Visit Sarasota Guide 2019
Sarasota is located on the west coast of Florida directly on the Gulf of Mexico about an hours drive south of Tampa. Sarasota and Longboat Key is often called the “Crown Jewel” of Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast.
Known by many as “Florida’s Cultural Capital” Sarasota is home to the Ringling College of Art and Design, John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota Opera, Sarasota Orchestra, Ballet, Longboat Key was the No. 9 best island in the U.S. in Conde Nast Traveler’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, and much more. Access to Sarasota is very easy from I-75 with 4 major exits that take you to all locations from the University Parkway exit #213, Fruitville Road exit #210, Bee Ridge Road exit #207 and the Clark Road exit #205.
Distance from other Florida cities
Miami: 223 miles
Orlando: 129 miles
Naples: 177 miles
Tampa: 57 miles
Population, Size and Demographics:
The 2015 population of Sarasota County as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau is just over 405,000 permanent residents. During the winter months our population grows to over 480,000. With a land mass of a total area of 725 square miles of which 556 square miles is land and 169 square miles (23.4%) is water. Sarasota County spans from the northern tip of the island of Longboat Key and includes the islands of Lido Key, Bird Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, down thru Venice, Engelwood and North Port and includes Manasota Key.
Sarasota is made up of families and retirees with the latest statistics giving Sarasota a median age of 52.5 and a median family income of $57,229 with the exception of Longboat Key, which has a median household income of $102,600.
(Source: Sarasota County Demographic Data and Links )
How’s the Weather?
Mostly likely the #1 reason people relocate to Sarasota is our weather.
Sarasota enjoys tropical warm weather and year round sunshine making the weather one of the biggest reasons you will want to live here. Even during the hotter summer months we enjoy refreshing ocean breezes off the Gulf of Mexico along with cooling afternoon summer showers.
Average Annual Temperature……….72 degrees
Average Annual Rain Fall……………..54 inches
Weather Update: NO Snow guaranteed!
Yes you will love living in Sarasota.
The History of Longboat Key:
Longboat Key has a colorful history for a small island. We know that the land was inhabited in the 1500’s by the Timucuan and Calusa Native American tribes, who hunted and enjoyed leisure expeditions just as we do today. They have even found artifacts on Longboat that point to fish fries as an ordinary pastime hundreds of years ago.
It is believed that in 1539, Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando DeSoto visited the island in his hunt for gold and more land for Spain. He and his scout, Juan Anesco, operated a traditional “longboat” through the pass between Longboat Key and Ana Maria Island; this is thought to be the derivation of the name Longboat Key.
The island was populated in 1891, when a Civil War veteran, Thomas Mann, settled on the north end with his adult sons. Mann was awarded 144 acres of land through the Homestead Act of 1862, and one of his sons was granted 144 acres on the south end of LBK. At around 1900, Mann sold his land for $500. A few of the homes built in the early 1900’s are still standing today.Fourteen families populated the island by 1915. Agriculture was the main business in the early 1900’s. Crops grown include avocado, tomato, guava and citrus fruits delivered by steamboat to the mainland.
In 1921, farming ended on the Island; that was the same year Sarasota County was formed, splitting the Island into Sarasota County on the South half, and Manatee County on the North.In the early 1920s circus magnate John Ringling bought 2000 acres on Longboat Key. He began construction on a Ritz-Carlton Hotel overlooking New Pass. The Depression greatly affected Ringling’s fortune, and ended construction of the hotel. His heirs attempted to finish the project, but the partially built structure sat untouched for 4 decades.
The town incorporated on November 14, 1955. A popular tourist destination, some of the cottage- type resorts of that era remain and still function today. Arvida’s land purchase and development on the South end of LBK began in the late 1950’s, and included the never completed Ritz-Carlton hotel, which was demolished in 1962.
As the island population increased over the ensuing years, leaders enforced strict land growth regulations that focused on maintaining the natural beauty of Longboat Key.
The History of Sarasota:
In the 1880’s Sarasota began to grow into an established territory after a promotion in Scotland by the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company.
Scottish families looking for a new start in this new territory sailed from Scotland only to be very disappointed to learn that the Sarasota of 1880 was not very established as it had been advertised. The conditions were harsh and the amenities lacking finding only a frontier camp for a town.
One of those early settlers who decided to stay was John Hamilton Gillespie, a Scottish aristocrat, lawyer and member of the Royal Company of Archers. It is said that Gillespie is the first to bring the game of golf to America and built America’s first golf course here in Sarasota.
