Birding at Myakka
Myakka State Park is like ecology class - but with more alligators. Photo Credit: Eddie Kirsch

9 Essential Steps to an Epic Sarasota Spring Break

A spring break vacation needs more than beachside margaritas to stay afloat. Sure, Sarasota is home to the #1 beach in America — but it’s also home to outdoor adventures, affordable cultural activities, and enough dining options to help you temporarily forget the college cafeteria. Here are 9 ways to get more out of your spring break than just tan lines and airbrushed t-shirts.

Instagram an alligator - Myakka River State Park

When it comes to the outdoors, there's beauty beyond the beach. Myakka protects 37,000 acres of wild, “natural Florida,” and you can see it all from atop the park's must-visit canopy walk and observation tower. Rent bikes and explore the many miles of pathways that take you deep into a landscape that feels prehistoric. This place is one gigantic ecology class -- but with fewer PowerPoint slides and more alligators.  

13208 State Rd. 72, 941-361-6511

Dance without having to pay a cover - Drum circle at Siesta Beach

Every Sunday night, visitors and locals gather in a circle on Siesta Beach and flail to throbbing drum beats as the sun sets over the gulf. Children, retirees, traveling business executives: No one is exempt from the infectiousness of this ritual jam session. Rhythms start to pound about an hour before sunset and last until the drummers' wrists get tired. Leave your shyness back at the hotel and bring your tambourine instead.

Public parking at 948 Beach Rd.

Play a life-size game of Jenga while tipsy - Mr. Beery's

Mr. Beery's not only has a smart selection of craft beers and a superior staff, but it's also a grown-up version of Chuck E. Cheese's. You can play skee ball, darts, pool, trivia, board games, and even a gigantic game of Jenga. Fraternity party planners, take note.

2645 Mall Dr., 941-343-2854

Pinecraft, Yoders. Photo by Eddie Kirsch

Gorge on breakfast food - Yoder's Restaurant

Yoder's Amish Country cooking puts even the best college-town brunch spots to shame. Order several unique dishes for the table and create a mini-buffet with your friends. No one should return to campus without first sampling the southern grilled oatmeal and peanut butter pie pancakes.

3434 Bahia Vista St., 941-955-7771

See an obscure movie you can reference in your Intro to Film course - Burns Court Cinema

If rain puts a damper on your beach day, dip into the Sarasota arts scene at Burns Court. This small downtown theater typically features foreign and independent films that don't make it to mainstream theaters. Shows sell out, so get your tickets early.

506 Burns Ct., 941-955-3456

Finish that paper due last week - Perq Coffee Bar

Perq is the perfect coffee shop for students who need to cram some studying in between impromptu beach volleyball tournaments. The coffee is expertly brewed, the space is calm, and the baristas seem genuinely happy to see you. Snag a table outside so you can feel the sun's warmth while you prep for the GRE.

1821 Hillview St., 941-955-8101

Dine waterfront without having to take out another student loan: The Old Salty Dog

Waterfront dining can cost a semester's tuition, but the Salty Dog on City Island offers quality seafood that students can afford. Schedule your dinner around sunset; Homer would have written an epic poem about the view.

1601 Ken Thompson Pkwy., 941 388-4311

Ed Smith Stadium.  Photo credit: Robin Draper.
Ed Smith Stadium

Ed Smith Stadium

Root for the home-away-from-home team - Baltimore Orioles spring training games at Ed Smith Stadium

Spring training games aren't just for baseball enthusiasts. Even those without team allegiances (or an understanding of the game) can enjoy splitting concession food with friends under the stadium lights on a warm March evening.

2700 12th St, 941-954-4101

Lido Beach

Contemplate your place in the universe - Lido Beach after dark

According to pop-astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, we humans are merely a “speck on a speck on a speck”; nighttime at Lido Beach confirms his theory. The horizon line disappears, the moon and million stars reflect off the gulf, and suddenly the water looks like the edge of the universe. It's the ideal place for college students to consider big questions: Am I studying what I love? What should I do with my life? How much does that B- in German 210 really matter, anyway?

Public parking at 400 Ben Franklin Drive

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