people at nokomis beach in sarasota florida
Local parents tell their favorite ways to spend free time with the kids

Local Parents Pick Top Things to Do

April 21, 2020

Looking for a fun place to take your kids in Sarasota County? We’ve got all kinds of options here, but we’ve rounded up a list of spots that have been kid-tested and parent-approved. And not just by any parents, but by true local experts who are especially familiar with the county’s tourism scene. Here are their favorite places to take their own kids in Sarasota County (besides their own places of business, of course).


karen medford and family

“Some of our favorite places to go as a family are Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary and the Ringling. We love the interaction with the animals at Big Cat Habitat, and the performances are always entertaining. The Ringling’s museum exhibits are always changing, although we spend a huge part of our time at the amazing playground, mazes, and picnic area.”

—Karen Medford
Co-owner of Sirius Day Spas and mom of two (ages 4 and 7)


monique mckenzie

“My daughter and I were transferred to Sarasota when she was only 12 years old. Siesta Beach immediately became our favorite hangout, sunbathing and catching waves (until it wasn’t cool anymore). We also enjoyed going to Mote Aquarium. Today I send families with teens to Evie’s Tavern & Grill on Main Street. They offer pool tables, bowling, and food teens love. The area assigned for the teens is away from the bar, perfect for food, beverages, games, and pent-up energy. Once done, they can peruse downtown Sarasota. Otherwise I recommend St. Armands Circle and Lido Beach for daytime activities.”

—Monique M. McKenzie
Director of sales for Hotel Indigo Sarasota and mom of one (who’s now 32)


nick gosselin

“My wife and I love taking our kids to Mote Aquarium. We’re members, which allows us to visit numerous times throughout the year. Sometimes we go for a quick walk through exploration of new exhibits, and sometimes we make it a longer visit when family and friends are in town. And with the close proximity to St. Armands Circle and Lido Beach, it makes for an action-packed day with a variety of activities for all.”

—Nick Gosselin
Director of marketing for Freedom Boat Club and dad of two (ages 3 and 9 months)


emily ranney

“We love Urfer Park because it has areas for both the wee ones and the big kids. We also love Payne Park because there is so much to do there. The Cafe in the Park is great as well for live music and a quick snack. Selby Gardens is another favorite. It is such a beautiful place and we love the different exhibits throughout the year. The kids love to learn, and their play area for the kids is awesome! You can spend an hour there or the entire day.”

—Emily Ranney
General manager of Cha Cha Coconuts and mom of two (ages 6 and 9)


drayton saunders

“Going to the Sarasota Farmers Market and then spending the morning downtown is a way to have a fun day with kids in Sarasota. You can park at the Bayfront and go hit the farmers market and get a little bit of everything downtown has to offer. You get to entertain the kids with food and a lot of fun walking around the farmers market, then you can walk across the street and go to Bayfront Park, where there’s a playground and splash fountain. It’s a place where they thought about incorporating amenities for little kids, but you can also just bike or walk around there.”

—Drayton Saunders
President of Michael Saunders & Company and dad of two (ages 2 and 4)


jennifer rominiecki

“My husband and I love taking our two boys to Lido Beach. It is a stunning escape close to home, with soft white sand and beautiful Gulf waters. We also often go to the Ringling, which is a great place to expose the boys to thought-provoking art while also enjoying the outdoor splendor of its bayfront campus. You can make a day of it and have lunch there too.”

—Jennifer O. Rominiecki
President and CEO of Selby Gardens and mom of two (ages 9 and 14)


Jennifer Halbert

We love Lido Beach. Parking is very convenient, and the water is only steps away. Rothenbach Park is another favorite place. I like the amount of shade on the trails, and my son loves to see the otters in the back lake. We see tons of wildlife every time we go. And we can’t forget about the awesome ninja warrior–style playground [the park] recently added—hours of fun for my son and his friends!”

—Jennifer Halbert
District manager for Evie’s restaurant group and mom of a 6-year-old