Top Things to Do in Sarasota

If you want to plan the ultimate getaway with your family, consider coming down to the shores of Anna Maria Island, Florida. This breathtaking stretch of shoreline just off Florida’s Gulf coast has a little something for everyone, from incredible restaurants and fascinating history to fun water sports and more. When you’re staying in one of our Anna Maria Island rentals, however, you’re not just limited to the attractions on AMI! 

Just a short drive away from Anna Maria Island is the city of Sarasota, situated just on the mainland. This destination is the perfect spot to spend a few hours with your family and explore everything the city has to offer. If you’re planning a day trip to Sarasota, here are a few of the most popular activities that you definitely won’t want to miss out on! 

The Ringling Museum

One of the most influential figures in the Sarasota area was circus mogul John Ringling. Ringling helped to build Sarasota into the bustling city today, and his presence can still be felt around nearly every corner. Then, it only makes sense that the Ringling Museum is one of the most popular Sarasota attractions. 

The Ringling has a few different museums for you to choose from. The Art Museum is home to some of the gorgeous pieces that John Ringling picked up throughout his travels, and it also frequently features work from local artists. There’s something new to check out every time you go! In addition to the permanent pieces and the rotating exhibits, the Art Museum also holds lectures, talks, and performances throughout the year, adding something unique to the already incredible offerings. 

You’ll also want to check out the Circus Museum, where you can step back in time and see relics from the early days of the circus. You’ll find records and paperwork, posters and equipment, and even a railroad car! Finally, be sure to pay a visit to Ca’ d’Zan, the breathtaking Venetian Gothic-inspired mansion that John and his wife Mable called home over the years. 

Ringling museum in Sarasota
Photo from Shutterstock

Mote Aquarium

If you’re interested in learning about the area’s marine life, you can’t plan a day trip without stopping by the Mote Aquarium. Here, you won’t just get to see some of the most beautiful marine species in the area, but you’ll also get to learn all about them. The staff at Mote Aquarium is dedicated to rescuing injured or endangered animals in the area and nursing them back to health, as well as teaching visitors about how we can care for these animals and their natural habitats. 

When you come to Mote Aquarium, you’re sure to find all the incredible marine species you’re looking for. Some of the most popular exhibits house species like sharks, stingrays, manatees, sea turtles, and more. There are even some exhibits where you can get up close and personal with the creatures for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Of course, Mote Aquarium isn’t only an aquarium; it’s a research laboratory, too. Day in and day out, researchers here do everything they can to learn more about the local marine life and what we can do to protect them and improve their habitats. As such, Mote Aquarium frequently hosts educational activities and seminars for guests of all ages, perfect for adding a bit of learning time into your vacation.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

flamingos in sarasota

Want to learn about local animals but prefer to stay on dry land? The Sarasota Jungle Gardens is the place to be. This destination is so much more than your typical zoo. You’ll have the opportunity to witness some of the most gorgeous local and exotic creatures, and you can even get up close to several of them during the incredible shows.

Throughout this attraction, you’ll have the opportunity to see tons of fascinating animal species. You can see all kinds of bird species, including baby ducks, parrots, flamingos, and more. Then, head over to the water to see giant tortoises or even alligators! You’ll also be able to meet exotic animals from around the world, including the African porcupine, lemurs, muntjac deer, coatimundi, and more.

While you’re here, be sure to participate in some of the fascinating shows every day. If you want to know more about birds, the Jungle Bird Show is the perfect opportunity. To learn more about wild animals you don’t get to see every day, don’t miss the Wildlife Wonder show. Finally, for the truly adventurous, the Reptile Encounter gives you the chance to get up close to snakes, alligators, and more!

Photo from Shutterstock

Marie Selby Gardens

When it comes to the top things to do in Sarasota, we simply couldn’t make this list without mentioning the Marie Selby Gardens. While some of the attractions on this list are more exciting and thrilling, a trip to these botanical gardens is a great way to relax and unwind during your vacation. You’ll find all kinds of breathtaking nature around you that helps you escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Of course, you’re welcome to spend your afternoon simply strolling around the gardens and seeing the incredible plant life around every corner. However, there are also rotating exhibits that give you something new to discover every time you visit. Local photographers or scholars often come to show their artwork or talk about the different plant species you might see in the gardens.

All in all, this campus gives you more than 15 acres of land to explore, home to an incredible collection of plants local to the area and from around the world. Marie Selby Gardens is the sole botanical garden on the planet dedicated to displaying and studying epiphytic orchids and several other tropical plant varieties! Whether you’re interested in plant life or simply want a break from the city, you can’t miss out on this attraction.

Plan Your Next Visit

After a long day spent exploring the best attractions of Sarasota, you’ll be ready to come back and relax in your Anna Maria Island vacation rentals. Lizzie Lu’s is proud to offer a huge selection of rental properties for every group. Are you bringing your furry friend along on vacation with you? You can all stay comfortable in one of our Anna Maria Island pet-friendly rentals! Contact us today to learn more about planning the ultimate getaway to AMI.

Directions to Sarasota

So, if you want to experience all of these incredible attractions for yourself, how do you get to them? Luckily, the directions to Sarasota, Florida, aren’t too complicated. If you’re traveling to Sarasota from Anna Maria Island, it should only take you about 40 minutes to get to the city. 

You’ll start on Anna Maria Island by making your way to Gulf Drive and going to E Bay Drive. Continue onto FL-789 S/Gulf Drive N and follow this road for 1.6 miles. Then, turn left onto State Hwy 684/Cortez Rd W. After 4 miles, turn right onto 75th Street W. You’ll come to a traffic circle, where you’ll take the first exit onto El Conquistador Pkwy. After 1.8. miles, you’ll reach another traffic circle, where you should take the second exit to stay on El Conquistador Pkwy. 

After 1.4 miles, turn right onto 34th Street W, then turn left onto Florida Blvd. After another 1.3 miles, you’ll turn right onto US-41 S. Another 5.3 miles of driving will bring you to another traffic circle, where you’ll take the second exit onto N Tamiami Trail. Finally, you’ll reach one more traffic circle. Take the third exit onto 10th Street. Turn right onto N Washington Blvd, then turn left onto Main St, and you’re in Sarasota!