kids playing at selby gardens in sarasota
Selby Gardens

Why Each Kid Will Love these Top Sarasota County Attractions

Everyone in the family can find something they will love to do at these top attractions

December 19, 2019

Sarasota is a great spot for a family vacation. Whether your kids still need a stroller or spend hours scrolling through their phones, young visitors of every age will find something to love at Sarasota County’s major attractions. Here’s an easy guide to get you going.

The Ringling

Preschoolers will love: The woodsy David F. Bolger Playspace with its tower slide and basket swings.

Elementary schoolers will love: Squeezing themselves into a clown car and walking a (low-to-the-ground) tightrope at the site’s Tibbals Learning Center, which also houses the awe-inspiring Howard Bros. Circus Model.

Tweens and teens will love: All the totally Instagram-able spots at the museum complex once home to circus magnate John Ringling, from the elegant Courtyard with its iconic David statue to the gorgeous green tiles covering the Center for Asian Art.

Mote Aquarium

Preschoolers will love: Watching a trio of North American river otters at play in the Otters & Their Waters exhibit.

Elementary schoolers will love: Getting hands-on at the aquarium’s Ray Tray touch pool, then observing the stingrays’ shark “cousins” swimming through their 135,000-gallon habitat.

Tweens and teens will love: All of the research and animal rehabilitation work going on at the site, where exhibits highlight topics like Mote’s coral restoration efforts and the work being done through its Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Preschoolers will love: Feeding the hungry fish in the Koi Pond and toddling across the Great Lawn.

Elementary schoolers will love: Exploring the canopy walk, rope bridge, Epiphyte Canyon, and other areas of the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden, which sits within the site’s picturesque Banyan Grove.

Tweens and teens will love: The colorful array of delicate orchids in the Tropical Conservatory and the views of Sarasota Bay from the Steinwachs Family Foundation Mangrove Walkway (an ideal backdrop for some must-post vacation selfies).

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Preschoolers will love: Visiting with goats and other animals in the Petting Zoo, then spending some time on the playground.

Elementary schoolers will love: Posing for pictures while holding a parrot, alligator, or snake after watching one of the animal shows at the Old Florida–style attraction, which is home to more than 200 native and exotic creatures.

Tweens and teens will love: The only-in-Florida experience of feeding flamingoes (and documenting it all for social media, of course).

Myakka River State Park

Preschoolers will love: Looking for bobcats, otters, and other wildlife during a boat or tram tour of the park, one of the oldest and largest parks in Florida.

Elementary schoolers will love: Strolling through the treetops along the Myakka Canopy Walkway, which extends 100 feet through an oak/palm hammock canopy and includes a 74-foot-tall tower offering sweeping views of the park.

Tweens and teens will love: Paddling a canoe or kayak (which you can rent at the park) past some of the park’s many alligator residents, or just observing them from dry land at spots like Alligator Point and Upper Myakka Lake.

Historic Spanish Point

Preschoolers will love: Pretending to be an orange packer in the Webb Packing House, where a pioneer family once prepared their citrus crops for transport and sale.

Elementary schoolers will love: Exploring what’s under the surface at the Window to the Past exhibit, which showcases what archeologists have discovered within a prehistoric shell midden found on the site.

Tweens and teens will love: Comparing their modern life to the way turn-of-the-20th-century pioneer Florida settlers lived at the site’s well-preserved Guptill House.