In 1910 a wealthy Chicago socialite, Bertha Honore Palmer visited Sarasota declaring Sarasota Bay to be more beautiful than the Bay of Naples. This endorsement got the attention of the press and many others from Chicago and the North East who decided to find out what Sarasota had to offer.
Mrs. Palmer so loved the area that she purchased over 30,000 acres of land for farming and for her winter residence. The area now know as Palmer Ranch was part of her large estate with her personal home being on what is now The Oaks Club, one of the most exclusive Golf Country Clubs in Florida.
John and Mable Ringling known for success in the circus world as well as oil prospecting and real estate success discovered Sarasota a few years after their marriage in 1905.
It is here in Sarasota that the Ringlings built their Venetian-style mansion, Ca d’Zan (house of John), and became very involved, he with his development projects, banking and business activities and Mable heading up social fuctions and hosting lavish parties on their yacht and their mansion.
The Ringlings were huge art collectors and the building of their private mansion enabled them to house their ever growing collection that is now on display as the John and Mable Ringling Art Museum on the grounds of Ca d’Zan, one of America’s most celebrated art museums.
In 1927 Baron Von Hadeln, named by the Sarasota Herald “the greatest living authority on Italian art”, came to Sarasota to assess the artwork collection of John and Mable Ringling. He was so impressed with the growing collection that he declared, “Mr. and Mrs. Ringling are to be the means of making Sarasota the art center of the entire South and one of the leading art centers of the world.”
In 1927 John Ringling decided to move the winter headquarters of the Greatest Show on Earth to Sarasota from Bridgeport, Connecticut. The circus remained in Sarasota until 1960 when it moved down the road into Venice and today Sarasota is still known around the world as the Circus City.
World Class White Sandy Beaches:
Yes, Sarasota is known around the world for our beaches. All our beaches are free and open to the public with daily sunsets over the tropical blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
In 2015 Longboat Key has garnered national glory. Longboat Key was the No. 9 best island in the U.S. in Conde Nast Traveler’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards. Hawaii’s Maui, Kauai, Oahu and Big Island nabbed the top four slots. Amelia Island, which ranked No. 10, was the only other Florida location to make the list.
The 12-mile island with land in both Sarasota and Manatee counties is known for its elegant and refined personality, said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. Conde Nast described Longboat Key as a more private option among the Sarasota-Bradenton area’s barrier islands and praised it for the sand dollars and seashells that can be found their.
In 2011 Siesta Key Beach was awarded the distinct recognition as The Best Beach in America by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach.”
Blind Pass Beach – located on Manasota Key Road one mile north of the Charlotte County Line on Manasota Key. Amenities include parking, rest rooms, nature trail, picnic shelters, canoe launch, playground equipment. No lifeguards on duty.
Brohard Beach – located in the southern most part of the City of Venice on the Venice Airport property on Harbor Drive. Enjoy taking your dog and fishing on the 740 foot long pier. The pier has restrooms, bait shop and a snack bar.
Caspersen Beach – located south of the Venice Airport on Harbor Drive. Very rustic and natural. Restrooms, picnic tables, and showers. No lifeguards on duty.
Manasota Beach – located at the west end of Manasota Beach Road. The beach is located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway. As a convenience on the Intracoastal side there are boat ramps and docking spots allowing access to the Gulf of Mexico. Lifeguards on duty.
Nokomis/Casey Key Beach – located on the island of Casey Key access is from Albee Road off of Route 41. Cross the draw bridge and the beach area is directly in front of you. Lifeguards, restrooms, grills, picnic tables.
North Jetty Park – located on the most southern tip of Casey Key directly south of the Nokomis/Casey Key Beach mentioned above.
North Lido Beach – Located at the northern tip of Lido Key on the west side of Westway Drive. Enjoy 77 acres of land including over 3,000 feet of sandy beach.
Palmer Point Beach – located at the southern tip of Siesta Key and connects onto Casey Key directly next to Turtle Beach on the southern end of Siesta Key. The northern portion of this beach was the original home of the Mote Marine Laboratory. There was an opening from the Gulf of Mexico into the Intracoastal waterway called Midnight Pass at this spot but it was closed in January of 1984. This is a popular area for boaters and walkers who can get there by walking south on Turtle Beach. No lifeguards and no facilities.
Siesta Key Public Beach – Rated #1 in America, located mid-island off Midnight Pass Road. Plenty of public parking, restrooms, lifeguards, grill, pavilions, pine trees, volley ball, tennis courts, snack bars and where Siesta Key Sandcastle competitions are held.
South Lido Beach – Located at the south end of Benjamin Franklin Drive on Lido Key. A 100 acre public park with parking, picnic tables and showers. Enjoy boat traffic and views of Siesta Key across Big Pass the main entrance into Sarasota Bay.
Turtle Beach – located on the southern end of Siesta Key.
Venice Beaches – near the Venice airport off Harbor Drive, enjoy searching for fossilized sharks teeth. Find it at the end of W. Venice Ave. off route 41, picnic benches, restrooms, and showers.
Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport – SRQ located at the intersection of Route 41 and University Parkway serves over one million passengers a year along with a several FBO’s for private planes and jets.
Tampa International Airport – TPA is about an hours drive north from Sarasota.
St. Pete-Clearwater Airport – PIE is about a 45-50 minute drive from Sarasota.
Southwest Florida International Airport – RSW is located in Ft. Myers just off of I-75 about an hours drive from Sarasota.
Cost of Living:
From an economic position, moving to Florida makes a lot of money sense.
We found when we moved here our living expenses dropped.
The State of Florida has been very smart in attracting permanent residents. When we lived in Massachusetts we had to file a separate tax return and pay a separate state tax bill in addition to our Federal Tax filing.
If you decide to make Florida your “Permanent Residence” you will find that Florida residents benefit from no state income tax and lower property taxes as compared to states up north.
As a permanent resident you will receive a Homestead Exemption that will lower your taxable amount of property taxes. On Jan. 29, 2008, voters approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution raising this exemption to $50,000. Florida property tax homestead exemption reduces the value of a home for assessment of property taxes by $50,000, so a home that was actually worth $100,000 would be taxed as though it was worth only $50,000.
Sarasota County Schools:
Sarasota County Schools has consistently ranked yearly since 2004 as a grade A school district. Rated the #2 School District out of 67 school districts in Florida, Sarasota Schools serve over 42,600 students with 5,000 employees in 52 schools.
In 2012 Sarasota County was Named One of the
“100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance and ING U.S.”
The national award was given to Sarasota County to recognize its outstanding and innovative work in addressing the high school dropout crisis and for its programs and services that make it an outstanding place for youth to live, learn and grow.
An emphasis on education and youth safety are key factors in Sarasota County being honored as a 100 Best community winner for a second time. Sarasota has made education a top priority with programs like the Early Learning Coalition and Literacy Empowers All Families. The Early Learning Coalition integrates leadership and community resources to promote high-quality early education and family support by allocating resources to the school system and implementing programs for childhood development and readiness.
Sarasota is also home to the Ringling College of Art and Design, one of the premier art and design colleges in the country with students coming from all over the world.
Sarasota offers 4 local hospital facilities that provide outstanding healthcare service.
Money Magazine rated Sarasota one of the “Best Cities with the Best Healthcare Systems”
Sarasota Memorial Hospital
1700 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34239
Sarasota Memorial Hospital has been ranked #7 out of over 260 Florida Hospitals and has been rated in “America’s 50 Best Hospitals” by U.S. News and World Report.
Forbes.com rated SMH in the “10 of the Largest Safe Hospitals in the U.S..”
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, an 819-bed regional medical center, is among the largest public health systems in Florida. With about 4,000 staff, over 800 physicians and 1,000 volunteers, it is one of Sarasota County’s largest employers.
A community hospital founded in 1925, Sarasota Memorial is governed by the nine-member elected Sarasota County Public Hospital Board. It is a full-service health system, with specialized expertise in heart, vascular, cancer and neuroscience services, as well as a network of outpatient centers, long-term care and rehabilitation among its many programs. Sarasota Memorial is the only hospital in Sarasota County providing obstetrical services, pediatrics and Level III neonatal intensive care. It is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and just added a Level II Trauma Center in 2015.
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center
8330 Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, Bradenton FL, 34202
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center has become the hospital of choice for many families in Manatee and Sarasota counties in Florida. Since it opened in September 2004, the hospital has earned the “Gold Seal of Approval” from The Joint Commission. The “Gold Seal of Approval” is recognized across the nation as a symbol of quality that shows the hospital’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.
Patients at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center have access to a medical staff of more than 500 physicians and allied health professionals who practice in a comprehensive range of specialties, and who use the hospital’s advanced medical technology. Among the members of the medical staff are surgeons whose specialties range from cardiovascular, gynecological, spine and joint surgeries to reconstructive procedures. Lakewood Ranch Medical Center is conveniently located near I-75 and University Parkway in Bradenton, Florida.
Venice Regional Bayfront Health
540 The Rialto, Venice, FL 34285
Venice Regional Bayfront Health is a 312-bed regional health care system that provides a comprehensive array of health care services to the greater Venice area and beyond. Always striving to meet our area’s growing health care needs, the system has steadily expanded to include a number of facilities offering fully integrated health services. In addition to an acute care hospital, Venice Regional’s comprehensive cardiac services include open-heart surgery, an ambulatory care center, and a home health agency.
Doctors Hospital of Sarasota
5731 Bee Ridge Rd, Sarasota, FL 34233
Founded in 1967, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota is a 155-bed facility located on a wooded campus, minutes west of I-75 at Bee Ridge and Cattlemen Road. We have earned our reputation by caring for people as individuals, not just treating their medical problems. All of our rooms are private and spacious. We continue to invest in life-saving technology.
Sarasota has more than sunshine and beaches.
Over the years Sarasota County has drawn the attention of business leaders throughout the country not only as a great vacation spot but also as a great area to do business.
Money Magazine has consistently ranked Sarasota as one of the “Best Small Cities in America”.
Forbes ranks Sarasota 11th in the list of “Best Cities for Jobs”.
Sarasota not only has a very strong Chamber of Commerce, we also have an Economic Development Corporation that can help you develop, build, or move your business to Sarasota.
The Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County is a successful public/private partnership focused on growing and diversifying the economy of Sarasota County, while enhancing the county’s unique natural and cultural environments. The EDC is the catalyst for creating a vibrant economy that is sustainable and globally competitive.
A rich resource for entrepreneurs considering sites for new enterprise, as well as for existing business owners exploring or expansion, the EDC is ready to serve. For more information about starting, expanding or relocating your business in Sarasota County, Florida, contact the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County at 941.309.1200.
The EDC has a wealth of information and knowledge sources on their website.
Visit The Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County to learn more.
A Great Place to Retire:
Sarasota contiunes to receive national attention from such publications as Money Magazine rated Sarasota 7th in their “Top Places to Retire Young” and “Nation’s Best Small City”. Best Retirement Towns and States choose Sarasota as their #1 Editor’s Pick in 2012.
Credit Donkey recently rated Sarasota #1 as: “Best Cities for Retirement” survey stating, “Ranking first for both its 60+ population and healthcare facilities, it’s no wonder that Sarasota tops out our list.”
1. Sarasota, Florida
2. Honolulu, Hawaii
3. Bridgeport, Connecticut
4. Tucson, Arizona
5. Springfield, Massachusetts
6. Albany, New York
7. Charleston, South Carolina
8. Cape Coral, Florida
9. Allentown, Pennsylvania
10. New Haven, Connecticut
Golf Course Communities:
Every since John Gillespie brought the game of golf from Scotland to the United States in 1886 and built the first course here, Sarasota has always had great courses and fantastic communities around those courses. Sarasota now offers over 25 distinctly different courses from public to very prestigious and private. To view those courses and the houses and condos that enjoy those peaceful country club views please visit our Sarasota Golf Course Communities page to view homes for sale by price range and then kto see homes for sale by specific community.
Restaurants and Shopping:
Sarasota has grown over the years to become a dinners delight with now over 1,400 restaurants. I have been told that there are more restaurants per capita in Sarasota than any other city in Florida. Sarasota recently ranked #14th amongst the top U.S. food cities by Conde Nast Traveler’s Annual Readers Choice Survey.
Top US Food Cities
2. New Orleans
3. New York City
4. Park City, Utah
5. Las Vegas
7. Santa Fe, New Mexico
8. Napa, California
9. San Francisco
10. Aspen, Colorado
12. Healdsburg, California
13. San Antonio, Texas
15. Palm Beach
The list is endless with all the specialty restaurants and gorgeous locations from waterfront dining at Marina Jack’s, to the Columbia on St. Armand’s Circle to family owned pizza shops to fresh food markets, butcher shops, Amish restaurants, fabulous fish markets and restaurants. You will never go hungry in Sarasota.
