Selby Children’s Garden. Photo by Eddie Kirsch.
Selby Children’s Garden. Photo by Eddie Kirsch.

20 Hidden Gems for Kids around Sarasota

From the scientist to the artist, the comedian to the adventurer, Sarasota has something for kids of all ages and interests.

In every city, there are those tucked-away tidbits of awesomeness that the locals know to do. Perhaps not the most obvious or Trip Advisor-advertised, but the places and activities the people who live there learn about as the years pass. For those who don’t have years to spend learning them, here you go - 20 great local Mom-approved hidden gems for kids in Sarasota.

Shark Feeding at Mote

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11am, watch as the trainers feed the sharks in their 135,000 gallon tank and explain how they are trained and nourished and why they don’t take a bite at the goliath grouper swimming amongst them. Then pop over to Fossil Creek and search for shark teeth as a memento.

Suncoast Science Center  

The Faulhaber FAB LAB, a haven of STEM experiences, gives science- and technology-lovers hands-on activities to fulfill that tinkering desire.

Florida Studio Theatre’s Kid’s Komedy Club

Get your laugh on as children perform their own pieces, full of that giddy humor that makes their peers laugh until their cheeks hurt. Entrance is free; performances on select Saturdays at 1:30.

TreeUmph!

TreeUmph!
TreeUmph! Adventure course.


TreeUmph! offers children’s course tickets and junior ticket options, monkeys ages 7 and above can swing through the trees. Rope climbs, zip lines, barrel crawls, and obstacles galore.

Bob’s Train

Eat in a train. A real train. What more could a kid want? Young? It’s Thomas. Holiday time? Polar Express, off to the North Pole. Older? Hop aboard the Hogwats Express. Even older? It’s a restored historic locomotive.

Sarasota Square Mall

Perfect for hot or rainy days, this mall is extraordinarily kid-friendly. The food court features a full-size carousel and kid-size tables and chairs. An adjacent Family Lounge provides numerous changing tables, curtained nursing areas with comfy chairs, kid-size toilet, games, puzzles, and tvs with cartoons. The PlaySpace near Sears provides a save area for setting the kiddos free to climb and explore.

The Ringling

The Ringling features a few hidden goodies for the kiddos. ROAR! Storytime for the littlest, Kids Quest for 5-10 year olds, and Art Making, scavenger hunts, and playground for anyone who likes having fun.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens - Children's Rainforest Garden

The Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden, with its huts, paths, and waterfall, provides a backdrop for exploration and imagination amongst stunning landscaping. Feed the koi for $1. Pop into the Kids’ Corner for a scavenger hunt form; while there, play dress up, read a book, make a craft, learn about some bugs, or color a picture.

Urfer Park

Just off Highway 75 on Bee Ridge Road and Honore Avenue, Urfer Park serves not only as a mega playground, but deeper in hides cows, a mile-long nature trail, and a boardwalk overlooking wetlands.

Lido Beach Pool

The stunning views of the beach coerce the line of vision towards the Gulf, somehow blocking all brain registration of the public pool located adjacent to the concession stand.

Myakka Junior Ranger Program

Junior Rangers Program
Junior Rangers Program

Like all State Parks, Myakka River State Parks offers a Junior Ranger program. Complete the program while learning about the Park and that which lives within it. Upon finishing, get sworn in and receive validation of rangerfication.

Longboat Key Trolley

Park downtown and, for $0.75 per person, ride the Trolley to St. Armands’s Circle, Longboat Key, and Mote Marine. Kids think it’s extra awesome to ride without a carseat and parents love not parking and just enjoying the views.

Ringling Bridge Causeway Park

Hidden under the iconic Ringling Bridge, this park boasts a playground, water views, and the pier for watching pelicans dive and fishermen do their thing, all with salty air blowing by.

Outdoor Moonlight Movies

Each year between February and April, the Sarasota Film Festival puts on free outdoor movie events for kids and families at such places as Siesta Beach and Nathan Benderson Park. Bring snacks and a comfy seat and watch the film with your loved ones under the stars.

Run and Roar

Celery Fields
Celery Fields

Run to the top of the Celery Fields and listen … those lions aren’t far away. Definitely a time for pretending to be in Africa.

Sarasota Children’s Garden

The Children’s Garden is a magical, whimsical world where children roam, climb, dress up, play, craft, imagine, learn, and explore between trees and over logs. Pirate ship, ocotopus garden, hobbitville, giant chessboard, story time, sandbox, and, with a little imagination, anything else conceivable.

Sun-n-fun

A waterpark so hidden most locals drive past without realizing the potential hours of aquatic fun it can provide. Kiddie pool for the littler ones, water slide for the bigger, and shade and seats for the grownups.

Payne Skate Park

Payne Park
Payne Park

Nestled between the Circus Park and Café in the Park the skate park is the ideal opportunity for young skateboarders to practice their skills.

Storytime

Both Barnes & Noble and the Sarasota County libraries offer free story 325time fun for members and non-members alike. Books? Good. Free? Good.

Sweetgrass Farms Strawberry Picking

Pesticide-free hydroponic strawberries for your picking and snacking enjoyment. Season is October to April.