Soak Up Sunshine in Sarasota, Florida
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Soak Up Sunshine in Sarasota, Florida

Getaway Staff

You don't always need a passport to take a breathtaking vacation. Sarasota, Florida, is the stateside escape you've been craving! Take time to rejuvenate in the powdery, white sand and the tropical trees. If it's an adventure you seek, you can feed your adrenaline with water sports or an array of sightseeing.

Visit Sarasota, and you'll come back home with plenty of memories (and maybe a golden tan) without breaking the bank on an overseas flight. From the must-see art museums to the natural science attractions, Sarasota has an experience for everyone.


01 Stick your feet in Siesta Key Beach

Young child running at beach. T_A_P / Getty Images

Sarasota is the place to be for beach lovers. Siesta Key Beach is a quick trip from downtown and spans eight pristine miles, so you'll have plenty of room to claim a spot in the sand. This award-winning paradise is the perfect tropical escape with its powdery quartz sand and glittering turquoise water. Kids can play in the tide pools while the adults relax in a beach chair and enjoy the salty air and soundtrack of seagulls.


02 Meet the gentle giants at Myakka Elephant Ranch

Located a short drive outside downtown Sarasota, the Myakka Elephant Ranch is a non-profit conservation center where you can have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with elephants. Reservations are required, and guests get to learn more about this beloved species. There's also an opportunity to help professional caregivers bathe an elephant!


03 Shop your way through St. Armands Circle

Originally commissioned by circus magnate John Ringling, this charming destination has more than 140 shops and restaurants! Stroll through the tropical paradise and stop by the center courtyard to check out historic statues and plaques. This vibrant area has live music, street performers, and plenty of benches to pause and watch the world go by.


04 Take a walk on the wild side at Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Flamingos wading in the nearby pond

Sarasota Jungle Gardens has been open since 1939 and features 10 acres and more than 200 animals! While on your stroll through their lush tropical landscaping, you'll see lemurs at play and free-roaming flamingos that are friendly enough to hand feed. Their exotic bird show features parrots that perform tricks from roller-skating to biking. You can even see a live show with creatures like hissing cockroaches and kookaburras!


05 Experience the majesty of Myakka River State Park

Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) wading in a Florida marsh while foraging for food. James Pintar / Getty Images

If you're ready to experience an abundance of Florida wildlife, take a trip to Myakka River State Park. One of Florida's oldest and largest parks, it's filled with 58-square miles of unspoiled nature. A 38.9-mile hiking trail loops through sandy pine flatwoods, sunny, dry prairies, and busy marshes. Bring your camera because this diverse ecosystem is filled with all sorts of wildlife.

Hop on the flat-bottomed boat for a tour of Upper Myakka Lake, where a guide will teach you about the state park and point out plenty of local wildlife.

Feeling adventurous? You can even rent a campsite to stay the night. And if a tent is too primitive, Myakka River State Park also has historic log cabins, including a bathroom, kitchen, and room to sleep six.


06 Indulge in a sunset food tour

Treat your taste buds along with the eye candy when you embark on a sunset food tour around downtown Sarasota.

This walking tour will immerse you in a phenomenal culinary experience. A local guide will take you through the historic streets and teach you about the landmarks and rich history of the area. You'll travel to several family-owned restaurants to taste their unique dishes and meet local artisans.

You can schedule a twilight drinking tour, where a local guide will lead you on a voyage of unique beers, wines, and hors d'oeuvres.


07 Discover the sea at Mote Marine Laboratory And Aquarium

Ready to check out the underwater world? The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is the perfect spot to beat the heat and learn about the local marine species. This educational attraction is also a world-renowned research and conservation facility.

Their incredible 135,000-gallon habitat showcases the shark research they've been doing since 1955, such as being the first to discover that sharks can learn through training. This massive exhibit also features goliath groupers and other common Florida fish.

Other exhibits include manatees, stingrays, otters, and many other reef animals. You can even learn about their sea turtle rehabilitation program!


08 Explore culture at The Ringling

"Ca' d'Zan. The palatial mansion of John and Mable Ringling. Sarasota, Florida. This landmark home is located at the Ringling Museum of Art. Florida travel destination." Marje / Getty Images

The 66-acre estate of John and Mable Ringling is home to a phenomenal Museum of Art. Wander the picturesque courtyard, and you'll see classical sculptures.

The estate is also home to the Circus Museum, where you can see the fascinating remnants of a bygone era. You'll see the historic circus items (like the actual cannon that shot performers into the air) and feel the splendor that generations of Americans experienced when the Ringling Circus toured the country.

You'll be able to tour the Ca'd'Zan, the palatial home of the Ringlings, and a stunning example of 1920s American grandeur.

The estate also includes the awe-inspiring Bayfront Garden filled with whimsical landscaping and stunning statuary. Check the schedule for the Historic Asolo Theater on the Ringling estate, and you may be able to watch performers in the unique, U-shaped theater.


09 Catch a show at the Sarasota Opera

The iconic historial opera house in the downtown cultural district Heidi Besen /

The historic Sarasota Opera House has been doing shows since 1926. Book a tour with their theater staff, who will teach you about the theater's past as well as insider stories about their world-class performances. From classical Italian operas to contemporary American operas, the Sarasota Opera House offers shows for everyone. Grab a ticket for an opera, and you can experience the incredible acoustics for yourself. With only 1,119 seats, there's not a bad spot in the house.


10 Book a private charter and sail the sea

Seascape image with silhouetted sailboat on sea and palm tree over clear sky in Sarasota, Florida Sadik Demiroz / Getty Images

There's no shortage of boats in Sarasota. Book a private boat and explore the sparkling blue ocean however you please. Fishing charters can take you out to the ideal spots to catch fresh fish - and some companies will even prep and cook it for you!

If fishing isn't your thing, take a charter to explore the various barrier islands like Lido Key. Some charter boats even offer parasailing or tubing excursions if you're ready for more adventure.


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