Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- How Active Do You Want to Be?
- Top Things To Do In Sarasota, Florida
- 1. Explore the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art
- 2. Stroll through Downtown Sarasota
- 3. Enjoy the Beach at Lido Key
- 4. Visit Historic Spanish Point
- 5. Learn More at Mote Marine Laboratory
- 6. Hit The Trails at Oscar Scherer State Park
- 7. Go Birding at Sarasota Audubon Society at the Celery Fields
- 8. See What's In Bloom at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
- 9. Take A Kayak Tour With Kayaking SRQ
- 10. Get Adventurous at TreeUmph! Adventure Course
- 11. Go Wild At Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary
- 12. Ogle the Cars at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum
Sarasota, Florida, is the place to find great fun on a family vacation. From kayaking to big cats to circus history and, of course, the beach, there are plenty of things to do in Sarasota with kids. If you are looking to explore Florida beyond the Orlando theme parks, Sarasota is definitely a city to put on your list.
The writer was hosted on this trip by VISIT FLORIDA.
Florida offers so many opportunities for family fun – is Sarasota on your list? We found this sweet little area of southwest Florida has so much more to offer than white sand beaches and salt water — though those are awesome too!
Join our NEW Facebook Community: Making Travel Easier. We promise to always tell you what we would tell our best friend -- what works for kids, what doesn’t and what you need to know before you go to have the Best. Family. Vacation. Ever. Our group of travel experts are ready to answer your travel questions!
After visiting Tampa for a few days, we headed south to experience the loveliness that is Sarasota, Florida.
TravelingMom Tip: Opening days and times as well as rules for visiting (such as wearing face masks and limited capacities) can change without warning. Always phone ahead or check the website before your visit to get the most up to date information.
How Active Do You Want to Be?
When you are trying to figure out things to do in Sarasota, think first about the activity level of your family.
TravelingMom Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
Also remember that it is going to be hot. Super hot if you visit in summer. Plan to do outdoor activities that will take a lot of energy (like Tree Ump, #10 on this list of our favorite things to do in Sarasota) early in the morning or late at night.
We spent the middle of the day in the water (either at the hotel pool or in the ocean). Also, don’t expect the ocean to really cool you off. When we visited in June, the water temperature was 87 degrees!
Top Things To Do In Sarasota, Florida
1. Explore the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art
5401 Bay Shore Road
The Ringling is the State Art Museum of Florida, and home to one of the preeminent art and cultural collections in the United States. Its story begins nearly a century ago, with John Ringling, the circus impresario, and his beloved wife’s shared love for Sarasota, Italy, near Venice, and art.
The Ringling Estate is 66 acres, including the Ca’ d’Zan mansion, beautiful grounds and gardens, two Circus Museums, the Historic Asolo Theater and the Ringling Museum of Art.
Highlights to kids (and adults!) include seeing the actual cannon that shot circus performers through the air and the 3,800 square foot Circus Model. It is a visual masterpiece with more than 44,000 pieces, all intricately produced in minute detail.
2. Stroll through Downtown Sarasota
Shopping, people watching and sightseeing are three awesome things to do in downtown Sarasota when you want a break from the beach. I didn’t have much time to shop but I was impressed with the quaint feel and warm welcomes from the store owners.
In St. Armands Circle, the shops were unique, offering very Florida-like pieces. I peeked into some shops, like Dana Tyler, and just wished I had the time to really explore it!
TravelingMom Tip: While you’re shopping, stop at one of the many ice cream shops to pacify your kids!
3. Enjoy the Beach at Lido Key
400 Benjamin Franklin Dr.
Lido Key Beach is nestled between Longboat Key to the north and Siesta Key Beach to the south. It boasts three beaches: North Lido, Lido Beach, and South Lido.
Although a public beach, North Lido is more secluded, with 3,000 feet of sugary white sand. There is also a nature trail to wander in relative privacy. You might even see a dolphin or manatee out in the ocean!
South Lido Beach Park mingles four significant bodies of water: The Gulf of Mexico, Big Pass, Sarasota Bay, and Brushy Bayou.
If you get tired of the fantastic beaches, there are two nature trails, a self-guided canoe trail, a multi-purpose field, and a volleyball court.
