Living the Sarasota Lifestyle
Where to go, what to do, where to eat, shop and more. Discover what's so great about living in Sarasota, Florida.
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Located in the heart of Florida’s Suncoast, Sarasota boasts some of the best beaches in Florida, including the famous Siesta Key – the #1 Beach in the USA! But it’s not just beaches that make living in Sarasota so great. Sarasota is also the heart of the Florida arts and culture scene. With the Van Wezel Performance Hall bringing in talented musical artists and shows, to the Sarasota Opera, Symphony, and more.
The city is situated on the coast and has a number of islands in and around the Bay. The Bay itself is perfect for those who enjoy water sports, such as boating, sailing, jet skiing, kayaking or paddle boarding. You’ll often spot a manatee or dolphin too enjoying the warm, clear waters too.
No matter if you live in Sarasota or are just visiting Sarasota on vacation, you’ll find plenty to do. Whether you enjoy the charming shops and restaurants of downtown Sarasota, the sophistication of St. Armands Circle, or exploring Myakka State Park.
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Arts & Culture in Sarasota
Sarasota is known for its circus heritage. In fact, John Ringling and his family came to the Sarasota area as a haven from the cold winters up north. Ringling had wanted to put Sarasota on the map by turning it into a top destination for wealthy families, like the Ringlings.
John Ringling helped to develop St. Armands Circle, one of the first high end shopping and dining districts in Sarasota. Even his circus elephants were used to help haul the timber to create the causeway over Sarasota Bay to St. Armands.
The Ringling family and other wealthy residents over the years have helped to shape Sarasota as a city as well as nurturing the art scene. Visiting the famous Sarasota Art Museum and the Ca’ d’Zan Ringling mansion can give visitors and locals alike a sense of the people who helped shape this city.
Sarasota is the heart of the arts in Florida. From museums to performance centers. Below are just a few of the most popular venues where both locals and visitors to Sarasota enjoy catching a show or performance.
Fun Things to Do in Sarasota
There’s always something fun to do in Sarasota! No matter if you are a history buff, enjoy culture and arts, love the outdoors, or if you are looking for family-friendly fun! From sunny days to rainy days, warm or cool. Here are some of our picks for things to doing Sarasota that both visitors and locals will enjoy.
- Wander the Sarasota Bayfront Park and enjoy the views of the boats and marinas
- Explore the Selby Botanical Gardens
- Mote Aquarium and Laboratory
- Sarasota Walking Tours
- Rent a boat / sailboat
- Take a dolphin boat tour
- Go kayaking or paddle boarding in the Bay
- Rent some Jet skis for a thrilling time!
- Go hiking or take a boat ride to spot some alligators in Myakka State Park
- Smuggler’s Cove adventure mini-golf
- Go parasailing off of Siesta Key – the #1 beach in the USA!
- Visit the Sarasota Jungle Gardens
- Oh…and of course there’s always just relaxing at the beach!
Beaches in Sarasota and Water Fun!
Sarasota is home to Siesta Key, voted the #1 beach in the USA. But Siesta Key is certainly not the only beautiful beach in the area. In fact, gorgeous strands of beaches line the coastal barrier islands and keys off or Sarasota Bay north to Bradenton and south past Venice and Englewood.
READ MORE: Best Beaches in Sarasota
Along the coast, you’ll find soft sand and crystal blue water, especially warm in the summer time. East of the barrier islands and keys you’ll find the bays. These calm bays are perfect for boating if you don’t prefer to be in the open ocean, and they are wonderful for paddling and wildlife viewing, especially along the mangrove areas.
Popular Beaches for Locals and Tourists in Sarasota and Nearby Include:
- Siesta Beach (Siesta Key)
- Sarasota Beach (on Siesta Key)
- Crescent Beach (Siesta Key)
- Turtle Beach (Siesta Key)
- Lido Key Beach (Lido Key)
- South Lido Key Beach
- Nokomis Beach (in Nokomis south of Sarasota)
- Venice Beach (in Venice south of Sarasota)
- Caspersen Beach (Venice south of Sarasota)
- Manasota Beach (Venice south of Sarasota)
- Englewood Beach (Englewood south of Sarasota)
Dining & Restaurants in Sarasota
Being that Sarasota sits on the coast, seafood is a popular type of food in the area. Fresh seafood is abundant and there are a number of wonderful seafood restaurants in and around Sarasota. Some with some spectacular views of the water!
But it’s not just seafood in Sarasota. With a rich culture and heritage, the area is home to many high-end dining establishments with world-class chefs and gourmet cuisine.
