The Whole Wild World
From art to zoo, Sarasota spells "attractions."
The Sarasota area is home to a menagerie—sometimes literally—of fantastic, family-friendly attractions. You’ll find plenty of places where you really can walk and talk with the animals: Mote Aquarium and Big Cat Habitat provide up-close educational wildlife encounters, while at parks, historical sites and gardens, creatures of all kinds (including alligators, osprey and the threatened scrub jay) can be spotted roaming free in their natural habitats.
But the variety of our recreational outlets extends beyond the animal kingdom, from science (G.WIZ) to art (Ringling Museum), from past (Historic Spanish Point) to ways to fight the future (Warm Mineral Springs’ "fountain of youth"). In a single day, you could visit a plantation or a pioneer cabin, check out a horseless carriage and a DeLorean, learn about rare epiphytes and see the stars from inside a planetarium—all without leaving the Sarasota/Manatee area.
>> Many of the attractions offer discount web coupons; be sure to check each organization’s site before you go. <<
De Soto National Memorial | 3000 75th St. NW, Bradenton. (941) 792-0458. In May 1539, explorer Hernando de Soto set foot on "La Florida" close to the mouth of the Manatee River in Bradenton. That site is now a 25-acre park with 3,000 feet of shoreline and plenty of natural beauty, as well as exhibits dedicated to the Spanish and Native American history of the area. Kids and adults will appreciate the exhibit about the Conquistadors and the "living history" re-enactments at select times during the winter and spring. Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Free. nps.gov/deso
South Florida Museum/Bishop Planetarium/Parker Manatee Aquarium | 201 10th St. W., Bradenton. (941) 746-4131. This little gem of a museum has a number of attractions, chief among them Snooty, the 62-year-old manatee. You can also stargaze at Bishop Planetarium’s all-digital, full-dome planetarium/theater or learn more about the region’s history and native peoples at the South Florida Museum. January-April and July, Monday-Saturday open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m.; May, June, August-December, closed Mondays. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Adults $15.95, seniors 65 and up $13.95, children four-12 $11, free for children under four (with a paying adult). southfloridamuseum.org.
Gamble Plantation and Mansion | 3708 Patten Ave., Ellenton. (941) 723-4536. The only surviving plantation in South Florida, this once extensive sugar plantation is also where Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin hid until he could make his escape to England after the fall of the Confederacy. Guided tours ($6, children $4) are offered six times a day, Thursday through Monday. Open daily 8 a.m. until sundown. Free. floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation
Historic Spanish Point | 337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey. (941) 966-5214. A 30-acre bayfront enclave once home to Chicago socialite Mrs. Bertha Palmer, Historic Spanish Point features archaeological, historical and environmental wonders, including a prehistoric shell midden, pioneer-era buildings and Mrs. Palmer’s own extensive gardens (the butterfly garden is the largest on the Gulf coast). Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. except for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Adults $10, children 5-12 $5, seniors 65 and up $9. historicspanishpoint.org.
Oscar Scherer State Park | 1843 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey. (941) 483-5956. A famous bird-watching spot for threatened (but famously friendly) scrub jays, the park has 15 miles of trails for hiking and bicycling—plus kayaking and canoeing on calm South Creek, with guides and rental boats (motors prohibited) available. Visitors can fish, swim or picnic and camp in select areas. Open daily from 8 a.m. until sunset. $5 per vehicle for up to eight people $26 (plus tax) per night to camp. floridastateparks.org/oscarscherer
Ringling Museum of Art/Cà d’Zan Mansion/Ringling Circus Museum/Historic Asolo Theater | 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. (941) 359-5700. One of the 20 largest museums in North America, featuring a distinct collection of cultural and architectural treasures. The Museum of Art, best known for its cache of Baroque paintings, also hosts a variety of exhibitions annually. Sarasota’s circus heritage is honored in the ever-expanding Tibbals Learning Center. John and Mable Ringling’s bayfront Venetian mansion, the Cà d’Zan, honors their lavish social lifestyle. The Historic Asolo Theater, an 18th-century Italian jewel box, hosts performances and film viewings. Two good restaurants, too—the chic, Italian-themed Treviso and the more casual Banyan Café. Open daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Adults $25, seniors over 65 $20, active U.S. military, children ages six-17, students with ID and Florida teachers, $10. Free for all museum members and children under six. On Mondays, admission to the Museum of Art is free. ringling.org
Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary | 7101 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota. (941) 371-6377. An eighth-generation animal trainer, Kay Rosaire began rescuing neglected and abused big cats in 1987. Today, Big Cat Habitat is home to dozens of lions and tigers—not to mention bears, birds, a chimpanzee and more. You’re welcome to see the animals up close during regular educational demonstrations and private tours. Adults $20, children 12 and under, $10. See website for a calendar of events, tours and demonstrations. bigcathabitat.org
Crowley Museum and Nature Center | 16405 Myakka Road, Sarasota. (941) 322-1000. Crowley features several 19th-century structures as well as a number of everyday pioneer tools, furnishings and items from the Old Miakka
General Store. All those artifacts are nestled within acres of Old Florida pine forest and Myakka River marsh and connected by trails and a half-mile boardwalk with a two-story observation tower. Hours: October-May, Thursday-Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; June-September, Friday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July. Adults $8, children five-12 $3, children under five are free. crowleymuseumnaturectr.org
G.WIZ: The Hands-On Science Museum | 1001 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. (941) 309-4949. The Gulfcoast Wonder and Imagination Zone (G.WIZ) offers kids of all ages novel opportunities to explore nature, technology, art and more through hands-on exhibits like Mindball, Critter Habitat and the Illusion Room (to name but a few). The museum also hosts traveling exhibitions. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. Adults $10, seniors $9, children three-16 $7. Group discounts available. gwiz.org
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens | 811 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 366-5731. This internationally renowned, 9.5-acre bayfront property hosts one of the world’s best collections of rare orchids (more than 6,000) and is home to some 20,000 plants. The Tropical Display House is dazzling, and you can also tour the grounds, seeing banyan, bamboo and mangrove collections—as well as a butterfly garden. Save some time for the gift shop, a favorite for items from fabulous orchids to tropical-themed art. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. except Christmas. Adults $17, children six-11 $6, children under six are free. selby.org
Mote Aquarium | 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota. (941) 388-4441. The aquarium displays more than 100 species of live marine animals, from sharks and dolphins to sea turtles and manatees to eels, seahorses and more. This is not a Sea World-type attraction but a working lab with exhibits aimed at increasing understanding of marine life. There are even hands-on activities, like the always-popular stingray touch tank. Visitors can also peek into the working labs. Adults $17, seniors over 65 $16, children four-12 $12. Free for children under four. Open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., including holidays. For a discount Web coupon, visit mote.org.
