The beach is just the beginning in Sarasota

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Some travelers cannot live on sun and sand alone. If you want a dose of culture to accompany your time outdoors, you’ll find the perfect mix in Sarasota. In addition to the state’s famous outdoor recreation, Sarasota offers activities ranging from lively community-focused experiences to a deeply rooted history of performing arts and circus. For a little bit of everything, plan your trip to Sarasota around these five must-do outdoor and cultural activities.

Stand up paddle boarding in the bay

Get to know the new cultural center of Sarasota: the Bay. Part restoration, part recreation, this 53-acre urban park located along the Sarasota shoreline opened to the public in October 2022. The bay features a living shoreline that replaced a crumbling boardwalk, plus accessible walkways and trails; and a mangrove swamp that was restored by removing invasive plant species. The swamp is open to human-powered boats, so you can launch a kayak or paddle board and explore the waterway. Offers Ride and Paddle by Siesta Sport Rentals kayak and paddleboard rentals, as well as guided paddle tours at bay. Afterward, hang out in the hammock grove or stick around for the park’s regular schedule. live musicwith local talent and a variety of genres, from jazz to gospel music.

Launch a paddle board and explore the mangroves. (Photo: Kelsey Johnson)

Plan your trip to Florida: Check out other parks and green spaces around the state.

Visit the Ringling

Ringling became a household name in the early 20th century, when “The Greatest Show on Earth,” the famous circus run by the five Ringling brothers, was at its height. Using a considerable fortune built up from the successful circus, John Ringling and his wife, Mable, purchased 20 acres of beachfront property in Sarasota. Thus began the long association of the city with the circus arts. Today, visitors can explore the ring—a circus museum, historic theater, botanical gardens, and an art museum spun off from John and Mable’s eclectic personal collection of European art—all located on the historic Ringling estate.

Plan your trip to Florida: Discover more places to experience art and history in Florida.

Then try your luck at Circus Arts

You don’t have to run away and join the circus to get a taste of what it’s like to perform under the big top. Just head to Sarasota. Since 1927, when Ringling Brothers Circus moved its headquarters from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Sarasota, circus arts have been a mainstay of the community’s arts and culture scene. With the relocation came hundreds of circus performers who lived and trained in the city. He Circus Arts Conservatory it is a modern interpretation of the training facility that supported Ringling Brothers Circus performers. Young performers ages eight to 18 train here with the Sailor Circus Academy, the oldest youth circus in the country. The conservatory also offers recreational classes for adults and children. He soars through the air on the flying trapeze, practices artistic shapes and movements on a lyre hoop, or learns aerial silk tricks.

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Try your hand at the circus arts. (Photo: Kelsey Johnson)

Plan your trip to Florida: For more cultural experiences in Florida, check out these recommendations from art experts from around the state.

Practice yoga on a quartz sand beach

No vacation to the Florida coast is complete without a day at the beach. nap key it’s one of Sarasota’s most popular beach destinations, and for good reason. Siesta Key not only has plenty of opportunities for recreation and a great dining scene, but the local beach is pretty unique as well. While most Florida beaches consist of a mix of limestone and quartz sand, Siesta Beach is 99 percent pure quartz sand. White quartz sand is channeled by river systems from the Appalachian Mountains and deposited in the Gulf of Mexico. The quartz concentration is designed to create a vortex of energy, making Siesta Beach a popular place for meditation and energy work. If you don’t have your own practice, you can join yoga classes on the beachwhich is celebrated all year round.

Plan your trip to Florida: Explore the best beaches in Florida from the Gulf to the Atlantic.

Spend an afternoon at Selby Gardens

For a quiet getaway in one of Sarasota’s most beloved spots, head to the Marie Selby Botanical Garden. The ten-acre bayfront botanical garden was once the home and personal garden of Marie Selby, a prominent but modest Sarasotana and avid gardener passionate about sharing her love of plants. Selby’s house and garden were opened to the public in 1975, after Selby’s death. Today the garden grows impressive displays of tropical plants, including an extensive collection of bromeliads and orchids. Selby Gardens also hosts seasonal events, nature-themed art exhibits, creative and wellness classes, and educational programs for plant lovers.

Marie Selby Botanical Garden
Explore the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. (Photo: Kelsey Johnson)

Plan your trip to Florida: Visiting other parts of Florida? Don’t miss these botanical gardens.

VISIT FLORIDA is the official tourism marketing corporation and the Sunshine State’s travel planning resource for visitors from around the world.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
Articles: 8220