VACATION PLANNER

Click the link above for a complete list of THINGS TO DO and read below for more about FAMILY FUN ACTIVITIES.

This section is divided by location of stay… be it near Interstate 75, or the Downtown area.

Downtown

Only five minutes from downtown, try packing some breakfast items from Whole Foods Market and take the family over the Ringling Causeway to Lido Beach… at sunrise.

The beach is virtually yours as you watch the sun ignite the sky while sipping that morning brew. Meanwhile, the kids can fly a kite, search for shells and build a few sandcastles. A volleyball net, playground and swimming pool will also keep your active family busy and if planning to spend the entire day, there’s a concession stand serving burgers, pizza and fries.

You may have noticed the Shops and restaurants of St Armands Circle… and yes, they’re only a short walk from the beach. Teens and moms will find it perfect for an afternoon browse while the guys grab an ice cream at Kilwin’s Confections & Creamery.

Need a break from the sun?

Take your little ones to Mote Marine Laboratory to see dolphins, sharks, manatees, sea turtles and hundreds of different fish. Your children will love slipping their hands in the touch pools for feeling a variety of sea-life, including stingrays. The aquarium is open 10AM to 5PM, including holidays.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Have you ever fed a flamingo? One of the oldest & the best road-side attractions in Florida, where the kids can explore 10 acres of tropical vegetation, jungle trails, exotic birds, crocodiles and more. Take in one of the “critters”, bird, or reptile shows and enjoy lunch in the café or bring your own picnic and dine on the picnic tables. You’ll even enjoy hand feeding the flamingos! This is a fun escape from the beach and a Must Do for all ages.

At sunset…

Childrens’ fountain and Playground @ Bayfront Park

With huge grassy play areas, picnic tables in the shade, trees made for climbing and plenty of benches and swings, Island Park appeals to all ages. Children love splashing in the water fountains. It’s located right across 41 from downtown, so this park is convenient. There’s plenty of free parking, so whether you walk, drive, bike or boat to the park, you’re sure to enjoy you time here. The winding sidewalks run all along the perimeter of the park and invite you to walk, jog, roller blade, or walk your dog. In fact, this park is a favorite with local dog owners who often congregate on weekends for some doggy socializing.

There’s even a quaint little restaurant called O’Leary’s where mom and dad can have a cocktail at the Tiki hut, listen to island sounds, watch the sunset and feed the family.

RINGLING MUSEUM Thursdays after 5:00

There’s discounted pricing, cocktails for mom and dad and a new installation for the whole family to enjoy. The Circus Museum is also a must see.

After dark…

Stardust Skate Center – Sarasota’s largest air conditioned roller skating/dance arena with a D.J. playing music to projection screen videos. Open Fri, Sat, & Sunday. 2571 12th Street. Sarasota. (941) 365-6888.

Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf – Not Just Putt Putt but… real live baby alligators… you can feed.

There are plenty of ideas as you can browse for more options on our Vacation Planner.

Staying near the interstate (I-75) has its advantages, especially when cost is a factor. Many even provide hot coffee and daily FREE breakfast.

 Fun near I–75 @ (Exit 213) – University Pkwy

22 minutes – 12 miles to the nearest beach. – Lido Beach

If staying at an accommodation @ exit 213 there are amenities to keep the entire family happy.

Sporting events are a big draw to this area.

Polo: Every Sunday afternoon, the public is invited to bring out their picnic baskets and enjoy the thrill of the “fastest game on four feet”. With pony and Clydesdale wagon rides, exciting action, tailgating, half-time entertainment, divot stomping and plenty of fresh air, Sunday polo is the perfect place for a family outing; dogs are even welcome on a leash. (December-April)

Sculling: Competitive rowing is one of the hottest amateur sports in the country and Sarasota County’s Nathan Benderson Park is quickly gaining a stellar reputation in the rowing community.

