Sarasota Farmer's Market
Sarasota Farmer's Market
Towles Court
Towles Court
Siesta Key Rum
Siesta Key Rum
Sarasota Opera. Final scene from Beethoven's FIDELIO. Photo by Rod Millington
Sarasota Opera. Final scene from Beethoven's FIDELIO. Photo by Rod Millington
Le Barge Tropical Cruises

From Sarasota, with Love: Last-Minute Holiday Gift Shopping

Still chipping away at that holiday shopping list? Worry not, for we've got you covered with a cornucopia of local flavors, unique trinkets, and one-of-a-kind experiences to surprise and delight even the pickiest people on your holiday shopping list.

'Tis the season of gift-giving for the holidays! Even the most savvy shopper has, at some point, experienced last-minute shopping woes. Whether it’s fretting over finding the perfect gift for that special someone, a heartfelt surprise for the friend who wants for nothing, or surprising that difficult-to-shop-for-person, we've all been there.

Towles Court


Put a Bow On It: Charming Trinkets and Unique Crafty Finds

Oh, no: it's December 21 and you still don't have a Christmas gift for your mother-in-law. You're in luck! Pop into the Towles Court Third Friday Art Walk from 5:00 - 9:00 p.m. to meet the artists and shop owners in downtown Sarasota's unique historic artist colony. Alleviate the stress of last-minute shopping with a glass of complimentary wine while you choose a scented candle, piece of original artwork, or gift certificate to a Towles Court spa or business.

You know the old saying about how one man's trash is another's treasure? Sarasota Architectural Salvage is the ultimate treasure trove. Part antiques shop, part salvage-with-a-story, and part upcycled art gallery: if there's a D.I.Y. family member on your list, this is your spot. While you could drive yourself bonkers choosing the perfect antique door knob to dazzle Uncle Ted's fancy, we're willing to bet he'll feel like a kid in a candy shop if you save yourself time with a gift certificate and send him in to choose his own junk, er, treasure.

Put your own creative and heartfelt personal touch on a practical gift that's appropriate for anyone by designing your own Tervis Tumbler at the Tervis Lab in Osprey. For a small additional fee of $5 added to the cost of the product in-store, it is possible to personalize 16 and 24 oz. tumblers and mugs from the popular Sarasota-based insulated cup manufacturer. Customize pre-existing Tervis designs, or create your own film from scratch by using a photograph, or adding hand-drawn artwork or a written message, to create a long-lasting gift with a personal touch that lingers with every sip. The Lab is open on a walk-in basis — no appointment necessary.

Siesta Key Rum
Siesta Key Rum

Tasteful Gifts for Foodies

The weather is perfect in December to spend mornings perusing local farmers markets like the Phillippi Farmhouse Market on Wednesdays, and the downtown Sarasota Farmers Market on Saturdays throughout the season. Put together a basket of items like local honey, salsa, succulents and herbs, soy candles, handmade soaps, and loose-leaf teas to create a thoughtful, homespun gift you won’t find anywhere else. Not to mention, it’s delicious!

Have a caffeine addict on your list? Pick up a bag local, artisan coffee from shops like Sarasota's Latitude 23.5 or the Tampa-based Buddy Brew location in downtown Sarasota. Send out-of-state visitors home from the holidays with light and citrusy blends like Latitude's "Clearwater Blend" or Buddy Brew's "Old Florida Roast" for a warm taste of Sarasota sunshine they can pour on cold mornings.

Craft the most scrumptious-smelling gift bag at the holiday party by visiting Spice & Tea Exchange in St. Armand’s Circle, or Mother's Cupboard Spice Shop in Venice. From decorated holiday gift tins ranging from exotic spices, barbeque, and baking sets, to gourmet loose-leaf teas, these shops offer a variety of quick, pre-packaged options that look and smell amazing under the tree.

For the fancy foodie friend who can't resist a cheese plate, gift a membership to the Artisan Cheese Co. “Cheese Club.” Members receive three cheeses each month along with info on tasting notes and history on each cheese, carefully selected by the shop's knowledgeable cheesemongers. Artisan Cheese Co. also offers a “Wine of the Month” subscription service.

Send someone home with the taste of a summer day on Sarasota's award-winning beaches. Siesta Key Rum produces its world-renowned, award-winning, spiced and toasted coconut rums in their small-batch, local distillery. Grab a bottle or book a free tour for a chilly day diversion.

