Best Things to do in Sarasota In 2023
Read on for our list of best things to do in Sarasota in 2023! From ocean adventures to an antique car museum, Sarasota makes a fabulous vacation venue for all ages. Enjoy a kayak trip through mystical mangrove forests and take a walk on a suspended walkway high above the forests. Then see an inspiring show at a theatre and a famous statue of a sailor kissing a nurse to celebrate the end of the War. You can get up close with dolphins, flamingos and exotic reptiles. Ride a Segway to explore the city and learn all about the most famous Circus Family in the world.
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Cruises and dolphin watching
Relaxing on a luxury cruise ship and watching dolphins is the most amazing thing to do in Sarasota. Join a tour that lasts for about 2 hours, sailing through the waters of Palma Sola Bay. Dolphins, manatees, sting rays and sea turtles will accompany your boat as you glide along. You can opt for some snorkeling or just stay on board and soak up the sun. Join the Circle Island Cruise Tour which offers a unique fabulous view as you sail over the sunken sugar barge called the Regina, that has been lying at the bottom of the ocean for almost 70 years. Then snap photos of the friendly dolphins as your knowledgeable guide tells you all about these fabulous creatures. For something truly romantic and different, set off on a sunset cruise and sip champagne with a loved one while spotting dolphins. Cruises offer a great selection of eats and refreshments as you spend an unforgettable time on the water.
If you are a water sport fanatic you will be super excited with our list of things to do in Sarasota. Start off with a kayak eco-tour, rowing through the dense mangrove forests. Have a quick lesson from your guide and set off in search of exotic fauna and flora that call this paradise home. If you want to explore land and water, combine your kayak trip with a bike ride through the prairies and pinelands. Then try your skills on a SUP, stand up paddleboard. DonÕt worry if you have never done this before, your guide will give you a lesson and you will soon be an expert. Paddle through the mangroves and spot dolphins and manatees. Great for all ages! If you feel the need for speed, enjoy a rush of adrenaline on a jet ski. Ride solo or ride with a friend on this high-powered exhilarating ocean craft. You will be given a safety briefing and all equipment needed before setting off. Then follow your instructor into the waters of Palma Sola Bay, learn some tricks and explore!
Mangrove Tunnel Kayak Eco-Tour
Bonding with the family in a beautiful natural setting is a great thing to do in Sarasota. Join the Mangrove Tunnel Kayak Eco-Tour and paddle leisurely through the swamps discovering wonderful fauna and flora. You do not need to be fit as the pace is slow. Your knowledgeable local guide will be close by at all times and will also fill you in on interesting facts as you paddle along through the beautiful mangrove tunnels and estuaries of the picturesque Sarasota Bay. Spot the friendly manatees and dolphins in their natural environment and be awed as you glide along under the dense canopy of vegetation, a mystical setting! The kayaks are very stable and easy to manage for all ages. They feature a special curved shape that increases ease of paddling and gliding. Paddles and life jackets are provided and you will have a safety briefing before setting off.
If you think that walking around is too tiring, you will love our next thing to do in Sarasota! Take a one hour Segway tour and simply ride effortlessly from one famous sight to another. The Segway is a fun two-wheel bike that you stand on and by simply leaning forward, it moves on its own. Great for all ages and levels of fitness! Get geared up, have a quick safety lesson and follow your guide. Set off from Bayfront, Ringling Bridge, St. Armand’s Circle, and Lido Beach. As you cruise along, enjoy the stunning views that Florida is known for! On your trip, your local guide will fill you in on all you need to know about the island and its history.
TreeUmph adventure Course (Bradenton)
How brave are you? Test your skills on our next fabulous thing to do in Sarasota - The TreeUmph adventure Course! Be a super Tarzan on rope swings, zip lines, swinging logs and suspended bridges or just have fun with family and friends Ð it is up to you. The Park is run according to the highest and strictest standards and the day starts with a safety video where you learn the rules. Start with the BeginnerÕs Course where you will learn to climb, making your way through courses of increasing difficulty until you reach the most extreme final course. Test your strength and stamina, fitness and staying power. Swing from a 20 foot high platform into a huge cargo net and move on to other challenging obstacles. If you reach the end and are up for it, you can zoom down the 650 foot Triumphant Zipline, where you hang on for dear life as you soar 60 foot high through the air. Experienced guides are with you at all times and there are different courses for kids and adults.
