Sarasota, Florida is worth a visit year-round. It offers various activities such as gorgeous beaches, historic museums, beautiful natural sights, and lots of shopping opportunities. Sarasota is one of the best places to visit along the Cultural Coast on the Gulf and is suitable for all ages.
Sarasota is a popular spot for retirees as well as seasonal residents. It is an ideal paradise to spend the winter and avoid the cold temperatures that come with the winter season. There are many immaculate golf courses in the area as well, giving residents many opportunities to play the game, especially during wintertime.
Tip: For other season tips for the sunshine state, visit our complete guide to the best time to visit Florida.
So, is Sarasota worth visiting? We hope this guide can answer all your questions and give you the best idea for a trip to Sarasota!
How Many Days in Sarasota?
The amount of days that you should stay in Sarasota, FL really depends on what all you have planned to do. Ideally, Sarasota can be done in 3-5 days. This gives you ample time for sightseeing, attractions, shopping, and of course relaxing on the beach.
In reality, the average amount of time people spend on vacation, and most family vacations, is 7-10 days. Spending a week in Sarasota will give visitors a chance to take it slow and really enjoy their time. It offers extra hours to spend beach hopping up the coast, and more time to learn about the Cultural Coast itself.
Is Siesta Key Worth Visiting?
Siesta Key is just a short 20 minute drive south of Sarasota, and a ‘can’t miss’ location when visiting Sarasota. Siesta Key beach is said to be ranked the ‘Best Beach on the Gulf’ and is known for its pure quartz sand and turquoise colored waters. It is very family friendly and great for visitors of all ages.
Making a day trip to Siesta Key Beach from Sarasota is super easy and convenient, and has to be included in a day of beach hopping. There is plenty of room for parking and has various different amenities such as a pedestrian walkway, concessions and beach side restaurants. For a quieter or more semi-private experience, head to the south end of the beach, as there are usually less visitors and more space to spread out and relax. We aren’t surprised that the has been ranked the #1 beach in the country multiple times.
Other than the beach, Siesta Key offers many more attractions and there is always something going on. Visitors can easily take part in various events at the Pavillion such as beach volleyball, frisbee, yoga classes, and playgrounds too. The nightlife in Siesta Key will be filled with live music and dancing every night of the week at different locations all over the area, so you will never have a boring day. So, is Siesta Key worth it? Hands down.
Is The Ringling Worth Visiting?
John Ringling was one of the richest men in America back in the 1920s, and it easily shows. He is known for ‘The Greatest Show On Earth,’ the Ringling Circus. Once the home and personal art museum of John and his wife Mabel, The Ringling is now home to the most prevalent art museum in the state, as well as a circus museum, Ca’adZan (John Ringling’s mansion)and beautiful Bayfront gardens.
The art museum is by far the most popular attraction at the residence, giving visitors a chance to go back 100 years in society. There are 31 galleries, filled with the works of art from John and Mabel’s personal art collection. Their love of art influenced the design of the U-shaped building, and the center courtyard has gorgeous statues and fountains that visitors can admire while taking a rest. If you have a love or passion for artwork like The Ringlings did, it is no doubt worth a visit while in Sarasota.
Are Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Worth Visiting?
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens was once home to the local amateur gardener, Marie Selby. This botanical garden is very unique as it specializes in plants that grow on other plants, or epiphytes. This is a great attraction to escape the city and spend a more relaxing day in nature.
This is an ideal place to visit on a family vacation as it offers various kid-friendly areas and attractions such as a Butterfly Garden and a Rainforest Garden. Here, kids can enjoy swinging bridges, conducting field research, and go exploring in caves. Additionally, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has the main Epiphyte garden, a koi pond, Banyan grove, and a mangrove-lined boardwalk, perfect for admiring the scenery.
While this isn’t the main reason people usually visit Sarasota, it is still worth a visit while in the area; especially for plant lovers.
Is Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium Worth Visiting?
The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is part aquarium, and part research center. It offers 10 different exhibits filled with various marine animals and other wildlife. This non-profit facility is the oldest aquarium in Florida.
