I feel a little spoiled living in Florida. There are so many things to do in Sarasota that I love living here more every day! We’ve got award winning beaches, fabulous sunsets over the ocean, gorgeous botanical gardens and so much more…what more does a girl need?!
This post was written in collaboration with VisitSarasota.org and our visits to some of these attractions were hosted. All opinions are my own.
When my husband’s company had a job opportunity in Sarasota, Florida a few years ago, we jumped at the chance to move here. After all, Atlanta gets way too cold in the winter and don’t even get me started on the traffic. It didn’t matter that I’d never been to Sarasota. From what I already knew, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d love it.
With warm weather, <a href="http://When you're going to the beach, you're definitely going to want cool beach gear! These are some of my favorite beach accessories…
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“>beautiful beaches and streets lined with palm trees, Sarasota couldn’t be more perfect for us! There’s so much to do and after several years of living here, we’re still discovering new things to love. From dolphin cruises to circus museums, we never run out of awesome things to do in Sarasota!
Things To Do In Sarasota
- Siesta Key Beach
- Circus Park/Payne Park
- Lebarge Tropical Cruises
- The Ringling Museum Of Art
- The Mote Aquarium
- Crowley Museum And Nature Center
- Myakka Wildlife Tour
- Selby Botanical Gardens
- TreeUmph Adventure Course
- Dakin Dairy Farm
- Mixon Fruit Farms
- Bowlero (for rainy day fun)
Siesta Key Beach
If you’re looking for things to do in Sarasota with kids, you can’t miss the award winning Siesta Key Beach. The sugar-fine sand is made up of 99% quartz and never gets too hot.
Sometimes we just swing by to collect shells and play in the tide pools.
We love the pavilion at Siesta Key too. You can buy beach accessories like sunscreen to sand toys, a cafe that serves food, drinks and ice cream, and a fun playground for the kids. On Sunday evenings year round, you can join the popular drum circle, where drummers jam out on the beach while parents relax and the kids play in the sand.
Siesta Key Beach should be at the top of everyone’s list of things to do in Sarasota. This award winning beach makes an amazing family vacation destination!
Payne Park, also known as Circus Park, is a brightly colored playground modeled after the circus. Because Sarasota is such a big circus town, and home to the Ringling, it’s a perfect fit.
This brightly colored playground park is the perfect place to spend an afternoon if you’re visiting Sarasota with kids. There aren’t many parks like this one, with clown cars, “cages” and circus animals and circus animals to ride.
Sometimes it can be hard to get the kids to agree on where they want to go but we never have that problem with Circus Park. My 11 year old has as much fun here as my 7 year old.
Plus, there are lots of shaded benches for the parents. We can relax and enjoy the beautiful Sarasota weather while the kids wear themselves out on the monkey bars.
LeBarge Tropical Cruises
With dolphin/manatee cruises, sightseeing & nature cruises and the Tropical Sunset Cruise, LeBarge Tropical Cruises has something for everyone. The girls and I decided to take a sunset cruise and as soon as they spotted the palm trees and mermaids on the top deck, they couldn’t wait to get on board.
I had just grabbed a cocktail for myself and snacks for the girls when the musician started playing some of my favorite Jimmy Buffet songs. It doesn’t get much better than that. The two hour cruise took us along the coast where we gawked at the amazing houses (and I also made a mental note to buy a few lottery tickets), spotted some dolphins and of course, enjoyed a spectacular sunset!
If you think that’s pretty, it just got better from there…
For the record, this sunset is completely unedited and unfiltered…they really were this beautiful!
Not only did we love the cruise, I was pretty happy with the food and drink prices! I paid $9 for a cocktail, bottled water and two bags of chips. Since I’d recently taken another boat tour and paid $8 for one cocktail alone, I thought $9 was a pretty good deal!
John & Mabel Ringling Museum Of Art (a.k.a. The Ringling)
The former estate of John Ringling and his wife Mabel, there is so much to see at The Ringling that you could spend the entire day there if you felt like it. The most popular of the attractions here is the Circus Museum. This museum is filled with fun displays featuring circus props, dazzling costumes and other old circus memorabilia.
My girls love the interactive section where they can practice walking on a tightrope and balancing on the back of a horse.
Little Keira is a bit of a clown anyway so she fits right in and we even found a clown car just her size.
The highlight of this museum is the Howard Bros. Circus Model. This 44,000 piece model of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus was built by Howard Tibbals from 1956-1974. When it was moved to the current location in 2004, it took a full year just to set it up. The circus model is truly a masterpiece and my favorite thing at the Ringling. I’ve seen it several times now and I never get tired of it…the girls feel the same way!
While the Circus Museum is a must see, you should also tour Ca’ D’ Zan, the Ringling’s extravagant Venetian Gothic style home overlooking the Sarasota Bay. Even my girls love looking at the extravagant, over the top decor. I would definitely try to take a guided tour because the story of John and Mabel’s life is pretty fascinating.
It was also cool to check out the Museum of Art, built by John Ringling to house his extensive art collection. Must be nice to have so much money that you can build a museum in your back yard, right? Finally, take a stroll through the beautiful gardens and if the kids are with you, hang out on the playground for awhile.
The Mote Aquarium
If you enjoy aquariums, grab the kids and head to The Mote. My girls loved getting up close and personal with manatees, sharks, sea turtles and other ocean animals.
