Things to Do in Sarasota, Siesta Key and Venice for 2024

I have spent a lot of time on the west coast of Florida in places like St. Pete and Naples, but only recently did I get the chance to visit Sarasota. This beachy spot is between those two cities, making it perfect for a coastal vacation. We had such an amazing time on ours and I found that there are so many things to do in Sarasota!

This guide will cover a variety of experiences from outdoorsy ones to cultural ones. I am also sharing ideas for nearby Siesta Key and Venice. If you have time, it is worth it to check out all three areas! As of September 2020, this list has over 20 ideas for things to do in Sarasota and beyond for whatever you are interested in!

unique things to do in sarasota

Nature Things to Do in Sarasota

If you are visiting Sarasota, you will probably want to spend a decent amount of time soaking up the beautiful weather. Luckily, there are many different ways here to do that from visiting a beach to exploring botanical gardens. Here are my favorite nature things to do in Sarasota.

Spend a Day at the Beach

Of course, you do not want to miss the beaches of Sarasota. They are really some of the most pretty I have seen. My favorite was Lido Beach, which many people recommended to me. There was plenty of room to spread out, calm, clear waters and lots of shells. The coolest thing about it to me though was that there was a Black Skimmer nesting area here and hundreds of birds were nesting on the beach. They do not bother people at all, besides a bit of squawking, and it was a very unique opportunity to see nature in action.

As far as other local beaches, Siesta Key Beach and Caspersen Beach are also excellent options. Siesta Key Beach has been ranked the best beach in the U.S. thanks to the powder sand, ample parking and amazing sunsets. Casperson Beach in Venice is a bit more laid back and also excellent for finding shark teeth. You can find whatever type of beach you like in the Sarasota area!

beaches things to do in sarasota

Walk or Fish the Piers

If you prefer to not get sandy for your waterfront experience, there are a couple of piers to check out. These are great for walking, fishing or looking for dolphins. The Sarasota Pier is a nice long stretch with plenty of room for strolling or casting a line. There is even a playground for kids to play on while parents enjoy the sunset views! The Venice Fishing Pier is another renowned spot where you can fish for anything but sharks and you do not need a fishing license. If you get too warm, there is Sharky’s restaurant at the end serving up refreshment and bites too!

Explore the Sarasota Jungle Gardens

One of the things to do in Sarasota that you cannot miss is the Sarasota Jungle Gardens. It is part zoo part garden with so much to see. Here you can find free roaming flamingos, alligators, all sorts of birds and a petting zoo! This is in addition to many shows, hands on activities and 1.2 miles of lush environment to roam. It is an excellent way to get the full Florida experience!

See Sea Life at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

If you want to be sure you see sea creatures on your trip, you can spend the day at the Mote Marine Lab and Aquarium. Here, there is so much to learn about the aquatic environment and the species that live there. Between all the interactive exhibits, you can also see otters, manatees, turtles, sharks, and a variety of fish. Marine Biologist wannabes of all ages will enjoy themselves here.

Take a Garden Stroll

To get a taste of natural Florida, you can visit to local gardens. Both the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and the Sarasota Garden Club are excellent places to see flowers and trees of all kinds. The Marie Selby Gardens boats 45 acres with a variety of different environments to explore from Butterfly Gardens to Koi Ponds. This costs $15 per person to visit, but you can easily spend a couple hours here and even have a picnic The Sarasota Garden Club was right across from our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Sarasota and was free to visit! This is not as much area to explore, but still a beautiful spot and worth giving a donation to if you visit.

sarasota things to do garden

Active Things to Do in Sarasota

Though Sarasota can be great for a relaxing vacation, you can definitely get your adrenaline pumping here if you like. This next section has a variety of active things to do in Sarasota, including watersports and hikes. These are my best ideas for an adventurous Sarasota experience.