Myakka River State Park | nine miles east of I-75, 13208 S.R. 72. (941) 361-6511. This vast expanse of scenic Florida—38,000 acres—offers outdoor activities for everyone. You can hike 39 miles of trails, canoe or kayak on the Myakka River, ride a bike, fish, take an air boat tour, ride a horse on a wilderness trail and much more. And yes, you will see alligators—and you could spot deer, wild hogs, even an occasional bobcat. The Canopy Walk high up in the trees is a must-do. Open 8 a.m. to sunset daily. $6 per vehicle of two to eight people, ($4 for a single occupant vehicle); $26 (plus tax) per night for a campsite with water and electricity outlets. floridastateparks.org/myakkariver
Sarasota Classic Car Museum | 5500 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 355-6228. The Sarasota Classic Car Museum features more than 100 automobiles, including Ferraris, DeLoreans and even John Lennon’s Bentley; there’s an antique game arcade and a camera exhibit, too. Open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m. except Christmas Day. Adults $8.50, seniors over 62 $7.50, children six-12 $6.50, free for children under six. Group rates and annual passes available. For a discount web coupon, visit sarasotacarmuseum.org.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens | 3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. (941) 355-5305. One of the last of the great Old Florida tourist attractions, Jungle Gardens is an oasis of low-key charm and natural beauty. You can spend a few hours or a day wandering through the 10 acres of tropical vegetation and taking in the bird and reptile shows. Get your picture taken with a parrot on your arm and hand-feed the big pink flamingos that crowd around you asking for a treat. Adults $15, seniors over 60 $14, children three-12 $10, free for children under three. For a discount web coupon, visit sarasotajunglegardens.com.
Warm Mineral Springs | 12200 San Servano, North Port. (941) 426-1692. This South County attraction, which some claim is the original Fountain of Youth, is home to mineralized waters that are believed to ease back pain, skin conditions, sinusitis and other ailments as well as a spa. Open daily (weather permitting) from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Adults $20, students $14, children 12 and under $8. warmmineralsprings.com n
Local galleries offer an endless array of visual delights.
Sarasota’s art galleries have a reputation for rare, varied and exquisite works of art—they have to. After all, they’re challenged with drawing your eyes away from our emerald Gulf waters and indescribable sunsets, which are as much competition as they are inspiration for our sizeable population of painters, sculptors, curators and collectors. Fortunately, the local galleries you see here hold their own against the area’s natural beauty.
Sarasota has long been a hub for collectors of fine art, whether it’s John Ringling and his museum collection of Peter Paul Rubens masterpieces (the largest outside Europe) or private collectors whose homes feature the likes of Chagall and Warhol. And from its early days as an artists’ colony to today’s internationally renowned Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota has always fostered the creative spirit. Look no further than Sarasota’s Towles Court, Bradenton’s Village of the Arts, or throughout the collections of these galleries to marvel at the works of our homegrown Picassos and Rembrandts.
After all, with so much natural beauty all around, it’s no wonder we hold our artwork to a higher standard.
Visual Arts, Museums and Galleries
Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art | 1288 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 366-2093. allyngallup.com. Monthly contemporary exhibits, original paintings, sculptures and mixed media assemblages.
Art Center Sarasota | 707 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 365-2032. artsarasota.org. This art center, one of Sarasota’s longest-running arts institutions, offers a wide array of exhibits, classes and workshops.
Art Uptown | 1367 Main St., Sarasota. (941) 955-5409. artuptown.com. Cooperative gallery featuring paintings, sculptures, ceramics, basketry and other media.
Cambridge Christner Fine Art | 415 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. (941) 364-4300. Original art works for sale, including acrylics by Torres Rojas, oils by masters.
Clyde Butcher Gallery and Studio | 237 Warfield Ave., Venice. (941) 486-0811. clydebutcher.com. Black-and-white landscape photography featuring natural Florida environments by acclaimed photographer Butcher.
Crissy Galleries | 640 S. Washington Blvd., Suite 150, Sarasota. (941) 957-1110. crissy.com. Specializing in fine art and antiques.
Dabbert Gallery | 76 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 955-1315. dabbertgallery.com. Contemporary paintings, sculptures, watercolors, drawings and bronzes.
Elizabeth Rice Fine Art, Home Accessories and Antiques | 1467 Main St., Sarasota. (941) 954-8575. elizabethrice.com. Contemporary fine art, as well as Biedermeier furniture and other antiques.
Elizabeth Stevens Gallery | 1945 Morrill St., Sarasota. (941) 365-4222. elizabethstevensgallery.net. Paintings by Marge Bennett and Debbie Dannheisser, plus blown glass, pottery and jewelry are featured at this Towles Court space.
Frary Gallery, 1419 Fifth St., Sarasota. (941) 362-0021. frarygallery.com. Fine and contemporary art by local and national artists in a variety of media.
Galleria Silecchia | 20 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 365-7414. galleriasilecchia.com. National and international sculptors, painters, glass artists and more; regular exhibitions.
Hodgell Gallery | 46 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 366-1146. hodgellgallery.com. Contemporary fine art and glass works.
Imperial Fine Art | 1453 Main St., Sarasota. (941) 954-8901. imperial-fineart.com. Fine art prints and original works, many by very well-known artists.
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art | 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. (941) 351-1660. ringling.org. The state museum of Florida houses an extensive Baroque collection, modern collection, Asian art and changing exhibitions.
Longboat Key Center for the Arts | 6860 Longboat Drive S., Longboat Key. (941) 383-2345. This long-established center, now affiliated with the Ringling College of Art and Design, offers classes, exhibits, sales and special events.
Madeby Gallery | 734 Central Ave., Sarasota. (941) 822-0442. Works by Ringling College of Art and Design students and alumni for sale.
SAGA Gallery | 53A Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 536-3661. sagagallery.com. International trader in modern and pop art.
Sarasota Season of Sculpture | (941) 366-7767. Presents a biennial exhibition of large-scale sculptures along Sarasota’s downtown bayfront.
s/ART/q | sartq.com. Local contemporary artists with the mission of enhancing local arts culture and engaging the community through exhibitions and educational opportunities. Produces regular shows at various locations.
Selby Gallery, Ringling College of Art and Design | 2700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 359-7563. ringling.edu/selbygallery. Presents works by national and regional artists in a variety of media; it also hosts annual faculty exhibitions and the "Best of Ringling" student show.
Stakenborg Fine Art | 1545 Main St., Sarasota. (941) 487-8001. stakenborgfineart.com. An art resource for collectors of paintings, drawings and prints, including works by such artists as Picasso.
State of the Arts Gallery | 1525 State St., Sarasota. (941) 955-2787. sarasotafineart.com. This contemporary fine art gallery presents work from local and national artists in regular exhibitions.
Towles Court | just west of U.S. 301 between Adams and Morrill streets. towlescourt.com. This working artist colony offers gallery/studio spaces for viewing and buying; a gallery walk takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. every third Friday of the month.
Venice Art Center | 390 Nokomis Ave. S., Venice. (941) 485-7136. veniceartcenter.com. The area’s largest community art center, begun in 1958, offering exhibitions, classes and occasional special events, such as a Paint-Out in Paradise.
Village of the Arts | east of 14th Street West, between Ninth and 17th avenues, Bradenton. Community of artists, studios and galleries. Art walks take place the first weekend of every month, Friday, 6 to 9:30 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
William Hartman Gallery | 48 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 955-4785. Displays 18th- and 19th-century antique prints.
Wyland Galleries of Sarasota | 314 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands. (941) 388-5331. wylandgalleries.com. Marine and wildlife art by Wyland and other environmental artists is featured here, along with Oggetti glass.
In addition to Sarasota’s museums, several other fine arts museums are nearby, including the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, the Salvador Dali Museum, also in St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Museum of Art.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Live, from Sarasota
Take your seat and let the shows begin.
Visitors are often amazed at the depth and breadth of Sarasota’s performing arts scene. Somebody is always putting on a show here—and many of those shows could hold their own in much larger cultural capitals. We’re home to half-a-dozen theaters, both professional and community, not to mention internationally renowned opera, a ballet company that’s won rave reviews in The New York Times, an excellent orchestra and many smaller organizations adding fuel to the city’s creative soul. Contemporary dance? We got it. Stand-up comedy? You bet. And if that’s not enough, in John Ringling’s Sarasota, the circus is always in town.
