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Sarasota Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020 2 months ago

Several of Sarasota's wide-open green spaces make social distancing a snap

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There are plenty of places to avoid people, but we also have spots to avoid.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

Just like The Chicks were in 1998, we’re looking for Wide Open Spaces. 2020 has brought a new, all-too-familiar meaning to “stir-crazy,” and getting out of the house never sounded so good. But with the coronavirus pandemic still raging around the country and especially the state, it’s preferable to do so near as few people as possible. We’ve rounded up a few places to get in a run, walk or bike ride; do some yoga; or try a HIIT workout and be seen by as few other humans, along with the best times to do so. 

Morning

Best bet: 

Red Bug Slough Preserve

When you come to a fork in the trail, take it, especially if it leads away from others.

Hit this park before 9 a.m., and you’re golden. Too much later, and the park gets busier, especially on weekends. However, the wide trails offer a lot of space to spread out, so even if you pass others, you can keep your distance. The trails and shade are plentiful, which makes it a perfect place to go on a long run or walk without heating up too quickly. 

Where to avoid: 

Ringling Bridge

On the ends of the bridge, hopping into the grass helps social distancing.

This is perhaps the quintessential Sarasota view, which is exactly why you should avoid the Ringling Bridge most times of day, but especially in the morning. Walkers, runners and anyone looking to get a little fresh air and a good view are here unless you show up before 7 a.m. — maybe. The bordered sidewalks along the bridge make 6 feet of space difficult (perhaps impossible) when you need to pass someone. Try the heat of the day here, if you’re brave. 

Afternoon 

Best bet: 

Celery Fields

Afternoon is maybe the only time you could reliably avoid others at this popular park. Runners abound in the mornings and sunset-watchers at night, but in the sticky middle of a Florida summer day, you might be the only one bold enough to brave the heat. This park features one of Sarasota’s only hills, so this is an excellent place to get your heart rate up with a run or brisk hike. On the weekends, late risers populate the park until mid-afternoon, so 3 p.m. is a solid bet for finding few folks. Yes, it’s the heat of the day, but it’s empty for a reason. 

Evening

Best bet: 

Nathan Benderson Park 

For any of your exercise needs, head to Nathan Benderson Park, especially in the evenings. The closer to sunset, the emptier the park. There are four parking lots at the corners of the long lake, so your car doesn’t even have to be near others if you don’t want. A paved trail and a shell trail wind around the lake for 3.5 miles, and both are wide and make avoiding fellow exercisers easy. (The shell path is less-traveled, as well.) At the northwest parking lot is a wide green space for stretching or stationary exercise, and at the finish tower parking lot, there’s even more space to spread out along the waterfront. 

Where to avoid: 

Most beaches

To avoid tourists and sunbathers, the only time you might be able to reasonably avoid people while on the move is early, early morning before sunbathers are moving about. It’s not a great idea to try to get some exercise on the beach at night, when sunset seekers slink to the sands. There are a lot of people also moving around, and many eyes are on the sky, which means meandering is more likely. Unless you can find a secluded spot of sand for yoga or another stationary workout, it’s best to skip the beach for now. 

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