Sarasota is famous for its sparkling white-quartz sand beaches and crystal clear waters, but what makes this city a gem is the whole package—from Art Deco and Spanish architecture to a booming arts scene that includes world-class galleries and museums to the Sarasota Opera House, the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School. (Hint: You might want to find a sitter for after the kids go to bed.) But it’s also home to The Ringling circus family and one of the best places to see pink flamingos in their natural habitat, so there’s loads to keep the whole family entertained. Here are some of our favourite activities to do with young children in Sarasota.
1. Visit the Ringling
The Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, a theatre, an art library, gardens and a mansion are all part of the former home of the Ringling Bros. travelling circus and the Greatest Show on Earth. At the Summer Circus Spectacular, witness death-defying balancing acts.
2. Sarasota Children’s Garden
Borrow a costume from the collection of fairy, princess, hobbit and pirate clothes and accessories, then let your little ones frolic around the enchanting gardens and grounds with a pirate ship and maze.
3. The beaches
Siesta Key boasts 99 percent pure white-quartz crystal sand and astoundingly clear and warm water. It also has a sleek pedestrian esplanade and new beach-themed playground, making it a family favourite. Venice, known as the “Shark’s Tooth Capital of the World,” is where kids can scour the beach for megalodon shark teeth.
4. Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Here, children can hand-feed flamingos or pet baby alligators and porcupines, if they dare! The sanctuary is also home to deer, prairie dogs and lemurs—most of them rescues.
5. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Best known for its living collection of more than 6,000 orchids, the children’s rainforest garden has a 100-year-old banyan tree, spectacular waterfall, a tropical glass house conservatory and 15 acres of lush grounds with two historic homes, including the Museum of Botany & the Arts.
Some of the writer’s costs were covered by Visit Sarasota County.