For those who want to get in on the act, many of these organizations offer classes and workshops in everything from oboe to improv.
Check out performances, classes and events calendars, available on most of these groups’ websites, to plan your trip. But with so many plays, readings, concerts, festivals and more going on year-round, there’s no way you’ll be able to see them all. Better plan for a return visit soon!
Asolo Repertory Theatre | (941) 351-8000. asolorep.org. For more than 50 years, the Asolo Rep has been presenting professional, Equity theater productions, with a rotating repertory cast and format almost unique in North America. The season, usually offering eight or nine plays in all, typically gets under way in October or November and continues into May or June. The past few seasons have begun with blockbuster musical productions en route to Broadway, followed by a rotating repertory presenting a range of classical and contemporary works, employing professional actors who are based locally or split their time between Sarasota and New York.
Banyan Theater Company | (941) 358-5330. banyantheatercompany.com. Nearly a decade ago, the Banyan began offering theater-hungry audiences the opportunity to view professional quality productions over the summer. Three shows are presented in the traditionally slower months of June, July and August, and they run the gamut from Eugene O’Neill to Chekhov to Neil LaBute, giving us plenty to talk about after the final curtain.
The FSU Center for the Performing Arts | 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 351-8000. Home to the professional Asolo Rep, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory of Professional Actor Training (which presents its own four-play season in the smaller Cook Theatre here), Sarasota Ballet of Florida and, in the summer, the Banyan Theater Company. Performances on two stages year-round.
Florida Studio Theatre | 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 366-9000. floridastudiotheatre.org. FST’s diverse offerings run virtually year-round on three stages in downtown Sarasota. The mainstage season at the Keating Theatre mixes drama, musical comedies and new work; a smaller, intimate cabaret stage is perfect for musical revues as well as improv comedy performances, workshops and more. The Gompertz Theatre on First Street also presents smaller-sized shows, often of a hard-hitting nature.
Golden Apple Dinner Theatre | 25 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. (941) 366-5454. thegoldenapple.com. The country’s oldest continuously running professional dinner theater serves up songs and laughter in the heart of downtown Sarasota. Traditionally, the Apple has presented Broadway musical comedy standards like Evita or Cats; lately, they’ve also branched out into straight comedies and newer musical revues.
Manatee Players | 102 12th St. W., Bradenton. (941) 748-5875. manateeplayers.com. This venerable community theater has been presenting a full season of plays (mostly musicals of late) for decades in its Riverfront Theatre site in downtown Bradenton. (The group is in the process of building a new facility nearby.) The quality is often well above the usual concept of community theater; strong educational programs here, too.
The Players Theatre | 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 365-2494. theplayers.org. The Players is the great-granddaddy of the area’s community theaters, with a stage that has been graced by Montgomery Clift and Charlton Heston. Now celebrating its 81st season, it offers Broadway musical favorites onstage September through April. But the Players also presents a lively mix of concerts and a summer play fest, as well as occasional edgier work. There are also a popular playwriting contest and a performing arts school at the Players, where students of all ages hone the talents that may eventually launch them onto mainstage.
Venice Theatre | 140 W. Tampa Ave., Venice. (941) 488-1115. venicestage.com. Community theater presenting a blend of musical favorites, the occasional drama and a comedy or two on
its mainstage. Venice Theatre’s smaller, black-box Pinkerton
Theater plays host to more contemporary Stage II offerings, along with cabaret shows. Again, there’s a strong educational component to the theater’s programs, with classes for both children and adults. Venice Theatre recently hosted the 2010 International Amateur Theatre Festival.
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe | (941) 366-1505. wbttroupe.org. This professional African-American theater company has been going strong for more than a decade now. WBTT has had numerous hits with its musicals, but they present the occasional drama, too, drawn from either African-American playwrights or relating to the African-American experience. The season, comprising four shows, is performed at the troupe’s brand-new home on Orange Avenue from December to May.
MUSIC, DANCE & POETRY
Artist Series of Sarasota | (941) 306-1200. artistseries.net. Celebrating its 15th season, the Artist Series continues to capti-vate audiences with world-class
classical music as well as concerts featuring pop and Broadway sounds. Most concerts take place at the Historic Asolo Theater, October through June.
Fuzión Dance Artists | (941) 345-5755. fuziondance.com. Sarasota’s first contemporary dance company, Fuzión presents a range of dance genres in seasonal performances at the Historic Asolo Theater and at stages and other venues throughout the area (and beyond). The company and its choreographers also work with students of all ages.
Gloria Musicae | (941) 925-3183. gloriamusicae.com. This longtime professional chamber chorus presents several concerts a year, including a December holiday event, a Fourth of July celebration and a large-scale piece (this year it’s Mozart’s Requiem, April 11, 2011). For ticket info call 360-7399.
The Jazz Club of Sarasota | 330 S. Pineapple Ave., Suite 111, Sarasota. (941) 366-1552. jazzclubsarasota.org. Celebrating three decades of promoting, performing and preserving jazz, the Jazz Club organizes performances year-round, including jams, members’ concerts and educational programs. Their Sarasota Jazz Festival, a highlight for many years, takes place at the end of January.
Key Chorale | (941) 921-4845. keychorale.org. This ensemble has been presenting choral music in the community for more than a quarter century, and its masterworks, which are performed at the Sarasota Opera House as well as other venues, are local favorites. The new Unboxed Series gives the group a chance to branch out with new and lesser-known pieces in unusual venues around town.
La Musica International Chamber Music Festival | (941) 366-8450. lamusicafestival.org. Now in its third decade, La Musica brings musicians from Europe and the Americas to perform all sorts of chamber works. The festival, under the artistic direction of Bruno Giuranna and Derek Han, takes place each April and offers rehearsals open to the public at New College’s Sainer Pavilion and a number of concerts at the Sarasota Opera House.
New Music New College | (941) 487-4888. newmusicnewcollege.org. This 11-year-old program is a proving ground for compositional and performance projects that start in the classrooms of New College’s music program. The five-concert series features both student musicians and innovative professionals, local and national, in venues around the college campus.
Perlman Music Program Suncoast | (941) 955-4942. perlmanmusicprogramsuncoast.org. The professional development program for gifted young musicians, founded by the famed Itzhak and Toby Perlman, offers audiences the chance to see rehearsals and recitals during the two-week winter program here. The residency culminates with a Celebration Concert at the Sarasota Opera House led by Itzhak Perlman himself.
Sarasota Ballet | (941) 359-0099. sarasotaballet.org. Celebrating its 20th anniversary (and its fourth season under the artistic direction of Iain Webb), this international professional company has garnered much acclaim for its stagings of new or rarely seen dance pieces, with works by choreographers ranging from legends like Sir Frederick Ashton to more contemporary masters such as Matthew Bourne and Dominic Walsh. The ballet season typically runs from October or
November through April, with performances at the Sarasota Opera House and the FSU Center.
Sarasota Choral Society | (941) 343-9894. sarasotachoralsociety.org. A community chorus numbering up to 300 strong that has performed the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah (accompanied by a full orchestra, organist and soloists) every winter for 66 years.
Sarasota Concert Association | (941) 955-0040. sarasotaconcertassociation.org. Presents a hugely popular five-concert series at the Van Wezel featuring internationally renowned symphony and chamber orchestras, ensembles and soloists. Association members gobble up the series subscriptions, but returned tickets can be found by calling ahead or showing up to the box office an hour before a performance—just expect some competition: The Sarasota Concert Association has been around for more than 70 years, so the secret’s out.
