Sarasota County is located right on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It’s full of gorgeous beaches, scenic views, historical landmarks, established museums and delicious restaurants. The best part is that you can visit just about everything because it’s all so close! The beaches are within minutes of downtown, and you can enrich yourself in the culture building after building.
There are plenty of fun things to do around Sarasota County, Florida. You can shop and dine at the plethora of locally owned businesses and support the community by participating in festivals, fairs and events. Whether you’ve come to experience the fresh air on hiking trails, learn about Florida history, enjoy the water’s calm or partake in the nightlife, Sarasota has activities that the whole family can enjoy.
Table of Contents
- Parks and Beaches
- Festivals and Entertainment
- Shopping and Dining
- Wellness and Activities
- Museums and Culture
- Serving West Central Florida
Parks and Beaches
Located on the gulf, Sarasota has many beautiful beaches and parks. You can access almost every park and beach in Sarasota for free and enjoy the scenic views and refreshing air. Sarasota has miles of trails to hike, walk or bike and plenty of amenities perfect for playing games, cooking, swimming and fishing, so there’s never a lack of things to do at the beach.
You can enjoy many days at Manasota Beach to experience all that it offers. The park opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m., giving you plenty of time to enjoy its amenities, including grills, pavilions, volleyball courts and beach access.
This beach has boat ramps and is excellent for fishing, canoeing and kayaking. There is an active lifeguard on duty and places to picnic and cook. Your family can easily spend the day soaking up the sun, splashing in the water or viewing the wildlife. You can bring as much or as little food as you’d like and cook it without leaving the park.
Relax by the water, take your boat for a spin, go on a hike, walk the trails or throw together a friendly volleyball game. Then rinse off, unwind and have a family dinner cooked right off the boat and on the grill.
North Lido Beach Park
The city of Sarasota acquired North Lido Beach Park in 1977 and left it in its natural state. It features 49 acres of Australian pine woods and 22 ½ acres of mangroves and beach. You can walk the grassy savannahs, hike one of the many trails or enjoy watching the protected birds and other wildlife.
The beach is perfect for kayaking and canoeing. It has easy access into the water and is excellent for swimming, though there is no lifeguard on duty. You can enjoy a day at the beach with your friends or family and be busy for hours.
Sleeping Turtles Preserve North
Purchased through the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program, this 174-acre preserve is named after a landmark. Sleeping Turtles Preserve has over 5 miles of trails, so you can experience an open view of the Myakka River.
You can bring your dog on a leash for a whole family experience as you witness the beauty of this preserve on the north side of Border Road. Pets are not permitted on the south side of Border Road. This park has areas for fishing, picnicking, birding and wildlife viewing, so you can have an enriching day from 6 a.m. until sunset.
Turtle Beach Campground
Enjoy your stay in Sarasota at a campground right off the beach. Turtle Beach Campground is right on Siesta Key and features 39 tent and RV sites. It’s one of the very few campgrounds in Florida with direct beach access. There are places for kayaking launching, fishing, playgrounds and picnic areas with grills. The campground also hosts a Fall Fest in October and a Veteran’s Day Camping Weekend in November.
If you’re looking for a nice getaway spot, Turtle Beach Campground offers a beautiful and fun location for your friends or family. You can spot wildlife on land or in the water from your boat, kayak, paddleboard or canoe. Spend time with your kids on the beach and cook up a freshly caught dinner on the campground grills.
Festivals and Entertainment
Nightlife in Sarasota is an incredible experience. You can divulge in live music, bars, comedy shows, film festivals and outstanding performances. Whether you choose to check out a two-hour show after dinner or spend your whole day watching the amazing work of performers and artists, Sarasota has plenty of activities you can enjoy with your friends, family and children.
Sarasota Film Festival
If you’re a film fanatic, the Sarasota Film Festival, which typically ranks in the top 10% of North American film festivals, is a must-see event. It is held annually, usually in April, and features over 200 documentaries, short films and kid-friendly options.
The festival promotes economic, educational and cultural value for the community. The featured films support independent filmmakers and celebrate artists and storytellers worldwide. The Sarasota Film Festival is an enriching cultural experience that you don’t want to miss.
McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre
Established in 1988, McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre features open mic nights, comedians and performers, such as Ryan Hamilton, Dennis Blair and Jessica Kirson. The theatre is a vibrant building located in downtown Sarasota, Florida. It features a burst of color on the outside and the inside. The exterior is purple, and the interior features a Green Room for drinks and the Tickled Pink unisex restroom dedicated to the cure and awareness of breast cancer.
