Sarasota has become a year-round city, with more full-time residents—and summer tourists—than ever before. These days, earthshaking thunderstorms and air-conditioned movies aren’t the only entertainment, as arts groups have extended their seasons and camps and special events cater to every imaginable interest. And now that the snowbirds have flown back North, you can discover new pleasures and old treasures without the crowds and lines. We’ve scouted out diversions and discoveries to make this your coolest summer ever. Whether you’re an arts lover, seafarer, family with kids, cowboy, international visitor—or all of the above—this is the guide for you.
Summer Fun for Arts Fans
When the days heat up, local culture gets lighter—and sometimes easier on the pocketbook.
Florida Studio Theatre continues the laugh-making Das Barbecu (a country-Western twist on Wagner’s Ring Cycle) through July 9, then segues into the touching love story of Talley’s Folly, by Lanford Wilson, July 11 through Aug. 12. Wrap up the summer with Perfect Wedding, one of those fast-paced British comedies, Aug. 1 through Sept. 1. 366-9000.
The laughs are more rueful in the Asolo Rep’s Love, Loss and What I Wore, featuring five actresses (including guest star Loretta Swit, Hot Lips of TV’s M*A*S*H) in a Nora and Delia Ephron-penned script. Onstage through July 15; 351-8000.
Get your inner Elvis on with the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre’s All Shook Up, a rock ‘n’ roll musical comedy. July 10 through Sept. 2; 366-5454.
The Banyan Theater Company’s mission is to present compelling theater every summer; catch Athol Fugard’s drama about South African apartheid, A Lesson from Aloes, through July 15; Julia Cho’s The Piano Teacher, about an elderly widow reconnecting with her former students, July 19 through Aug. 5; and Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart, Aug. 9-26. banyantheatercompany.com.
The Players presents its Summer Sizzler Series—four shows (Taffetas, July 12-15; Terra Nova, July 19-22; Lettice and Lovage, July 26-29, and Stay, Aug. 9-12) for a total of $45—plus you get $30 in gift certificates to dine at Caragiulos. What are you waiting for? 365-2494.
The hottest museum show of our long hot summer? The Ringling’s Deco Japan: Shaping Modern Culture, 1920-1945. You’ll see ceramics, jewelry, textiles, paintings and woodblock prints from the Levenson collection, the world’s premier collection of Japanese art in the Deco style. Time your visit to allow a break in the museum’s excellent Treviso restaurant. 359-5700 for the museum; 360-7390 for Treviso.
$5: Cost to have original design from an S/ART/Q artist printed on your item, at the annual hip, hot Print Party, 5-10 p.m. Sept. 15 and noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 16 downtown (location and more info at sartq.com).
Arty Anna Maria
Quiet little Anna Maria has blossomed into an arts destination, with the Pine Avenue area providing a solid nucleus of art spaces, artists and design-oriented shops. Plan a leisurely day checking out some of the venues, along with great new shops—and a dip in the Gulf, while you’re there. Just a few venues: the landmark Studio at Gulf and Pine (founded by former Florida first lady Rhea Chiles); Artspace Anna Maria, a studio/gallery above the Anna Maria Post Office near the City Pier; and Relish, specializing in eclectic vintage design and featuring pen-and-ink sketches by architect Gene Aubry. Also on the island: Island Gallery West, an artists’ cooperative gallery in Holmes Beach featuring watercolors by Caroline Whitmore (July) and fiber works by Pam McMillen (August).
Four for the Road
Hop into the car and check out these top Florida art museums.
Hit the road north to St. Petersburg and take in the new Dali Museum, featuring 20,000 square feet of gallery space so that all 96 of the museum’s Salvador Dali oil paintings have room to breathe. You’ll enjoy the museum store (lots of cool Surrealist curiosities) and the Café Gala (serving tapas, flan and other Spanish delicacies, natch), too. On view through Sept. 9: Stripped Bare and Bathed: The Preservation of Dali’s Masterworks. One Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg, (727) 823-3767.