Sarasota Concert Band | (941) 364-2263. sarasotaconcertband.org. Performs regular concerts at various area venues, focusing on concert band music.
Sarasota Opera | 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. (941) 366-8450. sarasotaopera.org. This internationally acclaimed professional company, led by Maestro Victor DeRenzi, performs a range of operas in downtown Sarasota’s stunningly restored Sarasota Opera House. Fall and winter seasons generally present four operas from Mozart to Puccini to the Sarasota Opera’s widely praised Verdi cycle, plus concerts, special events, and the new American Classics program featuring 20th-century masterpieces by American composers. The company also maintains a unique Sarasota Youth Opera program.
Sarasota Orchestra | 709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 953-4252. At more than 60 years of age, this 80-member professional orchestra (formerly the Florida West Coast Symphony) is the oldest continuing orchestra in the state. In addition to its traditional Masterworks series and chamber music, offerings include multi-media experiences blending video with both popular and classical music, through its Pixel Pops and Journeys to Genius series. Youth Orchestra programs, more than 50 years old, include more than 200 young musicians, in addition
to students at summer music camps
Sarasota Pops | (941) 926-POPS. sarasotapops.org. The home-grown orchestra, which also welcomes occasional guest artists, performs a series of five concerts throughout the November to April season, with material varying from Bach to Christmas tunes to jazz. Most performances take place at Sarasota’s Church of the Palms.
SOULSPEAK/SOULMOVES | (941) 366-6468. soulspeak.org. This long-running collective of artists presents live poetry performances, as well as dance, music and art, centered on spontaneous communal speaking—taking a page from prehistoric man and creating contemporary performance art.
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall | 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 953-3368. vanwezel.org. This distinctive purple seashell-shaped hall along Sarasota’s bayfront boasts a wide-ranging season of Broadway touring theater, international dance companies both classical and modern, acclaimed world orchestras, comedians, pop music stars, children’s programs and more, mostly October through May.
Venice Symphony | (941) 488-1010. thevenicesymphony.org. Presenting six sets of concerts a year, December through April, from classical to pops, as well as a summer music camp. Performances are usually held at Venice’s Church of the Nazarene.
Circus Sarasota | (941) 355-9335. circussarasota.org. Not many towns can boast their own one-ring circus, but this is Sarasota, which has been synonymous with the circus arts for more than 80 years. Co-founders Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs (daughter of legendary clown Lou Jacobs) oversee winter performances staged under the Big Top and featuring top stars from around the world in the fields of high-wire, aerial, juggling, equestrian acts and more. Circus Sarasota also offers educational and outreach programs.
McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre | 3333 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 925-FUNY. mccurdyscomedy.com. Nationally known stand-up comics make regular stops at McCurdy’s popular club in north Sarasota (think Chris Rock, Jeff Dunham and Last Comic Standing alums). Full bar and snacks are available during performances. Check McCurdy’s novel rating system to gauge the level of "adult humor" for each performer—there are even Family Comedy Shows. Open-mic nights and training and special programs through the Humor Institute.
Sarasota Film Festival | (941) 366-6200; (941) 364-9514. sarasotafilmfestival.com. Each spring, Sarasota welcomes actors, filmmakers and film lovers to a 10-day celebration of the art of film, with screenings of brand-new movies at downtown’s Hollywood 20, plus parties, talks with the artists and more. This year’s fest is set for April 8-17; there are usually at least a dozen or so celebs in attendance (past attendees include Charlize Theron, Kevin Kline and Werner Herzog). SFF also sponsors year-round screenings and educational programs.
Sarasota Film Society/Burns Court Cinema | (941) 955-FILM or (941) 364-8662. SFS. filmsociety.org. Presents independent and international films at its intimate Burns Court location in downtown Sarasota—a popular spot among locals. SFS also hosts the weeklong Cine-World Festival each November and operates movie theaters in Lakewood Ranch.
New College of Florida | 5800 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. (941) 487-5000. ncf.edu. New College continues to win raves as an innovative, affordable four-year liberal arts school; it’s the honors college of the state university system. Academic tracks include art, art history and music—and many more.
Ringling College of Art and Design | 2700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 351-5100. ringling.edu. This internationally recognized four-year professional art and design school earns national attention—graduates are recruited by the likes of Pixar, Electronic Arts and Hallmark. Its ever-expanding campus has become a landmark on North Tamiami Trail. Among the school’s specialties: graphic and interior design, computer animation, fine arts, illustration and digital film making.
State College of Florida | 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton. (941) 752-5000. scf.edu. Formerly known as Manatee Community College, SCF is home to a fine and performing arts department that includes instruction in art, photography, film, music and theater. Both a gallery and a theater space are active on the Bradenton campus; there are also classes in Venice and Lakewood Ranch locations. n
Sports & Recreation
From baseball to wind-surfing, outdoor fun abounds in Sarasota.
When Southwest Floridians refer to the "active lifestyle," they’re not talking about apple-picking. Try scuba diving, kayaking and reeling in the biggest tarpon you’ve ever seen. Looking for some swinging pursuits? With dozens of golf courses in the area, you can always get in 18 holes before lunch. Or maybe you’d like to sit back on a sailboat and take in the sunset: There are countless opportunities to get on the water and get away from it all. Even elite athletes flock to our shores, be they Major League baseball players reporting for spring training, golf legends staking out their latest course designs or international polo players saddling up and taking the field.
Baltimore Orioles | Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th St., Sarasota. (888) 329-3365. Sarasota is the spring training home for Maryland’s Major League Baseball team.
Bradenton Marauders |
McKechnie Field, 1611 Ninth St. W., Bradenton. (941) 747-3031. Single-A minor league team plays a full summer season in Bradenton’s charmingly old-fashioned park.
Pittsburgh Pirates | McKechnie Field, 1611 Ninth St. W., Bradenton. (941) 747-3031. The Major League Baseball team plays its home spring training games here, too.
Tampa Bay Rays | Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg. (888) 326-7297. Southwest Florida’s Major League team, which last season captured its division.
There are a number of boat rental and charter services available throughout the area. Check your local listings for additional options.
CB’s Saltwater Outfitters | 1249 Stickney Point Road, Siesta Key. (941) 349-4400. cbsoutfitters.com. Boat rentals, fishing charters, equipment sales.
Cannon’s Marina | 6040 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key. (941) 383-1311. cannons.com. New and used boat dealer, rentals and service.
Flying Fish Fleet | Marina Jack, Sarasota. flyingfishfleet.com. Party boat and private fishing trips, corporate charters. Online reservations.
Hart’s Landing | 920 John Ringling Causeway, Sarasota. (941) 955-0011.
hartslanding.com. Sarasota’s oldest bait and tackle shop; adjacent to free fishing along the seawall and the Tony Saprito Pier.
Key Sailing | (941) 346-SAIL. Sailing charters and instruction. Based in downtown Sarasota near Marina Jack.
LeBarge Tropical Cruises | (941) 366-6116. A local favorite for relaxed sunset cruises, dolphin watch tours, charters and more. Departs from downtown Sarasota, near Marina Jack.
Top Notch Sportfishing | (941) 809-5793. topnotchfishing.com. Guided, light-tackle fishing trips.
Adventure Kayak Outfitters | (941) 779-7426. adventurekayakoutfitters.com. Kayak tours and rentals.
Island Style Watersports | 2433 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 954-1009. islandstyle.ws. Kayaking, windsurfing, kiteboarding.
Florida Underwater Sports | 6345 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 870-4461. floridaunderwatersports.com. Training, equipment sales.
Scuba Quest | 1129 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 366-1530. scubaquestusa.com. Classes, retail, dive trips. Additional locations in Bradenton and Venice.
Sea Trek Divers | 105 Seventh St. N., Bradenton Beach. (941) 779-1506. seatrekdivers.com. SCUBA rental, instruction, guided charters.
Bath and Racquet Club | 2170 Robinhood St., Sarasota. (941) 306-4113. sarasota-health-club.com. Tennis, racquetball, classes, fitness equipment and more.
Curves | 4438 Bee Ridge Road or 7616 Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota; four additional locations in Sarasota and Manatee counties. curves.com. Fitness for women.
Evolution Health and Fitness | Courthouse Centre, 1990 Main St., second floor, Sarasota. (941) 955-9300. myevolutionfitnessclub.com. Upscale private health club with weights, Pilates, yoga and fitness facilities, as well as amenities like oxygenated air and infrared saunas.
Gold’s Gym | 3762 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. (941) 923-GOLD. goldsgym.com. Cardio and strength facilities, group classes offered.
Sarasota YMCA | sarasota-ymca.org. Three local fitness branches offering weight training and fitness equipment, classes, personal training, youth programs, social services and more. Babe Weiller Branch, 1991 Main St., Suite 200, Sarasota. (941) 366-6779. Cardio, weights, group classes in the heart of downtown. Evalyn Sadlier Jones Branch, 8301 Potter Park Drive, Sarasota. (941) 922-9622.
Full gym equipment, plus racquetball, indoor track, climbing tower and aquatics center. Frank G. Berlin Sr. Branch, 1075 S. Euclid Ave., Sarasota. (941) 955-8194. Full gym equipment, plus gymnasium, indoor racquetball, indoor pool, outdoor track, childcare.
YouFit | 3840 S. Tuttle Ave. or 6198 N. Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota. youfithealthclubs.us. Weight and cardio facilities. Memberships starting at just $10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Raymond James Stadium, 4201 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 879-BUCS. Southwest Florida’s NFL team.
Tampa Bay Storm | St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 301-6600. Professional football team plays in the Arena Football League.
Bobby Jones Golf Course | 1000 Circus Blvd., Sarasota. (941) 365-GOLF. bobbyjonesgolfclub.com. Municipal courses (45 holes) designed in 1927 by Bobby Jones himself.
The Concession Golf Club and Residences | 18804 Ganton Ave., Bradenton. (941) 322-1922. theconcession.com. Eighteen holes designed by Jack Nicklaus to commemorate the historic 1969 Ryder Cup. Private.
The Founders Golf Club | 3800 Golf Hall Drive, Sarasota. (941) 371-7462. thefoundersgolfclub.com. Private.
Heron Creek Golf and Country Club | 3401 S. Sumter Blvd., North Port. (941) 240-5100. heron-creek.com. Innovative 27-hole championship course. Semi-private.
IMG Academies Golf and Country Club | 4350 El Conquistador Parkway, (941) 758-1466. Bradenton.Training facilities and 18 holes along Sarasota Bay. Semi-private.
Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club | 7650 Legacy Blvd., Bradenton. (941) 907-4700. lakewoodranchgolf.com. Three championship courses, two designed by Arnold Palmer. Private.
Laurel Oak Country Club | 2700 Gary Player Blvd., Sarasota. (941) 378-3608. laureloak.com. Private club; certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch | 8255 Legacy Blvd., Bradenton. (941) 907-7067. legacygolfclub.com. An Arnold Palmer signature 18-hole golf course. Public.
Longboat Key Club and Resort | 442 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key. (941) 387-1602. longboatkeyclub.com. Two courses combining for 45 holes of golf, plus two pro shops, two driving ranges and a golf academy. Private.
Mission Valley Country Club | 1851 Mission Valley Blvd., Laurel. (941) 488-9683. missionvalleycc.com. Walker-friendly 18-hole course with several scenic lakes. Private.
The Oaks Club | 301 MacEwen Drive, Osprey. (941) 966-2161. theoaksclub.com. Two championship-conditioned golf courses. Private.
Palm-Aire Country Club | 5601 Country Club Way, Sarasota. (941) 556-0782. palmaire.net. Recently renovated golf courses. Private.
Plantation Golf and Country Club | 500 Rockley Blvd., Venice. (941) 497-1479. plantationgcc.com. Two championship courses. Private.
The Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club | 15140 70th Terrace E., Bradenton. (888) 363-6237. rcmcsarasota.com. Sarasota’s only course designed by architect Tom Fazio. Private.
Sara Bay Golf and Country Club | 7011 Willow St., Sarasota. (941) 355-7658. sarabaycc.org. Private club established
in 1926; the course was fully renovated in 2006.
Sarasota Golf Club | 7280 N. Leewynn Drive, Sarasota. (941) 371-2431. sarasotagc.com. Public course with good variety, natural Florida setting.
TPC Prestancia | 4409 TPC Drive, Sarasota. (941) 922-2800. tpcprestancia.com
Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, two courses. Private.
University Park Country Club | 7671 The Park Blvd., University Park. (941) 359-9999. universitypark-fl.com. Driving range, practice areas, pro shop, golf schools, 27 holes. Semi-private.
Waterlefe Golf and River Club | 1022 Fish Hook Cove, Bradenton. (941) 744-0393. waterlefegolfandriverclub.com. Semi-private championship course designed by Ted McAnlis, located along the upper Manatee River.
Sarasota Kennel Club | 5400 Old Bradenton Road, Sarasota. (941) 355-7744. sarasotakennelclub.com. Live greyhound racing, simulcast horse racing and poker.
Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex | 5309 29th St. E., Ellenton. (941) 723-3663. ellentonice.com. Children’s and adult hockey leagues, figure skating, public skate sessions.
Tampa Bay Lightning | St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 301-6500. NHL team.
Sarasota Polo Club | 8201 Polo Club Lane, Sarasota. (941) 907-0000. Sunday afternoon matches held December through April.
Bath and Racquet Club | 2170 Robinhood St., Sarasota. (941) 306-4113. sarasota-health-club.com. Private health club offering 23 clay tennis courts, six hard courts, plus racquetball, pros, leagues and more.
Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club Tennis Center | 8488 Legacy Blvd., Lakewood Ranch. (941) 907-2825. Members enjoy 18 lighted clay courts, pro shop, deli and more.
Longboat Key Club and Resort | 220 Sands Pointe Road, Longboat Key. (941) 383-8821. longboatkeyclub.com. New tennis complex featuring 20 courts, pro shop, café, clubhouse and more; hosts a pro tournament each spring.
The Oaks Club | 301 MacEwen Drive, Osprey. theoaksclub.com. Members enjoy 12 Har-Tru tennis courts.
Palm-Aire Country Club | 5601 Country Club Way, Sarasota. (941) 556-0782. palmaire.net. Eight Har-Tru courts and two all-weather courts.
Payne Park Tennis Center | 2050 Adams Lane, Sarasota. Twelve Har-Tru courts, locker rooms. Fees apply.
Plantation Golf and Country Club | 500 Rockley Blvd., Venice. (941) 497-1479. plantationgcc.com. Offers 13 Har-Tru tennis courts.
Serendipity Racquet Club | 3600 Torrey Pines Blvd., Sarasota. (941) 922-1591. serendipityracquetclub.com. Private club featuring 19 Har-Tru courts and a variety of programs.
University Park Country Club | 7671 The Park Blvd., University Park. universitypark-fl.com. Members enjoy 11 lighted tennis courts, instruction and more.
