Visit to Sarasota, FL
With the harsh winter we had this year, I was hankering to get away to somewhere warm. After seeing Siesta Key Beach pop up as the #1 ranked beach in the US by Trip Advisor, combined with the fact that I'd never visited Florida's west coast, I set my sights on visiting Sarasota, FL. After researching hotels, they were fairly pricey so my friend and I opted to stay at a house through Airbnb and rented a golf cart-sized car, the Chevy Spark, to easily zip around and explore the sites. It was a great experience and while we only stayed for four days, we were able to enjoy many adventures within that window of time.
Siesta Key Beach & Lido Beach
After being hit with 6 inches of snow in NY the day prior to our trip coupled with a canceled flight the morning of our departure, as soon as we arrived in FL we headed straight for Siesta Key Beach! First, we made a quick stop for lunch at Toasted Mango Cafe, which had a cute outdoor patio area complete with palm trees and string lights - the perfect setting to ease into vacation mode. Once we got to the beach and felt the coolness of the fine white quartz sand on our feet and view of the ocean, we were in heaven. We visited the beach another day and got to experience a lively drumming circle on the beach that plays during the beautiful sunset each week. We also squeezed in some time at Lido Beach on our last full day. It's not far from the Ringling Museum, and liked it as much if not better than Siesta Key because it was less crowded.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
On the trip, we also checked out the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, which is on a mission to cultivate research programs supporting the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity while educating the community. They featured a new exhibit called "Oh Baby! Life cycles of the Seas", which was very interesting - who knew that male seahorses get pregnant?! They also offer several eco-boat tours, so we opted to go on the Sea Life Encounter Cruise, which was an interactive, hands-on boat. We got to see a few dolphins, visit an uninhabited island, learn about the wildlife and even got to see some sea life caught straight from the boat that day (no harm was done to the creatures).
Free Water Ski Show
While at the aquarium, we saw signs for a free water ski show that would be there that day as well. As neither my friend or I have ever seen a water ski performance, we were excited to take advantage of the opportunity. A non-profit team called the Ski-A-Rees ran the show, and it was quite impressive! I was pleasantly surprised to see the wide range of talent, with some newer members of the team as young as elementary school age.
When driving to the beach, we spotted several folks dressed in traditional Amish garb, which caught me by surprise. I grew up in the suburbs of Philly, not far from Lancaster, considered the home of the Amish; but I had no idea there was such a large Amish community in Sarasota as well. They have the same great reputation for food, except their horse and buggies were replaced with bikes and flip flops! At the recommendation of our Airbnb host, we headed to Yoder's Amish Restaurant for breakfast. Unfortunately, the long line snaked out the door and since we wanted to get to our next destination, we opted for a nearby place with impressive reviews called The Breakfast House. It was an adorable, reasonably priced restaurant with excellent service and yummy food. Still, we'll have to try to get back to Yoder's Amish Restaurant someday!
The Ringling Museum
John Ringling, of the famous "Greatest Show on Earth", built an extravagant estate in Sarasota with his wife during his period of fame and fortune. After going into debt during the depression, their property was turned over to the state and made into a museum. You could certainly spend an entire day exploring the grounds, consisting of Ca' d'Zan, Bayfront Gardens, Museum of Art, and Circus Museum. We opted to focus on the Museum of Art, which has free admission on Mondays, so that we could squeeze some more beach time in afterwards. They had a temporary exhibit called "Re:Purposed", which focused on works of art built from upcycled garbage. This was my favorite part of the museum - one artist, Jill Sigman, creates huts with a post-apocalyptic feel. Interesting!
Overall, we had a great time and definitely did not want to leave. If you've ever visited Sarasota, what was your favorite part of the trip?