Travelling to Sarasota
Think again if you think this tiny city on Florida's west coast is like any other in the state. Sarasota attracts art enthusiasts and collectors with an outstanding range of art-centric sites and events, such as The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Art Centre Sarasota, and many craft exhibits and festivals. However, art is not restricted to traditional paintings and sculptures.
Ballet, opera, and circus performances are popular in this coastal city. The circus is, in fact, profoundly ingrained in Sarasota. Two of the Ringling Bros. Circus's founders, John and Charles Ringling, moved to Sarasota just before it became a city in 1913. Furthermore, Ca' d'Zan, John Ringling's former home, is now one of the city's greatest attractions.
Sarasota's location near Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico makes it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts. When you do not appreciate the scenery from one of the area's stunning golf courses, visit the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Lido Beach, or Myakka River State Park to see the native flora and fauna. Sarasota also has one of the state's largest Amish and Mennonite communities.
Sarasota is best visited between March and May and between September and November, when crowds, temps, and prices are more reasonable. (However, remember that if you travel between June and November, Florida's hurricane season, you may face a storm.)
The city's most favourable temperatures are in December, January, and February. Still, its population grows with Northern residents (or "snowbirds") in the winter, which means Sarasota's streets will be congested and its attractions will be crowded. During these months, prices are also at their peak. Travellers might visit between June and August for partially reduced crowds and lower hotel and flight charges. Visitors should, however, expect plenty of rain and humidity and normal July highs in the low 90s.
Winter is the worst time to visit. Airfare and hotel rates are at their highest between the holidays and February. Plan your trip between late spring and early autumn for more cheap possibilities.
Use free entrance days to your advantage. Several Sarasota attractions, including Lido Beach and Sarasota National Cemetery, are free to visit any day of the year, while others, such as The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, waive admission prices on certain days.
Take the SCAT. Use Sarasota County's bus service (SCAT) to save money on parking. Though most bus routes have limited hours and do not run on Sundays, one-way adult tickets between downtown Sarasota and destinations such as Lido Beach and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport start at $1.25.
What to Eat
Like other Florida locations, Sarasota's dining scene concentrates mostly on American fare with regional seafood delicacies such as prawns, lobster and octopus. Dry Dock Waterfront Grill (just east of downtown on Longboat Key), Owen's Fish Camp (a few streets south of Sarasota's major Main Street roadway), and KaCey's Seafood and More (near Interstate 75) are among the best local seafood restaurants.
Italian, Latin American, Amish, and Mennonite restaurants are also popular, owing to many inhabitants' ties to these communities. Travellers recommend Dolce Italia, Cafe Baci, and Mozzarella Fella for Italian cuisine. Restaurants serving Latin American cuisine include the Peruvian-inspired Selva Grill and the Puerto Rican-influenced Sofrito Mamas. In the city's Pinecraft neighbourhood, Yoder's Restaurant and Der Dutchman Restaurant provide traditional Amish and Mennonite fare such as pecan sticky buns, potato cakes, and shoofly pie (a dessert with a coffee cake covering and a molasses bottom).
Visitors can visit one of the area's craft breweries for delectable libations. Sarasota Brewing Company (a microbrewery that debuted in 1989), Big Top Brewing Company (where circus-inspired brews are served), and Calusa Brewing (named after the indigenous Calusa Native American tribe) are notable establishments.
Sarasota's attractions are dispersed throughout the city, so renting a car or taking the SCAT, Sarasota County's bus service, is the easiest way to get around. Though SCAT buses provide several accessible routes, including those to and from Sarasota-Brandenton International Airport (SRQ), most do not operate on Sundays and have limited night service. While more convenient, rental automobiles cost roughly $20 per day on average. Taxis and ride-sharing services can also be hired but are substantially more expensive than bus fares and auto rentals. Bike rentals are also available. However, they are not appropriate for long-distance riding.
Travelling by bus is one of the most convenient and cost-effective methods to get around Sarasota. Sarasota County Area Transit, or SCAT, charges $1.25 per one-way ride or $2.50 for each ride on the Express Route 100x, which runs between the airport and downtown Sarasota. One-way fares must be paid in cash on the bus. For $4 to $60, visitors can purchase a one-day, seven-day, or 30-day bus pass. All tickets can be purchased at the Downtown Transfer Station, the SCAT Transit Administration, or one of the many Goodwill stores located throughout Sarasota County.
Besides serving the airport and the city centre, SCAT routes make stops near attractions such as The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Lido Beach, and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Most buses do not run on Sundays and only run in the evenings from Monday through Saturday. Many begin at 5:30 a.m.; some buses end service around 7 p.m., while others operate until 10 p.m. The frequency of buses varies based on the route and time of day, although most arrive every 20 to 60 minutes.
Rental automobiles are one of the most adaptable ways of transportation in the city. Because many SCAT buses are unavailable late at night or on Sundays, vehicles are an excellent option for night owls and weekend visitors. Furthermore, because bus routes to some locations are limited, having a car may be the simplest and quickest method to get to some attractions. Remember that some parking garages may charge fees. However, many attractions and streets in the downtown area offer free parking all day or for a few hours. Every major vehicle rental company has a location in the city and at the airport.
Several taxi companies service the Sarasota area. However, all rides begin with a $3 drop charge over a $4 per-mile rate. Cabs can be requested at the airport, on the street, or through your hotel's concierge. Furthermore, ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber are available in Sarasota County through smartphone apps.
Renting a bike may be worthwhile if you intend to stay in a certain region while in Sarasota. The city does not have a public bike-share system, but various bicycle stores sell rentals, and several attractions give free bike parking. Some bike shops charge by the hour, while others have daily or weekly prices. Expect to be paid less than $10 per hour, $10 to $60 per day, or $40 to $250 per week. Most bike shops' rental pricing includes helmets, locks, and chains.