Snapping a selfie with that mega catch is the next awesome thing to do in Sarasota. Whether you are a professional or a beginner trying your luck, there is a fabulous fishing charter for you. Join a small group 4 hour trip and depart from downtown Sarasota on a 23 foot center console boat. Sail through the local reefs, channels and bays. All equipment is provided including Coast Guard approved safety gear and knowledgeable guides will be with you at all times ensuring that you are taken to the best fishing spots. The trip includes the use of rods, reels and tackle, bait and fishing licenses. Fishing charters are great for the whole family, the elderly and children and make fabulous bonding experiences. For some extra fun, your catch will be cleaned and packaged for you to eat for dinner when you arrive back at the harbor. If you worry about the open ocean, join the Inshore Fishing Charter. Because you are on inland waters, there are no waves and no sea-sickness!
Learning about an ancient circus and exploring arts and culture is the next thing to do in Sarasota. Head to the Ringling, the world famous State Art Museum of Florida. Originally owned by John Ringling, one of the famous circus brothers, this venue offers educational, cultural and important historical insight into the Sarasota region. See art exhibitions and enjoy a photography, space and power focused exhibition. Learn all about the fascinating history of the circus at the Circus Museum. See old posters depicting the amazing talents and breathtaking acts that were performed. The kids will enjoy the family programs which include story telling, arts and crafts and outdoor events. You can take a guided tour or stroll around on your own. The events change frequently so more than one visit is probably required to get the full impact of this culture rich venue.
Photo by Roger W
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Visiting a beautiful natural garden is a truly relaxing thing to do in Sarasota. The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a tropical urban oasis where you can rest, explore and rejuvenate your soul in magnificent surroundings. Set on the Bay, with stunning views, it is also a world class centre for education, research and conservation. Join a guided tour to experience the full extent of the Gardens. Led by qualified guides, these tours will introduce your group to the diverse areas and you can spend time examining unique flora and learning about the natural world. Get creative and take a class in water color painting Ð create your own masterpiece with the help of a professional artist. If you prefer snapping photos, a short course in photography will help you improve your skills. Then take a tour through the Rain Forest, the Towering Bamboo Garden, the Bunyan Groves and the Mangrove Bay Walk, all designed to give you an insight into diverse natural habitats of the world.
Photo by Walter on Flickr.
Ca d'Zan Mansion
Are you enthralled by the allure and intrigue of the circus? Then our next thing to do in Sarasota is for you. Set off to the Ringling where you will find the magnificent Ca d'Zan Mansion. John Ringling was one of five children from the famous circus family. After marrying his wife, Mable, they left Venice and bought land in Sarasota. With their huge wealth they re-created a home inspired by and designed in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzos that surround the Venice canals. The name means ÔHouse of JohnÕ in the dialect of their beloved Venice. Visit the fabulous museum that houses their extensive art and artifact collection. Stroll around the lovely rose garden and admire the views over the Bay. The house is filled with rare and beautiful works of art, period furniture, fine crystal and china. Take a tour or stroll around on your own. This home is one of the grandest mansion on FloridaÕs Suncoast and stands as one of AmericaÕs architectural treasures.
Photo by Roger W
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
Visiting the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is another fun thing to do in Sarasota for the whole family. Discover all things aquatic and learn about the underwater world. Kids will love to dive into the Aquarium where they can explore the secrets of the ocean in touch pools and high-tech interactive exhibits. Get up close and personal with sharks, manatees and sea turtles. Visit the unique otter exhibition where these fascinating creatures live in their natural habitat. Then join an eco-boat tour that takes you to explore the Sarasota Bay. If you are fit, follow a guide on a kayak into the mangrove forests. After all this, you will have worked up an appetite! Head for the retro Õ50s-style diner, complete with an old-fashioned soda fountain. Enjoy the burgers and dogs and the hand-dipped ice cream, shakes and sundaes for dessert.
Photo by Mark Goebel
Myakka River State Park
When you are considering things to do in Sarasota, donÕt miss out on a visit to the Myakka River State Park. It is one of the largest and oldest state parks and protects a large diverse natural area. The Myakka River flows through 58 square miles of hammocks, wetlands, prairies and pinelands. Stroll along the boardwalk and view the vast array of wildlife. Then walk along the Canopy Walkway, high up to get a birdÕs eye view. The walkway is erected 25 feet above ground level and extends 100 feet deep through the hammock canopy. A viewing tower soars 74 feet into the air where you can look down on eagles, hawks and vultures. The Park has two stunning lakes where you can enjoy a boat ride, freshwater fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Join the Lake Tour that takes you on a scenic ride in one of the largest airboats in the world. If you want to spend time in the Park, there are camping grounds and quaint palm log cabins which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930Õs and have been modernized.
