I’ve lived in downtown Sarasota for nearly three years and thought I’d seen everything the city center had to offer until the other day, when I took a walk along the bay. Just two blocks from the heart of downtown I discovered an arched entryway leading to Bayfront Park in Sarasota, a half-mile long peninsula jutting into the bay. Intrigued, I stepped through the archway and into an alternate reality of grass-roofed shacks, brightly colored water sport equipment, tiki bars, multi-million dollar yachts at anchor, outdoor sculpture, elaborate playground equipment, and a circular recessed fountain where children romped in columns of water burbling from the ground.

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Gateway to Sarasota’s Bayfront Park

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Rent paddle boats, kayaks, and jet skis at the little grass shack

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Live music and tropical drinks are the order of the day at O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill

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Marina Jack’s Restaurant and Sarasota’s yacht harbor are framed by an outdoor sculpture

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Children scamper through pillars of water in this recessed waterfront fountain

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Dolphins adorn a fountain at the tip of the half-mile peninsula that forms Bayfront Park

If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn I was somewhere in the Caribbean. I am astonished that Bayfront Park has escaped my notice all this time. It just goes to show that no matter how long you live in a place, there’s always something more to be discovered.