Sarasota & Her Islands
The area is renowned for its combination of sands so white and soft they could be mistaken for confectioner's sugar and postcard perfect scenery.
Known as Florida's Cultural Coast, it's here that visitors can experience local theater, the ballet, circus memorabilia and hands-on museum activities. The Florida Coast Symphony presents more than 100 symphonic and chamber music concerts seasonally and annually hosts the Sarasota Annual Music Festival, held in June. During their October to April performance season, the world-class Sarasota Ballet performs to a blend of classical and contemporary music.
The inspiration of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall was derived from a seashell found by Frank Lloyd Wright's widow, Olgivanna, near the Sea of Japan. The lavender/purple colored building was designed to achieve acoustical excellence and its shape is reminiscent of a scallop or cockleshell.
Everybody loves a circus and Sarasota is home to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Circus Museum. Both spectacular attractions feature rare memorabilia from the Ringling Brothers Circus and guests are invited to tour the Ringling's magnificent 32-room Venetian-Gothic mansion, named Ca d' Zan (house of John).
If you're travelling with children, schedule a visit to the PAL Sailor Circus, the area's own youth circus. Four rings of exciting acts with theatrical flair have been thrilling visitors for more than 50 years.
Art galleries abound in downtown Sarasota! Enjoy a self-guided tour along Main Street, Palm Avenue, and St. Armands Circle.
Towles Court is an artists-in-residence neighborhood of renovated Florida native-style cottages from the 1920s and 1930s, with local residents offering art classes and original artwork for sale. Held on the third Friday of the month, artisans can participate in "Art by the light of the moon" evenings. Galleries stay open late, allowing visitors to observe a moonlit display of their masterpieces.
Sarasota's sky-blue waters, rich natural beauty and ideal climate make it a prime destination for beach goers.
What started as a friendly competition over "bragging rights" to the finest, whitest sand in the world, later became the "Great International White Sand Beach Challenge". Sarasota and Bradenton tourism professionals persuaded scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Mass., to judge beach sands from around the world. More than 30 worldwide entries were made with the final judging held in Manatee County in 1987. Siesta Key was named as the winner - a title which remains in effect today.
A summarized report from Harvard University describes the sands found in Sarasota County as being 99-per-cent pure quartz grains. Containing no fragments of coral and no shell, the soft floury texture is due to its very fine grain size.
Away from the beaches, shopping and entertainment complexes, Sarasota's outdoor environment is a coastal paradise. Spring, fall and winter are best for viewing rare and other bird species unique to Florida. Migrating birds, bald eagles and snow geese are only a few of the varieties of wildlife found on this coast.
Mote Aquarium is not your "run-of-the-mill" aquarium. This working marine laboratory mixes the right amount of learning and fun through interactive exhibits portraying underwater life in grass flats, rivers and artificial reefs. The aquarium's touch tank is a popular way to get up close and personal with a variety of marine species including conch, starfish and urchins.
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is the perfect place for visitors to take in wonders and beauty of nature. Strolling along the walking paths, guests are guided through a hibiscus garden, wildflower garden, Banyan grove and tropical fruit garden. The dazzling colors and unique plants delight every guest of Selby's Tropical Display House, which features a rare collection of orchids, ferns and heliconias.
Visit the sporty side of Sarasota! Whether you decide to participate in a new sporting adventure or simply want to be a spectator, Sarasota County is host to some of the country's most exciting venues. A slower paced local game is Petanque (pronounced pay-tonk), a relaxing game of skill and concentration. Closely related to horseshoes and lawn bowling, participants toss and roll a number of steel balls as close as possible to a small aim ball, called a cochonnet. The game is played with passion and a sense of ease, with many players bringing wine and a picnic lunch to enjoy while talking with spectators.
Golf in Sarasota is an experience of the senses, one rich with the scent of fresh-cut grass and frequent wildlife sightings. Spend a day on a classic Old Florida course, where placement trumps distance in importance and friendly locals let you in on the secrets of each hole. Or, tee it up at the neighborhood golf and country club while enjoying generous, rolling fairways and finely manicured greens.
When you visit - bring your appetite! St. Armands Circle is a smorgasbord of palate-pleasing eateries including the historic Crab and Fin restaurant. Specializing in quality fin fish, shellfish and caviar selections from around the world, this landmark has been pleasing their patrons for more than 20 years! For old-world charm and outstanding Spanish/Cuban cuisine, the Columbia Restaurant features steaks and traditional family recipes. Customers of this St. Armand's hotspot are often seen savoring their meal on the restaurant's open-air patio.
Take a day trip and head west across the John Ringling Causeway, making the Gulf of Mexico your destination. When visitors cross this Intracoastal bridge, the beachside communities of Lido Key, Longboat Key, Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria Island are yours to explore. An abundance of quaint shops, dining alternatives, outdoor sporting activities and breathtaking scenery are found along this series of four islands.
To experience a true tropical experience, fabulous resorts are found along these islands including the Longboat Key Club. For a more intimate setting, Silver Resorts Bridgewalk on Bradenton Beach provides families with "a home away from home" atmosphere. Enjoy a Floribbean-style lunch or dinner overlooking the shore at one of the numerous restaurants found along the Gulf of Mexico, or simply walk through the many beachside stores, one-of-a-kind boutiques or ice-cream shops.