TravelingMom Tip: Sarasota County is located about 60 miles from Tampa, 35 miles from St. Petersburg, 25 miles from Bradenton and 20 miles from Venice. The area is home to tons of gorgeous beaches and plenty of things to do near Sarasota. These are our favorite things to do in Bradenton FL.
4. Visit Historic Spanish Point
337 North Tamiami Trail
Historic Spanish Point is Sarasota’s premier archaeological site and history museum. It features prehistoric mounds, a pioneer homestead, nature trails, boat tours and Bertha Palmer’s gardens.
Need a little education while visiting the Sarasota area? This spot has it!
5. Learn More at Mote Marine Laboratory
1600 Ken Thompson Parkway
The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is one of those attractions that is as entertaining as it is educational! See sharks, manatees and sea turtles, along with more than 100 other species of marine life.
We visited the Florida Aquarium in Tampa two days earlier so we didn’t visit the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium but I am putting it on my list for next time!
6. Hit The Trails at Oscar Scherer State Park
1843 South Tamiami Trail
Located between Sarasota and Venice, Oscar Scherer State Park welcomes more than 250,000 visitors each year. They come to see the bald eagles that nest there in the winter and for fishing, biking, swimming, kayaking, hiking or camping in the summer.
This park offers 15 miles of trails, where you can experience the beauty of nature without really leaving the city. Want another option? Visit the Myakka River State Park, one of the largest parks in the state of Florida.
7. Go Birding at Sarasota Audubon Society at the Celery Fields
6893 Palmer Boulevard
Want to get into birding? Why not? Sarasota Audubon Society offers this wetlands site on the Great Florida Birding Trail. There’s an observation mound, trails and ponds. What birds will you be able to see?
8. See What’s In Bloom at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
900 South Palm Avenue
337 North Tamiami Trail
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is another outdoor attraction that works for the whole family. We saw a super cool Dali exhibit. There are two main campuses for these gardens located in Downtown Sarasota and Historic Spanish Point.
The Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden at the Downtown Sarasota bayfront campus is especially fun for families. This magical play space features an elevated garden that makes kids feel like they are traveling through the treetops.
9. Take A Kayak Tour With Kayaking SRQ
Lido Key and Siesta Key
Kayaking is great exercise and a wonderful way to get off the beach but still stay in the water. Exploring the Mangrove Tunnels in Sarasota can be relaxing and fun. This activity is great for nature, animal, and photography lovers.
Kayaking SRQ assures visitors that anyone from age 2 to 102 can participate. And the company promises there are NO alligators in the Mangrove Tunnels, but you may get lucky and see manatees and dolphins
10. Get Adventurous at TreeUmph! Adventure Course
21805 E. State Road 70
If you are looking for a thrill and have kids who are up for an adventure, TreeUmph! Adventure Course is for you. We visited in June and two of our kids took off, finishing the first three courses in about two hours. Our younger two were a little more intimidated and stayed on the younger child course, but everyone felt like they accomplished something big by the time we left.
It’s the only elevated adventure course in southwest Florida. This is not an easy course, but for kids 7 and older (and adults under 275 pounds) it offers exciting obstacles set in some really beautiful native Florida scenery. I suggest that one parent needs to stay with kids under 12 to help them through the course.
TravelingMom Tip: TreeUmph is physically challenging. It’s best to do this early in the day before the sun starts beating down.
11. Go Wild At Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary
7101 Palmer Boulevard
Let your inner Tiger King out at Big Cat Habitat! Check out the exotic animals. Visit the petting zoo. You can even take advantage of the Big Cat or bear feeding programs! Go ahead and go a little wild. (Just so you know, this sanctuary is NOT affiliated with Carole Baskin or the Tiger King.)
Whatever you decide to do in Sarasota, make sure to plan for enough time in this darling city. We wish we could have done more and plan to go back.
12. Ogle the Cars at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum
5500 N. Tamiami Trail
If you travel with a car geek, like TravelingMom Cindy Richards does, you won’t be able to pass up a chance to visit the Sarasota Classic Car Museum. The second oldest continuously operating antique car museum in the country, it showcases 75 antique cars – 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.