Sarasota Opera. Final scene from Beethoven's FIDELIO - Photo by Rod Millington
Sarasota Opera. Final scene from Beethoven's FIDELIO - Photo by Rod Millington

Gift a Night on the Town at the Heart of Florida's Performing Arts

Give the gift of live music and culture from world class musicians by giving tickets to the Sarasota Orchestra, whose 2018-2019 season kicks off in December 2018. The Sarasota Opera launches its season close enough to be a holiday gift as well, starting February with the Sarasota Opera Festival.

Theater fans have a long list of intimate and innovative venues to catch a show. Surprise a dramatic loved one with tickets to a Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Motown tribute (Marvin Gaye or Aretha Franklin), the Asolo Rep's outstanding array of 60th anniversary season shows, or Urbanite Theatre's gritty black box contemporary theatre.

LeBarge Tropical Cruises
LeBarge Tropical Cruises

Unwrap an Adventure: Gifts that will keep you Outdoors

Giving the gift of an experience can be a great way to create a memory that lasts a lifetime. Surprise the hard-to-shop-for, rugged adventure gal or guy in your life with an action-packed day on the water, swinging through the trees, or a new hobby cheering on Sarasota's very own high-octane roller athletes.

The cooler winter months of December, January, and February are a great time to book a trip to TreeUmph! Adventure Course — a climbing, swinging, and zip-lining obstacle course in the treetops, accessible to "big kids" (ages 12+) and adults. TreeUmph! offers gift certificates and annual passes: the perfect holiday gift for the Tarzan of the family, no wrapping required.

Go wild and book a hands-on, educational experience with Around the Bend Nature Tours. This Sarasota-based tour company offers field trips for all ages to locations along the Gulf coast and Sarasota Bayfront, Myakka State Park, local archaeological sites, bird watching spots, and more. LeBarge Tropical Cruises is another option for nature cruises in Sarasota Bay, but also offers a laid-back “Tropical Sunset Cruise” with live music and a full bar.

Sarasota Bay Explorers at Mote Marine Laboratory provides more educational experiences geared to engage all ages. From Sea Life Encounter Cruises on the bay to Guided Kayak Tours through the Lido mangroves, there's an immersive eco-tour available for every level of marine adventurer. Thanks to the Gulf Coast Florida climate, tours are available year round — no icy waters to worry about during a Sarasota winter.

We bet your difficult-to-gift adrenaline junkie won't expect this one: a season pass to cheer on some of the toughest athletes from Sarasota, Venice, and neighboring Bradenton battling on a roller rink. Tickets to see the gals of Bradentucky Bombers Roller Derby tear up the rink in this thrilling, full contact sport are a steal at $67 for the full eight-game home season.

Tail-Wagging Gifts for Animal Lovers

Chances are high you know at least one person who insists they don't need a gift — but rarely turn down a treat for fur friend they already have at home.

Consider making a donation in your giftee's name to an organization such as Sarasota's Greyhound Racing Dog Rescue Project. With greyhound racing set to end soon in the state of Florida, thousands of greyhounds will be seeking shelter in the next few years — including those coming off local tracks. A donation in a dog-lover’s name will help the RDRP provide cozy homes for the influx of pups entering the foster system. If your pal is a cat lover, we suggest donations to Cat Depot and the Humane Society of Sarasota County.

You know the guy who shows up to every holiday sweater party with his dog wearing a matching tacky cardigan? Full disclosure: I'm totally that gal, and I can say with confidence that treats for my dog are the way to my heart. Stop by the Woof Gang Bakery in St. Armand’s Circle or Wet Noses locations in downtown Sarasota and Gulf Gate to pick up gourmet treats, fashion accessories, and doggie decor — or gift certificates for your pet-loving pal to schedule a spa date for their furry friend.

Gift annual tickets to Big Cat Habitat to offer a unique experience for animal lovers of all ages at Sarasota's non-profit exotic animal sanctuary. Visitors can get up close with resident big cats like lions, tigers, and even “ligers.” Other animals such as primates, bears, and parrots live here too, helping people learn about care and wildlife conservation. Another gifting option is to make a monetary donation, or donate items from the Big Cat Habitat Wish List — creating a direct, positive impact on Big Cat Habitat's animal residents' lives — in your wildlife loving friend's name.

Happy Holidays from Visit Sarasota!

Light that gingerbread-scented candle and take a deep breath, last-minute shoppers. It's going to be all right. Consider this guide to last-minute shopping our gift to you.