Go For a Paddle

My favorite way to experience Sarasota is on the water from either a kayak or a paddleboard. Personally, I think this is the best way to see manatees and dolphins and also break a sweat too. There are many places to either rent from or take a guided tour. If you have never been paddling before or are new to the area, definitely take a tour to ensure the best sightseeing experience!

kayaking sarasota

Take a Boat Ride

For a little less effort, but much more speed, you can also go for a boat ride around Sarasota’s waters. Places like Siesta Key Watersports offer all sorts of boat rentals, including pontoons, speed boats and jet skis. If you rather not captain yourself, there are also charters, tours and parasailing! Whether you like cruising around or taking some fishing poles with you, this is another one of the fun, outdoor things to do in Sarasota

Play a Game of Golf

Like most of Florida, there is no shortage of golf courses in Sarasota! Public courses to check out include Tatum Ridge Golf Links, University Park Country Club and Capri Isles Golf Club. All three are excellent for either 9 holes, 18 holes or some time at the driving range. If you want something a little more casual, there is mini golf at Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf and Evie’s Family Golf Center.

Take a Hike Through a Preserve

If you want to see the wild side of Sarasota, you have to check out one of the many nature preserves. There are a variety each featuring different trails to explore and look for birds and critters. For longer hikes check out the Myakka River State Park and t he Oscar Scherer State Park. Casual bird watchers and nature enthusiasts will enjoy walking around the Red Bug Slough Preserve and the Audubon Rookery.

sarasota florida things to do

Relax With a Yoga Class

If you want to get some relaxation during your vacation, a yoga session always does it for me! Though you can do it for free on any public beach or park, there are some excellent classes you can do a drop-in at. Every Tuesday, you can take a morning yoga class poolside at the Sarasota Modern Hotel and even stay for the day after. Another great outdoor option is courtyard Yappy Yoga on Sundays where you can bring your dog to play while you stretch! For hot days, you may prefer the indoor Sunday morning yoga with Katie at Book + Bottle. This is a cute café where you can relax with a mimosa or coffee in after you finish!

Cultural Things to Do in Sarasota

Beaches and waterways are plentiful in Florida, but Sarasota is also a cultural destination especially worth visiting. The downtown here has a rich theater and arts district brimming with talent. There also is a lot of history here to learn about, from the famous Ringling Brothers estate to Newtown, the first local African American community. Here are some ways to enjoy the arty and historical things to do in Sarasota.

Explore and Shop Downtown

There are four different downtown areas to explore in the area that each show off a different vibe. St. Armand’s Circle is the most renowned for its sophisticated European style shopping and dining, whereas Downtown Sarasota has a much more artsy vibe. Both are worth exploring, taking pictures and trying the restaurants there. In Siesta Key there is the fun and kitschy Siesta Key Village and in Venice there is the charming Main Street as well.

sarasota downtowns

Learn About the Ringling’s History

One thing you may notice a lot of in Sarasota is circus references. They are all throughout town because one of the Ringling brothers lived in Sarasota. As a tribute, his house is now the John and Mable Museum of Art where you can see some wonderful art and architecture.  Next door, you can also visit the Circus Museum and learn all about the incredible history of circus performers and the business in general. It’s a great way to escape into the past and awake the wonder of the circus!

See a Live Show

Carrying on the legacy of the Ringling brothers, Sarasota continues to be a town full of amazing performers. You can see a show at two different playhouses in Sarasota, The Van Wezel performing Arts Hall and the Players Centre. Both boast beautiful theaters and stunning original and classic performances. There is also the Venice Theater which is one of the largest community theaters in the United States. Between these three options, you can easily find a way to enjoy dinner and a show on the town.

Ride the Newtown Alive Trolley Tour

Another way to experience Sarasota’s history is by taking the Newtown Alive Trolley Tour. These two hour tours provide an interactive way to learn the in-depth history of Sarasota’s first African American neighborhood. Though the tour guide shares both infuriating and uplifting stories, this is still such a unique and enjoyable way to learn something new.