Then drop into the stunning new Tampa Museum of Art, overlooking the Hillsborough River. In addition to the collection, this summer you can see Masterworks of 20th-Century Sculpture, Object Image/Erik Levin/Sculpture and Video, and A Hundred Years—A Hundred Chairs: Masterworks from the Vitra Design Museum. Its Sono Café embraces the “slow food” movement and serves both lunch and dinner. 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza, (813) 274-8130.
In Orlando, the Morse Museum contains the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Jewelry, pottery, paintings, leaded-glass windows and lamps, and the famous chapel interior Tiffany created for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition—they’re all here. 445 N. Park Ave., Winter Park; (407) 645-5311. At the Orlando Museum of Art, collections include African art, American art both before and after 1945, and contemporary American graphics. Showing through July 15: Picturing My Florida: A Grassroots Portrait of the Sunshine State. 2416 N. Mills Ave., Orlando, (407) 896-4231.
Summer is a great time for free concerts, indoors and out. Start with FridayFest on the Bay concerts along the Van Wezel bayfront, July 13 (country music singer Adrian Ray and his band), Aug. 10 (the Venturas) and Sept. 14 (Bird Street Players) (953-3368). Mix it up with a visit to Lakewood Ranch’s Main Street, where Music on Main offers live entertainment the first Friday of each month (907-9243). And gear up for the inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival coming in December with free blues concerts in July, August and September. Most performers still TBA here, but we do know that RJ Howson is rocking the Chicago-style blues from 5 to 7 p.m. July 15 at Sarasota Guitar Company on Cortez Road in Bradenton (sarasotaguitarcompany.com).
The lazy days of summer heat up when the Carreño Dance Festival brings the Festival of Stars performances to town, Aug. 24 and 25 at the Sarasota Opera House. It’s the culmination of the festival’s Summer Intensive dance training program, headed by Jose Manuel Carreño; pre-professional students get to share the stage with Carreño and American Ballet Theatre principal Julie Kent in Act II of Giselle, along with other stars TBA in special new choreography. 328-1300 or carrenodancefestival.com.
Art classes to feed your creative spirit.
Beginners Only Watercolor
Aug. 8, 9, 10, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.,
Small group workshop will get you comfortable with tools and techniques of watercolor. 366-5731; selby.org/classes
Mastering the Digital Camera
July 13, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.,
Time to finally get started with that camera you haven’t taken out of the box. 366-5731; selby.org/classes
Drawing, painting, watercolor, sculpture, photography, jewelry and pottery
All summer long
Art Center Manatee
You name it; they’ve got it. 746-2862; artcentermanatee.org/education
Wildacres Art Workshops
July 15-21, July 22-28
It’s not too late to sign up for these Ringling College of Art and Design workshops in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 955-8866; ringling.edu/CSSP
Summer Fun for Foreign Tourists
International visitors love our summer sun and off-season rates. We asked tourism experts and local ex-pats what else they love and designed a guide just for them.
Origin of Foreign Tourists
No. 1 United Kingdom (45,553 in 2011)
No. 2 Canada (40,746)
No. 3 Germany (19, 247)
Foreigners want water views, tropical drinks and a vacation atmosphere. Look no further.
O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill at Bayfront Park. The biggest and busiest in town, O’Leary’s attracts everyone from office workers to live-aboards. Live music, better-than-average food; jam-packed on weekend nights. 5 Bayfront Drive, 953-7505.
Spanish Pointe Restaurant and Marina. At this quiet spot on Little Sarasota Bay, you can sit under a shady thatched roof, at waterside picnic tables or on the dock. Great place for bird-watching and spotting manatees. Live entertainment on weekends. Fresh conch fritters, too. 135 Bayview Drive, Osprey, 966-5746.
The Kokonut Hut at Gulf Drive Cafe. This one-year-old tiki bar enjoys both sensational Gulf views, live music and a full menu from one of the island’s best restaurants. 900 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach, 778-1919.
The Lido Key Tiki Bar. The oldest and still the best, this blissfully simple little spot is part of the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club but open to the public. Find a nearby parking spot, then reward yourself with the signature Green Flash. People dance on the sand to live music on weekends. No food, but with a setting like this, who needs it? 1234 Ben Franklin Drive, Lido Key, 309-2581.
Casey Key Fish House Tiki Bar. You’ll enjoy a nice view of the Intracoastal—and of three dolphins who show off so much that we suspect they’re on the payroll. Live music on weekends, great Rum Runners and fresh seafood. 801 Blackburn Point Road, Osprey, 966-1901.
Foreign visitors can’t get enough of the classic American steakhouse. Now they can take the experience home, thanks to Viking Culinary Center’s Great American Steakhouse cooking class. Chefs prepare such favorites as Ruth’s Chris’ creamed spinach and bread pudding, but the crowning glory is Smith and Wollensky steak au poivre. Class ends with a feast, and everyone gets the recipes. July 14, 6-9 p.m. $69. Register at lrviking.com.
International visitors love to shop St. Armands, and they’ll love it even more on the first Wednesday evening of each month, when the new “Buskers on the Circle” brings the European tradition of street musicians here. Performances start at 6 p.m.
Art for Free
Lots of foreign tourists choose Sarasota over other beach towns because of our cultural assets. They can view the Ringling Museum of Art’s collection, the foundation of our reputation, for free on Mondays. 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, 359-5700.
A Taste of Home
Homesick? Here’s where to head.
Geier’s Sausage Kitchen. Germans love this gemütlich (warm and friendly) market and deli, with authentic meats, breads, cakes, chocolates and even German magazines and CDs. 7447 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 923-3004.
Le Macaron. The famous French meringue confections come to colorful life in myriad flavors in this patisserie, which also features croissants, pain au chocolat, authentic espresso and more. 382 St. Armands Circle, 552-8872.
German Inn Bed and Breakfast. This charmingly renovated 1926 B & B and restaurant in downtown Bradenton used to be the London Inn, and they still offer traditional tea along with a new German kaffeeklatsch and dinner—and a brand-new beer garden, too. 304 15th St. W., Bradenton, 748-5658.
Lynches Pub & Grub. Sisters Chris and Ethna have been beguiling locals and visitors for years with their authentic Irish menu and warm hospitality. 19 B. Boulevard of Presidents, 388-5550.
White Horse Pub. It will feel like they’ve flown back across the pond at this cozy pub, beloved of ex-pat Brits and featuring all sorts of English pints and plates, from Scotch eggs to surprisingly good Indian food. Billiards table, too. 6240 N. Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota, 358-1353.
Tastefully British. Grocery store, gift shop and tea room, this establishment, owned by an English couple, offers a full menu of English specialties for tea or a meal. 2236 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota, 925-9682.
Great prices on top American brands make Ellenton Premium Outlets a huge draw for international shoppers. Our sources tell us they’ve helped make the Saks Off Fifth store there the country’s top-selling Saks outlet for fine jewelry. Foreign fashionistas stock up on pieces by American designers from Judith Ripka to David Yurman, all at incredible discounts.
Work out on the nation’s No. 1 beach with Nia Fitness, which combines martial and healing arts with dance. Tuesday mornings on Siesta Beach, 9-10 a.m. $10. (843) 860-6661.
Turtle Walks Summer is nesting time for sea turtles, and you can search for nests and learn about these endangered creatures on a sunrise “Turtle Walk” with Mote Marine experts. 383-2451.
Foreigners adore Anna Maria Island’s unspoiled beaches. They can learn more about the natural wonders there on one of Captain Kim’s Charters’ tours, which explore marine and bird life, shore environments, even nautical history, with lots of hands-on fun. 920-3307.
Kids—and adults—from every country get excited about shark’s teeth. The best place to hunt for them? Secluded Caspersen Beach in Venice (shark’s tooth capital of the world!). You’ll need a long-handled sieve ($12-$20). You can get one and view an awesome collection of fossilized teeth at Sea Pleasures and Treasures, 225 Venice Ave., Venice, 488-3510.
Rent a beach pavilion for an all-American barbecue. Forget the fancy restaurants; burgers on the beach are what they’ll remember. Pavilions are available on six county beaches, and you can often snag one at the last minute in summer. $80-$150 for four hours, depending on size. 861-7275.
Summer Fun for Kids
Now is the time for camps of all kinds, family adventures or just kicking back with a great new book.
Everybody in the Pool!
Best-ever pool party? Sun ‘n’ Fun Resort’s Olympic-size pool with its 3 ½-story hippo slide. This is a great place to celebrate a kid’s (or adult’s) birthday or hold a family reunion. You can also rent a one- or two-bedroom vacation home for $75-$150 a night (half the winter rate) and enjoy a host of other sports (mini-golf, tennis, volleyball, shuffleboard). There’s even a spa. 7125 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Call Tracy Goodman at 371-2505 for party-planning details.
Snooty the Manatee will celebrate his 64th at the South Florida Museum’s Birthday Bash and Wildlife Awareness Festival July 21. This gentle giant (1,215 pounds!) was born at the old Miami Aquarium, and his name was originally Baby Snoots. Bring the whole family and enjoy games, crafts, refreshments and wildlife presentations. 201 10th St. W., Bradenton, 746-4131.
Aerialist extraordinaire Dolly Jacobs stars in the Summer Circus Spectacular, an hourlong show in the Historic Asolo Theater at the Ringling Museum. Through July 28. Tickets are just $10 for children 12 and under; $15 for adults.
LEARN TO SAIL
Good news: At press time there was still plenty of availability for the Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s learn-to-sail program. Some 500 kids ages five-18 will learn the ropes of sailing Sarasota Bay, says director David Livingston. For many, this will be a lifelong sport. The Tadpoles, age five to seven, set out on a large boat with two coaches for a “pre-intro” to sailing terminology and how a boat moves. “They don’t have a big attention span, so every 45 minutes they’ll anchor on a sandbar and explore the sea life,” says Livingston. “They have a blast.” Register at sarasotaysp.com.
Ready, Set, Read!
Take the Dream Big Read! challenge this summer at any Sarasota County library branch. Read 20 minutes or more every day for seven days, and at the end of the week, visit your library to receive a book, a stuffed animal, or some other nifty prize. Details at sclibs.net.
Books They’ll Love
Hot reads for kids at Selby Public Library.
Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems
Picture books for beginner readers
Why they love it: Kids crack up over these simple, funny and colorful illustrations.
Fly Guy adventure series by Tedd Arnold
For beginner readers ages four to eight
Why they love it: The adventuresome “bad boy” feel; plus it’s one of the rare literature series written for boys.
Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell
Ages eight to 14 (especially girls)
Why they love it: The series takes a real-life look at middle-school relationships and issues
The 39 Clues series by Gordon Korman and other young-adult authors
For middle schoolers; some elementary schoolers, too
Why they love it: Intriguing mysteries with clues, accompanying online game and trading cards
Calling All Mad Scientists
Satisfy your kids’ curiosity at G.WIZ summer camp. Be an astronaut and learn what it’s like to walk on the moon, make your own cement in the Construction Zone, create something fabulous in the Fab Lab, even learn robotic programming. Age-appropriate themes for kindergarteners through eighth graders; visit gwiz.org for details. 1001 Boulevard of the Arts, 309-4949 ext. 100.
What’s a Liger?
Meet Brutus, the magnificent liger (Mom’s a tiger, Dad’s a lion) that lives at Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary. At nearly two years old, he already weighs more than 800 pounds, and won’t stop growing until he’s three. This summer, Big Cat Habitat is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 4:30 to 7 p.m. 7101 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota, 371-6377, bigcathabitat.org.
TREASURE HUNT Pick up a Plant Hunt sheet in the visitors center at Selby Gardens and let your little ones wander the pathways searching for all kinds of natural oddities. Retrieve completed forms to receive a prize. Two age-appropriate Plant Hunts—one for kids six and under, another for ages seven and older. 811 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, 366-5731.
The Bradenton Marauders baseball team invites kids to run the bases after every Sunday home game at McKechnie Field this summer, plus there are all kinds of fun themed games, like Super Heroes Night on July 21, when the first 500 fans get a free Marauders cape.
Camp by the Shore
There aren’t many places left where you can camp on the beach. One of the few is on our own Siesta Key. At the county-owned, 14-acre Turtle Beach Campground, you can pitch a tent or park an air-conditioned RV (electricity and cable TV hookups are provided) and enjoy a relaxing family interlude of sea, sand and sun. Only 40 campsites, so reserve early at 349-3839.
Summer Fun for the Country Crowd
Calling all cowboys, down-home girls and good ol’ folks.
Boot Scootin’ Feel like dancing? The line starts here.
Joyland Country Dance Hall is the center of the local country scene, with live performances, line-dancing lessons and more. 5520 14th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 756-6060, joylandcountry.com
Dallas Bull This Tampa hotspot draws cowboys and cowgirls for dancing, concerts, and a ready-to-ride mechanical bucking bull. 3322 U.S. 301 N., Tampa, (813) 987-2855, dallasbull.com
Explore Old Miakka
Just a few miles east of our posh resorts is a charming little slice of Cracker Country.
Plan your visit for a Saturday so you can shop the Old Miakka farmer’s market. Stock up on fresh-from-the-fields produce, local honey and more. Every Saturday, rain or shine.
Real rednecks will feel at home in Crowley Museum and Nature Center’s 1889 “Cracker” homestead. (“Cracker”—presumably named for the crack of a cattle whip—is the term for Florida’s native cowboys.) While you’re there, take a gander at the old-timey supplies in the general store. 16405 Myakka Road, Sarasota, 322-1000
Learn the skills of pioneer life at Crowley Folk School. Year-round classes include quilting, canning, cheese-making, basket-weaving, blacksmithing, leather working, woodworking and more.
And check out nearby Crowley Nursery & Gardens, where Cathy and Charlie Crowley grow Florida-loving flowers, plants and fruit trees on 20 acres. They love to share their botanical knowledge and have inspired many local gardeners. 322-0315, open seven days a week, crowleynursery.net
Bareback on the Beach
Forget the fancy boots and jodhpurs—BeachHorses encourages bathing suits and bare feet. Led by friendly guides on foot, you’ll ride bareback along the shore on Palma Sola Causeway and then into the bay, where you can perform acrobatics like “horse surfing” or just trail your feet in the water and enjoy the ride. In deeper waters, the horse will actually be swimming underneath you. By appointment; (855) 510-1170.
The Myaccans were a Native American tribe in Southwest Florida.
Local country stations
WCTQ 106.5 Suncoast Country WQYK 99.5 Tampa
Bay’s Country Station US 103.5
Mud in Your Eye
The Redneck Yacht Club hosts six weekend mudding events throughout the year. At the center of the around-the-clock party are Southern guys and gals sloshing their massive (and messy) customized trucks through mud up to their foglights. (Park rules keep it safe without spoiling the fun.) Even if you don’t drive a 4x4, just bring a tent and a case of Coors, and someone will be happy to take you for a spin. $50 per person, per weekend. 44570 Bermont Road, Punta Gorda, 505-8465,
The Asphalt Rodeo
If it’s got an engine and four (or more) wheels, chances are you can see it race at Desoto Speedway. The 3/8-mile track hosts stock cars, trucks, late-model cars, open-wheel racing and much more—plus a figure-eight dirt track for deisel-powered school buses. 21000A S.R. 64 E., nine miles east of I-75, 748-3171.
Give It a Shot
When that trigger finger gets to itchin’, head out east to the Manatee Gun and Archery Club shooting range. First Sunday morning of the month, the range hosts the Miakka Misfits, a member of the national cowboy-themed Single Action Shooting Society. Take your best shot at targets in a number of Old West-style shooting stages. Spectators welcome, too. $12 for nonmembers. 1805 Logue Road, Myakka City, (941) 322-0055.
Grab something fried and a cold one and stay a piece.
Hickory Hollow Look for the headless pig, a Rubonia Mardi Gras castoff and a favorite target for local pranksters. Hickory Hollow’s pulled pork, smoked for 24 hours with Virginia white hickory, was ranked third-best barbecue in the nation by USA Today in 2006. 4705 U.S. Highway 301 N., Ellenton, 722-3932.
Nancy’s Bar-B-Q Nancy Krohngold earned her fame selling pulled pork sandwiches out of the back of her van. Her downtown restaurant keeps that spirit alive with picnic tables and that famous pork—plus brisket, chicken and a slew of sides. 301 S. Pineapple Ave., downtown Sarasota, 366-BBQ1.
Linger Lodge Decorated floor-to-ceiling with “preserved” Florida critters, the Linger Lodge menu proudly quotes Al Roker, who called it “one of the five weirdest restaurants in the country.” Its Old Florida authenticity shines in favorites like alligator and fried green tomatoes. 7205 85th St. Court E., Bradenton, 755-2757.
Owen’s Fish Camp Southern seafood done downtown Sarasota style, including cornmeal-fried catfish, po’ boys and the “Low Country Boil,” with mussels, clams, shrimp, andouille sausage and more. 516 Burns Lane, Sarasota, 951-6936.
Woody’s River Roo This riverfront favorite draws a colorful crowd for live music, a great view and treats like beer-battered grouper bites and cornmeal-dusted fried pickles. 5717 18th St. E., Ellenton, 722-2391.
Even greenhorns love the 83-year-old Arcadia Rodeo, and it’s fun to drive through this little Florida town and see the historic homes and many antique shops. Then prepare to be dazzled by rodeo pros. Here’s a guide to the difficult—and often dangerous—events.
Bull riding: This is when the rider straps one hand to an ornery, 2,500-pound animal and tries to stay on for eight seconds.
Bareback riding: Just like bull riding, except on an ornery horse.
Saddle bronc riding: The rider must hang onto a single rein attached to a bucking horse, and sit in the saddle for eight seconds.
Barrel racing: The contestants ride as fast as the horses can go around three barrels and back to the start.
Steer wrestling: The rider hops off the horse at full tilt, grabs that steer by the horns and drags him to the ground.
Tie-down roping: With “pigging line” in teeth and horse going full speed, riders lasso a sprinting calf, then hop off the horse, drag the calf to the ground and tie three of his legs together.
Aug. 3-4, 124 Heard St., Arcadia, (800) 749-7633.
Summer Fun for Water Lovers
Dive into a world of liquid treasures.
Now that we’re attracting world-class rowers to Florida World Aquatic Center at Nathan Benderson Park, locals are discovering the many joys of this team-oriented aerobic exercise. Not only will you build muscle and endurance; you’ll get out on our beautiful waters on a hot summer day. Sarasota Crew is now offering Masters Rowing programs for adults. Don’t be intimidated by the name—classes are for adults at any experience level. 966-9791.
A Sarasota Bay Explorers pontoon boat tour will open your eyes and mind to a world of natural wonders, with an ecology and history talk by a marine biologist, plenty of opportunities to spot manatees, dolphins, sea horses and more, and a walk on an uninhabited island for bird viewing. $26 for adults, $22 for children, 388-4200.