They also had a blast at the touch tanks, where they could touch the stingrays and crabs as they moved through the water.
How amazing is this jellyfish exhibit?!
For an additional fee, you can feed sharks, take a seahorse lab tour or even host a birthday party. While The Mote is fun, it’s an educational experience as well, making it a win/win for everyone.
Crowley Museum And Nature Center
Off the beaten track, the Crowley Museum is a great place to visit if you want to mix fun with education. If you’ve ever watched Little House On The Prairie, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Walnut Grove.
My girls loved seeing what things were like in “the olden days” as they explored the buildings and learned about pioneer history. They were totally fascinated as we checked out old kitchens that the pioneers used. I also had to give them a mini lessons about how looms and spindles were used. Lucky for them, I never had to make their clothes…I’m afraid to think about how that would have turned out!
I think their favorite part was the new friend they made. This little guy was so friendly that he seemed to love the girls as much as they loved him! I think he’s even smiling for my photo!
The Children’s Discovery Path is a nature trail with lots of opportunities for hands-on learning. Our favorite part was the small observation deck with the kid-friendly zipline and giant binoculars.
We found more things to do when we made our way back at the pioneer houses. The girls enjoyed the old seesaw but I think their favorite thing to do was to pump water from the well.
For kids that want to learn even more about the pioneer days, there are classes such as canning, soap making, plant dying and more. We found the Crowley Museum to be both fun and educational and it was well worth the visit! Just remember to bring insect repellent if you’re there late in the day because that’s when the mosquitoes come out to play too.
Myakka Wildlife Tour
Want to spot some alligators? Take the one hour Myakka Wildlife Boat Tour on the Upper Myakka Lake and you should see plenty.
You’ll also learn about Florida flora and fauna and the other animals that call this area home. In keeping with the traditional summer weather, we had a brief rainstorm but we didn’t let it bother us.
When you’ve finished the boat tour, hop aboard the tram for a land tour or walk one of the nature trails.
Selby Botanical Gardens
I didn’t know if there would be enough to keep my girls entertained at the Selby Botanical Gardens but they had a great time! The gardens are beautiful on their own but I was pleasantly surprised by all the kid friendly experiences. Keira and Ashling loved exploring the Children’s Rainforest Garden, dressing up like butterflies in the play area, playing on the playground and feeding the koi.
Other highlights include the conservatory, where you’ll feel as if you’ve just walked into a rain forest, the butterfly garden, the mangrove and baywalk, the bamboo garden and more. If you feel like skipping the beach for day, this is a great alternative.
TreeUmph Adventure Course
Though a little off the beaten track, TreeUmph is the place to visit if you’re looking for adventure!
You’ll climb high into the trees, crossing precarious bridges, swinging from ropes like Tarzan and of course ziplining. There are easy courses for children and more advanced courses for adults of different skill levels.
I liked that I could choose the level of difficulty that I wanted, though I plan to take it up a notch next time.I don’t recommend it if you’re afraid of heights but I loved TreeUmph so much that I’ve even considered getting a season pass! It’s a great bonding experience for families but also a fun place to just get away from it all for a few hours.
Dakin Dairy Farm
If you’re visiting Sarasota in the fall, you’ll want to bring the kids to Dakin Dairy Farm. Take a tour that includes a hayride through the barn where you can watch cows being milked. You’ll also see pig races and learn how milk is bottled in the processing facility. When I went with my youngest, the highlight of the trip was when she bottle fed baby animals. It was so cute and she still talks about it.
Mixon Fruit Farms
Head over to check out Mixon Fruit Farms if you want to see where Florida oranges come from (at least some of them). The pumpkin festival is a must see but this place is fun any day of the year. You’ll want to take a tour on the Orange Grove Express, where you’ll learn about citrus and see the wildlife refuge where they take care of hurt or orphaned birds, reptiles and other animals.
There’s also a special “Hunny” train just for this kids!
You also won’t want to leave without wandering through the Magical Maze.
On your way out, pop into the market to pick up fresh fruit, ice cream or souvenirs.
While there are tons of things to do in Sarasota, many are outside. This is great…if the weather is good. However we get plenty of popup storms in the summer months and when it’s not raining, it’s often too hot to go outside (July, I’m talking to you!).
That’s why we have places like Bowlero. We recently attended their grand re-opening and I’d forgotten just how much fun it was to go bowling!
This place was huge…definitely not like any bowling alley I went to as a kid. With 64 bowling lanes, I can’t imagine you’d ever have to wait long to get a turn. My girls had so much fun and it was super cute to watch Ashling giving her little sis a few pointers.
The food and drinks are delish too! There’s a full bar, complete with fancy cocktails, and the menu has tons of great snacks and entrees to choose from. I had a salad (which was really good) but it was so hard to pass up the footlong Coney Dog or the mouthwatering pretzel the size of my seven year old’s head. Next time I may have to splurge on the Alley Sampler, buffalo wings, tenders, nachos, cheesy bread and mozzarella sticks…all on one plate!
When you’re done bowling, head to the arcade for video games, air hockey and more games to keep the kids entertained.
This is the perfect way to spend an afternoon if it’s too hot or too rainy outside. In fact, we had so much fun that it’s the perfect way to spend the afternoon regardless of what’s going on with the weather!
From sunset cruises to aquariums, there are plenty of awesome things to do in Sarasota! Which one would you want to do first? Find out more about how to spend your vacation at #YouOtaVisit.
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