The School Break Guide to Sarasota County
Trade the jackets and mittens for some sunblock and swimsuits. Here's some top things to try for Spring, Summer or even Winter break fun at Sarasota County beaches and beyond!
We, the swimsuits-and-sandals-clad people of Sarasota County, have heard rumors of a season called "winter."
We don't know much about cold and snow, but we consider ourselves experts on enjoying year-round sunshine. It sounds to us like that school break can't arrive a moment sooner for our friends up north. Leave the parkas and mittens at home, but don't forget the sunblock: We'll have you warming up to the Gulf Coast lifestyle in no time.
We simply can't begin a school break guide to Sarasota without first sharing a few suggestions of things to do while you're visiting our award-winning beaches.
Tripadvisor named Sarasota County's Siesta Key Beach the #1 beach in the United States in 2015 and 2017, and also ranked the beach among the top 15 beaches in the world. Siesta Beach is famous for its sugary white sand that never gets hot under the Florida sun! In the evening, BYOB and an instrument, if you have one, for the Siesta Key Drum Circle, one of the most popular events on the beach. The drum circle kicks off at sunset every Sunday, and consistently draws large, diverse crowds who dance and hoop into the moonlight in a funky local jam-fest.
The relaxed daytime vibes and the nightlife in the neighboring Siesta Key Village are an added bonus to the sun and salt, beach bodies, and drum circle jams you'll find on the beach. During a daytime stroll through the Village, visitors are never more than a few steps away from a refreshing ice cream cone or a dose of hair-of-the-dog in the form of a bloody mary or a daiquiri. Outdoor restaurants, brunch stops, souvenir shops and ice cream parlours line the walkable Village. When the daytime crowds clear out, popular local haunts include Village pubs and bars such as the Daiquiri Deck and the Beach Club, where bikini contests take place every Saturday in March, and the party extends into the early morning hours.
Lido Key and St. Armand's Circle
Just minutes to the north of Siesta, Sarasota County's other hallmark public beaches on Lido Key are among the most varied waterfronts in Sarasota. The beach at the north end of Lido offers a Gulf-side oasis similar to that of Siesta Key, featuring white sand dunes and rolling waves. Lido Key curves around to another beach park on its south side, which includes nature trails and barbeque and picnic spaces along a more placid bayside. As for nightlife, Lido has it all on St. Armand's Circle but we'll tell you more about the Circle when we talk about shopping. (There's a Daiquiri Deck on the Circle, too!)
Get Some Action
Care to get a little action while you're in Sarasota County? Let us suggest an afternoon of parasailing. The waters are warm this time of year, and parasailing offers a thrilling birds-eye view of Sarasota County's coastline and the city beyond.
The waterways of Sarasota County are also among the best fishing haunts on Florida's west coast, whether you're looking for an adrenaline-pumping salt water trophy catch from an offshore charter, or seeking a little solitude on a quiet kayak trip through inland waterways.
If you came to Sarasota escape the snow and get off the grid (or at least out of Wi-Fi range), or if you happen to be on the hunt for the mythical Florida Skunk Ape, the wilderness may be your destination of choice. Camping season arrives early in Sarasota County, where you'll find a variety of camping options, and very little danger of frostbite. You can even camp on Turtle Beach on the southern tip of Siesta Key! Good luck, and don't forget to pack some s'mores.
Don't be surprised if the time you spend during your break unwinding in the Sarasota sunshine inspires a desire to treat yourself—perhaps to a new pair of designer sunglasses, a salon treatment or a massage.
St. Armands Circle
Pamper yourself on St. Armands Circle on Lido Key. Like Siesta Key Village, you'll find plenty of confectionaries, restaurants and bars on St. Armands, but the atmosphere on the Circle offers a more upscale twist than the beachy village. St. Armands is known for its world class shopping, as well as its art galleries and Zagat-rated restaurants. Located mere minutes from the beaches of Lido and nearby Longboat Key, the Circle also features a number of hair and nail salons and massage studios. For a day of luxury in Sarasota, look no further than St. Armands.
The Mall at UTC
Shopaholics will not want to miss the Mall at University Town Center. The 880,000 square-foot mall features more than 100 stores and restaurants, as well as high end spa, hair and nail salons. The mall itself is surrounded by even more new stores and restaurants stretching miles down University Parkway near Lakewood Ranch.
Grab a Growler
We have a hunch that there may be a few among you Spring Breakers who are here to weigh in on our craft beer scene—and yes, ours is quite… wait for it… hoppin'. Don't believe us? Check out our Craft Beer Guide of Sarasota County.
JDubs Brewing Company, Sarasota Brewing Company, and Big Top Brewing are locally-based breweries with unique, Sarasota brews with their own distinct flavor and style. At JDub's, brewmasters team up with local musicians for rock 'n' roll themed brews, or with Tampa brewery, Cigar City, for large-distribution collaborations. Many of Darwin's brews, for instance, are inspired the unique spices and flavors of Peruvian chef and brewery founder, Darwin Santa Maria's, South American home, including cacao and aji charapita (hot peppers). Sarasota's historical circus culture comes to life in the hops and the label art of Big Top Brewing.
While we're on the subject of bars: If you find yourself in search of a place to cheer on your team during March Madness season, sports bars such as Evie's Tavern, Duffy's, and Patrick's 1481 are good game day options, featuring big screens and plenty of classic brews on tap. To the south Bogey's of Venice and Norma Jean's Sports Bar have game day coverage in Venice.
Catch Some Culture
Don't forget about the arts and culture of one of America's top small cities for the arts!
At Ringling Museum, old meets new in an eclectic mashup of traditional Renaissance and Baroque classics in the permanent collection and edgy and elaborate "garbage art" creations in the Ringling's Re:Purposed exhibition, currently on display in its modern and contemporary galleries.
In downtown Sarasota, the performing arts reign supreme. There are ample chances to catch a show with options such as the historic Sarasota Opera House, the contemporary and improv theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, and the widely-acclaimed West Coast Black Theatre Troupe.
Downtown Sarasota features also features a selection of dining options, ranging from finger-lickin' BBQ at Brick's Smoked Meats, to delectable latin fusion at Selva Grill, to authentic regional italian at La Mucca Ballerina. Bars and clubs like Tavern on Main and the Gator Club cater to a diverse selection of nightlife tastes.
Take a Break in Sarasota County
From the beaches to the breweries... have we mentioned that we think you need a vacation? Step into the light, students—the sunlight, that is. We promise, Sarasota County has plenty of it to go around.