SoCo Sports | (941) 266-8578. socosports.com. Adult social leagues in a number of sports, including flag football, bowling, volleyball, softball and ultimate Frisbee.
Life’s a Beach
Explore 35 miles of spectacular shoreline.
It’s a common visual icon for our area: a gorgeous, white-sand beach edging the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But you might not know just how varied our 35 miles of beachfront really are. One beach may be a secluded section of undeveloped, all-natural Florida (Caspersen), while another is a nationally ranked (No. 2!) hub boasting immaculate sand, sunbathing, swimming and more (Siesta). One beach is nestled close to a popular haven of world-class dining and shopping (Lido), while another is so peaceful that some residents haven’t yet discovered it (Longboat Key). Yes, our area may be one shoreline, but its various personalities are virtually endless. You’ll want to take the time to get to know them all.
Manatee Public Beach | Bridge access from Bradenton via Manatee Avenue (S.R. 64). Popular hangout in the city of Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island. Centered around Cafe on the Beach, which serves traditional concessions as well as beer and wine, there’s also a beach shop and volleyball. The decent-size parking lot often overflows, especially on weekends.
Coquina Beach, Bradenton Beach | Bridge access from Bradenton via Cortez Road, or from Longboat Key via Gulf of Mexico Drive. This Manatee County beach comprises a long, uninterrupted stretch of public shoreline on the southern end of Anna Maria Island, with soft white sand and calm, often very clear water. Ample parking along the road or in the large lot to the south, where you’ll also find concessions, restrooms and an extensive picnic area.
Longboat Key | Look for signs along the north end of Gulf of Mexico Drive; bridge access from the John Ringling Causeway in downtown Sarasota, or south from Longboat Key. A handful of public accesses allow Longboat non-residents a chance to park and enjoy the quiet solitude of the key—which has no direct link to the mainland and is so populated by elegant, private condominiums and resorts that these few public accesses rarely, if ever, draw a crowd. No amenities.
Lido Beach | 400 Ben Franklin Drive, Lido Key; bridge access from the John Ringling Causeway in downtown Sarasota, or south from Longboat Key. Within walking distance of shops and restaurants on St. Armands Circle, Lido Beach is family-friendly and great for swimming, with year-round lifeguards, ample parking, an exceptional concession stand, wheelchair access and a swimming pool. More than a mile of beachfront extends through North Lido, making for an idyllic stroll less than five minutes from downtown Sarasota.
South Lido Beach/Park | 190 Taft Drive, Lido Key. The intersection of Big Pass and the Gulf of Mexico is a favorite spot for picnicking, with tables, grills and a playground under shady Australian pines. Boaters, kayakers and personal watercraft enthusiasts flock here, especially on weekends, but the area also boasts nature trails and undeveloped land. Restrooms, weekend lifeguards during the summer only; beware strong currents here.
Siesta Beach | 948 Beach Road, Siesta Key; bridge access from Siesta Drive or Stickney Point Road. The crown jewel of our local waterfront, Siesta perennially ranks within the top five beaches nationwide for its expanse of flour-like sand and clean, clear Gulf waters. Special events like an annual sand-sculpting contest or the weekly drum circle gathering add to the allure, but Siesta is a treat in and of itself, from beachfront breakfast to stunning sunset. There’s a great picnic area and volleyball courts, year-round lifeguards, plus tennis courts, concessions, restrooms, pavilion and more, but even with an 800-space lot, parking can be a challenge.
Turtle Beach | 8862 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key. A favorite for kayakers, who can explore nearby lagoon and natural wetlands, Turtle Beach also boasts a popular campground—a rare opportunity to pitch your tent within the sound of waves. A recent improvement project, much of which has been completed, will leave quiet Turtle Beach with brand-new pedestrian walkways, playground, pavilion, a handicapped-accessible boardwalk, a kayak launch and enhanced restrooms and parking.
North Jetty Beach | 1000 Casey Key Road, Casey Key; bridge access via Albee Road, Laurel. There aren’t a lot of surfing hotspots on Florida’s west coast, but this is one of them. The jetties, meant to battle erosion, help to create decent-size surf with regularity. (They’re also home to some great fishing, as resident anglers will attest.) Bait shop and concession stand, plus year-round lifeguards, restrooms and both volleyball and horseshoe courts.
Venice Beach | 101 The Esplanade, Venice. Long famous for its abundance of sharks’ teeth, Venice Beach still draws treasure-hunters and beachcombers who regularly dig up the fossilized souvenirs. Plus, the Venice Beach Pavilion, which houses its concession stand, is a landmark of architecture in the Sarasota School. Year-round lifeguards, plus beach wheelchairs, picnicking, dune walkovers, restrooms and volleyball.
Brohard Beach and Paw Park | 1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice. Between Venice and Caspersen beaches, Brohard Beach is the area’s only public, Gulf-front dog-friendly beach. The Paw Park has fenced-in grassy areas specifically designed for dog-play (including a separate area for smaller dogs), and four-legged friends can also romp through the water and along a section of the beach. Picnic tables and restrooms, but no lifeguards.
Caspersen Beach | 4100 Harbor Drive, Venice. A secluded stretch of all-natural coastline south of Venice, Caspersen provides beachcombers an excellent selection of shells as well as fossilized bones and teeth. Explore the untouched beachfront and nearby marshlands via a short nature trail, or just kick back and enjoy the peace and quiet in this section of undeveloped Sarasota County. Restrooms and picnic area, but no lifeguards.
Manasota Beach | 8570 Manasota Key Road, Manasota Key; bridge access via Manasota Beach Road. Gulf beach access as well as boating docks along the Intra-coastal Waterway that double as boardwalks for exploring the mangroves. Year-round lifeguards, picnic tables and shelters, fishing, restrooms, docks and boat ramps.
Blind Pass Beach | 6725 Manasota Key Road, Manasota Key; bridge access via Manasota Beach Road, or Beach Road to the south. A quiet, narrow stretch of beach-to-bay in southernmost Sarasota County, Blind Pass is a secluded spot perfect for a nature hike or quiet beach picnics surrounded by serene Florida flora. Canoe launch, fishing, restrooms and playground, but no lifeguards.
The Best Rooms in Town
Find your home away from home at these top hotels.
Whether you’re in town for business or pleasure, your hotel room should be a home away from home—or even better. After all, how many of our homes have concierge service, valet parking, luxury linens and spa showers?
Each of these local hotels and resorts offers comforts and amenities designed to make your stay relaxing and convenient. In addition to in-room luxuries, their on-site offerings span everything from 24-hour fitness and business centers to award-winning restaurants and private marinas. Plus, wherever you stay, your room will be convenient to beaches, shopping, cultural centers or natural wonders.
We’re proud to present this guide to outstanding local resorts, and we’re privileged to partner with them in making this special annual visitor’s issue available to their guests throughout the year.
Best Western Midtown | 1425 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 955-9841. Just south of downtown Sarasota, convenient to shopping, restaurants, beaches, area attractions and more. The hotel’s own amenities include relaxing perks like a heated pool and complimentary continental breakfast buffet.
Hotel Indigo Sarasota | 1223 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. (941) 487-3800. srqhotel.com. A refreshing alternative for business or leisure, Hotel Indigo offers inspired service, intriguing design and invigorating atmosphere. The 95 cool, welcoming guest rooms feature hardwood floors and decorative area rugs, spa-inspired showers, oversized beds and luxurious linens. Located along the edge of downtown Sarasota, it’s convenient to the airport, downtown, St. Armands Circle, Lido and Siesta beaches and all of the area’s cultural attractions. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota Opera House and Sarasota Orchestra are all within half a mile of Hotel Indigo, and the Ringling Museum, Asolo Repertory Theatre and Sarasota Ballet are less than three miles away. On-site amenities include twin spa wading pools, a salon and Phi Café, which serves casual bites and freshly brewed Starbucks coffee.