Since it originally started with shark research, it features a 135,000-gallon shark tank. Families with kids and animal lovers will love spending the afternoon getting up close and personal to marine life from all over the world. This region of Florida is known for being home to some giant creatures, such as manatees. The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is home to 2 of them, Hugh and Buffet, the resident manatees.
To visit the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium has a reputation of having high prices for such a small area. If knowledge and education of marine life is something that interests you, definitely spend an afternoon here exploring the facility while in Sarasota. If you aren’t, it may not be worth the money.
What Other Attractions Are Worth Visiting?
Sarasota is known for being one of the most cultural cities in all of Florida. There are many venues in the city that give visitors a chance to experience performing arts, and other museums and cultural points. Enjoy a performance at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall or the Sarasota Opera House, or educate yourself at Historic Spanish Point or the Sarasota Classic Car Museum.
While Broadway and theater may not be the first thing you think of when you think of Sarasota, it most definitely isn’t the last either. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and the Sarasota Opera House, are some of the best venues to catch a show in Florida. There are many concerts, broadway shows, theater performances, and dances every month, so there is normally some sort of event to fit everyone’s interests. If there is a show that catches your eye, it is worth the visit and shouldn’t be passed up.
Historic Spanish Point is located south of the city and was once home to the famous Mrs. Palmer; a local landowner who shaped Sarasota into what it is today. The exhibit takes visitors back in time and gives them an idea of what life was like before European settlers arrived. It features pioneer history and local native american history, a chapel, packing plant, and original homes from the 1900s. This may not be worth visiting unless you appreciate history and culture, but the education you can gain is worth a visit.
If you are a car enthusiast, the Sarasota Classic Car Museum is definitely worth a visit. The museum is stocked with dozens of antique cars; even vehicles owned by many celebrities, hence the popularity of the museum. There are various tours available throughout the museum to give visitors a chance to learn as much as possible and not miss a thing.
Which Restaurants in Sarasota are Worth Visiting?
There are endless amounts of restaurants located all throughout Sarasota. Whether you are looking for amazing seafood, good southern cooking, or even eclectic and different cultural meals, visitors have endless options in Sarasota. Most places offer dine in, carry out, and some will even deliver.
- Shore: Located shoreside, it gives visitors a chance to eat under the stars at night, or enjoy the waves rolling during the day as it is designed with tiered seating.
- Indigenous: Supports farm raised food, environmentally friendly prepared seafood, and home to one of the best chefs in Florida, Steve Phelps.
- Dim Sum King:Perfect for groups and families as meals are prepared in a series of shareable dishes.
- Owens Fish Camp: Some of the best freshly prepared seafood in the area, southern sides and live folk music weekly.
- State Street Eating House: Known as one of the best bars in the city with a “to die for” burger.
- Columbia: Sarasotas’ oldest restaurant, and has the best Cuban food in the city.
- Blu Kouzina: Specializes in natural flavors and the best ingredients, has a mixture of plant based food, bowls, greek and seafood.
Which Spots in Sarasota Do Locals Recommend?
There are still some local favorites of Sarasota that haven’t been mentioned; we saved the best for last. Sarasota is filled with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.
Our personal favorite is the beach of LongBoat Key, located on the northern side of Sarasota. This beach offers visitors a more relaxing vibe with less traffic and lower crowds compared to other beaches in the area. Longboat Key is more upscale, with fine dining, luxurious amenities, and even waterfront golf.
Another personal favorite of ours is Beer Can Island. Located at the tip of LongBoat Key, beer can island is a local secret beach, which appears private to most visitors. It is actually a public beach, but there is very little parking, and is surrounded by private properties. There is a mile-long trail offering natural and scenic ocean views.
Pineapple Avenue is the place to go for locals and residents when it comes to thrift shopping, or shopping in general. There are dozens of shops along this Avenue filled with original art, home decor, unique and eclectic vintage clothing, and even antiques. Pineapple avenue is worth a visit, even if it is just to a stroll during an afternoon in Sarasota.
Some other popular local hangouts where residents like to gather are Maduro Cigar & Bar, Siesta Key Oyster Bar, and the Gator Club. These local hotspots are definitely worth a visit if you are looking for a more relaxed vibe with less tourists, and will put you right in the island spirit.