Sarasota trip: where to go, what to do. No gators.
June 24, 2006 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Last-minute trip to Sarasota, FL for July 4th weekend to visit a sick relative. Any nice places to stay? Things to see nearby?

We're coming from Atlanta, and we have an 8-month old, so we'll be heading south on I-75. Bonus points for good stopping points in between to stretch our legs and feed the baby. Aunt lives in Manasota Beach, so we'd like to stay fairly close, and maybe do some fun things while she rests.

All I ask is: no gators. Can't do the gators.
posted by mdiskin to Travel & Transportation around Sarasota, FL (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sand Key beach used to be really nice. I remember there were thousands of sand dollars on the shore in various states of smash-edness. I haven't lived in the area for a while, so that might have changed. If you're into art, the Salvador Dali museum in St. Pete is awesome, if a bit of a drive.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:53 AM on June 24, 2006

This is (kinda) my neck of the woods, but bear in mind that my interests these days are on the take-it-easy side, as opposed to get-out-and-party-all night.

I like to go to the beaches in that area myself. For pure relaxation, Stump Pass (just south of Manasota Beach and Englewood Beach) is great because it's virtually deserted; there are no lifeguards and therefore it's not as crowded as the regular beaches, and you can hang out and take photos of the lovely sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. The other downside is that it costs two bucks to park there, but it covers the whole day and there's a nature trail; you can see dolphins in the Gulf and ospreys nesting in the trees.

Venice Beach, to the North, is really clean and beautiful, the parking is free, and you can find lots and lots of pretty seashells and sharks' teeth just wandering along the shore. (They do have lifeguards.)

It's a bit of a hike from Sarasota County, but a lot of folks find a visit to the Shell Factory enjoyable, especially if there are kids in tow. Their site doesn't really do the place justice; they've got a huge facility with all kinds of weird and fascinating stuff on display, and of course they have their dining and entertainment as well. It's a fairly fun spot.

Since you don't care for gators, most of my other favorite nature spots in the area probably wouldn't interest you since you're almost certain to encounter or at least see a gator or two on all of 'em; but if other wildlife interests you at all, you could visit (and maybe drop a couple of bucks to) the little non-profit Peace River Wildlife Center in Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda, where they take in and rehabilitate injured animals, mostly birds. They've got two bald eagles, several hawks, owls, pelicans, vultures, and other birds living there. Parking is free, there's a boat ramp and a little playground for kiddies there, and it's another nice spot for pretty sunsets.

There's also Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda, which has a lot of nice shops and some fun nightspots (Harpoon Harry's always has live music and dancing), and they also run a lot of "cruises" from there -- you can go on all-day boat tours along the Peace River to various places, and I always love to see the dolphins frolicking in the wakes when you're speeding along the river.

There's definitely no shortage of golfing and fishing spots around here, too. Do you have anything more specific in mind for "fun things"?
posted by Gator at 9:20 AM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

For art, there is also the Ringling museum. Their website gives some other suggestions for things to see.
posted by Sangre Azul at 9:42 AM on June 24, 2006

The official Salvador Dali museum is just north in St. Pete.
posted by wsg at 10:37 AM on June 24, 2006

Hey, Gator, and thanks. With a baby in tow, "fun things" will most likely be stroller-friendly or at least baby-bjorn-friendly. We love walking around rather than golf/fishing as far as the outdoors goes. We like historical stuff, and I love me some museums. We won,t have a babysitter, so we'll need to be able to do stuff in 2-hr increments so we can accommodate a baby schedule of naptimes.

What about places to stay -- any suggestions there for a B&B or hotel? What is the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton like?
posted by mdiskin at 11:37 AM on June 24, 2006

Second the Ringling Museum! (formerly Clown College)

Civil_Disobedient: Sand Key is even further north than St Pete, it's just south of Clearwater.

Longboat Key is popular. Looking for dolphins and birdwatching by the south end of the Sunshine Skyway bridge is a fave pastime of mine.
posted by methylsalicylate at 12:51 PM on June 24, 2006

I 3rd Ringling Museum, it was recently remodeled. Ft. DeSoto Beach is nice. Gators--well, with the area being what it is you just have to be careful! This time of year there aren't as many "Q-tips" driving around as there would be during the winter, so enjoy that part!

The Dali Museum is nice, about an hour from Sarasota. It's the largest collection of Dali outside of Spain. Just head up 75 North and you are there.

If you are into baseball, the Devil Rays play in Tropicana Field in St. Pete (not far from the museum). It's great, and it's enclosed with nice a/c! The St. Pete Pier is fun to walk around. Busch Garden is in Tampa, it's another option.

Ellenton, just North of Sarasota has a nice outlet mall. For the other extreme there is St. Armand Circle in Sarasota.

Realize it is hurricane season, so keep an eye on the weather reports.

posted by 6:1 at 3:35 PM on June 24, 2006

Correction--St. Pete, The Pier, Dali Museum and Tropicana Field are just off of 275. Sorry!
posted by 6:1 at 3:38 PM on June 24, 2006

The Ritz in Sarasota is awesome and the downtown area has a ton of great restaraunts and shops. Mote Marine is super cool and very kid friendly. Lots of touch tanks and scary sharks. Longboat Key is nearby and features beautiful white sand beaches. The gulf waters are like bath water this time of year. The Herald Tribune is the local paper and should be a good resource.
posted by photoslob at 4:24 PM on June 24, 2006

The Selby Botanical Gardens are beautiful. There's also a cool little artists' colony called Towles Court that is awesome, either for an hour or an afternoon. If you're into the arts, check out the Sarasota County Arts Council website for events and attractions and fun cultural experiences. I've always found it very easy to stay low-key in Sarasota. You can check out nice beaches and cool architecture when it's nice or find a museum or gallery when it's nasty.
posted by yogurtisgenocide at 6:46 PM on June 24, 2006

If you like big bridges and gorgeous views, on your drive down, get off of 75 and head down I-275 South (I think you actually need to take I-4 West to 275..I usually come from the South, so I could be wrong) and go over the
Sunshine Skyway. There are piers before and after with great places to stretch and relax.

Or take 275N on your way home (the bridge is about 30 miles form Sarasota, and the detour will add an hour tops to your drive)

On preview, what methylsalicylate said.
posted by zerokey at 6:47 PM on June 24, 2006

Almost forgot..there's also Tarpon Springs. It's a bit of a hike - 60 miles form Sarasota. It's this fun little Greek community with lots of kitchy-ness. (It's famous for its sponges, among other things)
posted by zerokey at 6:51 PM on June 24, 2006

Are you actually planning to stay in Sarasota proper, or did you want to stay closer to your aunt, say in Venice or Englewood?
posted by Gator at 3:53 AM on June 25, 2006

Englewood or Venice is best so we can be close by. Any ideas?
posted by mdiskin at 5:40 AM on June 25, 2006

...although I'm still thinking about the R-C. Husband is thinking something more beachy.
posted by mdiskin at 5:43 AM on June 25, 2006

Venice is the larger beach and is gorgeous. Not sure what there is out there in the way of hotels but you could stay in a hotel off Tamiami trail (US 41) and still be just south of Sarasota and near the beach. I'm going to suggest Mote Marine one more time - your kids will love it.
posted by photoslob at 9:35 AM on June 25, 2006

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