So Much Sarasota, So Little Time: What "Musts" to Hit in a Weekend

Not sure where to start with making the most of your weekend in sunny Sarasota? Skip the FOMO and see the best of Sarasota with our fun-packed itinerary. 

If you’re looking for a sunny, fun-filled escape, there’s no better place than Sarasota, Florida. Discover what to see, do and not miss in this itinerary of Sarasota “musts” from a lifelong local.

Friday: Lido Key

st armands circle

 

Start your weekend with plenty of sun, sand and sips on Lido Key where the cant-miss St. Armand’s Circle gives you a myriad of restaurants, local and national shops, galleries and activities to choose from in a circular walkable area with the ocean waves beckoning just yards away.

Fuel up for your day with a refreshing cold-pressed juice or full-on breakfast at Green Zebra before heading to Lido Beach for a relaxing beach day, or Ted Sperling Park to kayak or paddleboard the mangroves with Kayaking SRQ or SURFit USA.

mangroves lido beach

 

Once you’re thoroughly spent and ready for lunch, throw on your beach cover-ups and head to the oldest restaurant in Sarasota, Columbia Restaurant, for a Mediterranean meal. This is sidewalk dining at its finest. Their famous “1905” salad and sangria are sure to hit the spot!

columbia sarasota

 

The fun’s not done! Just around the corner by Ken Thompson Park, you can uncover ocean mysteries at Mote Marine Aquarium. You’ll love viewing the shark tank, sea turtles and aquarium but what will really wow you is Molly, the 27-foot-long preserved giant squid!

mote marine lido

 

You’re sure to be hungry after such an action-packed day, and you’ll be excited to know that waterfront dining is just across the street from Mote Marine at The Old Salty Dog. This Sarasota staple has something for everyone, including fish and chips, burgers, grouper sandwiches and—the local favorite—Attitude Margaritas.

Saturday: Downtown Sarasota 

aerial downtown sarasota

Wake up bright and early to stroll down N. Lemon Avenue in downtown Sarasota where the weekly Farmers Market runs from 7am to 1pm. With endless stands of plants, treats and local wares, you’re sure to find the perfect Sarasota souvenir or a tasty treat for breakfast. The fresh coconut water, empanadas and pastries are must-trys!

sarasota farmers market

Photo taken by Tara Weber of She Needs Less

After you’ve thoroughly explored the market and filled your belly, make your way to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. This tranquil paradise will calm your soul as much as it wows your senses. From towering banyan trees and exotic orchids to koi fish ponds and art exhibits—you’ll easily see why this beautiful place is a “must-visit” in Sarasota.

selby botanical gardens

 

While Selby Gardens is fun for all ages, Sarasota Jungle Gardens may be a better option if you have small children in tow. Open since the 1930s, this family-owned attraction is one of Sarasota’s historical “musts”. You’ll get to see exotic bird and reptile shows, check out the lemurs, feed free-roaming flamingos and even get to hold a parrot or alligator for photos!

sarasota jungle gardens

 

After your adventure at the garden—botanical or jungle—swing by home base to rest and freshen up before getting out on the water for a sunset cruise! Between Cruisin’ Tikis, LeBarge Tropical Cruises and Key Sailing, there’s a tailor-made experience for all cocktail-in-hand cruisers to witness a Gulf Coast sunset on the beautiful bayfront.

lebarge cruise

 

If you want more ocean time but prefer to stay on land, walk the loop at Marina Jack and Bayfront Park at sunset before grabbing a local beer or frozen daiquiri at O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill. This waterside restaurant lets you sink your toes in the sand while enjoying live music, dinner and drinks!

Sunday: Siesta Key

sieta key beach

 

No weekend in Sarasota would be complete without visiting the award-winning Siesta Key Beach. With crystal-white quartz sand, picturesque lifeguard stands and calm gulf-blue waters perfect for floating to your heart’s content, it’s the grand finale to a perfect weekend in Sarasota.

Before parking yourself on the beach, you may want to hit the Siesta Key Farmers Market in Siesta Key Village which runs every Sunday from 9am to 2pm. Here you’ll get your fill of fresh produce and seashell art, and have the opportunity to snag a souvenir like homemade soap or a bottle of Siesta Key Rum!

siesta key village

 

While you’re in the Village, grab a slice of pizza and refreshments at Blasé Cafe / 3.14 Pi, then spend the rest of your day snorkeling at Point of Rocks or sunbathing at Turtle Beach! There’s also plenty of parking at the Siesta Key Public Beach, where you have access to picnic tables, grills, showers, bathrooms, volleyball courts and a concession stand.

siesta key beach pavilion

 

If you stick around until sunset, don’t miss the Siesta Key Drum Circle that takes place weekly right behind the pavilion on Siesta Beach. This long-standing Sarasota community tradition is a family-friendly event that brings out locals and visitors alike to groove to the open-air music, belly dancers, drummers and sometimes even fire performers.

siesta drum circle

 

Another great way to take in the nightly sunset show and end your adventure-packed weekend on a high note is an electric beach cruise with Sarasota Bike Tours. The fat-tire E-bikes are ideal for riding across Siesta's sands and exploring the full gamut of this barrier island's spectacular coastline during golden hour. 

siesta key beach bike tours

 

As you head home for the evening, be sure to stop for dinner and live music at Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB) or Captain Curt's Crab & Oyster Bar. Either of these Sarasota favorites will finish your weekend off right with fresh seafood, good vibes and upbeat tunes. SKOB is right in the Siesta Key Village so it’s an easy stop if you’re taking the North Bridge back to the mainland, while Captain Curt’s is ideal if you’re further south near Turtle Beach and leaving the island via the South Bridge.