Hyatt Regency Sarasota | 1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. (941) 953-1234. sarasota.hyatt.com. A 294-room favorite among discerning business and leisure travelers, it’s the only hotel in the area to have earned a prestigious Four Diamond rating from the American Automobile Association (AAA).The designation is based on Hyatt Regency Sarasota’s design and aesthetics, as well as its high standards for service, extensive array of amenities and its attention to details.
For business events and grand parties, the 20,000 square feet of meeting space includes a 10,000-square foot ballroom and is the largest conference facility between Tampa and Fort Myers. Additionally, the hotel’s private marina includes a state-of-the-art Bellingham floating dock system and was named the 202nd member of the Florida Clean Marina program.
The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota | 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota. (941) 309-2000. ritzcarlton.com/sarasota. Considered among the best Ritz-Carltons in the world. Its downtown Sarasota location combines city sophistication, Florida charm and world-famous Ritz-Carlton service and amenities. Guests and members enjoy unlimited access to the Mobil-rated spa, private Gulf-front beach club and a Tom Fazio-designed, nationally ranked championship golf course. Standard in-room amenities include down duvets, Italian Frette-brand linens, Bose CD players, desks and chaise lounges, furnished balconies with bay, marina or city views, bathrooms with double marble vanities and plush Ritz-Carlton robes. The resort’s signature restaurant, Vernona, features award-winning fare using fresh ingredients from local farmers to create exceptional regional American cuisine. For casual elegance, guests can enjoy the bayfront Bay View Burger Bar and the comfortable, classic Cà d’Zan Lounge.
Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel | 1540 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota. (941) 388-2181. helmsleysandcastle.com. Located on 600 feet of private, beach, the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel is a full-service resort with a friendly, tropical atmosphere. Two on-site restaurants offer a choice of a casual, open-air meal or elegant formal dining. The Sandcastle’s recreation department arranges Aqua Cat sailboats, aqua cycles or kayaks and offers lessons on each, or guests may simply choose from two heated pools and a pool bar. Each room includes a refrigerator, coffeemaker, safe, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, make-up mirror and daily newspaper. Complimentary wireless Internet.
Lido Beach Holiday Inn | 233 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota. (941) 388-5555. lidobeachholidayinn.com. One of the best views of the Gulf is highlighted by the Lido Beach Holiday Inn’s spectacular outdoor pool overlooking the beach. Within walking distance of St. Armands Circle, the hotel’s amenities include complimentary shuttle service to nearby St. Armands and downtown Sarasota. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service are served by the Sand Dollar Rooftop Restaurant, which also features a relaxing environment and fabulous view. Beach cabanas, beach chairs and bicycle rentals are available.
Lido Beach Resort | 700 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota, (941) 388-2161. (800) 441-2113. lidobeachresort.com. Sarasotans know the view from the resort’s renowned Lido Beach Grill, which overlooks the Gulf of Mexico from the eighth floor, is among the best in the area. Within walking distance of St. Armands Circle, the famous beach tiki bar is also a hit with locals, and guests can stick around to enjoy two heated beachfront pools and a 900-square-foot fitness center. Rooms include deluxe kitchenettes and one- and two-bedroom suites, with a refrigerator, microwave and complimentary high-speed Internet access. The Lido Beach Resort also features a full-service catering staff, award-winning chef and 6,000 square feet of flexible meeting space to accommodate functions on-site and on the beach.
Gulf and Bay Club | 5730 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota. (941) 349-3000. A premier residential resort on idyllic Crescent Beach offering one-month rentals of fully furnished two-bedroom, two-bath units alongside athletic courts, a fitness center, saunas, three heated pools, barbecue areas and two clubhouses. The property also has a freshwater-stocked lake, plus covered parking, a library and 24-hour security.
Holiday Inn Express Siesta Key/Sarasota | 6600 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 924-4900. hiexsarasota.com. Traditional comfort in an unmatched location, surrounded by restaurants, shopping and Siesta Key Beach. Offering single- and double-bed guest rooms as well as upgraded poolside king rooms with pull-out sofa and flat-screen TV, the hotel also has brand-new two-room executive suites each with a kitchenette, living room, 42-inch flat-screen TV and sleeper sofa. Guests enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast each morning, USA Today, wireless Internet, fresh fruit plus popcorn, cappuccino and cookies, all made fresh daily.
Hyatt Siesta Key Beach | 915 Seaside Drive, Sarasota. (941) 346-5900. hyattsiestakeybeach.com. Creating a new standard of vacation ownership, the beachfront Hyatt Siesta Key Beach, a Hyatt Residence Club, offers luxurious accommodations within a world-class setting. Guests enjoy private terraces, personalized grocery services and complimentary Wi-Fi, as well as poolside cabanas, beachfront fire pit, beach amenities and valet, and Hyatt concierge services.
The Palm Bay Club | 5960 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota. (800) 725-6229. palmbayclub.com. Ideally located between Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on Siesta Key, impeccable vacation condominiums provide guests a quiet beach for sunning or shelling. Guests also enjoy two heated pools, lighted tennis courts, yacht basin, fishing pier, private clubhouse and exercise equipment. The one-, two- and three-bedroom suites are all fully furnished, and they provide breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico and lush tropical landscaping.
Sarasota Surf & Racquet Club | 5900 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota. (941) 349-2200 or (800) 237-5671. sarasotasurf.com. Siesta Key’s only full-service tennis resort located directly on the beach and famous for exceptional customer service. Offers fully furnished one- and two-bedroom condominiums with complete kitchens, all surrounded by sugar-white sand along the Gulf of Mexico. The resort also offers two heated pools, four tennis courts (two are clay), fitness center, business center and free property-wide wireless access, beachside barbecue grills and maid service for a complete, relaxing vacation experience.
Tropical Shores | 6717 SaraSea Circle, Sarasota. (941) 349-3330. tropicalshores.com. Located directly on Siesta Key, Tropical Shores invites guests to enjoy a serene private beach, plus heated pool, volleyball, lush tropical gardens, free Wi-Fi, brand-new rooms and more. Accommodations, from one-room efficiencies to two-bedroom deluxe units, are non-smoking and include fully stocked kitchens.
Comfort Inn | 5000 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 351-7734. The airport-adjacent Comfort Inn is within walking distance of the Ringling Museum and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. Guests enjoy free deluxe continental "Sunshine" breakfast daily, USA Today newspaper on weekdays, free high-speed Internet access as well as a business center, exercise room and outdoor heated pool.
Comfort Suites | 8305 Tourist Center Drive, University Park. (941) 360-2626. Centrally located near the Sarasota Bradenton Airport and the Ringling Museum of Art. Suites include microwaves, refrigerators, coffee makers, hair dryers, irons and ironing boards. Guests enjoy the free "Savory Starts" breakfast seven days a week, including pastries, eggs, sausage and more. The facility also includes free wireless high-speed Internet access, on-site laundry facilities, a 24-hour business center and 24-hour fitness center.
