Looking for a place to entice your senses through natural and architectural sights – or how about a place to tempt your taste buds with local and exotic foods? On a recent trip to Sarasota County, I found all of this and more to be true because this is a region built on white quartz sand beaches, picture worthy attractions and a seemingly endless supply of Zagat rated restaurants – and when you visit Sarasota County be sure not to miss these top ten places.
Disclosure: The writer was hosted.
See a Manatee Up Close at Mote Aquarium
If you’re looking for an authentic Florida experience full of fish and natural sea life, the Mote aquarium is the place to go. This manageable aquarium is not big on size, but offers visitors an unique experience of seeing, touching and learning about Florida’s mostly unseen underwater inhabitants. We even got to watch a manatee eat its lunch. While we enjoyed the air-conditioned experience meeting the sea creatures, it was the Mote staff’s passion for helping and learning about these animals that really caught our attention. This is a passion that is also openly on display to the aquarium’s visitors through visible science labs and on site animal training.
Taste an Artful Meal at Bijou Cafe
Appropriately situated within Sarasota’s downtown Theatre & Arts district is a charming fine dining restaurant that offers a fresh take on food. Not only was the location artfully decorated in colorful paintings and an abundance of natural light, but the restaurant’s menu kept with the same colorful, natural theme.
Free & Fun Roadside Attractions
Being that I am the Retro TravelingMom, roadside attractions are always on my mind and I was surprised to find that Sarasota is full of them! In fact, Sarasota and the Keys offer several fun retro sights including a giant statue of the “Unconditional Surrender” in the downtown area (near Bijou Cafe’), along with several other retro motel signs scattered about the area. Taking a self guided tour of these attractions is both fun and free! Should you choose to stop at any of these fun sights, don’t forget to tag your Instagram selfies with #TMOM!
Enjoy Picturesque Beaches
Yes, Florida as a whole is full of beautiful beaches, so what makes the beaches in Sarasota so special? Well, for starters, Sarasota has six barrier islands which sit along the county’s 40 miles of coastline – also known as the Florida Keys! The most famous of these beaches, however, is the Siesta Beach – rated #1 in the nation by Dr. Beach in 2011 for its white quartz sand. The white quartz sand is special because it keeps the beach cool, allowing a long barefoot walk on the beach – a treat! Plus, the sights of the ocean and city from this beach are obviously photo-worthy.
Find Comfort Food at Yoder’s Amish Village
You may want to schedule a visit to Yoder’s Amish Villiage simply for their fried chicken and pie, but at Yoder’s Amish Village, it’s way too easy to get sucked in to the whole experience. This small “village” offers not only a mouthwatering restaurant selection, including their well known pudding pies, but also a gift shop with fun homemade gifts and a fresh market filled with homemade baked goods, fresh produce and carryout meals. During my stay I welcomed the chance to try the fried chicken meal, which included mashed potatoes and Amish noodles, plus a slice of the peanut butter pie. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I have been dreaming of them ever since.
Take a Ride to the Past at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum
I am a car enthusiast, so when I found out that Sarasota has its own vintage car museum, I couldn’t wait to make a quick stop. Just as promised this retro car museum offered me a chance to come within arm’s distance of some of the most loved and adored cars from the past – including the cars belonging to the Beatles! This museum isn’t big, but has quite a bit of nostalgia packed in making it worth a stop to enjoy the sights.
Experience Circus Life at The Ringling
The Ringling at its most basic is a circus museum, art museum and once home of John and Mable Ringling. John was one of the brother owners of the Ringling Circus. On a larger level, the Ringling is a full day of entertainment, gorgeous views and hub of interesting circus information. While I loved the perfectly pink courtyard at the Art Museum, I imagined my children attempting to walk the tight rope and play inside the clown car at the campus’s circus museum. This location offered sights for the whole family!
Entice All the Senses at the Sarasota Farmers Market
The farmers market is a stop that will entice all of your senses at once with the rows of bright colored fruits and vegetables, the scents cascading from the different vendors tables, the sounds of the chatter and negotiations and the possible tastes of Florida’s locally grown delicacies. The farmers market takes place on Lemon Avenue and States Streets every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is no cost to enjoy this experience, unless of course you want to buy something – which you probably will!
Eat Local Flavors at SKOB
The Siesta Key Oyster Bar is a funky place to hang out with friends, eat tropical-esque foods and maybe enjoy a drink – all while enjoying the live band with a great view of the strip from the optional outdoor seating. This socially positioned establishment offers both local favorites from under the sea and options for those who would rather stick to non swimming greens and pastas.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Meaney’s Mini Donuts
On the corner across the street from the SKOB is a small shack called Meaney’s Mini Donuts. While it might not look like much, with its signs offering henna tattoos and discounted glasses, this small roadside stand offers a late night delicacy – gourmet mini donuts. Don’t be put off by the stand’s awkward and somewhat confusing appearance. Meaney’s mini donuts are a diamond in the rough and now one of my favorite tastes of Sarasota.
Do you have a favorite spot in Sarasota? Share it with us in the comments.
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