The theatre is a vibrant place to enjoy a comical evening with entertaining performers who know how to give you a good time. Everyone who attends the events at McCurdy’s Theatre must be 18 years or older, making this a fun place to enjoy a date with your partner or a night out on the town with friends.
LeBarge Tropical Cruises
For a relaxing, elegant end to your day, you can go on a beautiful cruise with LeBarge Tropical Cruises. Each cruise will give you a different experience so you can enjoy the fun time and time again. Every cruise has a fully stocked bar and a delightful menu of delicious food. Their most popular option is the Tropical Sunset Cruise which features live music, cocktails and a light fare menu.
End your day in Sarasota with a breathtaking view you’ll remember. You can watch dolphins swim by as the sun lowers over the horizon. Enjoy a natural view of wildlife and some known landmarks or listen as a marine biologist narrates the activities of manatees. Whichever cruise you choose, the views are magnificent and the atmosphere is impeccable.
Sarasota Music Festival
The Sarasota Music Festival runs for three weeks every June. Almost 500 musicians from colleges and conservatories audition for a spot at this festival. Since its beginning in 1965, the Sarasota Music Festival has grown to be internationally recognized and considered one of the finest classical-music events in the country.
When you attend this event, you experience orchestra concerts, chamber concerts and artist showcase concerts on different days. You can even purchase festival passes to attend rehearsals and masterclasses. Attend one day or all of them and enjoy the sounds of musicians from across the country.
Shopping and Dining
Sarasota has many shopping centers and farmers markets and an abundance of family-owned small businesses you can visit to help support the community. Of course, you can also find the big-name enterprises that you know and love. You can spend the day with locals, tasting fresh produce and admiring hand-crafted goods, or visit your favorite stores and restaurants.
University Town Center Mall
If you’re looking for things to do on a rainy day in Sarasota, stop by the mall for a delightful day of indoor activities. The Mall at University Town Center features many well-known stores most of us love to shop. You can savor ice cream, cinnamon rolls and cheesecake or enjoy the taste of pasta, sushi and steak from the many stores located inside the mall while you browse to your heart’s content. Find a new favorite or treat yourself to your usual.
The mall also hosts plenty of unique events. You can participate in events such as an egg hunt, a mom’s day out or health seminars, creating a memorable shopping or dining experience every time. It’s the perfect place for the whole family where everyone can spend time in places they love.
You can find all kinds of treasures in the locally owned shops in Southside Village. Every shop offers unique items, so you’re sure to find something for everyone. There are plenty of restaurants and clothing stores. Whether you’re looking for pizza and sandals or high-heels and gourmet dishes, your entire family can enjoy the village.
Fifi’s consignment shop changes inventory every day and showcases designer clothing at affordable prices. The Treat Boutique features beachy clothing that you can sport for the duration of your trip in the sand or at a bar. There’s always something to explore and new items coming in and out. You can make an entire day out of walking around Southside Village.
Venice Main Street
Downtown Venice is a historic location you can visit to experience swaying palm trees, gorgeous oaks and enriching culture. Dating back to the 1920s, Venice is a glimpse of the old Florida and always has something going on. Check out the live events such as tours, concerts, wine walks and craft festivals.
You can visit family-owned businesses, divulge in sweet treats, visit a bar, shop at boutiques or sit down at a unique restaurant. Every Sunday morning, you can also visit the Venice Farmers Market for fresh produce and delicious goods. There are plenty of trails to walk or bike and many things to discover while supporting the local community.
Located at St. Armands Circle, Shore restaurant serves brunch, lunch and dinner. You can kickstart your day with a light brunch consisting of avocado toast, stop by for lunch and get delectable seafood options such as lobster, shrimp and crab cobb salad or enjoy a delicious dinner of pasta la fresco.
Shore has a cool vibe that is fun to share with friends, family and kids. Everyone can find something they love with vegan options, a kids menu, signature cocktails and an extensive range of burgers, seafood and pasta. Start or end your day with fresh food from on or off the shore of Sarasota.
Wellness and Activities
Whether you’re visiting Sarasota for the first time, as an annual visitor, are looking to move or are a year-round local, taking the time to relax and rejuvenate is an excellent idea for everyone. Take the time to experience all the fresh air on the ground or in the water or find yourself in a local business that wants to help you feel refreshed.
Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures
A kayaking tour is a great activity to do with kids. Let them paddle the kayak while you both marvel at the breathtaking scenic views and delight in the calm water and breeze. Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures takes you through the mangroves of Sarasota while your guide tells you about conservation and habitat restoration.