With many transplants in Sarasota from other parts of the US and the world, you will also find culinary establishments that specialize in food from other regions of the US as well as international cuisine.
Downtown Sarasota Restaurants
Downtown Sarasota’s streets are lined with dining options. From the more expensive dining to quick bites. Many establishments have outdoor dining on their patios or on the sidewalks so you can enjoy the lovely coastal weather. Popular restaurants downtown Sarasota include:
Other Popular Restaurants in Sarasota You Will Love!
- Screaming Goat Taqueria
- Meaney’s Mini Donuts (ok, not a restaurant…but they are amazing!)
- Mirna’s Cuban Cafe
- O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill (outdoors, live music & dog-friendly!)
- Owen’s Fish Camp
- Nancy’s Bar-B-Que
Shopping and Markets in Sarasota
Sarasota has no shortage of options for shopping. You’ll find major retailers and shopping centers throughout the city and near residential developments. Major shopping areas of town include:
- University Town Center (UTC) – a newer part of town near I-75 near the Lakewood Ranch area. The UTC has a large shopping mall and major stores including a Macy’s, Saks, Apple Store. There are also other shopping centers across from the mall and adjacent, including dining options.
- Downtown – the walkable streets of downtown Sarasota are full of charming shops and boutiques.
- Southside Village – south of downtown Sarasota this shopping and dining district spans a few blocks near the southside neighborhoods just west of the Tamiami Trail includes the famous Morton’s Gourmet Market.
- St. Armands Circle – across the causeway from downtown Sarasota, this is a high-end shopping / dining / entertainment area.
- Gulf Gate – this area south of downtown near the Gulf Gate neighborhood is a fun area to explore with many unique shops and restaurants from different spanning the globe.
- Siesta Key Village – located in the heart of Siesta Key, this area features a number of charming shops, restaurants and bars.
- Sarasota Farmer’s Market – held every Saturday in downtown and has been running for more than 35 years. It’s a huge market with over 70 vendors and draws locals and visitors alike.
Outdoors and Recreation
The climate in Sarasota provides opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors year-round. There are plenty of outdoor recreational activities to be enjoyed by those who live in Sarasota or even those who are just visiting on vacation.
Popular Outdoor Activities in Sarasota Include:
- Enjoying the local beaches, such as Siesta Key
- Going kayaking or paddleboarding on Sarasota Bay or exploring some of the waterways and mangroves around town.
- Going out on a boat ride – whether renting a boat, using your own boat, or going on a boat tour.
- Viewing wildlife – from birdwatching, spotting manatees in the Bay, dolphins, alligators and more.
- Visit Myakka State Park just outside of town to enjoy miles of walking, hiking and biking trails. You can stay overnight in the campground too!
- Go for a bike ride or do some rollerblading on the Legacy Trail – a paved bike path that goes all the way down to Venice
- Play some golf – there are over 50+ golf courses in Sarasota and around Sarasota county. Many are world-class courses, from public to private and semi-private.
- Enjoy Sarasota’s beautiful parks! Sarasota has a great park system and parks website where you can find out about events and activities going on in the parks for people of all ages and especially families!
- Visit the local Sarasota YMCA – there some wonderful YMCA locations around town with an incredible number of activities and events from basketball, camps, fitness classes (virtual options too), swimming lessons, dance, soccer and so much more!
Festivals, Events and Music
There’s always something happening in Sarasota! The perfect sunshiny weather provides opportunities for year-round entertainment and events. From annual music festivals, food, arts and crafts, and more.
But it’s not just annual festivals. You can find something happening in Sarasota just about every week. From Art Walks, local exhibits, yoga on the beach, painting classes and more!
Here are some of the most popular festivals and events you can find in Sarasota.
- Thunder by the Bay Music and Motorcyle Festival
- Third Friday Art Walks
- Sarasota Scavenger Hunt
- Sarasota Native American Art & Music Festival
- Ringling Art Museum Gallery Exhibitions (rotating)
- Original Eats – local restaurants food festival specialties
- Yoga (various classes inside and outside) at Pineapple Studio
- Art Auctions
- Zumba out on Siesta Key beach
- Public art exhibits
- Holiday lights on St. Armands Circle
- Gingerbread Festival
- Friday Concerts in the Park
- Sandy Claws Beach Run
- Selby Gardens Lights in Bloom
- Annual Showfolks Circus
For more up-to-date information about specific events, festivals and live music in Sarasota check out Visit Sarasota.