When you think of heat, palm trees, beaches and the sun, one of the first destinations you think of in the States is Florida. And it was the same for us who decided to “dive” in Sarasota, a city on the southwest coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in the southern end of Tampa Bay. We are in the month of March, one of the best times of the year to visit this area and the whole state in general as the climate of Florida from late winter to early spring is not as humid as in summer and the rains are less frequent.
Natural and Cultural Attractions
Knowing Sarasota means discovering its sparkling and energetic vitality that passes through the beaches, the activities at sea, the points of interest, the entertainment, the shopping, the city life and the views, an infallible mix that transmits good humor and joie de vivre.. Walking in the various corners of the city is pleasant and then, to enjoy moments of peace, there is nothing better than its islets, a guarantee of total relaxation!
We begin our visit “in style” and that is from The Ringling complex (5401 Bay Shore Rd.), The most famous point of interest in the city that undoubtedly deserves this record. There is so much to visit here and we start at Ca d’Zan (5401 Bay Shore Rd.), The winter home of circus tycoon and art collector John Ringling and his wife Mable. This large mansion in the bay is a real architectural jewel in the Venetian Gothic style.
A guided tour allows us to fully appreciate the splendor of the numerous finely furnished rooms, the large terrace overlooking the water and to have the answers to the questions we ask ourselves but it is possible to take self-guided tours. In the complex there are also three other buildings that we want to visit starting from the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art which houses the permanent collection of works of art belonging to Mr. Ringling (there are great masters such as Titian, Gainsborough, Rubens, Veronese, plus one Asian and contemporary collection).
Sarasota Jungle Gardens (3701 Bay Shore Rd.)
Where the protagonists are the animals and their world. Feed flamingos, hold a snake (firmly) in hand, talk to a parrot and learn about the world of butterflies. We have fun as if we were children again, then we reach a waterfall and then an area where injured animals are treated. The park is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is $ 17.99 for adults, $ 16.99 for seniors (65+) and $ 12.99 for ages 4 to 16.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (811 S. Palm Ave.)
A beautiful tropical urban oasis surrounded by palm trees, bonsai, bamboo, mangroves and a fragrance garden. There is also a gazebo, a garden with butterflies, an area for children with suspended bridges, a pond with water lilies, waterfalls and then from here you can see part of the bay that welcomes Sarasota. The facility is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Admission costs $ 20 for adults and $ 10 for ages 4 to 17.
Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary
We close the day that we can define “wildlife”, at the Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary (7101 Palmer Blvd.), a non-profit organization where we can safely meet tigers, lions, monkeys, bears, turtles, farm animals and parrots. ready to communicate their sympathy during funny shows. The park, similar to a zoo, is open Wednesday to Sunday from 12 to 6pm. The cost of the ticket is $ 18 for adults and $ 8 for children.
The Classic Car Museum (5500 N. Tamiami Trail)
Classic Car Museum takes us on a journey through time through the world of automobiles. We find John Ringling’s Rolls Royce collection, Paul McCartney’s Mini Cooper, John Lennon’s Mercedes Benz as well as Cadillac, Ferrari, Delorean and Bentley in life size. The museum, equipped with a “popular” gift shop, can be visited every day from 9 to 18 independently. Admission costs $ 12.85 for adults, $ 10.85 for seniors (62+) and $ 7.25 for ages 6 to 12.
Mote Marine Laboratory (1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy)
An independent, non-profit marine research institute where industry scientists believe in the sustainable exploitation of the oceans. Turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales, manatees and seahorses welcome us. Wide-ranging research programs are carried out here, but there is also a hospital where injured marine animals are cared for. It is possible to visit the facility daily from 10am to 5pm. The cost of the ticket is $ 22 from 13 years and $ 16 from 3 to 12 years.
The Downtown of Sarasota
In downtown there are various points of interest of different kinds and that is exactly what we are looking for. Let’s start with the Historic Courthouse (2000 Main St.), the historic H-shaped courthouse, built in the Mediterranean revival style dated 1927. The walls of the rectangular structure with two open sides are in light colors; the building is spread over two floors and in the center rises a tower flanked by a portico. In the inner courtyard, a large tree and strategic umbrellas provide shelter from the sun for those who want to take a break. It is currently home to the Sarasota County Clerk, the institution that maintains Sarasota’s quality standards.
Along the Sarasota Bay, adjacent to the heart of the city, Bayfront Park (2 Marina Plaza) is a great park by the water, with a library, statues, children’s play area, a fountain with dolphin sculptures and a own marina. Also from here you can admire the bay and we notice that it is an ideal place to entertain your four-legged friends, ride a bicycle and walk.
Unconditional Surrender is a 7.6 meter tall bronze statue of a kissing sailor and nurse, a tribute to the joy of the end of World War II. It represents what a photographer had immortalized in the midst of myriads of people kissing for happiness. It is clearly visible at Island Park (Island Park Dr.) on the bay overlooking the marina and it is nice to imagine that moment full of emotion.
The Most Important Events in the City
Sarasota is an active city with many initiatives and events. Depending on the calendar, the Sarasota Highland & Celtic Festival takes place in January or February at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds (3000 Ringling Blvd.) set up by the Scottish Heritage Society to promote and preserve Scottish history and culture. Music, dancing and athletics games characterize this lively festival. In February, The Palm Grove Amish Quilt & Craft Show takes place for four days at Palm Grove Mennonite Church (1087 Beneva Rd.). On the occasion, quilts of various sizes made mainly by the Amish are on sale together with local handicrafts and for those who love this kind of work, the event is a source of inspiration as well as a feast for the eyes.
For three week- end of November, it is held on the Sarasota Medieval Fair at the Ringling Woods (3000 Ringling Blvd.). The medieval theme of the event includes tournaments with knights and then minstrels, Celtic music and a craft market. A pub is set up but there are also food stalls. In November at Siesta Key Beach in Siesta Key you can attend the Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival. The event lasts three days during which professional sand sculptors exhibit their works and are available to explain the techniques and peculiarities of this art to the most curious visitors.