Along with great places to eat comes the long list of shopping. Nothing beats strolling around St. Armand’s Circle or enjoying your time in downtown Sarasota. If you want the newest mall in America then visit The Mall at University Towne Center just off of I-75 which offers stores such as Sakes Fifth Ave., Macy’s, Dillard’s and 125 others along with restaurants such as Seasons 52, Cheesecake Factory, Sweet Doctors, Kona Grill, Cold Stone and many more. And yes we have the all time favorites such as Trader Joe’s, Costco’s, Whole Foods, Sam’s and Total Wines.
Every Saturday morning Downtown Sarasota is host to the weekly Farmer’s Market, a tradition since 1979. Enjoy strolling thru the streets of Sarasota blocked off from 7am – 1 pm to shop for fresh locally grown produce, prepared foods, art work and crafts.
If you enjoy being outdoors Sarasota has plenty of options for you to enjoy the sand and sunshine from state parks, county parks, bike trails, kayaking adventures, boating, rowing, fishing, bird watching, hiking, tennis, golf, paddle boarding and just hanging out.
State and County Parks
Enjoy all that nature has for you by visiting one of our parks such as Myakka State Park that has over 60 square miles of walking, camping, and kayaking areas making it one of the largest parks in the state of Florida.
Kayak the Mangroves
Rent a kayak and take a guided or explore it yourself tour of the mangroves off of Lido Key. Manatees are frequently seen from March through December, when the waters are warm. The remaining months of the year, manatees can be seen, but it is less frequent. Dolphins may be seen year round as they feed and travel through the surrounding mangrove islands and channels.
Boating and Fishing
Because of the large Sarasota Bay and the Islands that are referred to as Keys that surround the area and the Intracoastal Waterway referred to as the ICW the boating and fishing waters in Sarasota are amongst the best in the state and a very big reason why people chose Sarasota over other areas to live. You can rent a boat, tow your own boat and launch it at many of the county boat launches, store your boat at several marinas or become a member of a boating club like Freedom Boat Club and have them take care of the boat. If you would like to take a day and experience fishing with an experienced captain then book a time with Captain Rand Powell.
Legacy Bike Trail
From Rails to Trails on March 2008, Sarasota County opened the largest public recreation project ever constructed in the area, The Legacy Trail. Totaling more than 10 miles in length the trail runs from just south of the city of Sarasota to Venice following the former CSX railroad corridor.
Purchased through a partnership between Sarasota County and the Trust for Public Land in December 2004 for $11.75 million, The Legacy Trail is the backbone of network of trails planned in Sarasota County.
The Legacy Trail is open from dawn to dusk with the rules for using the trail posted at various locations as well as at each trailhead entrance point.
Benderson Rowing Park
Nathan Benderson Park a unique 600-acre community park slated to become North America’s premier 2,000-meter sprint rowing course and Regatta Center is open to the public and offers year-round recreational opportunities for all ages. Challenge your stamina with a walk, jog or ride on our neatly manicured trails. Take to the water with a canoe, rowboat, kayak or stand-up paddle board. Enjoy an afternoon picnic with a picturesque backdrop of pristine natural beauty or become a spectator to a thrilling international championship event. Located next to the University Towne Center Mall just off the exit of I-75. This is also where Nik Wallenda trained for his high wire walk across Niagara Falls.
Hiking, Bird Watching, Fishing and Kayaking at the Celery Fields
A Sarasota Park located at 6893 Palmer Blvd just East of I-75. Wetlands restoration of 100 acres is now complete at the Celery Fields. More than 20,000 aquatic plants and trees have been planted, and two boardwalks have been installed. This project will add additional walking and biking trails, fishing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing for the entire community.
The location of the site and the large number of diverse bird species make the Celery Fields an ideal location for wildlife watching and passive recreational use. The Celery Fields is on the Great Florida Birding Trail and is a popular destination for Sarasota Audubon field trips and outings.
Entertainment, Arts and Culture:
Once named the “Best Small City in America” Sarasota has become an entertainment and cultural center for the west coast of Florida with people coming from all over to enjoy our art, music, live performances, shows, and much sought after activities.
Here are a few of the main attractions that make living here so desirable. Click on the Venue name or the picture to be taken to their website.
Van Wezel Performing Arts Center
777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236
A true pioneer in the cultural development of Sarasota, the Van Wezel, (pronounced Van Wayzull), presents a broad spectrum of the world’s finest performers representing the diverse tastes of Southwest Florida residents and visitors.
