Right In My Own Back Yard – Events in Sarasota

I LOVE to travel. I can only stay put for a few months before I get the urge to head out for another one of the distant, exotic places that I haven’t yet checked off my list. Unfortunately, I can’t travel all the time. Once in a while I have to stick around and make some money to pay for all this travel about which I am so passionate. When I find myself grounded for a while – like now – I have to find a way to scratch that travel itch or I go crazy. That’s when I start looking around in my own back yard.

I am ashamed to admit that, despite the fact that I was born and raised in Chicago, I never visited Lincoln Park Zoo, attended a concert at the downtown band shell, went to the top of the Sears Tower, toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, visited the Old Water Tower, or watched the futures trading at the Chicago Board of Trade. It’s a mistake I don’t intend to repeat, now that I’ve relocated to Sarasota.

Lido Beach Sarasota, Florida
Lido Beach Sarasota, Florida

Being the beach baby that I am, I have already checked out all of Sarasota’s Gulf Coast beaches. Lido Beach on St. Armand’s Circle, with its wide expanse of sugar-fine white sand and turquoise waters, is a particular favorite of mine, followed by the white coral sand beaches of Siesta Key.
But the real action happens in and around the downtown. Main Street has long been the setting for art festivals, restaurants, retail shops, and the ever-popular Saturday morning Farmers Market.

Farmer's Market Sarasota Florida
Fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers are offered at the Farmer’s Market each Saturday morning

Just off Main, Palm Avenue is home to numerous fine art galleries, while antique and retro collectible shops are found along Pineapple Avenue. On the western edge of downtown, more than two dozen sculptures line Sarasota’s Bayfront Park for five months each year during the Season of Sculpture, one of the more popular events in Sarasota.

Sarasota Season of Sculpture
Crusaders sculpted from asphalt keep watch over Bayfront Park
A lone fisherman casts from Bayfront Park as the sun sets over Sarasota Bay
A lone fisherman casts from Bayfront Park as the sun sets over Sarasota Bay

Forming the southern edge of downtown is Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, where orchids and colorful Bromeliads mingle with towering groves of bamboo.

Downtown Sarasota
Sarasota, Florida, a small city packed with culture

Sarasota may hold the record for being the nation’s smallest city with the largest number of cultural venues, including the Sarasota Opera, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, the historic Asolo Theater, the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Florida West Coast Symphony, the Sarasota Ballet, and the Sarasota Pops Orchestra. Theater lovers find no end of choices, including the Asolo Repertory Theater, the Banyan Theater Company, the Florida Studio Theatre, the Players Theatre, and the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre.

Popular music fans have a plethora of choices, from live performances and cocktails on the gorgeous terrace of Ca d’Zan mansion every third Thursday to Friday Fests throughout the summer at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and live jazz under the banyans at Selby Gardens. Festivals celebrating all things musical include La Musica, an annual chamber music festival scheduled for April; Sarasota Music Festival in June; the March Sarasota Jazz Festival, featuring scat-and-jam masters; and the annual Blues Fest in November.

Halloween Festival
Halloween Festival on Main Street, Sarasota, Florida

In fact, there are dozens of festivals in Sarasota, including the 4th of July Offshore Race Festival, the Florida Winefest and Auction, Sarasota Arts Day, the Halloween Festival, and the 10-day long annual Sarasota Film Festival, featuring the best films of every genre from around the world.

Within minutes of downtown are attractions such as the Mote Aquarium; Sarasota Jungle Gardens; The Towles Court Arts District, an artists’ colony of 1920s bungalows-turned-studios; G-WIZ, the hands-on science museum; and the adorable, artsy Burns Square neighborhood, with it’s historic cinema. And since Sarasota is the historic wintering grounds for the Ringling Bros./Barnum and Bailey Circus, no visit is complete without a stop at the Circus Museum, where the exploits of Emmett Kelly and the Flying Wallendas are preserved for posterity.

A bit further out of downtown is Powel Crosley Museum, the restored 1929 palatial estate of the wireless radio pioneer; the Jungle Walk at Historic Spanish Point; the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary,a non-profit safe haven for big cats, bears, and other animals in need; and the Bishop Planetarium in Bradenton.

I’m exhausted just reading this. I haven’t even begun to see everything that my new home has to offer, much less the hundreds of places within an hour’s drive of Sarasota, like the quaint little town of Venice to the south, the famous Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, the fleet bringing in the sponge catch in Tarpon Springs to the north……but don’t get me started or we’ll be here all day.

12 thoughts on “Right In My Own Back Yard – Events in Sarasota”

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  2. I have enjoyed reading what you write. I too have the travel bug and so do my children. You mentioned not appreciating your own backyard and I think that comes from where you live is where you work to earn the money to go somewhere but I learned as a child that Sunday was family day and we went on Sunday drives and explored so I really enjoy that too. My husband and I currently live in St Augustine, Florida,we moved from Port Angeles, WA 2008 for the sun and warm ocean. Every day it is important to take some time and appreciate life around you, you mentioned this in your latest email from Mazatlan and the 2 men playing chess. I like the personal way you write about your travels it makes me remember my travels. Thank you.

    • Judy: Thank you so much for stopping by and letting me know you enjoy it. It makes all the difference in the world to now that people are actually reading what I write.

  3. I’m seeking some info on Alto Saxaphones and I’ve just come across your blog! An interesting read which I enjoyed and found to be of value. I will enjoying coming back to allow myself the opportunity to read more.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with this post. I live in Washington and have been all over my state. It drives me crazy when my friends talk of going to the beach they all go to Oregon. What the heck, the beaches in Washington are second to none. Boy are they missing out.

  5. Hi,

    My Brazilian band will be performing on June 8 in Sarasota. Any mention be would be greatly appreciated.


    David Manson
    EMIT series

    a CD release concert by O Som Do Jazz

    Brazilian band O Som Do Jazz will be performing on Sunday, June 8 at the Sainer Pavilion at New College. The concert includes selections from the group’s new release “Infinita Bossa”, including classic bossa nova, samba-jazz and MPB. Band members include Andrea Moraes Manson (vocals), Tom Caribasi (drums), Regis Moreira (piano), Mark Neuenschwander (bass), Jeremy Powell (saxophone) and David Manson (trombone).

    The concert begins at 3 PM and admission is $10. The Sainer Pavilion is located at 5313 Bay Shore Road in Sarasota, FL 34243. The telephone number there is (941) 487-4665.

  6. I LOVE this post! People often long to faraway places and forget to appreciate what’s in their local area. I especially like the part on Sarasota. Someday I’d like to visit the Sarasota Blues Fest and also check out all the theatres in the city.

  7. I love treating my local area like I’m on vacation. My partner and I have definitely had our best trips this way.

    Do you find that even doing this, you get tied to certain spots? I know our adventures quickly turn into habits.

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  9. I think it’s all to easy not to appreciate and savour what’s in your own back yard. I think that for many people in the UK, mention holiday and their first reaction is to jump on a plane to head for warmer climes. When I started my European travel business I virtually ignored the UK. However after a couple of years I began to realise that I should be writing about my home country of Scotland too. I even wrote a price extolling the virtues of staying at home for your Summer holiday.

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