Photo by mbarrison
Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary
Taking a walk with a exotic tiger is certainly a life-changing experience and is a great thing to do in Sarasota. The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is a growing rescue center in eastern Sarasota County or large animals. It was founded in 1987 by Kay Rosaire. This non-profit sanctuary offers a permanent home for dozens of exotic animals and also strives to educate the public about animal care and conservation. Join one of the tours where a knowledgeable guide will introduce you to lions, tigers, bears, tortoises and primates. The kids will love the petting zoo where they can feed and touch the animals. Bird lovers will be amazed at the large variety of exotic birds. Look out for the famous sulphur crested cockatoo, he is over 90 years old and has appeared on the Ed Sullivan show! A great day outing for the whole family.
Photo by Ramsey Mohsen
South Lido Park
Soaking up the sun on a glorious beach is the next thing to do in Sarasota. South Lido Park is located at the south western tip of Lido Key. It covers 100 acres of sandy coastline and azure blue waters all in a protected environment that is safe and clean. Join the locals and tourists who come here to boat, kayak, Jet ski and fish. The Park offers shaded picnic areas, barbecue grills and a childrenÕs playground. Sports lovers can play volleyball or enjoy a row on the canoe trail. If you like to walk, stroll along the nature trails and then go up to the observation tower and decks to get a birds eye view. Swimming is safe and the water is warm, just avoid the strong currents on the north west side of Big Pass. You can try your hand at kite surfing or watch the experts. Relax and soak up the sun, as the day ends, you will be treated to a fabulous sun set.
Photo by Timothy Valentine
Unconditional Surrender Sculpture
After exploring the Legacy Trail, another thing to do in Sarasota is to visit the Unconditional Surrender Sculpture located on the Bayfront. This is a unique and fun attraction! The statue is an oversized re-creation of a famous photograph from the end of the war celebrations in Times Square. A nameless serviceman is seen kissing an unknown nurse to celebrate the end of the World War II. The statue is also known as the Kissing Sailor and is made of aluminum. It is able to withstand winds from a category 3 hurricane. The sculpture was purchased by a World War II veteran called Jack Curran and with support from numerous Sarasota veterans, he was able to donate the sculpture to the City of Sarasota. Other copies of the statue have been made and can be found in Hamilton, New Jersey, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Normandy, France. Stop and snap some photos, enjoy the crowds and maybe give a stranger a kiss!
Photo by Port of San Diego
Myakka Canopy Walkway
Located inside the beautiful Myakka River State Park is another fabulous thing to do in Sarasota. Take a walk along the Myakka Canopy Walkway and get a taste of this stunning natural landscape. The walkway is one of the most popular trails in the Park. It is short and easy to navigate and ideal for the whole family, being easy to access with a wide well-defined footpath. Take a slow stroll and look out for exotic fauna and flora. See the forest creatures and marine life in the surrounding lakes. The walk meanders under a massive canopy of oak trees that create a surreal effect ending in a bridge over the water. When you reach the 76 foot observation tower you can climb the steps and walk out onto the platform to get a birds eye view and sweeping vistas of the Myakka River. Educational plaques along the way teach you about the region and the heritage. A great day outing.
Photo by NervousEnergy
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Visiting a Jungle Garden is probably an unexpected thing to do in Sarasota, but this is a city of surprises! The Gardens were established in 1930 by a newspaper man who wanted to create a botanical garden. Today, the Sarasota Jungle Gardens is home to over 200 native and exotic animals. The huge variety offers a fabulous look at birds of prey, Macaws and parrots, small mammals, primates, all types of creepy snakes, lizards, alligators and crocodiles. Kids will love spending a day here learning all about these fellow creatures. See the beautiful flamingos who are not shy and will come up and greet you! Watch an educational show that has question and answer time at the end. The enthusiastic staff members will be more than pleased to answer all your questions. The kids can play in the playground and feed the Koi fish and everyone can take a ride on the fun choo-choo train when you get tired of walking.
Photo by Karen Blaha
The Celery Fields
Nature lovers will find even more things to do in Sarasota. Your next visit should be to the Celery Fields, a natural area perfect for wildlife watching and recreation. Construction of the Celery Fields began in 1923 and the main canals were finished by 1926. An experimental farm of 2,000 acres was set up and planting of different vegetables were tried. In 1927, it was decided to grow mainly celery. Today the area is home to a wide variety of animal, plant and bird life. The Wetlands restoration of 100 acres is now complete and more than 200,000 aquatic plants and trees have been planted. Walk along the two boardwalks to see the natural habitat. You can also enjoy a bike ride along special biking trails. If you want to get onto the water, hire a kayak or canoe and set off to explore. Then go inside to the Nature Center where you will meet knowledgeable people who will update you on all the activities and programs. Buy a souvenir from the little gift shop to take home!
