Beautiful beaches, warm weather and enviable recreational and cultural amenities make Sarasota one of the best places to live in the United States. It's no wonder why retirees flock to this city, with its excellent restaurants and shops among its many attractions. The city limits expanded significantly with the real estate rush of the early 20th century, reaching almost 70 square miles (180 km). However, the wild speculation boom began to collapse in 1926 and the city limits began to contract, shrinking to less than a quarter of that area.
According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.9 square miles (67 km), of which 14.9 square miles (38.6 km) is land and 11.0 square miles (28 km) is water. Of this population, 3.9% were under 5 years of age, 14.6% were under 18 years of age and 28.0% were 65 years of age or older.
Tourism contributes significantly to Sarasota's economy, with top employers including Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, APAC Customer Services, The Zenith and Roper Technologies. Many aspects of the city are overseen by the county government, ranging from schools, libraries, bay, major waterways, county-designated roads, airport, fire departments, property and ad valorem taxes, voting, health department, public services extension, stormwater control, mosquito control, court and jail. Therefore, the election of county commissioners is important for municipal voters. Sarasota has many venues for music, dance, theater, circus and other performing arts, including Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Opera House, Asolo Repertory Theater, Florida Studio Theatre, Players Centre for Performing Arts, Banyan Theatre Company, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Urbanite Theater. Theatrical venues include Florida Studio Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and The Players Theatre. In the 1960s philanthropists Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel allowed the city to build a performing arts hall facing the bay - The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall - designed by the successor firm of Frank Lloyd Wright. Florida's Keating Theater Studio Theatre is among the oldest surviving buildings in Sarasota.
Founded in 1903 as the Sarasota Woman's Club it served as the city's first library and hosted numerous clubs and public committee meetings. Other cultural attractions in Sarasota include Mote Marine Laboratory - a marine research and rescue center - an aquarium; Marie Selby Botanical Garden; Sarasota Jungle Gardens; Big Cat Gulf Coast Sanctuary Habitat & Education Center; fine art galleries; artist collectives; filmmaking; decorative arts; Sarasota Museum of Art; Ringling Museum; Conservatory of Circus Arts; La Música; Sarasota Jazzclub; Sarasota Youth Opera; and many other musical, dance and theatrical venues. In the following decade The Vernona - which had been converted into apartments - was put in jeopardy when it was bought by a phosphate miner who wanted to turn it into its corporate headquarters. All tenants were evicted and plans were made for the restoration of the building but lobbying began to undermine the project and one of the commissioners changed her vote so that the bill was denied at the final hearing. Most of the luxurious historic residences of the 1920s boom period on the north shore of Sarasota Bay have also survived this chain of houses built on large plots of elevated land along the widest point of the bay is anchored by The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in its center - including Cà d'Zan - Mable and John Ringling's house - which was recently restored. However many important structures from the relatively recent Sarasota School of Architecture period of mid-twentieth century have not survived as they do not qualify below established age criteria for historic preservation nominations. The Rosemary district was an African-American community and is home to The Boulevard of Arts while Newtown is predominantly and historically African-American. Public education is provided and administered by Sarasota County Public Schools School District with middle schools including Booker Middle; Brookside Middle; Laurel Nokomis; McIntosh Middle; and Sarasota Middle. Sarasota also housed The Flint School - a type of sailing school - as well as New College of Florida - a public liberal arts college - which is also an honors university within Florida State University System. Nearby educational institutions with regional lottery draw include State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota as well as a commuter branch of University South Florida with main campus located in Tampa. The community also has most radio stations from Tampa Bay radio market as well as some stations from nearby Fort Myers radio.