Lenore and William R. Mote and his sister Betty Mote Rose. The laboratory is involved in marine and estuary research.
The aquarium is open to the public and is the home of over 100 marine species, especially local marine animals. Opened in 1980, the aquarium contains jellyfish, manatees, rays, seahorses, sea turtles, and more. The narrated shark feedings are a popular attraction at the aquarium.
The Circus Arts Conservatory’s Circus Sarasota presents annual world-class performances in the one-ring, five-star, European-style Ulla Searing Big Top, and are acclaimed around the globe for artistry and entertainment in addition to preserving Sarasota’s unique circus legacy.
Based in Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast, Sarasota Opera is in now in its 59th season. It has garnered international attention with its Masterwork Revivals Series, which presents neglected works of artistic merit, as well as The Verdi Cycle producing the complete works of Giuseppe Verdi.
Florida Studio Theatre presents the finest in contemporary theatre. A beacon of the Sarasota arts and culture scene since 1973, FST currently operates five theatres: the historic Keating and Gompertz Theatres, the Goldstein Cabaret and John C. Court Cabaret, and Bowne’s Lab Theatre. FST also operates its own intimate restaurant, The Green Room, which is available for dining prior to MainStage performances.
The Sarasota Ballet’s expansive repertoire, coupled with the athleticism and artistry of The Company’s dancers, all of whom live and contribute in Sarasota, has brought The Company national and international acclaim. With rave reviews in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Dance Europe, Dancing Times and numerous other publications, The Sarasota Ballet has been invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, at City Center and the Joyce Theater in New York City, and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD) is recognized for its extraordinary level of high-energy, contemporary dance and collaborative performances with artists of various genres. In addition to a variety of community collaborations and performances at local venues, SCD has also been presented at the Alabama Ballet Center for Dance, John F. Kennedy Center, Merce Cunningham Studio Theatre, and the Ailey Citygroup Theatre.
The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is an architectural landmark and popular venue for comedy, dance, music, and theater performances.
Bayfront Park and Marina is located near Ringling Bridge, right in the heart of downtown adjacent to The Quay Sarasota. Enjoy bicycle trails, canoe launch, full marina facilities, a scenic park, O’Leary’s Tiki Bar, Marina Jacks, and scenic views.
Legacy Trail is a paved trail that runs from Sarasota south to Venice. Opened in 2008 along a historic rail corridor, the 10.8 mile long trail is considered to be one of the best biking trails in Florida. The original railroad line was built in 1911 and was in use until the early 2000s when it was abandoned. The trail begins in the north near Palmer Ranch and runs through Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey where it connects with other trails in the park. The trail continues south through Nokomis, Dona Bay, and connects to the Venetian Waterway Park in Venice. Reminders of the former railroad line include the original mile numbering system.
The beautiful waterways of Sarasota, including the sparkling bay, can be explored at your own pace by paddleboard. There’s nothing better than SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) to relax, get a great workout and discover the beauty of our area from the water. Many companies in Sarasota offer rentals, lessons, and guided Eco-tours by professional guides – not to mention race and fitness training from one of the many local paddleboard outfits.
As much of a party as it is a half marathon, the Sarasota Music Half Marathon provides a fun race while supporting local non-profits and encouraging fitness. Starting at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, the half marathon course takes runners across the Ringling Bridge to St. Armand’s Circle and back, past Marina Jack Bayfront Marina and some of the old Sarasota neighborhoods before leading runners to the finish line back at the Performing Arts Center, adjacent to Quay Sarasota. From local marching bands to dance and rock and roll, there’s music for everyone to enjoy during the race.
Located in the center of the Quay Sarasota, this three-story jewel was the design of New York and Sarasota architect Dwight James Baum, who was responsible for some of Sarasota’s signature buildings. Opened as the Broadway Apartments in 1926, its Mediterranean Revival design characterized many of Sarasota’s Roaring 20s buildings. Though ownership has changed over the years, the Belle Haven remains on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Belle Haven stands alone, but not for long. GreenPointe, developer of the Quay Sarasota property, plans a full restoration of this important landmark along the Bayfront where it is sure to become a symbol of pride for the city once more.
Historic Spanish Point — a 30-acre historical, archaeological and environmental museum located in south Sarasota County. Historic Spanish Point’s “Window to the Past” is the only archaeological exhibit in the world built inside a prehistoric shell mound that visitors can explore, surrounding themselves with more than 5,000 years of the Gulf coast’s prehistory.
The Unconditional Surrender Sculpture sits on the grounds of the Marina Jack at Bay Front Park.
The new $100 million ballpark in the West Villages, built with a combination of funding from the Braves, North Port, Sarasota County and the state, is expected to feature 6,500 fixed seats, with the ability to accommodate another 2,500 general admission patrons on the berm and concourse when it opens in March 2019. The overall facility will include 6½ practice fields, 55,000 square feet of clubhouse and fitness center for the Braves along with multipurpose fields and public space that can be used for special events by North Port and Sarasota County.
