Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary#9 in Best Things To Do 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.
Many past visitors appreciated the Big Cat Habitat's commitment to the wellbeing of its animals, although some were disappointed by the property's use of animals in shows. For those with young ones, check out the petting zoo, where kids can feed goats and llamas. Prior travelers also recommend feeding the lions, tigers and bears, which costs an extra dollar per animal.
No SCAT bus routes make stops near the Big Cat Habitat, so visitors will need to drive or hail a taxi to get to the property. The attraction sits between downtown Sarasota and other top sights like Myakka River State Park and Sarasota National Cemetery, making it a convenient spot to check out on the way to or from the park or cemetery. Should you choose to visit, you'll have access to free parking, restrooms, a gift shop and complimentary parrot and big cat shows, which start at 1 and 2 p.m., respectively. But keep in mind that this outdoor sanctuary costs $18 per adult and $8 per child to visit and is only open between noon and 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (weather permitting). Tickets can be bought in-person or on the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary website.
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#1 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.
Though some travelers caution that finding the park's entrance and parking near the lake's main activities can be a bit of a challenge, many agree that this scenic spot is a must-visit for nature lovers. All sorts of animals – including alligators, roseate spoonbills and armadillos – are known to frequent the area. What's more, the park offers nearly 40 miles of hiking trails – including one walkway suspended 25 feet above the ground – and several biking paths.
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