Sarasota, FL, Bucket List: 10 Must-Visit Places

Welcome to Sarasota, Florida, a coastal paradise renowned for its breathtaking beaches, vibrant culture, and abundance of natural wonders.  Whether you crave relaxation on sandy shores, immersion in arts and history, or indulgence in culinary delights, Sarasota has it all. To help you make the most of your time in this vibrant city, whether you’re a weathered local or looking at new houses in Sarasota, this Redfin article has a curated list of must-try experiences, along with local insights, that showcase the unique essence of Sarasota. Get ready to create unforgettable memories as you explore the untamed beauty of state parks, savor local delicacies, and uncover the magic of Sarasota.

Lake Myakka State Park, Florida

1. Visit The Lido Key Tiki Bar

“If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Sarasota, head to The Lido Key Tiki Bar at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club,” recommends Rupert Diggins from Just One For The Road. “This famous beach bar, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, is a secret haunt for the Sarasota locals. Delicious cocktails are served by the friendliest of bartenders, with excellent food available too. This is the place to go for sunset in Sarasota and is an experience that will live long in your memory.”

2. Get the ultimate beach experience at Siesta Key

Siesta Key Beach is a slice of paradise nestled on the Gulf of Mexico. With its powdery white sands that feel like silk beneath your toes, it’s no wonder this beach consistently ranks among the best in the United States. Picture yourself basking in the warm Florida sun, listening to the gentle waves lapping the shore, and enjoying the breathtaking views. Take a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters or simply relax on the beach, savoring the tranquility of this idyllic setting. Whether you’re seeking solitude or a fun-filled day with friends and family, Siesta Key Beach offers the ultimate beach experience that will leave you with lasting memories.

3. Explore Myakka River State Park

“Don’t miss the chance to witness Florida’s vast expanse of unspoiled wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and untethered wildlife that make up Myakka River State Park,” says CASTO, a X.”

“With an abundance of exploration options like hiking, biking, kayaking, boating, or a guided tour, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in ‘old Florida’ as you navigate the trails and river way that meander through the park. You can enjoy the sights and sounds of ospreys soaring through the air, alligators, and turtles sunning along the river, and the sounds of ancient oaks and beautiful palms rustling in the Florida breeze. The Park is open from eight in the morning to sunset, 365 days a year, and for only six dollars per vehicle, the value of the experience is one of the best around.”

Lifeguard Hut on the beach. Florida, Gulf of Mexico

4. Visit The Ringling Museum

The Ringling is a cultural treasure that captivates visitors with its grandeur and rich history. Step into a world of art and imagination as you explore the extensive collection of fine art at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Admire masterpieces by renowned artists and gain insights into different artistic movements. Delve into the captivating world of the circus at the Circus Museum, where you can marvel at vintage costumes, learn about the history of the circus, and even try your hand at circus skills. The beautifully landscaped gardens, with their vibrant blooms and tranquil pathways, provide a serene escape. 

5. Relax at Lido Key Nature Park

“If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the raw beauty of Florida, Lido Key Nature Park is an absolute must-visit,” recommends travel blogger, Michelle Hartz from The Wandering Hartz. “A world away from the usual tourist traps, this hidden gem allows you to truly connect with the natural world. Explore the winding mangrove tunnels by kayak and be sure to keep a watchful eye out for the local wildlife, including playful dolphins, gentle manatees, and majestic sea turtles.”

6. Walk through Selby Gardens

Selby Gardens, or Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, is a captivating 15-acre botanical paradise in Sarasota, Florida. With vibrant displays of rare plants and orchids, it offers a serene and immersive experience. Highlights include the Orchid Display House, Banyan Grove, peaceful koi pond, and mangrove walkway overlooking Sarasota Bay. The gardens also host art exhibitions and educational programs. Whether you’re a horticulture enthusiast or seeking a tranquil escape, Selby Gardens is a must-visit destination.

Ringling Museum of Art: John Ringling's Home

7. Catch a show at the Sarasota Opera House

Catch a show at the Sarasota Opera House. This architectural gem has been enchanting audiences since 1926, transporting them to a bygone era of grand performances and lavish productions. From classic operas to contemporary works, each production showcases the depth of human emotion and the power of music. As you settle into the plush seats of this meticulously restored theater, you’ll feel the anticipation and excitement in the air. Prepare to be spellbound as the curtains rise, revealing a world where passion, drama, and sublime melodies collide.

8. Kayak Lido Key Beach

Lido Key offers a hidden paradise waiting to be explored. Nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay, Lido Key Beach offers the perfect setting for exploring the area’s serene waters. Rent a kayak and paddle through the calm bay or venture out into the open ocean. As you glide along the crystal-clear waters, you’ll have the opportunity to spot a variety of marine life, such as dolphins, manatees, and an array of colorful fish. The coastline is dotted with mangrove tunnels and small islands, providing a picturesque backdrop for your kayak excursion…

9. Shop and dine at St. Armands Circle

St. Armands Circle is a vibrant and bustling destination that seamlessly combines gourmet delights, upscale shopping, and a lively atmosphere. Indulge your taste buds as you explore a culinary paradise filled with an array of restaurants, cafes, and eateries, offering diverse cuisines to satisfy every palate. From fresh seafood delicacies to international flavors, the dining options are as varied as they are enticing. After satisfying your culinary cravings, immerse yourself in a shopping spree at the upscale boutiques and specialty stores that line the streets. Discover unique fashion finds, exquisite jewelry, and one-of-a-kind treasures. 

Ringling Museum of Art

10. See marine life at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

Through interactive exhibits, educational displays, and captivating presentations, Mote Marine Laboratory aims to educate and inspire visitors about the importance of marine conservation. Witness breathtaking dolphin and manatee shows that highlight the intelligence and grace of these magnificent creatures. Explore vibrant aquariums teeming with colorful fish, mesmerizing coral reefs, and captivating underwater ecosystems. Engage in hands-on activities and gain a deeper understanding of marine research and conservation efforts.

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