This major league facility features a 7,500-seat stadium, four additional onsite training fields with one practice half-field, five offsite training fields, a clubhouse and covered batting cages and pitching mounds. Often referred to as “Birdland South,” Ed Smith Stadium hosts major league Spring Training and the combined complex, which includes the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park, features all of the ballpark amenities to make any athlete feel like they’re in the big leagues.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens is home to more than 200 native and exotic animals including birds of prey, many different species of parrots and macaws, primates, small mammals, dozens of snakes, lizards, iguanas, alligators, crocodiles and other reptiles – many of them rescued or donated – including Florida’s noted pink flamingos. All nestled within 10 acres of lush tropical landscaping connected by winding jungle trails. Over the years, Sarasota Jungle Gardens has evolved into one of the area’s most historical and beautiful attractions. It has been the inspiration for children’s books and has provided the backdrop for countless fashion photo shoots, not to mention numerous documentaries and television shows.
St. Armands Circle — Shop. Dine. Relax. The St. Armands Circle Association represents the over 130 merchants of St Armands Circle in Sarasota Florida. Nestled between the sparkling waters of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, St. Armands is truly unique in concept, history and ambience. It’s easy to relax, unwind, and let your cares fade away.
Palm Avenue — There are antique shops, art galleries, designer boutiques, antique rugs, designer home décor, custom jewelry, gourmet foods, hair & nail salons, as well as restaurants.
There is nothing like strolling through a bustling market on a warm Saturday morning, checking the juicy, colorful fruits and veggies, grabbing a piece of cheesecake or a cup of coffee, and listening to the chatter of vendors and buyers and the music in the background. Every Saturday, year round, the Central Sarasota Farmers Market opens its doors (figuratively) to local farmers, bakers, artisans, and musicians.
Siesta Key Beach has repeatedly been called ‘the top beach in America.’ Its crystal clear waters and powdery white sand feel just slightly nicer than the other beaches in the area. Not far from downtown Sarasota, the small island of Siesta Key sits on the gleaming Gulf of Mexico and boasts one of the best beaches in the country. In the heart of this quirky, fun island is Siesta Key Village, a colorful, lively village near the beach that is full of restaurants, shops, bars, spas, ice cream parlors, and much more. The village is all about shops, parties, and fun, and its festive atmosphere is just perfect for barhopping.
Of all the beach options in the Sarasota area, Lido Key is often a favorite for its wide sands, great public facilities, and natural beauty.
Marina Jack specializes in transient dockage and cruise club accommodations for visitors who want to explore nearby Downtown and events near famous Sarasota Bayfront. Take in some of the many attractions in a few nights or secure one of our 316 slips on an annual basis.
Relaxing narrated sightseeing lunch tour or sunset dinner cruise through the inter-coastal waters and the Gulf of Mexico and enjoy delicious dining, outstanding views, and exceptional service. On the Marina Jack II every seat has a view of the water, perfect for sightseeing.
A unique experience awaits kayak paddlers in Sarasota Bay. From a launch site in South Lido Park is a paddling trail through a series of small waterways. A canopy of mangroves forms a shady tunnel. The mangrove is a coastal plant species that is vital to the ecosystem. Exposed roots anchor the trees in shallow water and along shorelines. The root system provides cover serving as a nursery for fish, crustaceans and mollusks. It is said that 75% of game fish and 90% of commercial fish in South Florida depend on the mangrove habitat. And the tree canopy serves as a rookery for many species of birds. The shady tunnels provide a paddling experience that is cool even on a hot day, and the quiet and subdued light makes it almost surreal. In the mangroves, you feel you have entered a sacred Florida space.
Dense forests, wide waterways, and river banks complete with gators and birds, a stroll through the park will give you an excellent sense of the natural beauty of the state. Covering 37,000 acres, Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s biggest and oldest parks. It includes portions of Sarasota County as well as parts of Manatee County. It is named after the Myakka River which flows through 58 square miles of a variety of habitats such as hammocks, pinelands, prairies, and wetlands. There is a boardwalk for viewing wildlife and a canopy walkway above the treetops (Standing tall at nearly 80 feet above the ground, this walkway is a rare chance to stand in awe at the sprawling natural landscape below. After a series of steps and a walk across the bridge, you’ll have one of the best views in Florida). In addition to the river there are two lakes: here visitors can canoe, fish, and kayak. There are also hiking trails through the dry prairie section of the park.
The city of Venice, in south Sarasota County, happens to be located along a fossil bed, and is considered the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.” Although you might find a fossilized shark’s tooth on any area beach, your best bet is to head to Venice’s Caspersen Beach. With your toes snuggled into the sand at the water’s edge, pick up a handful of sand and shells and sift through your fingers.
Sarasota’s beaches are renowned as some the most famous in the world with miles of stunning, fine white sand. And there is nothing as simple or fun as building an old-fashioned sand castle in the sugary sand – for kids or adults. Kick back, roll off your towel, and grab a tool for digging. Use your imagination. Maybe a tall tower, or a castle with a moat? Or how about sculpting a Florida dolphin, manatee, or sea turtle? The beach offers plenty of construction materials – sand of course, and shells, coral, sea beans, sea glass, plant seeds, driftwood and seaweed.
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