Number of gallons of mineral-infused, 87-degree water Warm Mineral Springs pumps out every day. Go to the springs or spa this summer and get $5 off admission. warmmineralsprings.com
Escape to Sharky’s
Sharky’s on the Pier in Venice, now celebrating its 25th year, offers the perfect waterfront mini-vacation, whether you’re a visitor or a local. Live music—check. Plenty of shaded outdoor seating—check. Fresh grouper, shrimp and mahi mahi dishes, along with refreshing tropical drinks—check. White sands to stroll and a pier that juts out into the Gulf of Mexico for what seems like miles—check. Sunsets you’ll never forget—check, check, check. 1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice, 488-1456.
Sarasota Wind and Water Adventures has everything you need to spend a day skiing, wakeboarding, tubing or taking a leisurely tour of local waterways (tours start at $175 per hour). While you’re at it, you can learn something new: Paddleboard lessons are $60 per hour, and for the truly adventurous, a three-hour kiteboarding class is $300. 379-4222.
Best Water Views
We asked Visit Sarasota County and the Sierra Club to help pick the five best water views around.
Myakka River State Park Bird Walk
Your heart will skip a beat as the boardwalk emerges from the trees and juts out over Upper Myakka Lake.
South Lido Park
Boardwalks carry you through mangrove tunnels right onto the bay with a breathtaking view of downtown Sarasota, Bird Key and the iconic Ringling Bridge.
Rod and Reel Pier
At the north end of Anna Maria Island, the pier sits where Tampa Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico. The distant Sunshine Skyway Bridge is the perfect backdrop.
The parking lot has benches right on Sarasota Bay; we can’t think of a better place to catch the sunset.
The Sierra Club’s Linda Jones calls this “the best, most expansive view of Sarasota Bay.” For many locals, walking the bridge at sunset has become a cherished ritual.
A Golfer’s Guide to Water Hazards
Advice from Mark Bruce and Tony Panico of Play Golf Sarasota.
MOST INTIMIDATING – TPC Prestancia’s 4th Hole on the Stadium Course. “This island green Par 3 is almost as intimidating as the famed 17th at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra,” says Bruce. The green and surrounding bunkers are circled by water, so even the slightest miscalculation can end with a splash. Bruce says landing on the green requires the right club (a mid to short iron, depending on the wind) and a clean, solid strike.
MOST ATTRACTIVE – The Concession Golf Club’s 8th Hole. “This beautiful Par 4 presents a water feature with two distinct looks and challenges,” says Bruce. First, the fairway is lined by a stream that flows peacefully through rocks, plants and two bridges, creating a sense of security as players approach the hole. Water feature turns to water hazard, though, as the stream forms a moat around the green. “Precision is key,” says Bruce. If you land too far to the side of the green, prepare to reach for a new ball.
MOST VISIBLE – University Park’s 5th Hole. This Par 3 is visible from University Park Boulevard, meaning a potential audience for every shot. The front part of the island green is surrounded by water, so golfers bold enough for a straight approach have to shoot over the lake—a frightening feat amplified by all the spectators. “Players must have full concentration,” says Panico. “Any lapse and this hole can be a scorecard disaster.”
MOST CHALLENGING – The Founders Golf Club’s 18th Hole. “This Par 5 presents the ultimate risk vs. reward scenario,” says Bruce. A tee box faces a sizable lake, and aggressive players have 280 yards of water to clear on their first shot. Success means an eagle opportunity, but more water along the fairway and by the green requires a concentrated swing. “An eagle or a birdie on this demanding hole is well deserved,” says Bruce.
Take a Dive
Sarasota boasts an extensive system of artificial reefs, hosting marine growth and fish, and the calm Gulf and bay waters are perfect for learning to dive. Florida Underwater Sports offers classes built around your experience and schedule (starting at $379). The group frequents nearly a dozen dive sites, ranging in difficulty and ease of access, throughout Bradenton and Sarasota. Once you learn the basics and explore local sites, take it to the next level with “Beyond Local” diving trips throughout the state. 870-4461.