This season, with more than 100 events, the Van Wezel has carried on the long tradition of presenting spectacular Broadway musicals, top national and international performers, popular comedians, world-class symphony orchestras and a compelling mix of classical, modern and ethnic dance. The Van Wezel also hosts more than 50 performances and events presented by the Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Ballet, the Sarasota Concert Association and the Ringling Library Town Hall Lecture Series
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243
In 1911, John and his wife, Mable, purchased 20 acres of waterfront property in Sarasota. In 1912, they began spending winters in what was then still a small town. They became active in the community and purchased more and more real estate, at one time owning more than 25 percent of Sarasota’s total area.
John Ringling was one of the five brothers who owned and operated the circus rightly called “The Greatest Show on Earth.” His success with the circus and entrepreneurial skills helped to make him, in the Roaring Twenties, one of the richest men in America, with an estimated worth of nearly $200 million.
After a few years the couple decided to build a house and hired the noted New York architect Dwight James Baum to design it. Mable supervised every aspect of the building, down to the mixing of the terra cotta and the glazing of the tiles. Today, the entrance to the grounds is through the Venetian gothic gateway where the Ringlings welcomed their guests to the opulent Ca’ d’Zan, or “House of John” in the Venetian dialect.
Five stories tall, the 36,000 square foot mansion has 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms.
Soon after the completion of Ca’ d’Zan, John built a 21-gallery museum modeled on the Florentine Uffizi Gallery to house his treasure trove of paintings and art objects, highlighted by his collection of Old Masters, including Velazquez, Poussin, van Dyke and Rubens. The result is the museum and a courtyard filled with replicas of Greek and Roman sculpture, including a bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David.
61 North Pineapple Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236
Sarasota Opera produces outstanding opera true to the vision of the composer to entertain, enrich, and educate our communities, as well as patrons from across the state and around the world. The Sarasota Opera House completed a $20 million dollar historic renovation and restoration in 2008. The project was designed to restore the historic 1926 theater to its original glory, while creating a venue for opera for the 21st century. Decorative details have been restored, seating has been replaced, and the orchestra pit almost doubled in size to accommodate operas that require larger orchestras. Backstage systems have been updated and public areas and amenities expanded and enhanced.
Asolo Repertory Theatre
5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34243
Asolo Repertory Theatre, Florida’s premier professional theatre, is one of the most important cultural forces in the Southeastern United States. A center for theatrical excellence, Asolo Rep stages up to fifteen productions every season, spanning a diverse repertoire of newly commissioned plays, bold reinterpretations of contemporary and classical works, and provocative new musical theatre experiences.
Asolo Rep is a major force in Sarasota’s rich arts scene, whose quality and depth rivals some of the largest urban centers in the country. Asolo Rep is annually the creative home of more than 100 artists, technical craftsmen, and administrative staff. Its talented and accomplished resident acting company is complemented by top flight, award-winning directors, designers, and guest artists who come to Sarasota from around the country and around the world.
5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34243
The Sarasota Ballet was founded in 1987 by Jean Weidner Goldstein as a presenting organization with the goal of becoming a full resident ballet company, which was achieved in 1990 with the appointment of The Company’s first Director. However, it wasn’t until January 2007 that her dream was fully realized—and far exceeded—when The Sarasota Ballet announced the appointment of the new Director, Iain Webb. Webb’s background, experience and close personal relationships with some of the biggest names in the dance world have taken The Sarasota Ballet to a higher level of national and international recognition.
The Players Theatre
838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236
The Players Theatre is Sarasota’s Community Theatre, dedicated to delivering quality productions of mainstage classics. We also offer Classes as well as Backstage at The Players, an intimate, black-box setting that encourages a deeply personal theatre experience that isn’t possible in a larger venue.
Although The Players Theatre is a non-professional community theatre, being located on the “Cultural Coast” gives us an incredible talent pool to work with. From our Artistic Director to our stage hands, literally half of the volunteers working on a production have at one time been professionally paid performers. Many professional performers retire and are drawn to the area thanks to all of Sarasota’s arts offerings. These professionals bring their experience, training, their families and often extensive resumes with them to our stage.
709 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236
For over 65 years, the Sarasota Orchestra has been entertaining music lovers from around the region, and visitors from around the world. The 80-member Orchestra performs more than 100 classical, pops and family concerts each year, and thrives as the oldest continuing orchestra in the state of Florida.
