Petting the goats at Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary. Photo by Vanessa Caceres.
Seeing the tigers at Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary. Photo by Vanessa Caceres.
Seeing the tortoises at Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary. Photo by Vanessa Caceres.

Nine fun things to do with teens in Sarasota County

Malls, skate parks, beaches and more. Sarasota County has much to offer the young adult or teenage kid.

Sarasota may be a haven for retired snowbirds, but there’s still plenty of fun for teens. From beaches to skate parks to malls, take your teen to any of the places below for out-of-the-ordinary experiences. 

  1. Chill out at the beach. From the world-famous Siesta Key to Lido Beach to shark tooth hunting at the beaches in Venice, Sarasota County has more than its share of beach fun. Whether your teens want to try paddleboarding, beach volleyball, skimboarding, kayaking, or simply sunbathing (with lots of sunscreen on, of course), it’s ready for them here year-round.
  2. Meander at the malls. The Mall at University Town Center, or Mall at UTC for short, is Sarasota’s newest mall addition. It opened in late 2014 and has several teen-friendly stores, including PacSun, Champs, Macys, and H&M. Elsewhere in Sarasota, there’s Westfield at Sarasota Square and Westfield Siesta Key, both of which have movie theatres. For outdoor shopping, you and your teens can stroll near the unique shops at restaurants of St. Armands Circle. Teens might especially enjoy the sports memorabilia shop The Stadium Gallery and the new Hyppo Frozen Ice Pops, which sells popsicle flavors like mocha cheesecake and salted caramel.
  3. Let their inner animal out at Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary. Your teens’ love for animals will shine at Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary, but be warned—they may ask if you can get a pet monkey or lion at home after their visit. Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary are homes to exotic cats and other wild animals that have been rescued and that need a permanent home. From the bears that seem to be performing for spectators (they were once in a circus so they’re naturally hams) to lion cubs at play, you’ll get an intimate encounter as you learn about different animals. There’s also a petting zoo with friendly goats.
  4. Live life in the trees at TreeUmph!. Your teens can literally hang out in trees at nearby Bradenton’s TreeUmph! Adventure Course. TreeUmph! provides obstacle courses from high above, offering a bird’s eye view of the ground. Visitors are safely harnessed in as they make their way through the courses and end with a final swing down the zip line.
  5. Hang with skaters at Payne Park’s skateboard park. Payne Park in downtown Sarasota is a popular outdoor destination for walking and running, tennis, playground time (it’s a circus-themed playground), and eating at the park’s café. Yet one thing that draws in skateboarding teens is the park’s skate park.
  6. Challenge them to escape at an escape room. Escape Countdown will let your teens get “locked” inside a room and have an hour to solve various puzzles and find a way to escape. These challenging but fun escape experiences offer great bonding for all ages in your family.
  7. Dazzle teens with circus history at The Ringling Museum. The Ringling Museum, which is the flagship of arts and culture in Sarasota has a high-quality art museum, a museum focused on the area’s renowned circus history, a rose garden, and Ca d’Zan, the stately former home of John and Mable Ringling. The Ringling is located on Sarasota Bay, so your teens will have a beautiful backdrop for their photos. 
  8. Take a trip back into circus history with Bob’s Train. This out-of-the-way gem serves lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch in rail cars that are decked out with circus memorabilia and hundreds of circus photos. Founder Bob Horne will regale your group with circus lore, including his own circus experience.
  9. Jump around. Got teens or younger kids who need to burn off excess energy? Take them to Sky Zone or Jumpin Fun Inflata Park, which are both indoor trampoline parks. From freestyle jumping and flipping to dodgeball and foam zones (for flipping into “foam” squares), visits leave happy and exhausted. Sky Zone also has what it calls “fun fitness” classes, if you or your teens want a more focused exercise experience.