Golf: Legacy Colf Club, featuring elevated multiple tees and virtually every hole framed with sand and water, Golf Digest & Zagat have given this course 4-1/2 STARS and ranked it among the top in the nation. Some area Accommodations even provide golf packages.

Mini Golf: The Fish Hole, located on Main Street Lakewood Ranch is just east of I-75.

Lakewood Ranch Movie Theatre: Featuring six screens at the heart of Lakewood Ranch’s shopping and dining district.

Baseball: Catch the Baltimore Orioles @ Ed Smith Stadium where the seats are up-close and personal to players and the field. There are in house and “pay” lots for parking nearby. Some are much more expensive than others, so shop for prices before committing.

BMX Racing: Even pre-schoolers can join in a race of their own…

Ringling Museum (Thursdays after 5:00) There’s discounted pricing, cocktails for mom & dad and a new installation for the whole family to enjoy. The Circus Museum is also a must see.

VACATION PLANNER

 Fun near I-75 @ (Exit 210) Fruitville Road

9 miles – 17 minutes to the closest stretch of sand @ Lido Beach

Hobbyists/ Hikers/ bikers fishermen// Animal & Nature lovers will appreciate this area.

Celery Fields: Grab the field guide and binoculars as this is the place where migratory visitors invade our resident bird population. The open fields are conducive for kites, bikes and a little bit of… climbing and the ponds afford plenty of fishing and wildlife identification.

Big Cat Habitat: Come see our big cats, bears and more at the Habitat’s (January-February) Extravaganza. If visiting on other dates, go to their website for free viewing of training sessions and animal visitation.

Baseball: Catch the Baltimore Orioles @ Ed Smith Stadium where the seats are up-close and personal to players and the field. There are in house and “pay” lots for parking nearby. Some are much more expensive than others, so shop for prices before committing.

BMX Racing: Even pre-schoolers can join in a race of their own…

Ringling Museum (Thursdays after 5:00) There’s discounted pricing, cocktails for mom & dad and a new installation for the whole family to enjoy. The Circus Museum is also a must see.

VACATION PLANNER

 Fun near I-75 @ (Exit 205) Clark Road

16 minutes to the closest stretch of sand @ Siesta Beach and only 8.1 miles.

Commune with nature, hike/bike/ kayak and be entertained.

Sarasota Square Mall & Cinema: A movie theatre and synthetic ice rink that’s as good as real! No more bulky sweaters, scarves or gloves! Enjoy a little skating with your shopping at Sarasota Square Mall (take Clark Rd to Beneva South).

Livingstons: Open 365 days a year the entire family will be entertained by Go-kart racing, rock climbing, Phazer-tag and more.

Red Bug Slough: If you have toddlers, even one in a stroller, this shady park is a relaxing respite from sand and sun. The preserve has several miles of hiking trails, a small playground, picnic shelters and a fishing pier.

Oscar Scherer State Park Fifteen miles of trails through natural habitat provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and wildlife viewing. This park is one of the best places to see our Florida scrub-jay, a threatened species found only in Florida. Canoeists and kayakers will enjoy paddling along South Creek, a black-water stream that eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Rentals are also available.

Legacy Trail: Totaling more than 18 miles in length the trail runs from just south of the City of Sarasota to Caspersen Beach following the former CSX railroad corridor. The trail provides 15 areas to stop, rest, learn about its history or just enjoy the natural beauty. The rest stops include 7 trailheads which offer access points with free parking. The trailheads are located at Potter Park in Sarasota, Bay Street Park and Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, Laurel Park in Laurel, Nokomis Park in Nokomis, Patriots Park and the historic Venice Train Depot in Venice. In addition to the trailheads, users will find eight rest station areas that offer restroom faculties and places to sit and relax. Take the bike bridge over Tamiami Trail to the Venetian Waterway Park featuring a 10 mile trail along both banks of the City of Venice’s Intracoastal Waterway. Joggers, bikers and walkers with four legged friends can travel all the way to Caspersen Beach.