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Whether you’re a history buff, outdoorsy type or just love to unplug with a cocktail in hand, Sarasota holidays have you covered. Just an hour south of Tampa Bay in Florida, this Gulf Coast city is home to all kinds of wonderful attractions. From miles of white sand to natural parks filled with fun activities and an exciting collection of museums. And you can always count on that tropical sunshine when it’s time to hit the beach with sunbathing weather lasting all year.
Sun, sea and state parks
Home to 35 miles of beaches, sleepy days on the sand is all part of the Sarasota lifestyle. And Siesta Key should be first on your list! Ranked among the best beaches in the US for its powdery pale sands, lifeguard presence and shaded playground, this eight-mile barrier island just so happens to sit right next to Sarasota. For a less crowded alternative, Lido Beach has become a family favourite for its calm, shallow waters, not to mention its snack bar serving the most delicious lobster rolls every Sunday.
Those wanting to hunt down some sea turtles during their time in Florida should also stop by Longboat Key, where these beautiful reptiles come to nest and lay their eggs (May to October). Known for its natural charm, Venice is perfect if you want to pair sunbathing stints with adventure thanks to its nearby hiking trails and bird-watching boardwalks. Oh and did we mention shark teeth are often found in its waters? We also recommend staying until the evening so you can witness one of Sarasota’s most amazing sunsets from its Fishing Pier.
After all that oceanside fun, it’s time to explore the area’s two state parks: Myakka River and Oscar Scherer. As one of the best places to spot scrub jays, Oscar Scherer is a bird watcher’s paradise. But you won’t need your binoculars at Myakka River thanks to its 85-foot-long boardwalk. Elevated 25 feet above the ground, it’s one of the few places in the world that allows you to walk through the treetops.
The city’s museums are a great place to start if you’re looking for things to do in Sarasota. Learn all about Sarasota’s circus history at Ringling Museum, or head for the Classic Car Museum, where you can see antique vehicles by models like Jaguar, Ferrari, Ford and more.
Bringing the kids along? You should also stop by Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to observe Florida’s diverse range of sea species. Speaking of wildlife encounters, your little ones will love Marie Selby Botanical Garden with its butterfly and rainforest gardens, or Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary if they’re wanting to hunt down Florida’s biggest and wildest residents. Spot everything from goats and donkeys at its petting zoo to more exotic species such as lions and apes.
If it’s adult fun you’re after, St. Armands Circle has you covered. Located on a small island just across from Sarasota, this retail hotspot will excite any shopaholic with its 100-plus luxury stores. And once you’re done browsing, the dining options are just as extensive - your chance to delve into Florida’s hybrid food scene with influences from Cuba, Spain and the Caribbean.
Amazing outdoor activities
There’s so many ways to make the most of the warm Florida sunshine, and the Legacy Trail is a great starting point. Hikers and bikers alike can enjoy all 12.5 miles of this paved route to Venice. But don’t worry if you start to feel tired, with 15 rest areas along the way there’s plenty of opportunity to stop for a breather.
As for more serious hikers, Oscar Scherer State Park has over 15 miles of trails to cover. While those visiting during the humid months may prefer to swim, canoe or kayak its cool waters. But nothing beats a guided kayak tour through the area’s mangrove tunnels! Head to Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key and get lost in its beautiful landscape. If you're lucky you may even come face-to-face with a dolphin or manatee, who won’t be afraid to swim close to your kayak.
Sarasota is also known to attract keen golfers. Tee off Florida style at some of the state’s best public courses, like Waterford, which is home to 27 holes. Or Calusa Lakes, where you can practice your putting skills beside beautiful oak trees.
Entertainment Sarasota style
A beach town with a big personality, Sarasota nightlife is laid-back but fun. And there's plenty to keep you entertained long into the evening. Whether it’s live music venues, tiki bars or craft breweries, you’ll find streets full of atmospheric drinking spots. Fancying dancing on the waterfront? Then, its beach clubs are a great place to let your hair down with DJ sets spilling out onto the sand.