Courtyard by Marriot | 850 University Parkway, Sarasota. (941) 355-3337 or (800) 321-2211. courtyardsarasota.com. A state-certified Green Lodging Hotel, directly across the street from the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, the Courtyard by Marriot is ideal for business travelers. It’s also the closest hotel to the Ringling Museum and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. Less than three miles down the road are downtown Sarasota and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, with Lido and Siesta beaches just beyond. Guests enjoy complimentary high-speed Internet, an exercise facility, outdoor pool and spa, and a full-service restaurant, the Bistro, serving Starbucks coffee. All guest rooms were newly renovated as of January 2010, and the lobby renovation was completed in November.
Golden Host Resort | 4675 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 355-5141. Five acres of tropically landscaped grounds near the Ringling College of Art and Design and centered between the Ringling Museum and downtown Sarasota, plus on-site activities like a 50-foot heated pool and shuffleboard courts. Home to the legendary Bahi Hut lounge, the Golden Host also serves a deluxe continental breakfast daily. Rooms include high-speed Internet and data ports, iron and ironing board and hair dryer.
Hilton Garden Inn | 8270 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 552-1100. Offers a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport (just one mile away). Beaches, performing arts, downtown Sarasota and the Powel Crosley Mansion are within a short driving distance. There are 115 rooms—including allergen-free units—a comfortable lounge and bar, heated outdoor pool and fitness center with spa.
Holiday Inn Sarasota Bradenton Airport | 8009 15th St. E., Sarasota. (941) 355-9000 hisrq.com. Less than two years old, the new Holiday Inn, with a stunning six-story atrium, glass elevators and waterfall, combines resort-style amenities and business facilities: indoor pool, sauna, steam room, massage therapy, room service, free Wi-Fi, 1,700-square-foot ballroom, board room and concierge services to arrange everything from tee times to fishing charters. The on-site Sporting News Grill, popular among locals, is the latest concept in sports bars/restaurants, with nine 50-inch HDTVs showing premium sports packages, plus an outside terrace for alfresco dining and relaxing around the fire-pit conversation area. The restaurant features great steaks, chops, burgers, fresh seafood, huge salads and bar appetizers.
La Quinta Inn and Suites | 1803 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 366-5128. Equidistant from the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport and the excellent shopping, restaurants and beaches of Lido Key and St. Armands Circle. The 90 standard rooms include a pull-out sofa (12 suites are also available), and guests have access to a fitness center, heated pool and laundry room. Guests also enjoy continental breakfast as well as charming interior décor, including hardwood floors in the lobby and each room’s entranceway.
Residence Inn by Marriott | 1040 University Parkway, Sarasota. (941) 358-1468. Airport-adjacent and just two blocks from the Ringling Museum and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, Residence Inn offers 78 suites, including studio suites, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites. Join the complimentary evening socials on weeknights or get work done in the 24-hour business center (or with complimentary wireless Internet access). Take advantage of daily grocery shopping services or swing by the 24-hour market. Pets welcome with a $75 nonrefundable fee.
Springhill Suites by Marriott | 1020 University Parkway, Sarasota. (941) 358-3385. An all-suite hotel near Sarasota Bradenton International Airport featuring suites that are 25 percent larger than comparably priced rooms. Free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast buffet, pool and 24-hour business center, fitness center and market.
Runaway Bay | 1801 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, (941) 778-0000. wagnerrentals.com. Composed of 186 individually owned condominiums available for weekly, monthly or seasonal rental. Fully equipped kitchens and proximity to Anna Maria’s beachy neighborhoods, including many exceptional restaurants. Runaway Bay also features the island’s largest heated swimming pool, a tennis court, sauna, exercise equipment and fishing pier.
Country Inn & Suites | 5610 Manor Hill Lane, Bradenton. (941) 363-4000. countryinns.com/bradentonfl. Convenient to I-75, Country Inn accommodates vacationers, business travelers and small events and business meetings alike. Lounge on pillow-top mattresses and enjoy in-room refrigerators, microwaves and free Wi-Fi, or take advantage of the heated outdoor pool, fitness center, guest laundry and business center.
Fairfield Inn and Suites Lakewood Ranch | 6105 Exchange Way, Lakewood Ranch. (941) 552-4000. Minutes from shopping, attractions and golf courses. With 87 cheerful rooms and suites, the hotel provides complimentary high-speed Internet, a breakfast buffet, 24-hour coffee bar, newspapers and even cookies every evening. Plus: A Kids Corner to occupy the youngsters.
Hampton Inn and Suites | 8565 Cooper Creek Blvd., University Park. (941) 355-8619. Convenient to I-75 and Lakewood Ranch, Hampton Inn and Suites has all the conveniences vacationers have come to expect of the company, plus an array of tools for business travelers, including a business center, AV equipment, complimentary printing, photo copying service and more.
Holiday Inn Lakewood Ranch | 6231 Lake Osprey Drive, Lakewood Ranch. (941) 782-4400. hilr.com. This full-service boutique hotel was voted the No. 1 Holiday Inn in North America for 2008 and is the first green-certified hotel in the area. Every guest room includes a workstation with two-line data ports, complimentary high-speed Internet service, ergonomic chair and iron and ironing board to accommodate business travelers or formal celebrations. There’s also a refrigerator, hair dryer, coffee service and a 25-inch television and wireless Internet in all public meeting space (2,500 square feet). Located at the entrance to Lakewood Ranch, the Holiday Inn Lakewood Ranch is just minutes from shopping and nature excursions, and only seven miles from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. The hotel’s own Alamo Steakhouse and Grill features dishes like certified Angus beef or blackened alligator in an Old Florida-inspired environment. Corporate meetings, sports, education and wedding events and rehearsal dinners are all catered in-house.
Sun-N-Fun RV Resort and Campground | 7125 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. (800) 843-2421. sunnfunfl.com. This famous location on Fruitville Road has long served those traveling by RV, and the years of experience have resulted in a facility perfectly suited to campers for convenience, family fun and relaxation. Guests during the season can take advantage of more than 150 activities, plus wireless Internet access, an on-site restaurant, Olympic-size swimming pool, holistic day spa, fitness center, poolside bar and grill and live entertainment. Sun-N-Fun also offers cozy vacation-home rentals (and sales for those in search of a permanent winter home). A great, pet-friendly alternative.
Wingate Inn and Suites | 5464 Lena Road, Bradenton. (941) 755-0055. wingatebradenton.com. Choose from 78 large guest rooms or deluxe doubles, which include refrigerators, microwaves, free wireless Internet, recliners and more. Families and extended-stay guests may prefer the junior and executive suites, which also offer kitchenettes and Jacuzzi tubs. Take advantage of the on-site heated pool, 24-hour business center and fitness center as well as a whirlpool spa.
SOUTH SARASOTA COUNTY
Bentley’s Resort | 1660 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey. (941) 966-2121. bentleyssarasota.com. Convenient to I-75 and directly across U.S. 41 from Oscar Scherer State Park, Bentley’s offers quality, sophistication, as well as ample facilities for weddings, business conferences, banquets and more. Also features an on-site restaurant and poolside tiki bar. All rooms are non-smoking.
Best Western Plus Ambassador Suites | 400 Commercial Court, Venice. (941) 480-9898. Newly renovated and non-smoking, this all-suite Venice hotel offers in-room kitchenettes, refrigerators, free wireless Internet and flexible, spacious meeting facilities with state-of-the-art AV equipment.
Hampton Inn and Suites Bayside | 881 Venetia Bay Blvd., Venice. (941) 488-5900. hamptoninnvenice.com. Newly renovated and near shopping, restaurants and beaches. Complimentary breakfast, free newspaper, high-speed Internet access and a fitness center.