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You know that word association game where someone says a word and you say the first word that comes to your mind when you hear it? Well for me, it used to be that when someone said Sarasota, the first word that came to my mind was “retirement.”  My weekend getaway to Sarasota really changed my mind.  Sarasota is such a beautiful area, and I can’t wait to tell you why in this visitors guide! I’m spilling where to stay, where to eat, and what to do, including some spots I wasn’t fortunate enough to get to experience my first time, but hope you get the chance to!

Where to Stay in Sarasota

Sarasota Modern

There was so much to love about this luxury boutique hotel.  The price was midrange, but we had enough Marriott points to cover it!  The interior was super sleek and clean looking, which I absolutely loved.  My favorite part was the pool and jacuzzi that we were lucky enough to have to ourselves most of the time! There’s even a pool bar with yummy drinks to quench your thirst.  The location was just a couple of blocks away from the downtown area, but the walk was really enjoyable! If you don’t want to walk, much like the Fenway Hotel in Dunedin, they offer complimentary bikes you can take downtown!

Where to Eat & Drink in Sarasota

A coffee

The Overton

This place was TOO CUTE! It’s equipped with garage style doors allowing you to have indoor or outdoor vibes for your experience.  You’ll notice a modern look with touches of greenery throughout.  We just stopped here for the coffee, but I realize now just how badly we messed up.  Next time, I will be sure to get their avocado toast or breakfast sandwich with my vanilla latte.

Buddy Brew

I will scream it from the rooftops until my voice is gone: If a city has a Buddy Brew, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be stopping there! It’s some of the best coffee in the Tampa Bay Area, and the shops are always adorable!

Some other cute coffee spots that I want to try next time: Perq Coffee Bar and Project Coffee (which is 100% vegan!).

Lunch & dinner spots

Owen’s Fish Camp

Do not leave Sarasota without stopping to check this spot out.  Food, history, and my Achilles heel— oyster shooters! Step to the back patio to enjoy the fun environment! You’ll find eclectic and funky decor, fresh seafood options, and oftentimes, live music.  

Owen's Fish Camp Sarasota

We had Murphy’s Famous Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters to start and then moved onto oysters Rockefeller, their pan-fried crab cake, and garlic snails with chorizo, sweet wine, and grits.  I’m not going to lie, snails are not my thing— but Remi has not stopped talking about this dish and it’s been seven months since we were there.  I loved the oysters, and the shooters were a fun, interesting take!

You’ll notice a large banyan tree when you walk in— that tree was given to Sarasota developer Owen Burns by Thomas Edison! The staff are more than happy to give you a quick history lesson about the place on your way out (or in)!

Duval’s Fresh. Local. Seafood.

If you’re wanting to get in a nice dinner during your trip, Duval’s will definitely provide that with their indoor or outdoor street dining. We went outdoors to enjoy watching the nightlife occurring in the downtown area, plus the weather was perfect! Usually, only a couple of menu items stand out to me, but that was not the case here— everything sounded SO good!  We ended up sharing the Duval’s Seafood Sampler which included lobster, scallops, and shrimp (all cooked to perfection)! I really enjoyed the service, meal, and ambiance. 

Lobster, scallops, and shrimp from Duval's Fresh. Local. Seafood. beautifully plated

Jack Dusty

Another suggestion if you’re looking for a nice dinner is Jack Dusty, which is located inside of the Ritz Carlton. We didn’t get to check it out this time, but it’s definitely on our list for next— craft cocktails, coastal cuisine, and waterfront views can all be found here!

A beer or cocktail

The Reserve

This place was so neat! This venue really had such a variety of offerings, including a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, wine shop, bookstore, and Airbnb! We stopped here for a glass of wine and a beer and enjoyed them on their beautiful outdoor patio.  They have open mic nights on Fridays and live music on Saturdays as well as a Sunday brunch. I think there is definitely something for everyone here, so make sure to check it out!

Perspective 

Rooftop bars are a must for me, and Perspective did not disappoint.  Beautiful city views, bomb cocktails, AND frose! I don’t know about you, but drinking frose at a rooftop bar is an absolute mood for me.

Views from Perspective rooftop in Sarasota

Smokin’ Joes Pub

This is just a fun place to end the night.  We came here to play some games (they have pool and darts) and listen to good music.  It’s a super fun environment, and BONUS, they have all sorts of drink specials throughout the week!

Pangea Alchemy Lab

If you know me, you know that I LOVE speakeasies— they’re my jam! So I was beyond excited when I read about Alchemy in Sarasota.  However, they were unfortunately closed at the time we went. But if you look at their image gallery on Google, you’ll have every reason you’ll ever need for adding this place to your list of must-stops in Sarasota!

What to Do In Sarasota

Check out the painted bicycles around the city

That sounds odd right? What do I mean check out the painted bicycles? Well, once you begin walking around Sarasota you may begin to notice some oddly painted and uniquely decorated bicycles in truly random spots.  I love when cities have quirks like this and knew there had to be an explanation behind these random bicycles— and of course there was! You can read the full story here, but long story short, Dr. Nik is a bit of a pack rat who began hoarding bikes.  He would add funky touches to them (one had 44 flamingos on it) and noticed one day when he locked it up how much joy and interest it brought people.  So in the last 10 years, he’s placed about 36 of these fun, uniquely decorated bicycles throughout Sarasota!

Ca’ d’Zan & The Ringling

There is so much beauty just in exploring the grounds here. You will undoubtedly be in awe as you explore the gardens and the area surrounding Ca’ d’Zan (John and Mable Ringling’s insane mansion) and the museums.  Ca’ d’Zan has Venetian inspired architecture that will truly make you forget you’re in Florida from looking at it— there’s even a dock for a gondola in the back.

Ca' d'Zan mansion

We opted to just explore the grounds since we had limited time in Sarasota, and exploring the grounds alone took up a good amount of time.  If you have the time, I recommend checking out the museums.  Admission is $35 and includes entry to the Museum of Art, Circus Museum, and Bayfront Gardens as well as entry to Ca’ d’Zan.  If you don’t care about entering Ca’ d’Zan, you can do a $25 admission.  

Pro tip: on Mondays, the Museum of Art and Bayfront Gardens are free to the public!

St. Armands Circle

St. Armands Circle is full of boutiques, specialty shops, galleries, spas, restaurants, and more.  I’m not one to do much shopping when I’m on vacation, but this place was on everyone’s Sarasota must list, so I had to check it out.  It was an absolutely beautiful shopping area, and we definitely enjoyed strolling around here.  We stopped in a few shops and grabbed a drink to enjoy on the second level of Tommy Bahama!

Signage for Harding Circle Historic District

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

I’ve been to quite a few botanical gardens, and this was definitely up there with my favorites.  This is the first that I’ve gotten to experience that was right on the water! I loved being able to walk through and get some occasional views of the bay.  Like museums, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will often change up their exhibits, so even if you’ve been before, it may be totally different if you choose to go again (we will definitely be going back).  When we went, they had a Dali exhibit, and it was AWESOME.  We have the Dali Museum in St. Pete, and I find his work to be so interesting, so I loved that they had this exhibit.

Myakka River State Park

It began to rain after we left the gardens, so we didn’t get to check this spot off, but we will next time.  To enter, it costs $6 per vehicle ($4 single occupant vehicle) or $2 for pedestrians.  Myakka River is the only river in Florida to be designated a Florida Wild and Scenic River.  You can rent bikes, canoes, or kayaks, or just enjoy some trails on foot. They also offer boat and tram tours, where you may just be lucky enough to spot a gator while learning about the area from your guide. No matter which way you choose to explore this beautiful park I am sure you will be in for a treat.  I will be reporting back once I finally get the chance to check this spot out!

Spend a day at Anna Maria Island

Ugh.  You guys.  AMI deserves a whole post to itself, but if you are just in the area because you are visiting Sarasota, you really should try to spend a day (morning and afternoon at least) exploring this oasis.

Greetings from Anna Maria Island mural

A few of my favorite activities:

  • Have breakfast at Peach’s— and don’t you dare leave without getting the best peach cobbler your taste buds have ever encountered!
  • Rent a golf cart from right next door at AMI Beach Fun Rentals.
  • Catch some rays and check out Bean Point (if you’re sticking around until sunset, save this for then instead!).
  • Grab a coffee (or beer) from North Shore Cafe and enjoy their awesome vibe.

If you want a nice dinner while you’re in the area, Beach Bistro sounds and looks PHENOMENAL. This too was closed while we were there so we didn’t get to experience it, but I am dreaming of the day when we do get to check it out.  It’s more than just beautifully-plated dishes here.  The outdoor seating is right on the sandy beach and is done so elegantly.  It’s a setup for what I’m sure would be a truly romantic evening.  So if that’s a vibe you’re looking for, you’re going to want to make reservations here.

I hope this post convinced you that Sarasota has a lot more to offer than what may meet the eye! I really can’t wait to go back and explore all of the things I didn’t get a chance to do the first time!

Tell me which suggestion got you the most excited about Sarasota!

18 Comments

  1. Wow! You are changing my word association with Sarasota, too! Thank you for this. I am traveling to Sarasota to visit a friend as soon as the pandemic is over, and I will absolutely use your ideas. Pinned for later!

  2. I’ve only ever been to Sarasota once for a quick trip, but I hope next time to actually take in all that the city has to offer! Great guide, thank you!

    1. Yes I hope you get the chance to experience the city a little more next time! 🙂 If you do I hope you find my recommendations as satisfying as I did 🙂

  3. Ah I love Sarasota! The last time I was there was in 2014, but my grandparents used to flock there for the winter. St. Armand’s Circle is such a quaint little area and I loved Daiquiri Deck there. I definitely want to get back at some point because I love the beaches there. 🙂

  4. Oh wow! Heaps of inspiration in this post <3 This is going straight toward my travel bucket list – especially the botanical park (this looks truly awesome). Can’t wait ‘till we can travel again. Thanks so much for the detailed list and for those amazing pictures, too 🙂 Love, Susanne

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