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Best Things To Do in Sarasota

Though many of Sarasota's top attractions – such as The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art and Ca' d'Zan – have ties to the Ringling Bros. Circus, the bulk of the city's best things to do are linked to nature. For a relaxing day outside, visitors can tee off at one of the area's golf courses, lounge on Lido Key Beach's sands, hike Myakka River State Park's trails, pay their respects at Sarasota National Cemetery or stroll through Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Or, head to Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary and Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium for an up-close encounter with wildlife.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Sarasota

Considered one of Florida's oldest and largest state parks, Myakka River State Park stretches across 58 square miles of wetlands, hammocks, pinelands and prairies. The area also features a river and two lakes, making it a prime place to enjoy water activities like canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Or, visitors can tour the lakes via one of the attraction's airboats, which are the largest in the world. Land-based tours are offered seasonally as well.
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Hiking Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Myakka River State Park
Considered one of Florida's oldest and largest state parks, Myakka River State Park stretches across 58 square miles of wetlands, hammocks, pinelands and prairies. The area also features a river and two lakes, making it a prime place to enjoy water activities like canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Or, visitors can tour the lakes via one of the attraction's airboats, which are the largest in the world. Land-based tours are offered seasonally as well.
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#2

#2 in Sarasota

The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, which features thousands of Medieval, Renaissance, Greek, Roman and Cypriot antiquities and works of art, is the main attraction on The Ringling museum campus. Numerous galleries showcase pieces from Ringling Bros. Circus co-founder John Ringling's personal collection, including paintings by Velázquez, Rubens and Veronese. And in the museum's courtyard, 20th-century bronze and stone casts of iconic works like Michelangelo's "David" are on display.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art
The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, which features thousands of Medieval, Renaissance, Greek, Roman and Cypriot antiquities and works of art, is the main attraction on The Ringling museum campus. Numerous galleries showcase pieces from Ringling Bros. Circus co-founder John Ringling's personal collection, including paintings by Velázquez, Rubens and Veronese. And in the museum's courtyard, 20th-century bronze and stone casts of iconic works like Michelangelo's "David" are on display.
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#3

#3 in Sarasota

Though not as stately as the adjacent John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Ca' d'Zan woos visitors with its Venetian Gothic-style architecture and elegant interior. The property – which was once the home of Ringling Bros. Circus co-founder John Ringling and his wife, Mable – sits five stories tall and features details like a roof made of 16th-century Spanish tiles, a marble terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay, servants' quarters, a game room and an 82-foot-high tower with a domed ceiling. Many of John and Mable Ringling's personal belongings, plus unique furnishings, such as an Aeolian organ and a crystal chandelier that once hung in the original Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, are also on display in the building.
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Historic Homes/Mansions Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Ca' d'Zan
Though not as stately as the adjacent John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Ca' d'Zan woos visitors with its Venetian Gothic-style architecture and elegant interior. The property – which was once the home of Ringling Bros. Circus co-founder John Ringling and his wife, Mable – sits five stories tall and features details like a roof made of 16th-century Spanish tiles, a marble terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay, servants' quarters, a game room and an 82-foot-high tower with a domed ceiling. Many of John and Mable Ringling's personal belongings, plus unique furnishings, such as an Aeolian organ and a crystal chandelier that once hung in the original Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, are also on display in the building.
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#4

#4 in Sarasota

Free
Though visitors have access to several beaches in Sarasota County, one of the easiest to reach from downtown is Lido Key Beach. Situated less than 5 miles southwest of the city center, Lido Key Beach offers more than 3,000 feet of white sand. Several recreation areas, with amenities like picnic tables and a pool (which can be enjoyed for a fee), are also available.
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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Lido Key Beach
Though visitors have access to several beaches in Sarasota County, one of the easiest to reach from downtown is Lido Key Beach. Situated less than 5 miles southwest of the city center, Lido Key Beach offers more than 3,000 feet of white sand. Several recreation areas, with amenities like picnic tables and a pool (which can be enjoyed for a fee), are also available.
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#5

#5 in Sarasota

Once the home and grounds of amateur gardener Marie Selby, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1975 after the death of its namesake. The garden, which specializes in epiphytes (or plants that grow on other plant species) features thousands of varieties in its outdoor gardens and more than 20,000 plants spread throughout its eight greenhouses. Flora found on-site include ferns, bamboo, banyan trees and orchids.
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Once the home and grounds of amateur gardener Marie Selby, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1975 after the death of its namesake. The garden, which specializes in epiphytes (or plants that grow on other plant species) features thousands of varieties in its outdoor gardens and more than 20,000 plants spread throughout its eight greenhouses. Flora found on-site include ferns, bamboo, banyan trees and orchids.
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#6

#6 in Sarasota

Free
Designed to highlight Sarasota's background as a military post for flight training, the 295-acre Sarasota National Cemetery has served as the final resting place for thousands of fallen veterans since it opened to the public in 2009. Funerals are still regularly held at the facility, but visitors are more than welcome to pay their respects.
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Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Sarasota National Cemetery
Designed to highlight Sarasota's background as a military post for flight training, the 295-acre Sarasota National Cemetery has served as the final resting place for thousands of fallen veterans since it opened to the public in 2009. Funerals are still regularly held at the facility, but visitors are more than welcome to pay their respects.
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#7

#7 in Sarasota

To many travelers, Sarasota may not be the first Florida destination to come to mind when thinking of a golf getaway. But golfers regularly seek out this city's championship courses. In fact, Sarasota is regularly referred to as "The Cradle of Golf" because of its abundance of top-notch courses. Noteworthy public clubs include Tatum Ridge Golf Links and Bobby Jones Golf Club, an 18-hole course that was originally designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1927. Or, pay for a membership to hone your skills at private clubs like Sara Bay Country Club, The Founders Golf Club and TPC Prestancia.
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Golf Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Golf
To many travelers, Sarasota may not be the first Florida destination to come to mind when thinking of a golf getaway. But golfers regularly seek out this city's championship courses. In fact, Sarasota is regularly referred to as "The Cradle of Golf" because of its abundance of top-notch courses. Noteworthy public clubs include Tatum Ridge Golf Links and Bobby Jones Golf Club, an 18-hole course that was originally designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1927. Or, pay for a membership to hone your skills at private clubs like Sara Bay Country Club, The Founders Golf Club and TPC Prestancia.
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#8

#8 in Sarasota

Part-research center, part-aquarium, Mote Laboratory & Aquarium features nine exhibits, including two interactive areas and a 135,000-gallon shark tank. In total, the property houses more than 100 species of marine animals, such as sea turtles, otters and manatees. A 10th exhibit with American crocodiles, alligators and caimans will open in late February.
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Zoos and Aquariums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Part-research center, part-aquarium, Mote Laboratory & Aquarium features nine exhibits, including two interactive areas and a 135,000-gallon shark tank. In total, the property houses more than 100 species of marine animals, such as sea turtles, otters and manatees. A 10th exhibit with American crocodiles, alligators and caimans will open in late February.
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#9

#9 in Sarasota

Animal lovers and families will likely enjoy Sarasota's Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary. This attraction has cared for exotic animals like lions, tigers, bears and chimpanzees since 1987. In addition to housing various animals, the facility hosts bird and big cat shows with educational talks and demonstrations.
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Zoos and Aquariums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary
Animal lovers and families will likely enjoy Sarasota's Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary. This attraction has cared for exotic animals like lions, tigers, bears and chimpanzees since 1987. In addition to housing various animals, the facility hosts bird and big cat shows with educational talks and demonstrations.
... more
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