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Glittering oversized whirlpool and pool at The Members Beach Club

Family Vacation Fun

Known for its white sand, Gulf Coast breezes and ample sunshine, Sarasota is a wonderful escape for families looking for a balance of relaxation and excitement. The former winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus, the city is home to museums, gardens and, of course, miles of beaches. Looking for arts and culture? You’ll find them in Sarasota, too. The art lover in the family won’t want to miss one of the largest collections of Peter Paul Rubens paintings in the world, while the music buff might enjoy an outdoor concert or festival.



Day 1

  • Choose from a Hearty Menu.

    There are two locations for the Blue Dolphin Café — one in St. Armands Circle and one on Longboat Key — and with good reason. This neighborhood breakfast favorite offers something for everyone in the family, from fluffy Belgian waffles to rich eggs Benedict and everything in between.

  • Clown Around.

    At the Ringling Circus Museum, visitors can celebrate the history, ceremony and color of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. From live performances to static exhibitions, the museum is a sensory delight. While you’re on the Ringling property, it’s also possible to explore the museum of art and Ca’D’Zan, the Ringlings’ 56-room mansion on Sarasota Bay.

  • Lounge Around.

    At The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, poolside cabanas mean the whole family can relax in the shade after splashing in the pool. Sea Breeze cabanas come equipped with crafted cocktails, a snack basket, luxury lounge chairs and a 32-inch flat-screen television with premium programming.

  • Hit the Local Ocean.

    With a big banyan tree outside and plenty of Southern hospitality inside, Owen’s Fish Camp is in Burns Court in downtown Sarasota. The menu, which changes daily based on anglers’ catches, features everything from crab cakes to fried green tomato salad to shrimp and oyster po’boys. Of course, a large selection of wine and craft beer rounds out the offerings.



Day 2

  • Take Your Breakfast for a Walk.

    At Siesta Key’s boardwalk-based Meaney’s Mini Donuts, you and the family can grab a bag of sweet mini doughnuts and a couple of coffees for a song. From there, walk Siesta Beach to look for shells, as well as dolphins, manatees and other wildlife.

  • Find Your Pedal Power.

    Beaches would be incomplete without beach cruisers, and POPcycles rents a variety of bicycles. Just five minutes from Siesta Key beach, this friendly shop offers Electra Townie bikes for just $30 a day. From the shop, ride 2 miles to the Legacy Trail, which runs from Sarasota to Venice, or hop to the beach to cruise.

  • Snag a Photo Opportunity.

    The “Unconditional Surrender” sculpture on the Sarasota Bayfront pays tribute to Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph of a serviceman dipping a nurse for a kiss on Aug. 14, 1945, the end of war with Japan. Artist Seward Johnson created the 26-foot-tall aluminum sculpture, and it’s a great place to snap a quirky photograph.

  • Get a Piece of the Pie.

    At Palermo Pizza, the crust is perfectly flaky, the toppings are made-to-order and the cheese is melted just right. This long-standing Sarasota pizza parlor also offers up decadent Stromboli and sandwiches. It’s a casual, inexpensive place to dine in, or get carryout and have a picnic on the beach.



Day 3

  • Taste the Sun.

    Back on Siesta Key, the Sun Garden Café offers a different take on breakfast. Think: sweet potato pancakes and waffles crafted with pecans and bacon. If you’re looking to expand the kids’ breakfast palate, this is the spot. Plus, parents will love the wide stone patio, tropical flowers and relaxing, airy feel.

  • Wander a Living Museum.

    The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are an urban oasis tucked into Sarasota Bay. Fern gardens, tropical rainforests, butterfly and fragrance gardens, and a tidal lagoon span 9 acres on this property, once owned by Marie and William Selby of Texaco Oil. It’s a wonderful place to wander.

  • Have a Sweet Treat.

    Consistently rated one of Sarasota’s best places for dessert, Abel’s Ice Cream has been family-owned and operated since 2011. Your family will love sweet scoops of dreamy ice cream or frozen yogurt.

  • Taste Traditional Florida.

    No family trip is complete without some sort of silly experience, and Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar delivers. This popular, kitschy restaurant has been a Sarasota staple since 1979 and serves up all of the local seafood you can imagine. Curt’s clam chowder is a champion. It took first place in Newport, Rhode Island’s Great Chowder Cook-Off.




Day 4

  • Sleep In.

    Hit the snooze button once or twice and linger over an in-room breakfast at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Croissant French toast, fresh fruit and cage-free omelets can be delivered right to your door as you prepare for another day of adventure.

  • Take to Open Water.

    If you’re family has its sea legs, Sea Life Kayak Adventures offers a fleet of sea kayaks for rental. Or, if you’d prefer, their expert guides can lead you on a tour to document some of Sarasota’s native wildlife, including sea turtles, manatees and seabirds.

  • Catch a Show.

    Since 1973 Florida Studio Theatre has engaged patrons with brilliant productions — from musical theater to standard stage plays. The children’s theater presents several shows each year, while the main stage cycles through contemporary and traditional theater fare. Visit the box office or go online for tickets.



Day 5

  • Line Up.

    Although the lines at Toasted Mango Café can be long, the wait is worth it. This healthy café dishes up smoothies as well as traditional breakfast fare. And these three words will likely please the kiddos: cinnamon-roll pancakes.

  • Manatees and More.

    At the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, scientists work hard to understand the biology and ecology of the ocean and its creatures. You won’t have to work so hard to enjoy the aquarium, where hundreds of marine mammals and fish make their homes. A 135,000-gallon shark tank is the highlight of the aquarium, as are two touch tanks.

  • Until Next Time.

    Celebrate your last evening in town with a delicious dinner at Jack Dusty at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. This exceptional restaurant combines seafood and steak, as well as salads and a raw bar, to create a memorable meal for you and your family.