Sarasota Area Activities
Sarasota, Florida is filled with more than just long beaches and parties until dawn. The area has great places to visit with plenty of activities that are designed for the whole family and a wonderful Florida vacation. From campgrounds to aquariums, drum circles to planetariums, Sarasota makes a nice change of pace from the usual Florida vacation.
Myakka is one of the largest and oldest state parks in Florida
and it is a protected expanse of fifty-eight square miles of natural area. The Myakka River flows through this park, connected to the Upper Myakka Lake. Visitors to this state park can enjoy exploring the wetlands, hammocks, pinelands, and prairies of the park or they enjoy a treetop stroll on the unique canopy walkway. There are plenty of hiking trails as well as boat ramps for freshwater fishing, canoeing and recreational boating. Lake tours and a safari tram tour are also available for visitor’s enjoyment. There are also five palm log cabins for rent in addition to full-facility campgrounds and primitive campsites.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art has been recognized as the official art museum of the state. It was established in 1927 as part of the couple’s legacy and offers visitors twenty-one galleries that include art from Europe, Asia, America, Cypriot antiquities, and contemporary pieces. There are also traveling exhibitions that visit one of the wings during the course of the year. Also housed on the estate is the Circus Museum with displays of the many costumes, performance equipment, wagons, and other items that chronicle the circus’ history. Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden is here next to beautiful views of Sarasota Bay. There are lectures, workshops, training sessions, public tours and more at this attraction.
The South Florida Museum, Planetarium and Aquarium offer their guests three unique attractions in its museum, aquarium, and planetarium. Children of all ages will enjoy the life sized casts of animals that roamed the area 12,000 years ago during the Ice Age. The museum has plenty of exhibits chronicling the first peoples of the state and includes plenty of archeological artifacts from the sites that have been excavated in the state. There are plenty of pieces from the Spanish that lived in the area during the 1500’s and the staff changes the exhibits regularly to keep the programs fresh. The Bishop Planetarium is a digital planetarium theater beneath a full dome that offers astronomy presentations, lectures, light and sound shows and more. Finally the Parker Manatee Aquarium is home to Snooty, the most famous Manatee in the world who came to the aquarium in 1949 as a baby. The aquarium was designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Network and the staff works with animals that are brought there for help before re-release into the wild.
Longboat Key is a tropical island stretching 11 miles in a northwesterly direction from Sarasota. The island has 2 (members and guests only) championship golf courses, as well as tennis, biking, boating, fishing, and lazing on the pristine beach. Shopping is also a favorite pastime of many who visit the island.
There is considerably more to do in the area than Disney and Universal. With just a little bit of research, families can find plenty to do in Sarasota without having to spend a fortune. Come to Sarasota.
All phone numbers use the (941) area code unless otherwise stated.
Asolo Center for Performing Arts / 351-8000
Created by Florida State University, this center is the home of the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota. The Theatre performs a rotating repertoire throughout the year, and is the first State professional theatre company that Florida has. Not only is the repertoire diverse, but students at FSU’s theatre department can partner there, giving them a true theatrical experience.
Bearadise Ranch - Bear Preserve / 322-2462
Bearadise Ranch showcases dozens of trained bears with their exciting bear shows. Watch the bears splash and play in the water. Some of these bears have been used in movies, television shows and print ads. Tour days are Thursdays and Saturdays. Reservations are required.
Bobby Jones Golf Complex / 955-8097
Named after the golf player and dedicated by him, the public/semi-private course in Sarasota holds its claim as being an internationally renowned golf course, holding to Sarasota’s claim as the Cradle of Golf. Playing on this course is an extremely rewarding challenge and is a great privilege among golf enthusiasts.
Sarasota Classic Car Museum / 355-6228
This place is a must for any car enthusiast, as this particular museum was built in 1952 and has a “living” exhibition that contains over 100 vehicles that display the history of automobiles in the United States. Open from 9 AM to 6 PM and have cars from celebrities and multiple dealers. Non-profit, this is a great place to take kids and car enthusiasts.
Crowley Museum/Nature Center / 322-1000
This particular museum is a great tourist attraction for kids, as the museum is directed towards pioneer history with multiple programs for kids. There is a large nature preserve that you can tour, with either a guided tour or a self-guided approach.
Ed Smith Sports Stadium / 954-4101
The spring training location of the Cincinnati Reds for the last ten years, the Ed Smith Sports Stadium is a fantastic and large baseball facility in Sarasota, Florida. The Sarasota Reds’ play at this particular stadium, as well as a multitude of other organizations in the area, and is one of the most well known stadiums in the state.
FSU Center for Performing Arts / 351-8000
Appropriately named the Ringling Center for the Cultural Arts, this particular organization is the home of one of the best theatrical and artistic programs on the east coast. It works with the Asolo Repertory Theatre and the former Ringling residence to create a skill-building and fantastic program for teaching theatre arts to students.
G.WIZ, Hands-On Science Museum / 906-1851
Talk about an amazing experience! This museum is perfect for any family and for kids, with awesomely fun hands-on science exhibits. There are special programs and tours kids can go on, but there are some amazing exhibits, both permanent and traveling. It’s never dull at G.WIZ Hands-On Science Museum.
Historic Spanish Point / 966-5214
A non-profit museum that is over 50 acres, the Historic Spanish Point focuses on telling the story of prehistoric Florida before the modern era. This is a great experience for adults and children alike, with amazing archeology exhibits and a large area to explore.
Municipal Auditorium / 954-4165
A multi-purpose auditorium in Sarasota, this particular venue is not just used by Sarasota, but by sister cities in the area for a large variety of performance events, craft shows, computer tradeshows, and even banquets and antique shows.
Mote Marine Aquarium / 388-2451
This Marine Aquarium is a very large venue, with one of the largest shark tanks and a great deal of aquatic wildlife to see. There are a few interactive games in the aquarium, which makes it ideal for children and families, as the kids will truly enjoy it.
Myakka River State Park / 361-6511
One of the largest and one of the oldest state parks in Florida, the park covers over five miles of different terrain, like the woodlands, prairie, and wetlands that Florida is known for. There are multiple areas to fish, camp, picnic, hike and simply observe the wildlife in the park.
Myakka River Wildlife Tours / 365-0100
These particular tours on Myakka River allow you to climb aboard one of the airboats devoted to the tours, where you can observe the natural wildlife at a leisurely pace, and a natural tempo so that you can photograph and truly enjoy the ride.
Oscar Scherer State Park / 483-5956
Another great park in Sarasota, known as one of the trail systems there, this particular park is a great draw for bikers and hikers alike. There are a lot of trails for perusal, and some threatened species reside in the park. You can also consider canoeing, as well as camping in the area.
Smugglers Cove - Mini Golf / 351-6620
Who doesn’t love Putt-Putt? Smugglers Cove is one of the oldest putt-putt franchises in the country, with an adventure concept behind it that makes it truly original. This one, located in Sarasota, is no exception, and if your kids like Pirates of the Caribbean, they will certainly enjoy their own chance to be a pirate.
The Players of Sarasota / 365-2494
Much like the Asolo Repertory Theatre, The Sarasota Players are very much an actors’ group, encouraging local actors to participate in the productions they put on. Come watch a throughly entertaining and professional theatre experience.
Ringling Museum of Art / 359-5700
Florida’s official state Art museum, the Ringling museum is named after John Ringling and his wife Mable, who had left many things upon their deaths to help create an amazing museum with varying time periods and movements of art.
Sailors Circus / 361-6350
Originally used as a circus utilizing high school students in the same professional caliber as adult circus performers, this is now a youth training Circus program serving students from 4th to 12th grades. These young performers are absolutely amazing to watch and worth every penny.
Sarasota Ballet / 351-8000
Out of the West Coast of Florida, the Sarasota Ballet is the only truly professional ballet company located on the west coast. As a result, you can be sure that they only take the best, and the repertoire for this particular season is pretty active.
Sarasota County Fair Grounds / 966-6338
A large venue that is home to the County Fair every year, this particular venue is used for multiple events throughout the year, including bookings for weddings, concerts, conventions, seminars, large picnics and trade shows, among others. It has both large covered outdoor areas, as well as indoor venues.
Sarasota County Area Parks & Recreation Facilities /
In Sarasota, there are over 40 public parks that offer tons of activities, including canoeing, fishing, picnic areas, softball, swimming, baseball, archery, tennis and water sports. There are opportunities for food, nature trails, and most of them have restrooms that are well furnished.
