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

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Suncoast Beaches Area Features

The Coolest Places on the Suncoast

Photo Credit: Hector F. Cadena

If you’re curious about what cool activities are available on the Suncoast besides sunbathing, Sunny Day Guide has you covered! Sarasota is home to many museums, some of these activities are indoors where you can get a reprieve from the hot Florida sun or have fun on a humid, rainy day—so they really are “cool”! Check-out these favorite places….

Mote Marine Laboratory & 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. Most visitors enjoy seeing the expansive shark exhibit, gazing at the manatees and watching rescued otters frolic in the water. The center is also world-renowned for its lab work and educational mission. Beginning in 1955, the Mote Marine Laboratory began researching sharks. Now, they are working to establish why sharks are generally free of cancer and how that can be applied to human health. In addition, marine biologists are studying numerous other issues including phytoplankton toxins and algal blooms, the health of coral reefs, the acidification of oceans, and other animals such as dolphins, sea turtles and whales. Mote also has a marine animal hospital that works to save the lives of stranded and helpless animals. Visiting Mote is inspirational, educational, rewarding and a fun experience.

Càa d’Zan at The Ringling

At The Ringling, tour the splendor of the 1920s within Cà 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. You’ll see eclectic pieces selected by the Ringlings themselves. The home’s name means “House of John” and that title combined with the house’s architecture and décor pays tribute to a city the Ringlings adored—Venice, Italy.

Theaters

A thriving performing arts culture can be witnessed at any one of the area’s theaters. Many consider the intimate Historic Asolo Theater at The Ringling 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. 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.

The Legacy Trail

This cool place is outdoors and actually consists of miles of scenery to enjoy. Yet, those of us who love exploring behind the handlebars of a bicycle will most certainly enjoy the bike paths that have been constructed throughout the region. The Legacy Trail spans approximately 11 miles and covers a vast section of the Florida Suncoast. Begin your biking journey at Palmer Ranch in Sarasota and follow the old train tracks that once served the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus—now paved for easy biking and walking—down to Venice. Along the way there are rest facilities, areas to park your car, and of course, watering holes to fill up your eco-friendly water bottle. If you are traveling in from afar, bicycles and even surreys are available for rent. I Bike Sarasota even delivers bikes to you! In the near future, the Legacy Trail expects to expand an extra 9 miles north to Payne Park so that anyone in the northern reaches of Sarasota can also enjoy a leisurely and beautiful bike ride.

Concert Halls

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 such as The Lion King (March 14-31, 2019), the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall will feature a diverse musical lineup this year including Travis Tritt, The Temptations & The Four Tops, and many others. Performances at Sarasota Opera continually dazzle audiences with the cast’s beautiful voices and the theater’s stunning sets. Tickets are available for their 2019 season, when the cast and orchestra will perform many works including Mozart’s The Magic Flute. 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.

Circus Performances

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.

Unique 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.

Historic Center

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 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.

Animal Habitats

Animals lovers will adore the furry, scaly and feathered residents at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. At this amazing location, flamingos roam freely on the property and visitors can hold a baby alligator, pet a goat, and watch prairie dogs pop out of their burrows! While you’re there, don’t forget to take note of the beautiful landscapes—particularly the butterfly garden and the koi pond.

Meanwhile, lions, tigers, and even ligers have a safe home at the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary. Every year, the shelter takes in animals that need a caring place to live. In addition to the big cats—they have approximately 20 lions, tigers and ligers—they also protect monkeys and lemurs, birds such as the rare emerald macaw, bears and tortoises that have been abandoned. A visit to this shelter is a great opportunity to see these majestic animals up close.

Take a moment to discover some of these interesting places that can be found in Sarasota and the surrounding cities and keys. You’ll not only learn a lot about the region, but you’ll have a great time uncovering the things that make the area so cool!

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