Whether you’re a first-time kayaker or a seasoned veteran, this tour is fun for all ages. With lifejackets for children and adults and instructor help to paddle, everyone can enjoy the mangroves. As you paddle, try to spot some wildlife, including wood storks, blue herons, pelicans and bald eagles.
Sarasota Bike Tours
Get your blood pumping with a tour through Sarasota, Florida. Sarasota Bike Tours are historic and engaging. You don’t have to choose between history and cultural or scenic views because any of these bike tours will give you both. With tours along the beach and through the Rosemary district, you can see parts of Sarasota you’ve never experienced. All of the equipment you need will be provided for you so you can continue with your day without any additional weight.
Take a leisurely ride through downtown, enjoy a trip to the Ringling, bike to a kayak location or watch the sunset as you bike to the end of your day. You can have a family-friendly day traveling up to 10 miles through Sarasota and get the chance to explore new paths and see new sights.
Mandala Med-Spa & Yoga Shala
It’s always a good time to treat yourself. Visit the Mandala Med-Spa & Yoga Shala in Sarasota, Florida, for a relaxing day of rejuvenation. Indulge in a massage, herbal treatment and energy therapy. You can also take the family to enjoy a yoga session with a certified instructor to feel renewed and refreshed.
Whether you’ve spent all day at the beach and need to unwind or looking for a way to kickstart your day, check out the Mandala Med-Spa & Yoga Shala. Delight in a renewing experience with people passionate about what they do.
Museums and Culture
Sarasota, Florida, and the surrounding areas are packed with history, culture and diversity. Step back in time to experience various eras of time or stay in the present while you visit the many museums and educational buildings. You can dress up or dress down and participate in several events, programs, lectures, demonstrations and festivities.
Ringling Museum of Art
Sarasota is home to the famous Ringling Museum of Art. This museum is open every day, excluding holidays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Thursdays, the Ringling closes at 8 p.m., so you can go for a full day of fun or an enriching excursion to see marvelous works of art and displays after an early dinner.
The Ringling offers many free events, such as a weekly storytime program for children or Family Art-Making. It also has an Art of Performance program that is active all year round. The digital brochure highlights individual and group artists who you can watch perform throughout the year. Whether you visit to participate in a dance party, check out a program or look through every exhibit you can, the Ringling is one of the best places to combine culture and fun in Sarasota.
Sarasota Medieval Fair
For some kid-friendly activities and family fun, attend the Sarasota Medieval Fair. The fair has been running annually for more than 15 years and is a great event to visit every year. The Medieval Fair is loaded with delicious food, drinks, appetizers and treats that the whole family can enjoy while walking around to admire the crafts and performances of local artists and artisans.
Watch baking demonstrations, equestrian performances and tournaments and blacksmithing demonstrations. Participate in history lessons, storytelling and family heritage research activities. Discover glass blowing techniques, jewelry making and wood carving.
Architecture Sarasota is a unique building dedicated to engaging the public with the historical architecture around Sarasota, Florida. You can visit between Thursdays and Sundays, making this a great long weekend experience. With so many events and programs, Architecture Sarasota is fun for all ages.
If you choose to do a walking tour, you can decide to review the Umbrella House, Healy Guest House or the Revere Quality House, each with its own touch of unique architecture. Architecture Sarasota also has plenty of other interactive events such as yoga programs, exhibition tours and playtime Lego workshops where you can learn how to transform space while being led by local architects.
Selby Botanical Gardens
You can experience 45 acres of native nature, plants and history at the Selby Botanical Gardens. The Selby Botanical Garden is a nonprofit organization that strives to educate children and adults about nature and protect their sanctuaries.
The gardens also host various events throughout the year, such as Yoga in the Gardens, artist spotlights and Pottery Wheel Wednesdays. You can visit the gardens to participate in these programs or simply enjoy the gorgeous scenery on the campus. You can spot bromeliads, ferns, epiphytic orchids and other tropical plants throughout the exhibits.
Entrance to the historical Manatee Village is free, and donations are welcome. The village is located in Manatee County, which borders Sarasota to the north. The buildings located in the village are replicas and historical structures that showcase Manatee’s founding period to educate locals and visitors about Manatee history. Manatee Village also hosts special events throughout the year, including festivals, workshops, lectures, book signings and demonstrations.
As you walk back in time, you can see Old Cabbage Head — a 1913 steam engine — the Wiggins General Store, Fogarty Boatworks, the Blacksmith Shop, the schoolhouse and the church. You can learn all about what life in Manatee was like during its founding period and why people fought to preserve it.
Serving West Central Florida
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Additional Resources on Florida:
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- Your Guide on What to Do in Venice, Florida