Shooting stars, seasonal beer, and a holiday block party are just a few reasons to visit Sarasota during these cooler months.
Sarasota is a guaranteed highbrow visit between its museums, art culture, and high-end shopping, with winter being no exception. The town sparkles (literally) for the holiday season with bright and colorful boat parades and the lighted gardens at Historic Spanish Point. The arts community comes together this time of year for special exhibits and festivals celebrating sand sculpting and chalk drawing.
Activities & Attractions
Go with the Grain
Beginning November 18th and running through February, The Ringling Museum is offering a special exhibit called “Woodblock Prints from Postwar Japan.” Mining from the museum’s extensive collection, the exhibition features stunning mid-century woodblock prints made in Japan following the World War II. These graphic and iconic designs were mainstays of the mid-century, highly sought after, and continue to inspire designers today.
Linger Among Illuminated Gardens
For the holiday season, the Historic Spanish Point – Sarasota’s premier history museum featuring prehistoric mounds, pioneer homesteads, nature trails, boat tours, and Bertha Honore Palmer’s garden – transforms itself for the Mangrove Lights event. Adorned in festive lights, the already beautiful 30-acre grounds boasts a dreamy wonderland of luminaria-lined paths, perfect for romantic walks or catching up with friends and family while sipping hot chocolate and listening to festive music performed throughout the gardens.
Spot Some Right Whales
Throughout the month of December, more than 100 right whales (about 25 percent of the world’s population) can be seen of the coast of Florida as they head to warmer waters, making it the best time to try to catch a glimpse of these giant, majestic animals. Whale watch tours are available from Island Pearl Excursions, launching into Sarasota Bay from Anna Maria Island (just north of Longboat Key), but you can also see them on a private charter with Key Sailing, a popular sailing charter out of Siesta Key (just south of Lido Key).
Sip a Seasonal Brew
Big Top Brewing, located in Sarasota, puts out as many as 150 small-batch brews a year. In fact, every Tuesday and Friday, they release something new, and, as the temps begin to fall, the brews get heavier. Unlike most breweries, however, which turn to stouts and porters for the winter months, Big Top opts to create around the next big trend in beer: milkshake IPAs. This style uses lactose to create a fuller-bodied, creamier, dessert-like flavor that you don’t normally find with traditional hop-heavy IPAs. Come in for a Peach Milkshake or Sour Cherry Milkshake while they are still available.
Festivals & Events
This day-long Manatee Beach sand-sculpting competition lets competitors take part in free clinics (held on the Thursday and Friday before the competition) in sand sculpting, then tasks them with creating their masterpiece, while raising money for Keep Manatee Beautiful.
Sarasota Chalk Festival, 11/9–12
Held in Venice each year, just 25 minutes from the downtown, this chalk festival draws out hundreds of talented artists to decorate the city. Last year, more than 500 hundred international artists showed up to create under a special theme – this year, it’s “garden of wonders.”
Thanksgiving Eve Block Party, 11/22
Held on Main Street in historic downtown Bradenton, just 13 miles from Sarasota, this holiday festival has offerings for everyone. The street is shut down and turned over to food vendors, an arts and crafts fair, and live performers.
Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade, 12/8
Since 1986, the southernmost stretch of Sarasota Bay under the famous John Ringling Causeway has been home to some of the largest parading boats in Florida, including mega-yachts wrapped to the gills with Christmas lights. Centennial Park is one of the best places to watch thanks to its free parking and lack of crowds.
Sidewalk Astronomy, 12/15
December 15 marks the height of the Geminids meteor showers, which are considered the king of showers. Starting from sunset and going until 10:30, the Deep Sky Observers, Sarasota/Bradenton’s local astronomy club will have their telescopes available to the public at Celery Fields. Expect anywhere from 50 to 120 meteors an hour.