If you’re looking for a good source to tell you what’s going on now on the Florida coast, look no further. Here’s a rundown of today’s hotspots and what’s happening in 2020.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens: 80 Years of History
On December 31, 1939, Sarasota Jungle Gardens officially opened to the public. Now, as 2019 draws to a close, we look back at the tropical gardens and animal experiences that the Gardens has provided over the last 80 years. And to think it all started with the dream of creating a landscape made up of plants from around the world. Once locals began to take notice of the unique plants and garden designs, the owners began to sell tickets. The prices in 1940 were: 35 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. In the ‘70s, an aviary was added with exotic performing birds. Now, over 200 species including reptiles, birds and mammals call Sarasota Jungle Gardens their home. And much like the early days, people still come to see the plant and animal beauty that is contained on the Gardens’ grounds.
A Splash of Color
Returning visitors to Sarasota may notice something different while driving over the Ringling Bridge at night. The bridge now has a colorful light show emanating from all ten of its columns! LED lights change hues often to create a light show featuring a full rainbow of colors. Visit Bayfront Park or Bird Key Park after sunset to enjoy a spectacular view of the bridge and its light show.
Jumpin’ Fun Inflata Park is the hottest new place to exert some energy. Contained within 15,000 square feet is the largest inflatable park in America. The building is covered with air-filled ladders and slides. It also features a bouncy area and has 15 different interactive elements including a Zip Rail Coaster. Kids love all the activities and parents are encouraged to play along. However, if they would rather sit on the sidelines and watch, they can sip on adult beverages, watch sports on the TVs, and relax. It’s a great place for every age! Even toddlers have a playtime just for them on Sundays.
A new project is in the works to expand the Mote Marine Laboratory to Nathan Benderson Park. Sarasota County has agreed to give 12 acres of the park to Mote so that they can construct Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA). This five-story building is expected to hold 1 million gallons of water. Sea creatures will be seen throughout and state-of-the-art lab will encourage educational field trips for the area’s students. Mote SEA’s structure will be unique so that it is recognizable around the world. Plus, it is meant to be around for a very long time… Its construction will be able to hold up against a category 5 hurricane, and soil samples are being taken to ensure the land can sustain the heavy building. Money still needs to be raised on the $130 million project before construction begins, but the aquarium hopes to break ground in early 2020.
At Nathan Benderson Park, Mote SEA isn’t the only news that’s making waves. In April 2020, the park will host rowing trials for the Olympics and the Paralympics. Teams from around the United States will meet in Sarasota to find out which one has what it takes to represent the nation at the games this summer in Toyko. The trials will feature 8 racing events on a course that is 2,180 meters long and 630 meters wide. This is not the first set of Olympic trials that have been conducted at Nathan Benderson Park. In 2016, teams competed here prior to the games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Many rowers believe that the park’s state-of-the-art features and designs (such as the continual wave system) make Nathan Benderson an ideal course.
Selby Gardens Affiliate of Smithsonian
In June of 2019, the Smithsonian announced that it had added Marie Selby Botanical Gardens to its network of affiliated museums and educational organizations. As a Smithsonian Affiliate, Selby joins 213 other affiliates to work collaboratively and promote learning in communities across America. It’s a prestigious honor that brings additional recognition to the good work Selby Gardens has been doing as a world-class botanical educational institution.
Yoga with Big Cats
On the fourth Saturday of each month, you too can find zen among…. tigers??? The Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary invites you to join their new program and do yoga with tigers. This fun experience lets you perfect your downward dog yoga position next to the tiger (and other big cat) habitats. It’s a scenic chance to do yoga while the cats are safely away in their pens. Each ticket to participate allows reentry to the sanctuary during normal business hours. Advance registration is advised by visiting the Big Cat Habitat Facebook page or calling 941-371-6377.
Sarasota and Venice
Whoop, whoop! We did it again! The Florida Suncoast has added more awards to the growing list of recognitions it has received. According to Wallethub.com, Sarasota and Venice are both ranked among the ‘Top 10 Beach Towns in US” AND “Best Beach Towns to Live In” in 2019! No surprise here!
The Bay Project
The Sarasota Bayfront may have a new look as early as 2021, when phase 1 of the Bay Project is scheduled to be complete. The Bay Park Conservancy has plans to re-imagine 53 acres of property next to the water, over a 10-year span. Concepts coming to the park include: a sunset boardwalk that juts out into the water, an open lawn, mangrove area, watersports, outdoor programs, walking and biking trails, performing arts sites, easy access to the park and a sustainable future for the entire property. The project will to cost $100-$150 million, but will be a favorite place to visit for many years to come.