The short list: Five festivals in Sarasota County this spring

Looking for something special to plan a trip around? Consider the one-two combination of Sarasota County's Gulf Coast beaches and one of these great events this spring.

Sometimes you need a reason to take a vacation in the spring. It's that not-quite-yet-summertime-but-beautiful-weather sensation. The winter holidays are long gone, and there's been some long hours put into the office. The compromise: a long weekend centered around an fun event. It's a perfect choice that's just enough to tie you over until a longer summer vacation. Consider one of these festivals for you next stay in Sarasota County:

Keep your spirits high

The Whiskey Obsession Spirits Festival runs March 26 and 27 at Michael's on East and is truly an event for those whiskey-obsessed. Be sure to have a designated driver, because this festival allows guests to sample over 200 premium spirits from around the world. Classes and panel discussions are led by brand ambassadors, distillers and presidents of some of the best whiskey brands in the business, offering a tall glass of insider knowledge into the whiskey industry! General admission is $95 plus tax and services.

Celebrate diversity and art

Some festivals are more than pure entertainment. These events offer thought-provoking elements too:

The Sarasota Film Festival comes to theatres in Sarasota County April 10 through 19 and will feature more than 180 films including features, documentaries, shorts and kid-friendly picks. In its 17th year, the festival includes multiple special events, symposiums, panels and conversations.

In May, the Harvey Milk Festival features three days of film, art and music May 14 through 16. The festival honors the life of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay Americans elected to public office by fostering emerging talent that supports diversity and by promoting equality for LGBTQ people.

Enjoy inexpensive family-friendly fun

From April 10 through 12 join in on the Shark's Tooth Festival at the Venice Airport Festival Grounds. The festival is a three-day affair of music, arts and crafts vendors, and fossil collections on display, celebrating City of Venice's designation as "Shark's Tooth Capital of the World."

The following weekend return to the Venice Municipal Airport for a "finger lickin', hot pickin' good time" at the Suncoast BBQ and Bluegrass Bash. Sixty of the best barbecue teams in the region will be serving chicken, ribs, pork and beef brisket to hungry festival-goers, while worldclass bluegrass bands perform, including The Boxcars and The Claire Lynch Band.