While the list of things to do in Florida often centers on the amusement parks of Orlando or the beaches of South Florida and Clearwater, the real gem of the Sunshine State is on the southwest coast.
Sarasota offers a lot of attractions for a day trip, from world class art to some of the best beaches in the state – maybe even the world.
It’s also home to one of the nation’s best fine arts festivals, the Downtown Sarasota Festival of the Arts. Held every February, this is a can’t-miss event for those who enjoy arts and crafts. The free event features artists from around the country who will show paintings, sculpture, jewelry and other arts and crafts.
But what else to do when on a Sarasota day trip? Here are some of the possibilities.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. This museum is one of the best in Florida, and the experience goes beyond just a chance to see fine art.
John Ringling, along with his brothers, ran the Ringling Bros. Circus. The museum is housed on the grounds of the estate he and his wife, Mable, had built in 1926. There are tours available of the mansion, called Ca’d Zan, which is five stories tall and 36,000 square feet.
The museum itself houses artworks from around the world. While best known for Italian and Flemish Baroque paintings, the collection also includes works by Dutch, French, English and American painters. There is also a sculpture garden and European decorative art, and a museum dedicated to the history of the circus.
The beaches. It’s hard to go wrong in Sarasota. Lido Key is among the best choices, while a short drive to Siesta Key brings you to white sand beaches that have been routinely voted the best in the United States. Unlike other areas, the area around the beaches is not as cluttered with development, while Siesta Key offers the ability to walk from the beach to a wide array of dining and drinking destinations, including the Big Olaf Creamery (a must if you have a sweet tooth).
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Should your taste run more toward nature, then this is a stop you need to make. Walking through the gardens, housed on the former waterfront estate of William and Marie Selby, provides you a chance to see and learn about rare tropical plants which have been collected from around the world. The gardens cover 15 acres and include seven greenhouses.
Sarasota Car Museum. This the second oldest continuously operated car museum in the United States, and the collection is impressive. Among the cars are John Lennon’s 1965 Mercedes-Benz and Paul McCartney’s Mini Cooper, as well as a collection of Rolls Royces owned by John and Mable Ringling. In all, there are 75 classic automobiles.
St. Armand’s Circle. Want to do some shopping and have a lot of dining choices? Then this little island just southwest of Sarasota on Lido Key is the place for you. Stores include everything from Ben & Jerry’s to Lilly Pulitzer. Oh and the beach is just a short walk away.
Wherever you go on a Sarasota day trip, you will find yourself in one of Florida’s most beautiful areas. Enjoy!