Sarasota Family YMCA / 955-8194
As a YMCA, the one in Sarasota is open for people of all ages, with programs for fitness and for complimentary childcare for parents who arrive. This YMCA offers adventure camps, and a variety of programs to help encourage children to have positive programs and exercise.
Sarasota Golden Apple Theater / 366-5454
The Golden Apple is a dinner theatre located in downtown Sarasota that is almost as well known for their buffet dinner as their theatre. When you pay for your ticket to the production, it includes the buffet. The productions are original and entertaining and worth the price.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens / 355-5305
An awesome garden, the Jungle Gardens is set up much more like a free-ranging zoo, where the animals that can be found there are endangered and exotic creatures that you get to see much closer than any other zoo. The “free-roaming” flamingos are a great attraction of the gardens, so they’re a must-see.
Sarasota Kennel Club (Greyhound Racing) / 355-7744 - Coupon
The Sarasota Kennel Club, a premiere track for Greyhound racing in Sarasota has a very affordable admission price. With well-cared for dogs, you have a multitude of betting possibilities and it makes a great day out for those over the age of 18. Also includes Simulcast Racing, Matinees 12:30 pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. One-Eyed Jacks Card (Poker, Black Jack, & Stud) Room is located on the second floor of the mezzanine (non-smoking). Sarasota Kennel Club is closed on Sundays.
Sarasota Opera House / 953-7030
Once a historic theatre, this is now an opera house that houses The Sarasota Opera. It has performances throughout the year. The prices are fair and the productions are amazing. Supertitles – Real-time English translations are above the stage. Free programs are provided with your opera ticket to guide you through the plot and introduce you to the performers. The Sarasota Opera House is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Look for the original chandelier from the movie "Gone With the Wind" that hangs brilliantly in its lobby.
Sarasota Area Day Spas & Salons / Web Site
If you’re looking for a spa in Sarasota, you won’t be in need. There are plenty in the area, many of them upscale spas where you will find exceptional service. Many of the spas also offer nail salons, waxing, skin care, massage and other body treatments.
Selby Botanical Gardens / 366-5731
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a great non-profit institution that house tropical plants that children and adults will find intriguing and beautiful. Housed on the Selby estate, this is both a Historic place and has several greenhouses.
Senior Friendship Centers / 955-2122
The Senior Friendship centers in Sarasota are a fantastic series of organizations that are dedicated to helping the seniors in the area have an improved quality of life and to help relieve the isolation and loneliness that living as a senior can create. It’s a fantastic volunteer organization in Sarasota.
Siesta Key Drum Circle / Web Site
A sort of spontaneous local phenomenon that began some time ago in Sarasota, traveling to the Siesta Key Beach on every Sunday will bring you to the Drum Circle that is south of the main pavilion and starts about an hour before sunset. It has dance and music and is a great event to watch.
S.W. Florida's Wineries / Web Site
There are several fine wineries in SW Florida, most of which offer wine tasting and tours in the area. While not specifically in Sarasota, there are several surrounding the area that are both beautiful and tranquil... and very tasty!
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall / 953-3366
The Van Wezel, otherwise known as the purple cow for its pastel purple color is a landmark in Sarasota, known for its large venue and beautiful architecture. It’s located right along Sarasota’s bayfront, so it has a great aesthetic location, as well as having a variety of different entertainment venues throughout the year. Van Wezel Events & Tickets
Venice Theater / 488-1115
A community theatre in Florida of great renown, the Venice Theatre is a theatre small in size, but large in reputation, it is recognized as one of the best in Florida. The winner of several awards locally and state-wide, this is a great theatre to find in Florida.
Warm Mineral Springs / 426-1692
The Original Fountain of Youth! This is the fabled Fountain of Youth purported to have been discovered by Juan Ponce De Leon. Believers to the healing powers of Warm Mineral Springs say that the highly mineralized waters help ease back pain, illnesses, various skin diseases, sinusitis and many other ailments. The Spring's 87 degree water can provide relief for stress, muscle pain, and arthritis. Visitors travel from around the world to soak in its soothing waters. Warm Mineral Springs is also a community of over 4,000 people. Part of the Register of Historic Places, this particular spring has been in use for thousands of years and is the second largest warm water spring on the Western Hemisphere.