It is nearly impossible to not picture pristine beaches and lush tropical gardens when you think of Sarasota. After all, the city sits politely on the Gulf Coast, so you can expect warm weather and plenty of sunshine year-round. However, there is a lot more to do here than sip fruity cocktails on a beach and soak up the sun. Below are just a few of the many things waiting for you here.
- Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – This is a special place to visit on vacation, but if you live in the area you will find yourself returning frequently. It is impossible to not feel uplifted, relaxed, and even inspired as you walk through greenhouse orchids, succulents, ferns, and more. A small waterfall cascades inside and there is a koi pond; an essential to any garden. There is even a rooftop garden and a little café with delicious tea samples.
- Legacy Trail – An old railroad was converted into a bike trail that runs from Venice all the way to south Sarasota. You can walk or bike, and there is plenty to see along the way. It is rarely crowded and there are places to stop and sit, and there are even restrooms along the path so you won’t be forced to hide behind a bush on those long runs. If you live in the area, and you like to stay active, you will find yourself putting the Legacy Trail to good use quite often.
- Mote Marine Aquarium – This certainly is not the largest aquarium in Florida, but there is still a lot to see. There is a Shark Encounter here that allows a few guests to help with feeding in the morning, which is definitely an experience well worth the extra expense. There are also manatee, dolphins, turtles, jelly fish and more. If you have children, this should definitely be on your list of attractions to visit.
- Myakka River State Park – Outdoor lovers consider this park to be paradise. Almost the entire park is untouched and varies from marshes to wooded areas. there are hiking trails to explore, but if you are not afraid of heights you will want to check out the canopy tour. There are alligators everywhere near the water, and if you take an airboat tour deep in the swamp you can get a little closer to an abundance of them. Canoe and kayak rentals are available too, if you don’t mind sharing the water with these big-mouthed creatures.
- Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary – The folks who opened this sanctuary used to train circus animals. They opened the Big Cat Habitat to offer a safe place for retired animals to live. There is more to see than felines here though; you will also likely stumble across bears, camels, turtles, emus, and more.
- Sarasota Jungle Garden – A winding red brick pathway takes you through a tropical jungle-like forest. You can purchase food and flamingos will come eat right from your hand, and there are a ton of other birds here too, so make sure you bring your binoculars and camera. If you have little ones, they will absolutely love the petting zoo.
- Sarasota Opera – This simple yet gorgeous opera house never fails to entertain. This Mediterranean-style house seats 1,119 guests and welcomes world-class musicians and performers. The seats are nicely spaced so you don’t feel squished, and there really is not a bad seat in this intimate setting. Even if you don’t like the opera, you will be impressed by the sets, costumes, and orchestra.