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Sarasota Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in SarasotaWhere to Stay
Sarasota offers visitors many notable accommodation options from 5-star resorts to mom-and-pop motels. Hotels lining the barrier islands are close to beautiful white sand beaches and warm Gulf waters, while downtown hotels have the benefit of being located close to great shopping, dining and cultural attractions. If you’re looking for something close and convenient to the Bradenton-Sarasota Airport, there is a good selection of reputable hotels in that area as well.
Hot Tips: January through May is the high season, so if you want to avoid the crowds, the best months to visit are June, September or October.
What to Eat
Restaurants in Sarasota reflect a crazy quilt of eclectic tastes. Seafood options abound, but so do authentic Cuban and Italian offerings, trendy takes on traditional American cuisine, German favorites and down-home Amish cooking. Casual seafood eateries can be found up and down the barrier islands, while downtown offerings tend to be more sophisticated and pricey. If you’re looking for some Amish comfort food, look on Bahia Vista Street.
Be Sure to Sample: In addition to the abundant seafood options you might want to try TurDuKen at the Alpine Steakhouse and peanut butter pie at Yoder's Amish Restaurant.
Things to See
Sarasota truly has something for everyone. From circus museums to fine art galleries to botanical gardens, you can take your pick of interesting things to do and see. Guys need not feel left out; there are also railway and classic car museums. Too stuffy? How about baseball spring training? Not only that, most attractions and activities are conveniently located and easily accessible. Getting around Sarasota is pretty easy by car or by using their good public transit system. . .assuming you can drag yourself away from the soft sand and warm water at the beach.
Caution: When you're out exploring, don't forget to always have water and sunscreen close at hand.
Take It or Leave It: The downside of public transit in Sarasota is that it doesn't run very late.
Places to Party
Sarasota is not your grandma’s vacation spot anymore! Ok, maybe a little, but after-dark opportunities are definitely improving. Downtown is host to a variety of nighttime establishments from piano bars to dance clubs along Main Street. More upscale options can be found at the popular shopping district of St. Armands Circle. If you’re looking for something on the beach, there are several bars located along Siesta Key. And for those looking for something more budget-friendly and down-to-earth, try Gulf Gate.
Take It or Leave It: Watch for local street festivals and open-air concerts that are held regularly downtown and at St. Armand's Circle.
Where to Shop
Your inner shopaholic will be perfectly at home exploring Sarasota's great shopping spots. For an elegant and upscale experience, visit St. Armands Circle. Its circular, old-world architecture hosts over 130 fine shops and gourmet restaurants. Downtown there are a variety of retail options lining Main Street and there is a farmer’s market every Saturday. World-class outlet shopping is found close by in Ellenton for those looking for a bargain. If you seek even better bargains, there are a couple of large flea markets to choose from.
Avoid: Parking at St. Armands Circle can be a challenge. Avoid arriving during peak hours to secure a good spot.
Best Local Souvenir: Purchase some locally made honey and preserves to take home a taste of Sarasota.
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
Circus mogul John Ringling anticipated Sarasota's potential when he chose to move to the quiet town in 1910. The great showman left an indelible mark on this city via the Ringling Museum of Art, which contains a unique collection of Baroque art by the likes of Hals and Velázquez, as well as Ca' d'Zan, his former home. Still known as the home of the Greatest Show on Earth, Sarasota is now an affluent waterside town and the cultural capital of Florida. Much of Main Street has been restored to its early twentieth-century splendor, and Sarasota Quay boasts some of the Gulf Coast's top dining and nightlife destinations. Beautiful stretches of coastline feature crystal clear waters and plenty of space to bask in the sun. Nearby parks and gardens allow for fascinating afternoon forays. John Ringling may be gone, but the town he helped put on the map still offers plenty of excitement, glitz and spectacle.