1. The Ringling Circus Museum
Walk the wire. Squeeze into a clown car. Snap photos with a ferocious (faux) tiger. Thrill to it all: the parade wagons, the posters, the glittering costumes, and the cannon that shot daring performers through the air. Wonder at the must-be-seen-to-be-believed 44,000-piece Howard Bros. Circus Model and the Greatest Show on Earth Mural celebrating the entertainment that has delighted packed houses in great cities and small towns across America for generations. Step right this way…
2. Selby Botanical Gardens
Originally the home of William and Marie Selby, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens today is an urban, bayfront oasis showcasing a living collection of rare and beautiful tropical plants. The Gardens is also a respected world leader in the study and conservation of plants, particularly epiphytes–plants adapted to live in the tree canopy, including orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads and ferns.
2. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
A true pioneer in the cultural development of Sarasota, the Van Wezel, (pronounced Van Wayzull), presents a broad spectrum of the world’s finest performers representing the diverse tastes of Southwest Florida residents and visitors. This season, with more than 100 events, the Van Wezel has carried on the long tradition of presenting spectacular Broadway musicals, top national and international performers, popular comedians, world-class symphony orchestras and a compelling mix of classical, modern and ethnic dance
4. St. Armand’s 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.
5. Golf at the Village Green Golf Course
The Village Green 18-hole, par 58 layout keeps golf fun for everyone, from the novice to the veteran player. The course design is the rare set of 18 that manages to both challenged experienced players while helping rookies relax as they enjoy learning our classic game. They have PGA golf professionals available for lessons, no matter your current level of ability.
6. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
More than 100 species of marine life call Mote their home, and you are more than welcome to meet them all. Mote Aquarium is proud to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and has met rigorous, professional standards for animal care, wildlife conservation and research, education and more.
7. The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature
The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, located in Bradenton, Florida, is a natural and cultural history museum specializing in the history of Florida’s gulf coast. It houses exhibits highlighting Florida history from the prehistoric to the present. The Museum also features regularly changing exhibits in the East Gallery, as well as in other small galleries throughout the first and second floors of the Museum. The Bishop also includes a Planetarium and the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat.
8. Shopping at The UTC
The Mall at University Town Center brings world-class fashion and dining to Sarasota, Florida. The beautiful architecture reflects a Floridian sense of place with a light changing LED barrel vault ceiling and features approximately 880,000 square feet of retail space. The Mall at UTC is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Dillard’s and features an array of fine restaurants new to the area, including The Capital Grille, Seasons 52 and The Cheesecake Factory. The shopping center has over 100 stores, offering customers a diverse mix of fashion and lifestyle retailers, popular favorites, and a locally themed children’s play area.
9. The Cortez Fishing Village
Not much has changed since the village was first settled in the 1880’s. Cortez Village is firmly ensconced in the National Register of Historic Places and the people here are dedicated to preserving its legacy. A rarity for sure, Cortez continues to exist as an off-the-beaten-path outpost, anchored by a nearby 95-acre wildlife preserve, a local historical museum dedicated to preserving its cultural heritage and some of Florida’s best, and freshest, “dock to table” seafood restaurants.
The dockside Star Fish Restaurant and the Cortez Kitchen just down the street both dish out fresh local Florida fare. The catch varies with the season but the menu usually includes snapper, grouper, stone crab, shrimp and mullet. Although much of the seafood that lands at Cortez is shipped around the world there is plenty left for both restaurants to be wildly popular, especially during the winter tourist season. You may even want to step into their seafood markets to get a better glimpse of the “catch of the day” before it hits your plate. The Star Fish Restaurant offers waterside seating for admiring the view of Florida mangrove islands, fishing vessels and the iconic Cortez fish house off in the distance. It’s easy to relax while watching the view of the boats as egrets perch and pelicans swim by.
If you are a wildlife or photography buff, be sure to bring your camera for a prize photo of the large flock of white pelicans congregating (primarily during the winter and spring months) on the sandbar in front of the Cortez Kitchen. The perfect photo spot is accessible by walking the docks. You can’t miss with such ideal scenery, wildlife and fishing vessels. If you happen to visit in February, you’ll be able to attend the Cortez Seafood Festival, which draws thousands as it serves up local fare along with musical entertainment and a host of artists and artisans. Fishermen dish out the fresh-from-the-sea local catch for those who want to gorge on Florida’s finest. You may also decide to join a deep sea fishing charter here!
10. Jumpin’ Fun Inflata Park
Now Florida can add another amazing and fun filled park to it’s list. Sarasota has now become the home to what is being billed as the largest inflatable adventure park in the United States. It’s called Jumpin’ Fun Inflata Park.
The park features 15,000 square feet of bouncy playground that contains 15 different interactive elements, and a zip rail coaster that allows riders to zip across the facility while suspended from a harness.