Take a Brewery Crawl

Though Sarasota may not be as known as neighboring Tampa for breweries, there are many excellent ones to try here. You can make an afternoon or even a day of Ubering around town and trying different brews. The two must visits are Big Top Brewing and Calusa Brewing. However, JDubs, Sarasota Brewing, and the Mandeville Beer Garden are definitely worth visiting too! If you pick up the Tampa Ale Trail passport, you can even keep track of your visits too!

sarasota breweries

Tour a Museum

If the circus isn’t your thing, there are still a few other museums things to do in Sarasota. Another favorite is the Classic Car Museum. Here you can see over 100 vintage cars and learn about the history of the automobile industry. Other museums to check out include the gorgeous Sarasota Art Museum, the Mariette Museum of Art and Whimsy and the Bishop Museum of Science. For whatever your interests, there is a museum to let your imagination run wild in Sarasota!

Sarasota Annual Events

Clearly there are a lot of things to do in Sarasota, but at certain times of year there are local events you may want to attend. Personally, I always look for local events when traveling, because it can be the best way to really experience a town! Most of the ones in this area are food and drink centric, so you can also get a taste of the foodie scene here without having to visit tons of restaurants. Here are the Sarasota events to look out for when visiting!

Forks and Corks Sarasota

Every November, local restaurants and international wineries team up to showcase the best eats of the town. This is a renowned foodie fest with restaurants like Opehlia’s and The Bijou Café participating. There are 50 local tastings and over 130 wines to try and it’s all included with the price of the ticket! You can even take a masterclass in wine tasting during the weekend as well. This is one of the best ways to try the best restaurants in town and became a wine aficionado as well.

things to do in sarasota

Toast to Venice Food Wine and Beer

Venice has its own wine and foodie festival every April which features a similar day of eating and drinking your way through delicious local bites. You can try local favorites like Brew Burgers and Pinchers, alongside wine and beer! Between this and the live music, it’s an excellent way to taste your way through Venice, Florida.

Sarasota Taco and Tequila Crawl

If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo early, you can join the Taco and Tequila Crawl in April. Here you can explore five different taco spots downtown and try a different taco and tequila sample at each! There is even a professional photographer documenting it all and party stops with dancing. With the tequila and tacos flowing, this is always an amusing event.

Siesta Key Craft Festival

For those with an arty side, you will want to visit the Siesta Key Craft Festival every October. The entire Siesta Key Village is transformed by beautiful artwork complete with a market to shop at. You will see so many unique types of art from jewelry to paintings to ceramics and most available for purchase. This is the perfect way to support the local art community and have a fun day doing it.

siesta key

Know Before You Go: Things to Do in Sarasota

Clearly there are a lot of attractions in the Sarasota, Siesta Key and Venice, Florida area. If you are a local, I hope this guide provided you with some new ways to experience your town! And for those visiting, I recommend spending some time at the beach and doing at least a couple of nature or active activities on this list during the day. Then in the evening, head to St. Armand’s Circle or Downtown Sarasota for dinner and some nightlife. This guide should have you covered for figuring out the best things to do in Sarasota! Here are some other things to keep in mind for your visit.

  • The best times to visit Sarasota is October through April. You may be able to get better deals in the summer, but it is a lot hotter and there is a risk of hurricanes.
  • If you are going in the ocean, use sunscreen without oxybenzone. Sunscreens that contain this ingredient can be harmful to sea life.
  • For flying into Sarsota, I recommend the Tampa Airport. It is over an hour north, but there are a lot more flight options than the Sarasota airport. You can also fly into the Orlando airport, but that is a two-hour drive away.
  • If you are visiting the area, I highly recommend renting a car. It’s a large area, and though you can use Lyft/Uber, a rental car is probably cheaper
  • For nightlife, you will mainly find live music at restaurants in Downtown Sarasota and at Tiki Bars. Things are pretty casual here and there is not much in the way of nightclubs, but there are lots of bars.
sarasota things to do 2021
things to do in sarasota florida

Have you been to Sarasota before? I think it’s one of the best vacation spots in Florida! For more tips for your trip, check out my Sarasota Restaurant Guide or for things nearby, my travel guide for St. Pete.