We’ve lived in Sarasota, Florida for a few years now and love it more every day! With so many things to do in Sarasota, there are about a million and one reasons why you should plan a visit. Of course we’re known for our award winning beaches but have you seen all the other things that this town has to offer? We’ve been checking them out and these are just a few of our favorites.
This post was written in collaboration with VisitSarasota.org and our visits to these attractions were hosted. All opinions are my own.
When my husband’s company had a job opportunity opening up in Sarasota, Florida we jumped at the chance to go. After all, Atlanta gets way too cold in the winter and don’t even get me started on the traffic. It didn’t matter that I’d never been to Sarasota. From what I already knew, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d love it.
With warm weather, beautiful beaches and streets lined with palm trees, Sarasota couldn’t be more perfect for us! There’s so much to do and after several years of living here, we’re still discovering new things to love. From dolphin cruises to circus museums, we never run out of awesome things to do in Sarasota!
9 Awesome Things To Do In Sarasota, Florida
LeBarge Tropical Cruises
With dolphin/manatee cruises, sightseeing & nature cruises and the Tropical Sunset Cruise, LeBarge Tropical Cruises has something for everyone. The girls and I decided to take a sunset cruise and as soon as they spotted the palm trees and mermaids on the top deck, they couldn’t wait to get on board.
I had just grabbed a cocktail for myself and snacks for the girls when the musician started playing some of my favorite Jimmy Buffet songs. It doesn’t get much better than that. The two hour cruise took us along the coast where we gawked at the amazing houses (and I also made a mental note to buy a few lottery tickets), spotted some dolphins and of course, enjoyed a spectacular sunset!
If you think that’s pretty, it just got better from there…
For the record, these sunsets are completely unedited and unfiltered…they really were this beautiful!
Not only did we love the cruise, I was really happy with the food and drink prices! I paid $9 for a cocktail, bottled water and two bags of chips. Since I’d recently taken another boat tour and paid $8 for one cocktail alone, I thought $9 was a pretty good deal!
John & Mabel Ringling Museum Of Art (a.k.a. The Ringling)
The former estate of John Ringling and his wife Mabel, there is so much to see at The Ringling that you could spend the entire day there if you felt like it. The most popular of the attractions here is the Circus Museum. This museum is filled with fun displays featuring circus props, dazzling costumes and other old circus memorabilia.
My girls love the interactive section where they can practice walking on a tightrope and balancing on the back of a horse.
Little Keira is a bit of a clown anyway so she fits right in and we even found a clown car just her size.
The highlight of this museum is the Howard Bros. Circus Model. This 44,000 piece model of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus was built by Howard Tibbals from 1956-1974. When it was moved to the current location in 2004, it took a full year just to set it up. The circus model is truly a masterpiece and my favorite thing at the Ringling. I’ve seen it several times now and I never get tired of it…the girls feel the same way!
While the Circus Museum is a must see, you should also tour Ca’ D’ Zan, the Ringling’s extravagant Venetian Gothic style home overlooking the Sarasota Bay.
You should also check out the Museum of Art, built by John Ringling to house his extensive art collection. Must be nice to have so much money that you can build a museum in your back yard, right? Finally, take a stroll through the beautiful gardens and if the kids are with you, hang out on the playground for awhile.
The Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium
If you enjoy aquariums, grab the kids and head to The Mote. My girls loved getting up close and personal with manatees, sharks, sea turtles and other ocean animals.
They also had a blast at the touch tanks, where they could touch the stingrays and crabs as they moved through the water.
How amazing is this jellyfish exhibit?!
For an additional fee, you can feed sharks, take a seahorse lab tour or even host a birthday party. While The Mote is fun, it’s an educational experience as well, making it a win/win for everyone.
Myakka Wildlife Tour
Want to spot some alligators? Take the one hour Myakka Wildlife Boat Tour on the Upper Myakka Lake and you should see plenty.
You’ll also learn about Florida flora and fauna and the other animals that call this area home. In keeping with the traditional summer weather, we had a brief rainstorm but we didn’t let it bother us.
When you’ve finished the boat tour, hop aboard the tram for a land tour or walk one of the nature trails.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
I didn’t know if there would be enough to keep my girls entertained at the Selby Botanical Gardens but they had a great time! The gardens are beautiful on their own but I was pleasantly surprised by all the kid friendly experiences. Keira and Ashling loved exploring the Children’s Rainforest Garden, dressing up like butterflies in the play area, playing on the playground and feeding the koi.
Other highlights include the conservatory, where you’ll feel as if you’ve just walked into a rain forest, the butterfly garden, the mangrove and baywalk, the bamboo garden and more. If you feel like skipping the beach for day, this is a great alternative.
TreeUmph Adventure Course
Though a little off the beaten track, TreeUmph is the place to visit if you’re looking for adventure! You’ll climb high into the trees, crossing precarious bridges, swinging from ropes like Tarzan and of course ziplining. There are easy courses for children and more advanced courses for adults of different skill levels.
I liked that I could choose the level of difficulty that I wanted, though I plan to take it up a notch next time.I don’t recommend it if you’re afraid of heights but I loved TreeUmph so much that I’ve even considered getting a season pass! It’s a great bonding experience for families but also a fun place to just get away from it all for a few hours.
Dakin Dairy Farm
If you’re visiting Sarasota in the fall, you’ll want to bring the kids to Dakin Dairy Farm. Take a tour that includes a hayride through the barn where you can watch cows being milked. You’ll also see pig races and learn how milk is bottled in the processing facility. When I went with my youngest, the highlight of the trip was when she bottle fed baby animals. It was so cute and she still talks about it.
Sarasota Bay Explorers
This is on my list of things to do very soon. Sarasota Bay Explores offers kayak tours and nature safaris but it’s the Sealife Encounter Cruise that I think my nine year old and I will enjoy most. We’ll see manatees and bottlenose dolphins, take a short nature walk on an uninhabited island and see pelicans and other birds in their natural habitat. They’ll also have us collect samples of marine life with a trawl net, where we can observe puffer fish, sea horses, stone crabs and more.
Mixon Fruit Farms
This is another place my girls love! So far we’ve only been to Mixon Fruit Farms in the fall when they have their big pumpkin festival, which is a can’t miss event on it’s own. However, you can visit any time of year to take a tour on the Orange Grove Express where you’ll learn about citrus and see their wildlife refuge where they take care of hurt or orphaned birds, reptiles and other animals.
Of course you’ll want to visit Sarasota’s award winning beaches too but this just goes to show that there are plenty of things to do in Sarasota beyond the beaches! So are you ready for a visit? Find out more about how to spend your vacation at #YouOtaVisit.
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