Westin Sarasota Rooftop Bar
Rooftop Bar at The Westin, Downtown Sarasota

Sarasota Adventure Sweep: Maximum Fun on minimum time

You only have a few hours of spare time, so what’s the best activities to do in Sarasota County? We’ve got you covered with our limited-time guide.

We can’t – and shouldn’t - schedule everything and sometimes you have two hours or so to spare between meetings or before your dinner reservation. What to do with that time rather than sit in your hotel room and watch trash tv, wishing you were enjoying the city you’re in? Whatever your interest – be it history, food, sports, leisure – Sarasota has a fun mini activity to fill that gap in your day.

Hike around Red Bug Slough Preserve to admire the natural Florida flora, critters, and trails without the trek to Myakka your limited time frame may not allow. The easy sneakers- or sandals-friendly trails are shorter and easy to navigate, so you’re definitely sure to make it back in time for the next item on the agenda.

A few hours isn’t enough time for a full 18 holes, but is perfect for a pop in at the driving range at one of Sarasota’s 60+ golf courses, including Tatum Ridge Golf Links.

Drop into local favorite O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill for some live music with tropical flair. If time allows, indulge in a fruity cocktail from the bar or a ride on a paddleboat on Sarasota Bay.

Paper yourself with a treatment at Spa at The Ritz-Carlton downtown. A 45-minute thermal detox or 80-minute massage will fit that random time window quite nicely.

Search for hidden goodies at Red Barn Flea Market.

Venice Beach, the Shark Tooth Capital of the World, provides mile after mile of beaches sprinkled with black fossilized teeth, waiting to be discovered. A quick stroll may yield millions-year-old treasures.

The Ringling Art Museum is a must-do for any Sarasota visit. Take advantage of the no-admission grounds or free admission Mondays so any length visit isn’t going to break the bank.

Visit the Amish neighborhood of Pinecraft for a slice of pie at Yoder’s Amish Restaurant & Amish Village (I recommend the classic double crust apple or the chocolate peanut butter cream).

There seems to always be a festival of some type (fishing, art, stone crab, chalk, movie) going on in Sarasota, perfect for a quick look-see into what’s what.

Check out some local art at the Art Center Sarasota. The ever-changing exhibits vary in style and scope, so there’s always something on which to feast your eyes.

An artisan cocktail and a friendly companion can both be found at Social Eatery & Bar, where scrumptious swills await you.

Slurp a dozen at Siesta Key Oyster Bar or Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar.

Head up to the rooftop bar of the downtown Westin for stunning panoramic views of the city and the Bay.

Feed the gators at Smuggler’s Cove Adventure Golf (and putt putt a round if time allows)

Got kids? Head over to one of Sarasota’s parks to jump, climb, slide, and swing – the train and circus themed ones are especially novel. Or, between April and October, let them frolic like the youth they are at the free downtown fountain.

Mote Marine Aquarium is divided into two halves – with two hours to spare, you can definitely do the whole of one side. Which will it be – sharks or manatees?

Take a leisurely stroll along the Sarasota Bayfront. Sailboats, birds, dolphins, a walking trail, fountain, and friendly faces adorn the optimum views.

Take a self-guided photo op tour and Instagram your heart out. #MySarasota

Explore the neighborhood of Newtown and delve into its history and culture with Newtown Alive. The Heritage Trail, trolley tours, and docent-led church tours elaborate upon the rich history of the area.

See how many items on the Sarasota Scavenger Hunt you can find before it’s back to the grind.

Tucked away in plain sight, the Sarasota Garden Club serves as the easiest get-away when you don’t have a lot of time to get away. As long as it’s daylight, the gardens are open for your enjoyment.

Cross the iconic Ringling Bridge into St. Armand’s Circle. Traverse the route, shopping, noshing on ice cream, perusing art, and people watching. Pop into notable Columbia Restaurant for epic Cuban bread and Sangria. The ring of Circle Ring of Fame pays tribute to famous circus performers from around the world.

Learn the history of Sarasota from prehistory to the present at Historic Spanish Point. Two hours is perfect for a thorough self-guided tour of the 30-acres. 

Sarasota Jungle Gardens abounds with creepy crawlies, reptiles, and trick-performing birds. Feed a flamingo, hold a macaw, and (finally) learn to tell the difference between alligators and crocodiles.

Into things that go zoom? The Sarasota Classic Car Museum Inc. covers it all from 1885 to the present.

Let the stir-crazy kids get out that pent up energy at Bounce Down Under, an Australian-themed indoor bounce house extravaganza. Two hours is perfect; any longer and you’re risking over-tired, which is a recipe for disaster.

Feed a liger at Big Cat Habitat, home to (I kid you not) lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!).

Historic and quirky Burns Court neighborhood is the quintessential location for unique photo ops, shops, and charm. Bring your camera and an open mind and explore for an hour or so.

Let someone else take the wheel as you enjoy the views aboard Siesta Trolley. Ride it over to the beach, take a stroll, enjoy the views, feel the sun on your skin, and then head back to reality.

Grab a pint of craft beer from local brewery and all-around cool hangout Calusa Brewing.

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