While the circus may be its cultural signature (and there’s nothing wrong with that), there’s more to Sarasota than just Ringling and trapeze art.
Photo © Tom Noonan
1.) Pristine Mid-Century Architecture
Few realize that Sarasota is home to some of the country’s finest examples of mid-century modern architecture. Architectural enthusiasts that are in on the secret, however, come to see such gems as Paul Rudolph’s 1953 Umbrella House, with its cubed structure and lemon-yellow door, or Edward J. Seibert’s 1967 Cooney House, known for its open-and-airy pavilion living room area and 10-foot walls of glass.
2.) The Circle
St. Armands Circle on St. Amands Key emanates a European ambience with a promenade of sidewalk cafés, lush courtyards, statues, and upscale boutique shops, carrying brands like Burberry, Giorgio, Armani, Tommy Bahama, and Lilly Pulitzer.
3.) The Amorphophallus Titanum
It’s also known as the corpse flower, and two of these rare, four-foot flowers from Sumatra reside at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, home to 15 acres of tropical and subtropical plants. Its bright purple petals make up for its unfortunate off-putting odor (reminiscent of rotting fish), especially since it only blooms for two days, once every three to seven years.
4.) Records Set In Stone
Built in 1924 by John and Mable Ringling, the 36,000-square-foot Ca’ D’Zan behemoth of a Venetian-inspired palazzo still holds the title of the largest private residence on Florida’s west coast.
5.) Two-Wheel Exploration
Most downtown streets have well-maintained paved bike paths for exploring the sights from your pedaling perch. You can also find completely car-free paths, like the 10-mile Legacy Trail that runs along a former railroad corridor through Sarasota County.
6.) Award-Winning Rum
Meet the makers of the small-batch rum that is taking the spirit world by storm: Drum Circle Distilling’s Siesta Key Spiced Rum, which, in 2014, was called one of “America’s 10 Best Rums” by Caribbean Journal.
7.) Safe Shark Sightings
Those fascinated by the beasts of the sea ought to take a trip to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, where guests (three at a time) assist staff with Wednesday feedings for blacknose, nurse, and sandbar sharks. Learn firsthand from aquarium biologists why nearby Venice is the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.”
8.) 34 Varieties of Pie
Peanut butter cream, Dutch apple crumb, caramel-egg custard, praline, even mincemeat – at the 40-year iconic stop Yoder’s Restaurant, pie crafting is an art tucked away in this Florida Amish community of Pinecraft.
9.) Clown Reunions
Come for breakfast at Bob’s Train, a diner set up in four restored Pullman railcars, and you’ll be rubbing elbows with showfolks of the past and present during their standing monthly rendezvous to reminisce and watch films from the old days over eggs and bacon.
10.) Paul McCartney’s Mini Cooper
You’ll find his 1965 sage green ride among the mix of more than 75 immaculately restored automobiles at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum.