Locals can learn a great deal from the tours offered by this company, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary next month.
Sometimes it’s hard being a Sarasotan. In a city with so many attractions, it can feel like you’ve done and seen it all.
But there’s one entertainment company in town that promises to show even the most seasoned of residents a different side of their home. Tammy Hauser is quickly approaching the one-year anniversary of her latest business venture, Discover Sarasota Tours.
“It totally changed the week after Easter,” she says. “I went from I’d say 80% visitors — snowbirds and tourists — and 20% real locals to exactly the opposite.”
We asked Hauser to go through each of her favorite tours and explain what’s in it for the longtime residents (along with the aloe vera-covered tourists).
CITY SIGHTSEEING TOUR
When: 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on various weekdays and weekends (Check online schedule for availability.)
Duration: 90 minutes
The aforementioned general city tour is Hauser’s most popular daytime experience, and she thinks that’s because it’s as informative as it is entertaining.
“I think of the trolley as my stage,” she says. “I like to do things that are entertaining, have a music component and promote the wonderful things about Sarasota. … As an outsider, I look at this with more fresh eyes than people who grew up here.”
On the city tour, guests visit everywhere from Gillespie Park and Burns Court to St. Armands Circle and Lido Key. The five rotating guides give insight into the history of every neighborhood and the icons for whom they’re named.
The tour also gives an overview of Sarasota’s performing and visual art scene along with the Sarasota School of Architecture and its various points of interest, a topic Hauser is well versed in as the former executive director of Center for Architecture Sarasota.
“There’s nothing like it,” Hauser says. “We’re the only city tour in town. I absolutely almost start to cry when people who have lived here forever say they’ve never noticed these things or didn’t know these things about Sarasota.”
PUBLIC ART TOUR
When: 1 p.m. Thursdays (Some weeks are not available; check schedule.)
Duration: 90 minutes
Sarasota was built by creative minds, and this tour focuses on those creating art that you don’t have to pay an admission fee or step into a commercial gallery to experience.
“I feel like it brings to light the origin of the city as an arts community and the art programs that makes it popular,” Hauser says. “And then [it] shows interesting takes on sculpture and how it relates to the Florida environment.”
There’s an impressive total of 57 possible stops on this tour, but Hauser says it’s more likely that the trolley gets to 40 of the murals, sculptures and monuments along the route.
Hauser worked with public art expert and Florida Watercolor Society President Jerome Chesley to create this tour, which he is the guide for. Chesley is used to sharing local art history; he’s also a docent for the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota collection tours at the Van Wezel.
Guests on this tour learn about everything from John Henry’s “Complexus” to Seward Johnson’s popular “Unconditional Surrender,” but she ensures locals that they’ll also get a peek at several hidden gems that aren’t officially public art (as per the city’s definition), such as pieces owned by residents who have opened up their home to art-lovers.
Circus History Tour
When: 1 p.m. Saturdays (with more dates in season)
Duration: 90 minutes
This tour goes beyond common knowledge about the Ringling brothers to explain how embedded the circus arts are in the fabric of Sarasota history.
Led by a former advance man for Ringling Bros. Circus, Bob Collins, this tour focuses on the places, people and stories of Ringling Circus history and why the circus has left a lasting impact on the city — even after its closure in 2017.
“Did you know that the tallest couple in the world once owned a hotel on Tamiami Trail?” Hauser asks. “Many circus performers did, and Bob shows you where they were and the stories behind the showmen and women who called Sarasota home.”