Sarasota, Florida is a great place to take a vacation. Located on Florida's west coast, an hour south of Tampa, Sarasota offers beautiful beaches, cultural activities, historic landmarks, lush gardens and pristine golf courses as some of its top attractions. If you've been to other parts of Florida, but never to Sarasota, let me show you what you've been missing. Visitors are drawn to our beaches, art and culture, family attractions, outdoor eco-adventures and extensive dining options.
These tourists generate an enormous amount of economic impact, spending billions of dollars in our region and paying taxes for lodging in the area. The early 20th century saw John and his wife Mable build an Italian palace on 20 acres in Sarasota. They called it Ca d'Zan, and today it is one of Florida's most important cultural treasures. The Art Museum is definitely not to everyone's taste, but some highlights include Peter Paul Rubens' Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek in Gallery Two, Rest on the Flight to Egypt by Paolo Veronese in Gallery Six and the cast of Michelangelo's David in the central courtyard.
In addition to the two museums, the old house of the Ringlings is also a must see. Built to look like a canal house in Venice, the 36,000 square foot home is lined with glazed tiles that glow under the warm Florida sun. Be sure to walk around the front of the house and go out to the large waterfront patio for stunning views (and photos). Self-guided tours on the first floor are available for an additional fee and must be purchased upon entry through the front door.
Marie Selby Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to take a relaxing stroll. Quiet sitting areas dot the 15-acre grounds so you can stay and enjoy the whole scenery. You can also venture along a wooden boardwalk through mangrove forests and see beautiful views of the bay. Highlights include one of the most spectacular orchid and bromeliad exhibits and collections in the world.
Other impressive specimens include bamboo, ferns, cycads and magnificent old banyan trees that are almost 100 years old. Big plans are underway at Marie Selby Botanical Garden with a $92 million three-phase plan that will include a new research center, archive facilities, a restaurant, restoration of the original mansion, plus a new parking lot, a greenhouse and a pedestrian walkway. For shoppers and gourmets, be sure to visit Saint Armands Circle. Located on a small island across Sarasota Bay, this shopping paradise consists of a large circle of 130 luxury stores and high-end restaurants waiting to be explored.
Pull out a chair in any of the restaurants in this pedestrian area, relax and watch the world go by. Another interesting animal experience can be experienced at Sarasota Jungle Gardens, a 10-acre tropical setting that includes the opportunity to feed flamingos by hand. Attractions here include a courthouse from before the Civil War (1860), a church from 1887, a one-room school of who knows when, a wooden house from old Florida times and the sugar cane mill and smokehouse (sugar cane was once the main crop around here). There are 14 landmarks in total here, each revealing a vision of a bygone era when Florida was one of America's new frontiers.
In Pinecraft's small Amish community things are still done as their ancestors did - using their own hands to make or bake what they need. They create unique handicrafts and household items as well as unusual culinary delights for visitors. The Manatee Habitat offers an intimate glimpse into the life and environment of the endangered sea cow - the adorable and friendly manatee - as well as Manatee County's most famous resident Snooty - the world's oldest known manatee. The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is located on City Island in Ken Thompson Parkway in Sarasota, Florida.
It was first founded as Cape Haze Marine Laboratory in 1955 before being renamed Mote Marine Laboratory in 1967 as an homage to William and Lenore R Mote and William's sister Betty Mote Rose. The aquarium part is open for visitors with more than 100 species of marine animals both local and from around the world. The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art is located on Bay Shore Road Sarasota with 45-minute tours available for those who want to learn more about its 10 000 different works ranging from paintings to photographs sculptures prints distributed in 21 different galleries each dedicated to a different region or style. Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is located in Palmer Boulevard Sarasota where visitors can observe big cats while learning about life conservation from its owner who used to be part of the circus before settling down here.