Fireworks over Nathan Benderson Park

Light Up the Sky: Sarasota County on the 4th of July

From North Port to Longboat Key, downtown to out at sea, opportunities abound throughout Sarasota County to let freedom ring this 4th of July.

It’s time to bust out the red, white, and blue and to send America a love letter. Independence Day is approaching so let’s get our patriotism on. From North Port to Longboat Key, downtown to out at sea, opportunities abound throughout Sarasota County to let freedom ring this 4th of July.

Downtown Sarasota

In Downtown Sarasota, the fireworks explode over Sarasota Bay on the south side of the Ringling Bridge each Independence Day. For prime viewing, nab a prized spot at Bayfront Park. Arrive early to claim your land and enjoy the scenic surroundings in this greatest of counties, er, countries.

Tickets at Marina Jack’s guarantee prime viewing as well as live music, special menus, and, of course, the fireworks. Reservations required. To prepare for the show in style, take a cruise on their ship, the Marina Jack II, and nosh on beef tenderloin and grouper, returning at 9:30 just in time to dodge the crowds and catch the show.

Le Barge Tropical Cruises offers a fireworks cruise on this most festive of national holidays. Take to the seas at sunset to watch the sun go down (watch for the green flash, Mother Nature’s firework!) and stay on the Bay as the sky lights up. Attendees must be 21 or older and venture home with a free t-shirt to forever commemorate the night.

The Fourth of July All-American Cookout at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens takes the essentials of an Independence Day BBQ and amps it up. A lot. Backyard? Check – it’s a botanical gardens. Food? Yup – grilled up by local favorite Michael’s on East. Games? Got ‘em – slides, yard games, you name it. Music? Live, of course. Fireworks? Only the best – front row seats of the lights over the Bay. It’s the ultimate event and no one needs to do any work for it. Just buy your tickets, hop on the trolley, and enjoy the freedom.

To see things from a different view, look up. The Office Bar SRQ Rooftop Party brings the party to the skies and gives a panoramic view of the fireworks over Sarasota Bay, as well as the surrounding areas. Why watch one firework show when you can watch a simultaneous medley? Craft beer and food will be available for cash purchase only.

North Port

The Freedom Festival in North Port opens its doors at 6pm for a night of family fun. Face painting, rock walls, and an overabundance of goodies build up the party vibe. As dark arrives, the true celebration explodes in the skies, as the nation’s independence illuminates before your eyes as coordinating music wafts in your ears.

Today’s a day of freedom for our country…and from the boss. Embrace that morning off with a jaunt in the 11th annual Firecracker 5K race. Enjoy that sweet glorious feeling of freedom as you run, as well as the freedom to eat all the 4th of July goodies all day knowing you burned off those calories bright and early. Registration remains open until July 3rd.

Englewood

The Englewood Firecracker Festival and Block Party does the 4th right by making a full day of it. And the USA deserves nothing less than twelve straight hours honoring her. Beginning at 10am, enjoy food, crafts, muscle cars, drinks galore (please use an Uber or a DD!), kids’ area, and live music. As the sun goes down, the lights go up over Lemon Bay. Fireworks galore reflect over the waters to double their awesomeness. Admission is free, just like our country.

Siesta Key

Hands down, my favorite 4th of July memory is at Siesta Key Beach. With the soft, cool sand below our bare feet, my kids still in their swimsuits from a day of frolicking, glow sticks in hand, and firework after firework glowing in the sky above us, it was a dream. Like an Independence Day from a Disney movie. People even released lanterns into the sky like on Tangled. The nightmare side is parking, so plan ahead by arriving early or taking an alternate form of transportation. But it’s worth it, I promise.

Another option is to watch the grand event from the water itself. Have a good friend with a boat who owes you a favor? Now’s the time to call it in. Front row seats and no parking. Oh, say can you see the best idea ever?

No boat connections? A third option is to sponsor the event and receive VIP seats and parking. It’s the American way.

Venice

From Venice Beach to Caspersen, Nokomis to the Pier, there are myriad locations to view the wondrous fireworks in Venice. Exploding over the Gulf, the cascading colors reflect over the calm waters for double the celebratory magic. The origin of the explosive epitome of freedom is the South Venice Jetty at sunset; you’re free (like our country!) to enjoy anywhere around there to view their Star-Spangled glory.

With the fireworks exploding over the water, Venice is a great opportunity to see the show from another point of view. Hop aboard a boating vessel – rented or owned – and avoid the crowds. Watching with only friends and dolphins? Can’t be beat.

Begin celebrating the USA early in the day at the Myakka River Kayak Festival and 4th of July Jam Blast at Snook Haven Restaurant in Venice. Beginning at 8 a.m., the family-friendly festival features live music, food and drinks, as well as canoe and kayak rentals to meander down the scenic yet secluded Myakka River. Away from the hustle and bustle, a day spent here will remind you of old Florida, old America, and the natural wonder that is home.

Longboat Key

One of the more unconventional (read: awesome) traditions for the 4th of July in Sarasota County is the 4th Annual Longboat Key Hot Diggity Dog Parade and Contest. Bring your pup dressed in his/her most ‘pawsomely’ patriotic attire and flaunt it down Bay Isles Road. Prizes are awarded, but participation is epic enough. Parade begins at 9 a.m., so plan to start the day with “oohs” and “aahs” over hat-wearing pups, and end it with “oohs” and “aahs” over fireworks.

Bonus – July 1st

So it’s not the 4th. But sometimes you have to work or travel or it’s your child’s tournament or the day your baby’s due or your colonoscopy and you just can’t make it that night. Or maybe you love America so terribly much that you want to celebrate it twice. There’s a solution – laud our lovely Lady Liberty at Nathan Benderson Park on Saturday, July 1st. Enjoy the weekend festivities with family, food, music, and, of course fireworks.

At Home

Sometimes the best 4th of July is spent at home with good conversation, good food, and good company. No need to leave when you’ve got the best grub in town. Maybe there are little ones, maybe there are old ones, maybe are cold ones – for whatever reason(s), a backyard BBQ is as American as apple pie. Local favorite Publix market always has their burgers on sale, and if you don’t feel like cooking (or burned the buns), grab BBQ goodies from Morton’s from their special 4th of July menu. From baked beans to (you guessed it) apple pie, your all-American fare is ready for your belly.

Anywhere and Everywhere

Between the crowds, the explosives, and the libations, this annual epic celebration comes with a few additional risks. If you plan on purchasing anything beyond the sparklers from Target, a thorough review of Sarasota’s firework laws is in order. And the mom in me simply must remind you to use an Uber or a DD. Have fun, be safe, go America!