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Things to do around Sarasota, Florida in a week

ShinyRedKnightShinyRedKnight Registered User regular
Hi everyone,

A group of my friends are heading to Florida for the next week, mainly to relax. We are staying near Warm Mineral Springs, but would like to spend some time in Sarasota as well. Our main plan is to just enjoy the beaches in the area. However, other than that, are there things we should check out in particular?

Namely, are there some small activities or attractions, such as a good place for snorkeling? Is there a specific beach we shouldn't miss? Any particular places to dine?

The main limits are our budget, so no big activities that would cost a single member more than $40-50 in one go. Of course, that limits the options, but I would like to know where we can get the most out of our visit. We have access to two cars, however, so transportation shouldn't be an issue. Also, since it will be the 4th of July, is there any particularly good place to enjoy fireworks?

And, is there anything we should avoid or be weary of?

I'll try to keep up as we are actually there. Thank you for any and all suggestions!

PSN: ShinyRedKnight Xbox Live: ShinyRedKnight


  • useless4useless4 Registered User regular
    If you end up on St. Armand's circle for some weird reason and starving, the cheapest place to eat there is Cha Cha Coconuts. They have good fish tacos and sweet potatoes fries.

    I've wanted to try the 420 Cafe in Sarasota proper (prides itself on late night stoner food and was on Diner Dives and Drive Ins) but since we've had our kid we haven't done many late night excursions when we go. They are open til 420am so it may be worth it if you guys are up in the middle of the night and hungry.

    Oh... though he's probably not there because he is recording according to the internet, Brian Johnson (the singer from AC/DC) apparently lives in Sarasota and hangs at a specific british pub a lot. Everyone I know has met him but me apparently.

    I go down at least twice a year to sarasota but I can't offer advice because every time we go it ends up costing mad money.

  • WassermeloneWassermelone Registered User regular
    Well there are the beaches, Siesta Key and Lido. Lido has sea shells, Siesta is the white beach (and big). Its the gulf, so the water will be warm and there probably won't be waves over a foot. Parking at the beaches didn't cost anything the last time I was there. (I went to school there a good 5-6 years ago now)

    There's also, if art is something you are interested in, the Ringling Museum. Its actually surprisingly nice for such a relatively 'small' town. There's also the Ringling mansion, Ca' d'Zan. I've never been there so I can't speak for it, but I bet it would be interesting if you want to know how the other half lived back in the 1890s/1900s.

    Siesta will be PACKED for fourth of July, but it is a good show! If you get there early that would be the place to be. I don't know what you would be looking for, but there are grilling areas and volleyball places, and a few little shops directly on the beach. Siesta Key also has a lot of restaurants and places to grab a drink that are very close (walkable, depending on where you parked, the beach is large). They aren't too terribly expensive, but they are definitely more marked up for tourists/people who have spent all day at the beach.

    Captain Marcus
  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    If you can find a place to swim/snorkel with manatees, that can be pretty fun and relaxing! I did that once, though more north than where you'll be (in Homosassa Springs) and it was great.

  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal mad onlineRegistered User regular
    St. Armands has the highest concentration of high end restaurants. Columbia is regionally famous, although it's not the Columbia location. But close enough.

    Siesta key is a nice stretch of beach.

    If you accidentally find yourself in Bradenton, lock your doors and don't make eye contact.

    Captain Marcus
  • Captain MarcusCaptain Marcus now arrives the hour of actionRegistered User regular
    edited July 2014
    As far as things to do goes, the Ringling Museum is lovely and well worth the money.

    I also agree that Siesta Key is a nice stretch of beach, although it can get crowded sometimes. Really though, almost all of the beaches in Sarasota are nice.

    St. Armands does have nice restaurants (like Jasconious says, the Columbia is good) but they run on the expensive side. There's an independent movie theater (Burns Court Cinema) in town along with a neat little botanical gardens (Marie Selby Botanical Gardens). There's a symphony orchestra, an opera, and several theatres too, but I don't think they're doing anything during the summer.

    Stuff to Do

    1. Big Cat Habitat
    They'll beg for donations at every turn, but it's probably the only time you can pay five dollars to feed two tigers a hunk of meat on a stick.

    2. Myakka River State Park
    If you want to see alligators, this is the place to do it.

    3. Mote Marine Laboratory
    The lab opened up a nifty aquarium to educated the public about their work and about local marine life. It's got manatees, sea turtles, sharks, and pettable stingrays, among other animals.

    Places to Eat
    With Sarasota and it's southern neighbor Venice having an absolutely massive number of rich old people with enormous amounts of leisure time, there are tons of good places to eat. Yelp (or whatever you use) is your friend here. That being said, here are some restaurants you might want to hit up.

    1. Caragiulo's
    Rich New Yorkers like to retire to Sarasota, which explains the large amount of Italian restaurants you'll see. Caragiulo's is one of the better ones, and they're running a special on dinners Tuesdays in July, with a "buy-one-get-one-25-cents" deal. Make sure you get the zeppoli for dessert.

    2. BBQ
    Nancy's BBQ in downtown Sarasota is good. If you're on the way up from Warm Mineral Springs and find yourself in Venice, Darrell's Restaurant (in the same plaza as Mi Pueblo) is also good. Gold Rush BBQ is better than Sonny's, but it's not amazing. If by some chance you drive north of Sarasota, Hickory Hollow has the best barbecue I've ever tasted. They're cash only and have weird hours, which might explain some of the bitchy opinions you'll find on the review sites.

    3. Seafood!
    It's sort of why people come to Florida. I hate it, so I can't really give you any opinions, but I can give you a list. Of the places on that list, I've only been to Owen's Fish Camp. My fellow diners loved their fish so take that as you will.

    4. Basil's Chicken. Basil's is the shit. Very cheap, amazing food, and most of the entrees come with a big slab of pita bread and honey butter. Try the mashed potatoes and gravy.

    5. Other stuff?
    Shakespeare's Pub has got expensive beer but fantastic burgers. I recommend the onion and Brie.

    If you're into fine dining I've never had a bad meal at the Chart House on Longboat Key. It's definitely going to run up there as far as your budget limit goes (it probably won't hit it) but they do good work. The coconut shrimp are delightful, the chicken romano is great, and your server is going to ask you if you want a chocolate cake dessert that takes half an hour to make and you'll want to say yes. It's worth it.
    Other fine dining options- again, Yelp is your friend. The Columbia is going to be about as expensive as the Chart House. Personally I like the Chart House better but it's up to you. I've heard good things about Fleming's/Roy's by the Southgate Mall (the fancier mall).

    Ice cream-
    I don't know about Sarasota but the Venice area has two amazing ice cream places- Bentley's in Nokomis and Nokomis Groves, which has orange-and-vanilla swirl soft-serve on offer. Both are delicious and both are cheap compared to the other ice cream places in town. Keep driving past Bentley's and over the bridge, and you're on Casey Key, where Steven King has a house.

    Places to Avoid-
    G. Wiz: It's closed.
    Jungle Gardens: Great when I was 5 but terrible now.
    Bradenton: Bradenton is the Frankfurt to Sarasota's Berlin: bleak, dull, and depressing. The fact that the street names repeat in the cardinal directions only gives you an extra reason to stay away.

    If you have any questions, feel free to PM me.

    Captain Marcus on
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