Photo by Kristi
Taking a walk around Bayfront Park is a relaxing and fun thing to do in Sarasota. Stroll around and see the boats coming and going on the water. The venue is ideal for kids as it has swings and a ChildrenÕs Fountain where they can get wet and have a blast. Watch artists at work and buy a small painting to take home as a memento of your visit. Stop and look at the famous Unconditional Surrender Statue. This sculpture was made from a photo taken of a unknown sailor kissing a nurse in the joyous celebrations that followed the end of World War II. If you want to get onto the water, you can rent a small boat and go for a sail. When you get back have a scrumptious meal at the famous Oleary's Tiki Bar and Grill. After lunch take a walk to the Dolphin Fountain and snap some photos. As evening approaches, settle down with a drink to watch the glorious sunset.
Photo by Jared
Sarasota Farmers Market
Meeting the local farmers and trying out their produce is the next tasty thing to do in Sarasota. Head to the vibrant and fun downtown area where you will find the Sarasota Farmers Market. The Market was founded in 1979 by Paul Thorpe and its original mission was to attract people to the downtown area. In 2009, the vendors formed a non-for-profit to further enhance the market with a focus on supporting local farms and growers and to create educational platforms. Stroll around and soak up the atmosphere. There are dozens of artisans making products that range from works of art, to hand made soaps, woven baskets, brightly dyed clothing and natural healing powders. See the sea sponges for sale and buy some munchies for your pet. If you are hungry there is a fabulous array of home baked cakes, fresh fruit and vegetables, pies, gourmet foods, fresh fish and fabulous sushi. You will probably have to visit more than once to experience it all!
Photo by Larry Hoffman
Sarasota By Segway Tours
If you have never driven a Segway, this is one of the things to do in Sarasota. It also makes a fun and unusual way to explore the city and is ideal for all ages and levels of fitness. Meet you guide and have a quick safety lesson on how to ride this two-wheel bike. You simply stand, lean forward and you are off! Follow your guide to all the famous spots waving at people as you zoom by. You will glide through the scenic and historic downtown region of Sarasota which buzzes with people and culture. Then explore the beautiful Sarasota Bayfront as you cruise along the main street. See the panoramic views over the Ringling Bridge and head for the upmarket shopping and dining region at St. Armand's Circle. Then it is off to the ocean and sands of Lido Beach at Island Park before returning to the starting point. The trip lasts for 2 hours and will make memories to last a lifetime.
Photo by Elizabeth
Nathan Benderson Park
Looking for a Beer, Boats and Bacon Festival? Then a visit to the Nathan Benderson Park is the thing to do in Sarasota. This beautiful venue is located just west of Interstate 75 in the tropically beautiful Sarasota and offers a 600 acre community park with a stunning picturesque lake and an exciting world of outdoor recreation. Watch the Invitational Regatta or take part in the Superhero 5K event. Dogs are welcome to join in the Doggie Bones Run. There are movie nights and a Run in the Sun for the whole family. You are sure to find something that thrills you. Take part or just walk around and enjoy the stunning setting of rolling hills and lakes. If you want to plan a large event, this is the perfect venue!
Photo by Carol VanHook
Sarasota Classic Car Museum
Feel the need for speed? Then get your adrenaline pumping at the next fabulous thing to do in Sarasota. The Sarasota Classic Car Museum will thrill old and young and if you are not a car lover you are certain to be one after this! The Museum is one of the oldest antique car museums in the USA. Stroll around and see the progression of manÕs greatest invention - the automobile! See vintage antique cars, exotic supercars, European and one-of-a-kind classics that are featured on rotating exhibits throughout the museum with detailed information about each one. Car lovers will be in heaven! There are over 75 automobiles, showcasing iconic names like Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Cadillac and Ferrari. Take a self guided tour and get the professional staff to answer any questions you may have. Before you leave take the kids to the little shop where they can buy a miniature souvenir of their favourite wheels! The perfect way to end your vacation to Sarasota.
