It's that time of year again. While the rest of the country has yet to see the light at the end of the arctic snow tunnel they call winter, we're already gearing up for beach season. And it doesn't matter if you're a born-and-raised Sarasotan or a recent transplant, hosting guests and tourists is just an inevitable part of the deal. Whether relatives want to come visit, or your freeloading college buddies suddenly remember how close you live to the beach, the time will come when you'll be asked to show off all Sarasota has to offer. Not sure where to start? We've got you covered.
For the family:
- Eat: Owen's Fish Camp: This quaint Burns Court restaurant offers a great, off-the-beaten-path spot to get some fresh seafood. The atmosphere is great for family: it's casual, but not spring break, and the food is great. Off-the-neaten-path doesn't mean unpopular, though — be sure to plan ahead. Sunset at O'Leary's Tiki Bar on the bayfront is also a great way to show off (rub in) Sarasota's natural beauty.
- Do: Siesta Key Beach is an obvious choice (you've got to show off that awesome sand at least once), but if the family is looking for a quieter spot, try Lido Key, where they can hit up the only on-the-beach tiki bar in Sarasota, the Lido Key Tiki Bar.
- See: There are plenty of great family-friendly attractions in town, depending on personal taste. For the nature enthusiasts, try a tour of Mote Marine or the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, or for the arts-lover, The Ringling / Circus Sarasota or Sailor Circus.
For the friend:
- Eat: For the lower-budget, forever-young type guest, grab a burger at New Pass Grill and Bait Shop. Their burgers are amazing, not to mention cheap, and its waterfront location is perfect for low-cost entertainment. If your schedule allows, try to make it into Bob's Train. One of Sarasota's best-kept secrets, Bob's Train will have you dining in a former Ringling train car, surrounded by circus memorabilia. They keep odd hours, though, so plan ahead.
- For the trendier guest, try State Street, Shore, Darwin's on Fourth or Social on First for dinner and drinks, all of which offer great food and impressive mixology.
- Do: Sarasota has more to offer a younger crowd than some might have you believe. The simplest and most obvious choice is Siesta Key Beach, or even a walk over the John Ringling Bridge. On any given weekend, Siesta Key's public beach is a great place to go to party or just enjoy the sun, but find parking early or bring a stress ball. Stay until dusk, then grab dinner and bar hop in the Siesta Key Village. Every guest needs to experience a Key night at least once. (I personally recommend this order of operations: Daiquiri Deck, Siesta Key Oyster Bar, then Beach Club.)
- For a less tourist-driven experience, local bars like the Shamrock, Growler's and Mr. Beery's offer a laid-back atmosphere and great craft-beer selection, while downtown mainstays like Smokin' Joes and Gator Club cater to a more party-oriented crowd. Just around the corner, bars like Selva and Classico offer a more upscale night out.
- See: For great street art, stroll through the Burns Court neighborhood to admire several of the murals from the Chalk Festival's Going Vertical series, or head north of Fruitville to see live music at The Blue Rooster, or shop at Sarasota Architectural Salvage or Circus City Architectural Salvage.
Sarasota has so much to offer, and we're sure we've left some things out. Leave your must-see attractions in the comments below:
featured photo by Joe Sedik