If you’re looking to fill those summer days and nights, check off these summer must-dos from your bucket list.
1. Take a safari to see Longboat’s “Big Five:”
1. Manatees: prefer warm, shallow waters with seagrass. Try kayaking the mangrove tunnels near South Lido Key.
2. Dolphins: You’ll often see them leaping through the water while you dine outdoors on the bayfront. Taking a charter cruise is also a good option for dolphin-sightings.
3. Turtles: Set your alarm clock early to attend a turtle walk at 6:45 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays in June and July beginning at the public beach access at 4795 Gulf of Mexico Drive. A volunteer will teach participants about signs of nesting turtles and provide information about keeping beaches turtle-friendly.
4. Swans: Longboat Key’s swan family graces the waters of the Longboat Key Club’s Islandside and Harbourside golf courses.
5. Peacocks: You’ll find peacocks in the Longbeach Village, of course. But be warned: Do not disturb the residents.
2. Sweeten St. Armands
A 150-pound person can burn 156 calories per hour for shopping. So after an afternoon of sweating it out on St. Armands Circle, reward yourself by going on a quest to find the Circle’s best ice cream cone. Visit the St. Armands Circle Association’s website, starmandscircleassoc.com and click on “ice cream/confections” on the directory tab.
3. Get a history lesson
On Nov. 4, the town turns 60. And who among us isn’t counting down the days (153 at press time) until the big birthday? Get a history lesson by biking the Key and stopping at each of the seven historic markers, located betwen Overlook Park to the south and Broadway to the north.
4. Make a date with your dog for Freedom Fest
The quarter-mile Fourth of July parade loops around Bay Isles Road. Games and old-fashioned fun follow. For the second year, the Longboat Key Rotary Club will offer a “Hot Diggity Dog” parade that includes prizes for the best-pressed dog.
5. Keep it dog-friendly
Your dog will probably want to cool off after Freedom Fest, but canine kids are banned from Longboat Key beaches. Fortunately for Fido, there are other options: Leashed dogs are allowed at Joan Durante Park, 5550 Gulf of Mexico Drive, where there are also pet-friendly water fountains.
Leashed dogs are also allowed at Ken Thompson Park on City Island and Bird Key Park, both of which have bay accesses.
You can also bring your dog on your boat and head to the sandbars near Jewfish Key and New Pass, where dogs can legally wade around. Just make sure your pet doesn’t head for the beach — a move that could land him or her in Cops Corner.
6. Find beach reads
Find new summer reads at the Longboat Library, 555 Bay Isles Road. The library will offer “Wonderful Wednesday” discounts Wednesdays beginning June 3, in which all books will be for sale at half price. Hours are 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
7. Meet local celebrities
We aren’t talking about Maria Sharapova, Jerry Springer or Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, and Save Our Seabirds, 1708 Ken Thompson Parkway, are home to several famous animals. Mote celebrity residents include manatees Hugh and Buffett, who are known for their Super Bowl predictions, and sea turtles such as Caleb, Hang Tough, Harry, Shelley and Montego. Save Our Seabirds stars include Billess, a pelican with a broken beak, and Gabby, a cockatoo who likes to sing “Happy Birthday.”
8. Eat, drink, be merry
Sample local restaurants during Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week, which runs June 1 through June 15, featuring prix fixe $15 two-course lunches and $29 three-course dinners at participating restaurants. This year’s participating Longboat Key restaurants are Amore By Andrea, Chart House, Dry Dock Waterfront Restaurant, Euphemia Haye Restaurant and Harry’s Continental Kitchens. On Lido Key and St. Armands Circle, Café L’Europe, Lido Beach Grille and Surf Shack Coastal Kitchen are participating. If you’re thirsty, do a Longboat Key pub crawl — and take the trolley. But plan on an early night, because the trolley makes its last stop on the Key at 7:51 p.m. For a full schedule, go to scgov.net, click on “SCAT Bus Service,” and select Route 18.
9. Snap those photos!
Hit the beach at sunset, and bring your camera. Submit your sunset photos at YourObserver.com/weather.
Monthly prizes include a $25 gift card, and one grand prize winner will receive a $5,000 flooring makeover, courtesy of Manasota Flooring Inc.
10. Live life in the fast lane
Soar down Gulf of Mexico Drive at a full 45 mph. The snowbirds are gone, so relish every chance you get to drive to the mainland in 15 minutes or less before the first car carriers return.