Payne Park Playground
Payne Park Playground

Playtime in Sarasota is a Walk in the Park

The creative spirit of Sarasota seeps into its every nook and cranny, including unique playgrounds where kids can enter a rainforest, ride a train, or join the circus.

Everyone loves a playground. Our little ones can explore, burn some energy, play, make new friends, and get that ever-important fresh air. We grown-ups can push a swing, try that slide, have a race, play along, or take a much-needed breather. Sarasota has no shortage of options, some a little more snazzy than others. The creative spirit of Sarasota seeps into its every nook and cranny, including unique playgrounds where kids can enter a rainforest, ride a train, or join the circus. So, if you’re here on vacation and want to try a little something, something different than what you’ve got back home, or if you live here and need a break from your usual go-to, Sarasota’s got you covered.

Ann Goldstein’s Children’s Rainforest Garden

Where it is: Located in the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, near both downtown Sarasota and the Sarasota Bayfront. Gardens required.

Why we love it: Surrounding a waterfall, the playspace allows children (and their lucky grown-ups) to explore a natural area by crossing a rope bridge, imagination playing in the various themed huts, hiding in caves, and meandering the labyrinth of foliage. Information and educational games pop up sporadically throughout the Garden, giving kids a chance to test their newfound knowledge. Hammocks and swings serve as the perfect place to look up towards the massive trees overhead. Admission to the

David F. Bolger Playspace

Where it is: Located on the stunning and expansive grounds of the Ringling mansion and art museum in north Sarasota. Entry to the grounds and playspace is free.

Why we love it: Tucked away, the park never seems too crowded and is perpetually shaded by ancient banyans. Kids play on the sleek slide, swing on the net swings, frolic in the water and sand zone, and climb to their heart’s content. There is a café next to the playspace where snacks and coffee can be purchased, and the grounds allow free spirited young ones an opportunity to run, run, run with no traffic other than the occasional slow-moving tram. After playing, a stroll through the rose garden or along the water’s edge round out the perfect playtime.

Siesta Key Beach Playground

Where it is: Located on Siesta Key Beach near the concession stand

Why we love it: It’s at the beach, so we have the option of hopping into the water when it gets hot in the summer, or making sandmen (Florida’s version of Frosty) in the winter. The sandcastle-shaped play structure is just plain adorable and adds to those Instagram shots as the happy kiddos swing, slide, and climb the day away. When an emergency snack, drink, or restroom is needed (as they always are!), they could not be more easily accessible. Add to that the feel and smell of salty air drifting by and this trip to the beach is a walk in the park.

Payne Park Circus Park

Where it is: Downtown Sarasota

Why we love it: It simply wouldn’t be Sarasota without the circus! And lions, clowns, and trains abound in this circus-themed playground. Myriad slides, climbing structures, and obstacles are a feast to the wide-eyed players as they arrive. Tired? Take a break with some music, banging on the drums or clanging the chimes. Littler? Hop, climb, and explore the younger aged zone and “ride” a tiger as you dodge those big kids soaring down the slides. Accident-prone? Rubber underfoot saves the day from knee scrapes and tears that may lead to going home. Hungry? Pop over to the Café in the Park for a snack, drink, or jolt of caffeine for the grownups. With an adjacent skate park and walking/biking trail, friends with the need for speed get their (safe) zoom on.

Legacy Park

Where it is: Adjacent to the historic Venice train depot

Why we love it: The newest park to open in Sarasota County, this train-themed park ignites the engine of the imagination locomotion. One day it’s the Polar Express, the next it’s the Hogwarts Express, and then it becomes Thomas or the Little Engine that Could. A corkscrew rock wall and cornhole put the kids’ skills to the test in a way that parents find hard to resist joining in on. The 10-mile long Legacy Trail beckons you to take a scooter or bike for a jaunt before heading home.

The Children’s Garden

Where it is: North of downtown Sarasota between Highways 41 and 301. Admission required.

Why we love it: Spiderwebs, dragons, a tire mountain, fairies, a pirate ship, octopus sand garden, and more beyond your imagination wait for stories to unfold and adventures to be had. Much like Alice, once they enter the Garden, children are whisked away to a new world where anything can, and does, happen. Kiddos roam freely and let those creative minds of theirs take them on adventures beyond anything they’ve experienced before. Costumes are available to further enhance the experience and regular events on their calendar incorporate creative crafting.

Garden of the Five Senses

Where it is: North Port

Why we love it: It’s calm. The focus of this park is the five senses and various experiences throughout direct focus to them. In a world of overstimulation and being busy, busy, busy, kids – and adults – need a chance to slow down and recenter themselves. Kids listen to the waterfalls, smell the flowers, and find their zen in a child-friendly outdoor setting. It’s amazing how much kids can do when there’s less to do.

Related Topics: