Suncoast Beaches, FL - Bradenton, Longboat Key, Sarasota, Lido Key, Siesta Key & Venice - Vacation Travel Guide

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Suncoast Beaches Area Features

Cool Coastal Culture

Want to do something entertaining that reflects the culture of the Suncoast? You’re in luck. Sarasota is home to many museums, galleries, music halls, circus exhibitions and more. What’s even better is that many of these activities are indoors so you can get a reprieve from the hot Florida sun or have fun on a rainy day. These favorite cultural excursions may even help you to discover a new passion!

Explore the Aquarium

Visit the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to see a large assortment of wildlife that swim beneath the surface of the water and even some of the animals that share the land with us. Here’s your chance to see manatees and otters, as well as reef fish, sharks and turtles. The aquarium offers interactive exhibits including the opportunity to pet a starfish and maybe even an inquisitive stingray.

Tour a Historic Home

At The Ringling, tour the splendor of the 1920s within Cá d’Zan, the home that once belonged to John and Mable Ringling. The decadent furnishings and masterful works of art throughout the building present a view of the fabulously wealthy in the early part of the 20th century.

Take in the Theater

A thriving performing arts culture can be witnessed at any one of the area’s theaters. Many consider the intimate Historic Asolo Theater to have some of the best theatrical productions in the nation. At the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, catch comedy acts and Broadway hits or dance performances such as Moscow Ballet Great Russian Nutcracker, Cabaret, or Jersey Boys. Small community theaters including the new Urbanite Theatre, which promotes local acting talent and emerging playwrights, and The Players Centre for Performing Arts, which offers both classic and new, cutting-edge plays, are also great locations to catch a show.

Listen to Music

Whether your preference is for the symphony, an opera, or a local band, there are many places where your taste in music can be accommodated. In addition to theatrical shows, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has a diverse musical lineup in 2017-2018, including Neil Berg's 109 Years of Broadway and The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma. Performances at Sarasota Opera continually dazzle audiences with the cast’s beautiful voices and the theater’s stunning sets. Tickets are available for their 2018 season, when the cast and orchestra will perform many works including Bizet’s Carmen. Sarasota Orchestra has mastered a brilliant sound to present spectacular concerts. Their performances include modern pops, classics from Tchaikovsky, Mozart or Dvorák, and concerts with themes such as romance, Broadway hits, or fairy tales.

Experience the Circus

Sarasota is the circus capital of the world! The Circus Arts Conservatory has performances at select times throughout the year that will amaze and entertain. Plus, you can actually swing from a trapeze or try your hand (and body) at aerial silks. Introductory classes are available for those who are interested in these death-defying feats! However, plan ahead to make sure classes are being conducted when you’re in town. Visit their website to see when you can take your first step toward being an aerial performer.

Visit Museums

Art, cars and history are just a few subjects that can be explored inside the museums in this region. The Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy has been called a “magical experience” by those who have spent the day there exploring fun and creative art. A visit to the Art Center Sarasota will introduce patrons to art made in various mediums. Exhibits change often and feature juried shows that showcase many fine pieces. And don’t forget the Museum of Art and Circus Museum at The Ringling! Their unique collections will fascinate visitors young and old.

Become an Art Collector

In addition to simply browsing magnificent art pieces, you may want to bring a local creation home with you. After touring some of the previously mentioned art museums, visit their shops to find a print, painting, vase or even a piece of jewelry to add to your collection. Don’t have a collection? This is a great opportunity to start one! There are also boutique stores such as Nontando, which doubles as a gallery of unique African-inspired artworks, and The Artful Giraffe Art & Gift Gallery, which retails pieces predominately from local artists. Bridge Street Jewelers features one-of-a-kind jewelry that will happily remind you of your fabulous vacation—some of the pieces are specific to Sarasota!

Shopping

Pop inside a cute little boutique store (Anna Maria Island, for example, has several) when that typical afternoon rain shower begins. Pick from shops specializing in everything fromhandmade treasures to beach-themed décor for the home. You’re sure to find a unique memento of your vacation. For extended shopping, head to St. Armands Circle, an open-air shopping and dining complex arranged in four quadrants surrounding a beautiful circular park area. Here you can browse through merchandise from higher-end brands including Tommy Bahama. Lilly Pulitzer, and Everything But Water. Be sure to also visit the recently built Mall at University Town Center, where you’ll find over 100 stores including Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard’s. The businesses at both St. Armands Circle and the Mall at University Town Center can assist you in finding a bathing suit that fits perfectly, casual resort wear, or a dressy ensemble for a date night with your sweetheart.

Those in search of a great deal should visit the Premium Outlets in Ellenton. Perhaps you’re in need of some new sunglasses to protect your eyes from the Florida sun or maybe your suitcase came out of baggage claim at the airport missing a wheel. A visit to retailers such as Sunglass Hut and Travelpro can help you replenish these necessities at a reasonable price. While you’re there, stop in other stores including Movado, Kenneth Cole, Carter’s or Under Armour for whatever else catches your eye. As they say, retail therapy is always good for the soul!

Food and Beverages

Regional food can also offer great insight into an area. Taste your way through Sarasota and discover what makes the city unique. Whether you opt to try local thatch-covered tiki bars or high-end restaurants, you’re sure to find appealing flavors and delectable recipes. Some adults will enjoy quenching their thirst with local microbrews from breweries including JDub's Brewing Company, Sarasota Brewing Company and Big Top Brewing Company. Everyone can try a taste of Florida at Mixon Fruit Farms, where the fresh citrus comes straight from the trees. Some of these flavors are easy to bring home with you. Orchards will ship citrus for you, while bottles of rum or beer can be purchased where they are made and in local grocery or liquor stores. However, the big trick is figuring out how to re-create chef-inspired recipes of those other tantalizing tastes at home. 

Step Back Through History

Take a tour of local history at The Friends of the Sarasota County History Center (FOSCHC) at the Historical Exhibits and Education Center in the historic Chidsey Library. You’ll encounter artifacts from the 1800s and learn about how the region came to be through exhibits and artwork. To really learn about an area is to explore its past—and this is just the place to discover more about Sarasota.

Sarasota and the surrounding cities and keys are all fascinating places to explore. Take a moment to really discover the culture contained within them. You’ll not only learn a lot about the region and get an insight into its people, but you’ll have a great time uncovering the things that make the area so special!

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