Beer fans won’t have to go far for a great tasting ale either. Make your way around the city’s six craft breweries, some with over 20 options on tap, and others offering beers that are unique to Florida. For a night under the stars, head up to Perspective Rooftop Pool Bar at the Art Ovation in Downtown Sarasota. With artistically crafted cocktails and city panoramas, it's a must-visit at sunset. Looking for more late night action? Don’t forget to hit Siesta Key and St. Armands Circle too.
If you’re looking for arts after dark, there’s plenty of places where you can catch a show, from some stand-up comedy at McCurdy's Comedy Theatre to the daring performers of Circus Sarasota and Asolo Repertory Theatre with its classical plays.
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St. Pete & Clearwater
Found in a sun-drenched spot between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, holidays to St. Pete & Clearwater are perfect for relaxing. With 35 miles of award-winning shorelines and turquoise seas at your feet, there’s no wonder why these neighbouring towns make up one of Florida’s most loved beach resorts.
But this slice of paradise has so much more to offer besides white sand. The art scene is pretty spectacular too, from the famous Dali Museum to the amazing murals found in downtown St Petersburg (known locally as St. Pete). So if you’re looking for a beach getaway that combines outdoor adventures with a dose of culture, St. Pete & Clearwater is the place for you.
Just 90 minutes away from Orlando, St. Pete & Clearwater is the perfect twin centre option if you want to blend Florida’s theme parks with its incredible coastline. And thanks to the endless supply of white sand, you’ll find some of the best beaches in the US here. Make sure you tick off St. Pete first! Stretching for five miles, families will love the exhilarating mix of watersports and tasty food shacks. Then there’s Clearwater, with its sugar-fine sands, bustling promenade and nightly sunset celebrations at Pier 60. Prefer a sleepier shoreline? Look no further than Pass-a-Grille, a dune-backed stretch neatly tucked away from Florida’s high rises. Or if that’s not quite secluded enough, you’ll feel completely cut off at Shell Key Preserve, a barrier island which is only accessible by water.
Nature & wildlife
If you’d like to experience St. Pete/Clearwater’s natural beauty, watersports are among the top things to do in Florida. There’s something for all ages and abilities, from paddle boarding tours exploring the area’s mangrove islands to scuba diving trips taking you to some of the best dive spots in the Gulf. But there’s no better way to soak up that all-season sun than kayaking to Caladesi Island from Clearwater Beach. On your journey you’re likely to see exotic birds, colourful marine life, and maybe even a dolphin or two! Back on dry land, keen hikers can discover 8700 acres of wilderness at Brooker Creek Preserve.
Downtown St. Pete is a bustling hub of art and culture, which makes it the perfect home for the Dali Museum and Morean Arts Center. Take a tour around the famous Chihuly Collection, where you can view the best of artist Dale Chihuly’s work, which includes abstract glass sculptures and colourful paintings. Or why not head to the Morean Center for Clay and try your hand at creating your own masterpiece? Nearby, you’ll also find glass-blowing demonstrations at the Glass Studio & Hot Shop.
Bars & boutiques
St. Pete & Clearwater holidays have a great nightlife scene, complete with bustling bars, authentic breweries and chic rooftop spots. Affectionately known as the ‘Gulp Coast’, this Florida hotspot is home to the Craft Beer Trail, which has 30 breweries within an hour’s drive of each other (so you may need to appoint a designated driver). For a traditional people-watching pub experience, head to MacDinton’s Irish Bar, where flowing drinks and good times go hand in hand. And if you’re not ready to leave the beautiful beaches just yet, soak up the swanky lounge-style atmosphere at the Kimpton Hotel Zamora for cocktails and panoramic views across the Gulf of Mexico.
More travel guides
Take a look at our other travel guides for this part of the USA, including California | Chicago | Crystal River | Daytona Beach | Florida | Florida Keys and Key West | Fort Lauderdale | Fort Myers and Sanibel | Hawaii | Kissimmee | Las Vegas | Los Angeles | Miami | New England | New York City | New York State | North East Corridor | Oregon State | Orlando | San Francisco | Tampa Bay | Texas | The Deep South | Utah State | Washingston State