Since I was born and raised here, I could tell you all the gazillion things I hate about Sorry-sota –the conservative, intolerant mindset, the noise ordinance, the linkage of food trucks with an “unsavory” clientele that places like Siesta Key (site of a popular public beach, mind you) want to prevent from going out there–but that probably wouldn’t fit for a sightseeing blog, unless you want to sit around and laugh at the absurd shenanigans of local politicians and rich condo owners who move to the city’s downtown and then complain about the typical downtown noise. Though it’s not a typical tourist destination, if you’re a fan of cats/animals, I would check out this amazing cat shelter on 17th Street. It’s pretty phenomenal. www.catdepot.org
But, anyway, here are some of my favourite things to do, and places to eat (well, if I actually earned enough to enjoy any of these things, but some are free!).
Favorite restaurants (again, when I had money):
Sunrise Cafe (great for breakfast! Also has box lunches to take to the parks) http://www.yelp.com/biz/sunrise-cafe-sarasota
Whiteberry: (the best iced coffee, and yummy frozen yogurt too! Right on Main Street in downtown Sarasota) http://whiteberryusa.com
Latte Luna http://www.latteluna.com/
Square 1 (fantastic customer service) http://www.square1burgers.com/
Fresh Start Cafe http://www.freshstartcafesrq.com/
Gateway to India: http://www.gatewaytoindiasrq.com/
Elixir Tea House: http://www.elixirteahouse.com/
Bangkok Restaurant: http://bangkoksarasota.com/
Yume Sushi: http://www.yumerestaurant.com/
Most visitors will know about the Ringling Museum (it’s free on Mondays), but I went sometimes if they had an interesting travelling exhibit, but I rarely go these days. Basically, I got tired of being trailed throughout the exhibit room by museum security, and even followed from room to room by the same security person. Apparently, if you’re a typical-looking tourist decked out in Hawaiian shirts and wearing socks with sandals, you’re allowed to lug in big backpacks and big purses against museum restrictions, and are free to touch the paintings and take all the flash photos you want; hell, let your screaming kids run wild through the exhibits, preferably wielding large sticks gathered from the gardens. If you look like a “normal”, you get carte blanche to act however you want in the museum. And, yes, I’m being sarcastic, but, sadly, I’m not exaggerating.
Here’s some other touristy places:
St. Armands Circle and Longboat Key: for all your snooty, upscale shopping needs, and hotels, and golf courses. Don’t speed through Longboat Key. I never go here, or even drive through it, unless I absolutely have to. Watch for lost and confused drivers who will make sudden lane changes right into the path of your car.
Lido Beach, Mote Marine Aquarium, and Save Our Seabirds: Just past St. Armands Circle. Look for the signs.
Anna Maria Island: This used to be a little more “Old Florida” but I’ve heard it’s getting pretty built up, with those ugly, cheaply built megahomes and condos. Rotten Ralph’s is an okay restaurant to go to, tourist-wise.
Siesta Key, and Siesta Key Beach: No food trucks, last I heard, but a beach, the Daiquiri Deck for getting drunk after (or before!) the beach, and some little shops. There’s a drum circle on the main beach on Sunday nights.
Bayfront Park and Marina Jacks: Yes, this is where the ginormous statute “Unconditional Surrender” is. I still don’t get it, but it was pretty hilarious when that woman, going through a bad divorce, jumped the median and crossed traffic on 41 in an attempt to take out the statue in her car, according to the local newspapers. There’s a marina there, and you can get a fishing charter there (if there’s any fish left in the Gulf, thanks to runoff from fertilizer and, probably, because of all the chemicals/pesticides/Round-up washing into the Gulf because people insist on having weed-free sidewalks and perfect green lawns). They also have sunset and sightseeing cruises, a restaurant (Marina Jacks) and O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill. This is a short walk from downtown. (Downtown has a farmer’s market on Sundays, and there’s a weekend flea market near Ringling and Tuttle.)
Here’s some of my favourite places :
Gamble Plantation http://www.floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation/
Egmont Key and Lighthouse: http://www.floridastateparks.org/egmontkey/
Myakka State Park: http://www.floridastateparks.org/myakkariver/
Oscar Scherer State Park: http://www.floridastateparks.org/oscarscherer/
Lettuce Lake Park: http://fl-hillsboroughcounty.civicplus.com/documentcenter/home/view/1073
South Florida Museum and Planetarium: http://www.southfloridamuseum.org/
Bradenton Riverwalk: http://www.realizebradenton.com/index.php/riverwalk
Manatee Historical Park: http://www.manateeclerk.com/historical/manateevillage.aspx
Wildlife Center of Venice: http://wildlifecenterofvenice.org/
Here’s a couple of places in Tampa/St. Pete area (only about 40 minutes/an hour north). I haven’t been to the Chihuly Museum ever or Ybor City since my club days in the nineties. Also haven’t been to the Dali Museum in a while. Ybor City has bars for late-night fun (Guavaween is coming up!–Halloween street party), and there used to be a lot of shops, including a great vintage clothing store called La France–which is still there I think.
Ybor City: http://www.ybor.org/
Dali Museum: http://thedali.org/
Museum of Science and Industry: http://www.mosi.org/