Known for its beautiful beaches, and even more beautiful sunsets, Sarasota County is located on the west cost of Florida. Consisting of 725 square miles, Sarasota County includes a number of cities, including Sarasota, Venice, Siesta Key, Nokomis, and Osprey. Offering a variety of shopping, nature and history, finding unique things to do in Sarasota County isn’t hard at all. Here are some unique things to do while in Sarasota.
Disclosure: I worked with Visit Sarasota and was provided accommodations and tickets to some venues. However, all opinions are my own.
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Shop At A Bazaar
Sarasota County is known for it’s shopping. Famous areas such as St. Armands Circle are renowned for their high end shopping. But if you’re looking for something a little different, visit The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime. An indoor market, The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime has a variety of art, gifts, jewelry and food from local unique vendors. They even have live music and jazz brunches on select days. If you’re looking for something to take home to remember your trip, be sure to stop at The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime to find something really special.
Get Close To Florida Nature
Sarasota County is home to two Florida State Parks – Oscar Sherer State Park in Osprey and Myakka River State Park in Sarasota. The two parks couldn’t be more different and definitely offer something unique to do in Sarasota for those who love the outdoors.
Oscar Sherer is the smaller of the two parks. With 15 miles of hiking and biking trails, it’s a quick stop off from the Legacy Trail. In addition to trails, there’s also camping, picnic grounds and several lakes for fishing and canoeing. The larger state park in the county, Myakka River is almost 60 acres and is the oldest Florida state park. The park offers boat and trolly tours, fishing, horseback riding trails, camping and paddling opportunities. Myakka also has a cafe, rental facility and gift shop on site.
Both parks are great places to get closer to undeveloped Florida nature.
Explore Black History
Sarasota’s Black history is something that many visitors, unfortunately, sometimes are not aware of. Black residents have been a part of the country since its beginnings and have made history since that time. In addition to helping develop Sarasota via Newtown and Overtown, African-Americans also helped desegregate Lido Beach during the Civil Rights movement. Sarasota is now part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail and there are guided tours so visitors can learn more about the Black experience in the area.
10 acres of gardens and shows makes up Sarasota Jungle Gardens. A family owned attraction in business for 80 years, Sarasota Jungle Gardens allows you get up close and personal with many Florida animals. Including feeding the flamingos! Once native to Florida, flamingos were hunted to extinction in the state in the late 1800’s. While there are efforts to start introducing flamingos to the wild again in the state, currently the only way to experience them is at conservation facilities like Sarasota Jungle Gardens. Getting to feed the flamingos is a unique thing in Sarasota, and even Florida since it’s not something that not every park offers. So be sure to take advantage and get close to these majestic birds.
See Prehistoric Shell Mounds & Butterflies
Selby Gardens has two campuses in Sarasota County, one in Sarasota and one in Osprey. Both are beautiful with large botanical gardens and historic buildings. If you’d like to see a prehistoric shell mound and experience lots of butterflies flying around you, make sure you visit the Historic Spanish Point campus. Located on 30 acres of land right on Sarasota Bay, Historic Spanish Point has plenty to see.
The two most unique things to do there? Enter the butterfly house and experience these beautiful winged insects as they swirl around you. There are many different species inside the butterfly house – see how many you can spot! Just be careful where you step because the butterflies are on the ground too. And don’t forget to visit the cut out of shell mounds on site. Originally home to the Indigenous Peoples of the Manasota Culture, the shell mounds that were receptacles for their discarded shells and bones are located throughout the site. There is one part of the grounds where you can see where archiolgoists have dug out a section and preserved the mounds behind glass. Selby Gardens has people there to help walk you through what you’re seeing in the dig.
Visit A Circus Museum
A trip to The Ringling is a visit to three distinctly different museums, all on one campus. With a premier art museum that is home to 21 galleries, beautiful botanical gardens and a historic home on Sarasota Bay, there is plenty to do and see when you visit. But the most unique thing about visiting The Ringling? Being able to visit the Circus Museum!
Located on the grounds of the former home of John Ringling, one of the founders of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, the circus museum is the one museum onsite that was created after the passing of Mr. Ringling. The Sarasota area was the winter home for the circus, so many performers donated items currently on display. In addition to train cars, carvings, costumes and props, there’s also the opportunity to see historic circus posters and even try out some circus tricks yourself.
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