Last Updated on August 7, 2023
Visitors to Sarasota, FL can expect to enjoy 37-miles of snow-white sand and teal-green water along the Gulf of Mexico and Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a sunbather’s paradise where shore birds frolic amid the surf and dolphins dive in the shallows hunting for a meal.
For nature lovers, many activities – beach adjacent – bring visitors up close to more of the area’s glorious outdoor experiences.
Day One in Sarasota
Check into the Art Ovation Hotel, Autograph Collection.
This boutique downtown hotel is ideally located in the heart of Sarasota just a mile from the beach and steps from fantastic restaurants, nightlife, and attractions. Art Ovation’s guest rooms have stunning views overlooking the Bay, beautiful furnishings, and amenities including sketchbooks, coloring pencils, and ukuleles in the rooms for guests to hone their artistic skills.
In the lobby, rotating art exhibits, workshops, live performances, and the hotel’s Tzeva Restaurant offers guests food for thought and plenty of sustenance. A chic rooftop bar and pool are great ways to cool off and chill after exploring the local area.
Walk To Sarasota’s Newest Park: The Bay
Once you’ve settled in, head to Sarasota’s newest park, The Bay. The city, community, and park conservancy transformed 53-acres of city-owned land into a beautiful green space for all ages to enjoy.
Visitors will find walking trails and tours, movie nights, musical performances, fitness and dance classes under the stars – all free. The playground features two charming Ibis play structures, perfect for young travelers. There’s a crescent beach where you can sit and enjoy the view, especially at sunset.
A free guided kayak tour through the Mangroves leading to Sarasota Bay occurs every Saturday at 8:30 am. While kayaking, you’ll observe nesting ospreys and herons and learn how the park’s efforts are helping to preserve local vital ecosystems.
There are many delicious dining options in downtown Sarasota, but if you crave the freshest local seafood, try Duval’s.
Duval’s sources sustainable, local seafood and produce and is a local favorite. It was voted Sarasota’s Best Seafood Restaurant eight years in a row for its creative dishes, excellent service, and superb cocktails.
Sarasota Day Two
Enjoy breakfast at Tzeva inside the Art Ovation. Tzeva’s menu changes seasonally, focusing on modern Mediterranean cuisine with Israeli influences created by Executive Chef Ken Shiro.
Enjoy avocado toast or an Acai bowl, benedicts, or omelets, all freshly prepared and served in a serene setting.
Visit Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Celebrating its 50th year in October 2023, the Marie Selby Botanical Garden will herald the anniversary with a 100-million-dollar expansion launching a new age for this 15-acre botanical oasis. The garden features tropical and subtropical plants including the best scientifically documented collection of orchids and bromeliads on the planet. For a presentation more centered on the area’s native plants, visit Selby Garden’s Historic Spanish Point location.
Phase One will be unveiled in the same month, showcasing a state-of-the-art Welcome Center, a cutting-edge plant research center, more greenspace, and better visitor parking facilities. A new library will hold a collection of priceless volumes and hand-colored botanical illustrations dating back to the 1700s along with the protection of irreplaceable plant collections in a hurricane-resilient structure.
When the Living Building complex is completed, it will boast a net-positive energy rating due to its rooftop solar array that will power a sustainable restaurant, shop, offices and classrooms.
You may crave a healthy lunch or snack if you’re touring the gardens and hunger strikes. Look no further than the Selby House Café by Michael’s On East, located within the historic Selby House. Offerings include salads, wraps, soups, cookies, snacks, coffees, teas, beer and wine.
Sealife Encounter with Sarasota Bay Explorers
A Sealife Encounter Tour is the perfect way to see Sarasota from the water. On this cruise, you’ll be joined by a marine biologist for a 2-hour marine life and nature tour through Sarasota and Roberts’ Bays.
During the experience, you may see Florida manatees, bottlenose dolphins, and protected sea birds as you sail around coves and sandbars. You’ll stop off at an uninhabited island to explore flora and fauna, and then back on the boat meet some of the creatures that live in the waters pulled up in a seining net. Along the way, you’ll learn about the area’s ecology, history, and folklore.
St. Armand’s Circle
After a day of exploring, hang out at the beach or swim at Art Ovation’s rooftop pool, but once you’ve relaxed, drive over to St. Armand Circle. This outdoor shopping and dining mecca is just steps from Lido Beach. Here you’ll find boutiques where you can score the latest fashion, and art galleries for that one-of-a-kind purchase or souvenir.
Dinner choices abound on the circle, but Café L’Europe’s culinary tradition, inspired by Europe’s finest restaurants, is excellent. The menu tantalizes with entrees like French grouper, chicken Milanese, osso buco, or duck a l’orange. The café’s superb wine list offers beautiful pairings with any of the courses.
Celebrating 50 years on the circle, the reimagined restaurant interior and menus showcase local, sustainable ingredients, an exemplary wine list, and live piano music in the lounge. Service here is unparalleled, and guaranteed, your evening will be memorable.
The restaurant was once used by John Ringling as an office for planning his iconic circus shows.
Day Three Sarasota
If you love New York Style Bagels, visit 99 Bottles Taproom & Bottle Shop for its weekend Bagel Brunch. Their bagels are kettle boiled and par-baked in New York City and then finished each morning in the on-site oven. The bagel sandwiches are all delicious, from the simple cream cheese schmear to a bacon, egg, and melted cheese option.
All are wrapped in white butcher paper, just like the amazing New York delis.
Myakka Elephant Ranch
The Myakka Elephant Ranch is a non-profit conservation center housing three rescued elephants. The ranch is a 30-minute drive from downtown Sarasota and through its reservation system, provides guests with a choice of close encounters to learn more about these majestic, endangered giants.
My group was introduced to each elephant – one African and two Asian beauties – and discovered how they became residents at the ranch. Throughout the hour-long presentation, we learned more about the species and threats to the elephants and their habitats.
Your visit supports the International Elephant Foundation and the Rory Hensman Conservation and Research Unit while providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience to meet the most significant existing land mammals up close.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is one of the leading marine research facilities in the country. For visitors, it has interactive touch tanks, a shark tank, a manatee enclosure, sea turtle habitat, and much more. Behind the scenes, scientists here help save endangered species and precious coral which helps provide essential habitat for the Gulf’s colorful fish and sea creatures.
NOTE: Visitors to Sarasota from outside of Florida should be aware that the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for the state noting, and warning, that under its current governor, Ron DeSantis, Florida has “engaged in an all-out attack on Black Americans, accurate Black history, voting rights, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, and free speech, while simultaneously embracing a culture of fear, bullying, and intimidation by public officials.”beachdiningnature