The Jazz Club of Sarasota
330 South Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236
The Jazz Club of Sarasota, one of the largest and most active jazz clubs in the United States, is dedicated to preserving and promoting jazz, America’s original musical art form. Founded in 1980 by the late Hal Davis, the former publicist for Benny Goodman, the club has approximately 600 members and is growing. The club presents the Annual Sarasota Jazz Festival, over 35 years, and is one of the major US jazz festivals.
Every year, the Jazz Club of Sarasota grants scholarships to high school and college students who are serious about studying jazz. Over the course of 30-plus years, the Jazz Club of Sarasota has granted approximately $200,000 to aspiring young jazz musicians in middle school, high school and college.
Annual Events, Festivals and Places to See:
Sarasota has many events that happen through out the year. Here is a small sample of what is happening and the time of year that they take place.
The Circus Sarasota Arts Conservatory
Founded in 1997 as “Circus Sarasota”, the organization was re-branded in 2013 as “The Circus Arts Conservatory”, a non-profit, 501(c)3 performing arts educational organization.
The Circus Arts Conservatory was born from decades of circus history and today serves as a legacy to those that have set the standards for international circus performance. In the late 1920′s John Ringling moved his circus winter quarters to Sarasota and the circus became an integral part of the social and economic life giving our community its unique identity. Today, our organization stands as an icon dedicated preserving the extraordinary heritage of the circus arts through performance, training, education and outreach.
Known as the “Circus Capital of the World,” Sarasota, Florida claims Circus Sarasota as its own resident hometown circus. Our annual professional performances, showcased in a one-ring, five-star, European-style big top, have been acclaimed around the globe for world-class artistry and entertainment. Committed to raising the perception of the circus as the valuable art form it represents, The Circus Arts Conservatory is much more than a circus. Approximately 80% of ticket revenue to help support its community outreach programs that serve children, the elderly and those in care facilities. The year-round outreach programs Humor Therapy Program, Education Program and Sailor Circus Academy contribute important outcomes in our community. It remains equally important to Circus Sarasota to preserve Sarasota’s unique circus legacy through education, human service and the performing arts.
The main big top is built next to the University Towne Center Mall and shows happen during the month of February.
Art Festivals and Shows
Through the winter season there are a multitude of Art shows and Art Festivals to choose from. Click on the names to view what the current schedule will be.
Sarasota Art Festivals
St. Armands Circle Art Shows and Events Calendar
Big Cat Habitat
Open year round this non-profit safe haven for big cats, bears, and other animals in need was founded by Kay Rosaire who has more than 30 years of experience working with and caring for exotic animals.
Their goal is to educate the public by fostering appreciation for animals and stressing the importance of habitat preservation.
Located at 7101 Palmer Blvd, Sarasota, FL 34240 near the Celery Fields just East of I-75
Boat Show at Marina Jack’s
Held during April of each year at Marina Jack’s Plaza, Sarasota, FL 34236. This is an in the water boat show. Come and enjoy the great outdoors while pricing and comparing hundreds of boats from the Gulfcoast’s leading boat dealers. See various types and styles all in one place. Cruisers, Runabouts, Bowriders, Sportfishers, Center Consoles, Motor Yachts, Inflatables and more. Shop tents full of electronics, accessories, jewelry, art and clothing all in a festive atmosphere with food, drinks, music and much more. Plenty of downtown parking.
Sarasota Chalk Festival
An annual event held in November at the Venice Airport Fairgrounds on the Island of Venice, Florida. The festival is also a global community-based event where pavement artists from around the world are awarded scholarships to come together for this global cultural experience, once a year, to participate as performing artists in the festivities. Hundreds of artists use the pavement as their canvas and pastel chalk as their medium to create breathtaking oversized traditional and 3D illusionistic paintings. The public are invited to participate in, attend, and interact with the artists as they go about their work. Other performing artists, such as musicians, dancers, mimes, magicians, theatrical and Going Vertical street artists help enhance the festivities. Please check their website for the actual dates for this year. Sarasota Chalk Festival.
Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
Held about the 2nd Saturday night of December at Marina Jack’s. Come and view decorated power boats and sailboats as they parade by the Marina. The VIP view area is at the Marina Jack’s fuel docks.
View their Facebook Page for this years schedule and viewing details.
Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade Facebook.
July 4th Fireworks
Not to disappoint the city of Sarasota has a fireworks display at Marina Jack’s over the water as well as a display on Siesta Key Beach.
If you are in the Downtown Sarasota Bayfront Island Park. Marina Jack at US 41 Sarasota. Come early, bring blankets and chairs to enjoy the 2016 4th July firework display. You can view these Fireworks from anywhere near Sarasota Bayfront Park, Harts Landing, The John Ringling Bridge or Bird Key Park, there is also viewing from Selby Gardens, bring your boat and anchor off Sarasota Bay. Fireworks show start at dusk or about 9:00 pm.
Over 30,000 spectators watch the Siesta Key 4th of July fireworks from several viewing areas. The Siesta Public beach gives you front row seating with Free parking located at 949 Beach Road Siesta Key. Parking fills up fast so get there early! Viewing can also be seen just south on Crescent beachfront. Parking and access is very limited as this area is great for guests renting beachfront condominiums. Boaters can enjoy views from Intracoastal Waterway or the Gulf of Mexico. Fireworks start at 9:15 and last about 25 minutes.
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
Located at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236 just before going over the bridge onto Longboat Key
Beginning in 1955 with Dr. Eugenie Clark’s foundation of shark research, we are now more than 200 employees strong, including 35 Ph.D. scientists. We conduct groundbreaking research with 25 diverse research programs focusing on today’s challenges as well as identifying and addressing future impacts. The advancement of this kind of research is vital to unlocking potential solutions to some of today’s most daunting global challenges.
The Aquarium – Come meet our fish and our scientists. Our working aquarium gives you an up-close experience with a variety of marine, including two touch tanks and a 135,000 gallon shark habitat. You can also witness our scientific research—as it happens—in viewable working laboratories.
Be sure to say “Hi” to some of our star residents like the manatees Hugh and Buffett, and the sea turtles Hang Tough, Harry, Shelley, Montego and Bellatrix. More than 100 species of marine life call Mote their home, and you are more than welcome to meet them all.
Mote Aquarium is proud to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and has met rigorous, professional standards for animal care, wildlife conservation and research, education and more.
Sarasota Downtown Holiday/Christmas Parade
A Sarasota Tradition since 1996 and typically held the first Saturday evening in December on Main Street. Come and enjoy music, marching bands and parade floats and entries from local business, schools, and community organizations.
Sarasota Film Festival
Held in April, the Sarasota Film Festival has become a nationally recognized week long event in Downtown Sarasota that starts with a red carpet premiere showing of a film at the Sarasota Opera House and continues with showings of films at the Hollywood 20 theatres.
For nearly two decades, the Sarasota Film Festival has maintained its position as one of the leading tastemakers and trailblazers of the global film community, while advancing Sarasota’s own legacy of excellence in the arts and education. Each year, we welcome an unprecedented volume and diversity of cinema with over 250 films last year, as well as some of the most acclaimed and burgeoning actors, directors, screenwriters, and musicians of our time.
Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival
July 1-5th of each year. This has become one of the biggest events of the year with a kick off party to boat parade down Main Street to boat viewing areas to the actual boat races themselves. Check on their website to see all the details and the current schedule of events.
Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix
On Siesta Key for the past 30 years, an arts and crafts show of vendors that line Beach Road in the Siesta Key Village. The restaurants and bars of Siesta Key participate with plenty of food and drinks and live entertainment. This Festival happens toward the end of April each year.
Siesta Fiesta Arts and Craft Festival
Siesta Key Sandcastle Competition
Founded in 2010, the first Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition was modeled after other master competitions that are held yearly in Texas, Virginia, Washington and Ft. Myers, Florida. The first year was an overwhelming success and the Crystal Classic has quickly become a local tradition and a draw for visitors from outside Sarasota County, which account for over 50% of the 35,000+ attendees.
Recently named America’s #1 Beach, the Crystal Classic has become a favorite of the professional sand sculptors who have competed here.
Citing the beauty and cleanliness of the pristine white sand, sculptors have remarked that their sculptures look almost as if they were “carved in marble.”
In only 24 sculpting hours, (spanning the four day event), the master sculptors create sand masterpieces, some over ten feet tall, and transform the always beautiful Siesta Beach into an outdoor art gallery. The Crystal Classic connects the arts and the beach in ways never before seen in Sarasota. This event is held in November on Siesta Key Beach.