Photo by DeusXFlorida
Marietta Museum-Art & Whimsy
When you have had your fill of nature, set off for the most unexpected thing to do in Sarasota, a visit to two massive 1200 pound flamingos! These huge statues stand outside the Marietta Museum-Art & Whimsy, a fascinating venue that showcases contemporary artwork that celebrates upbeat themes and whimsical notions. The exhibits are sure to put a smile on your face. The founder of the Museum, Marietta Mary Lee, selects pieces from around the globe as well as from local artists. Join a tour or stroll around on your own. See the hundreds of flamingo statues scattered around the grounds. See fanciful winged pigs and an illuminated wire sculpture called Flying Dancers, that depicts three dancers hanging gracefully from the museum ceiling. Then walk into the lush gardens where a Neverland atmosphere will greet you. Sit under palm trees and massive oaks covered with vines. If you want to try your hand at being creative, you can take part in an art class.
Getting away from the crowds on a bike ride is a relaxing thing to do in Sarasota. Enjoy the outdoors as you explore the Legacy Trail that runs from south Venice all the way north to Sarasota. Come with the family, friends or alone, you will love this venue! The Trail is created by a paved over railroad bed of the old CSX Railroad. These railroads once served the Ringling Bros and the Barnum & Bailey Circus winter quarters. Now you can ride at your leisure along the safe and scenic drive. The trail offers places to stop and rest, water stations and areas for repairing and maintaining your bicycle. If you are brave, you can venture Ôoff trailÕ for some exciting wilderness experiences, you may even spot an alligator along the banks of the lakes that are located parallel to the trail. If you prefer to walk, jog, rollerblade or take the dog for a stroll, you are welcome to do that along the trail.
Siesta Key Village
Just when you think you have run out of things to do in Sarasota, you need to plan a visit to Siesta Key Village. Siesta Key is a beautiful barrier island 8 miles long just off the coast of Sarasota. It offers some of the world's whitest beaches with warm breezes and cool water. Siesta Key Village is famous for its wild parrots. There are also a huge variety of other species like terns, plovers, ibis, spoonbills, and storks. Bird watchers will be in heaven! Look out for the beautiful snowy egret and the great heron. Then spot the 4 foot tall Florida Sand Hill Cranes with their bright red heads. Take note of how two of them often walk side by side, this is because they are mated for life! The island is also home to many species of exotic flowers, tropical trees and flowering shrubs and plants. In the ocean, dolphins and manatees abound. For those who enjoy something mystical, the bright white sands are 99% pure quartz and are always cool to the touch. Quartz is said to have magical healing powers, so come along and get your share!
Save Our Seabirds
If you aspire to saving the sea birds, you will be thrilled to visit the Save Our Seabirds Center, our next recommended thing to do in Sarasota. This family friendly venue is located near to the Mote Marine Aquarium at 1708 Ken Thompson Parkway. Their mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured and sick wild birds once they have recovered. They also educate the public about preventing injuries and preserving the natural bird habitats. This living museum is home to over 120 birds and you can walk around and view them in a beautiful setting. Download the App before you visit and as you stroll around, state-of-the-art Augmented Reality signs will make your smart device come to life with holograms, videos and educational voice-overs. The kids will be blown away! The venue sells some special wines to take home as a souvenir. How about a bottle of Caracara Cabernet Sauvignon or Osprey Chardonnay?
Marina Jack II sightseeing cruise
Escaping for a while aboard a luxury cruise ship is the next awesome thing to do in Sarasota. Climb aboard this luxury vessel and sail into the Gulf of Mexico where you will have stunning views of the Islands and beaches. A fully narrated and relaxing sightseeing lunch tour will update you on what you are seeing while you enjoy a scrumptious meal. Every seat offers a perfect view, inside and out. Choose to relax on the deck with a drink or sit in the air-conditioned salons. Travel around Lido Bay and Bird key, pass the Ringling bridge and head for the north Sarasota Bay. The captain will make sure to get to see all the important sights. For something special, join the sunset cruise which offers an amazing spread of prime rib and grilled salmon, fresh seasonal vegetables, potato or rice and double layered chocolate cake to end - all while sipping a Pina Colada with a loved one and admiring the setting sun.
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
Attending an inspiring theatre production is a great thing to do in Sarasota. The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe was created by Nate Jacobs as a non-profit venture. Today it is unique in the entertainment world. The group showcases rising talent, young minority performers and aids them by developing their skills through special mentor programs. You can see shows that cover a range of topics. Experience the Black Nativity that is a holiday tradition - a high-energy celebration with gospel, blues, spiritual and Christmas music. Then see The Wiz, a magical show that will enthral the kids. For something that will touch the heart and bring a tear to your eye, you must see The Piano Lesson. After the show, head off to the Bijou CafŽ for a meal and to mull over the amazing show that you have seen.