Travel + Leisure
November 13, 2017

Once home to the famed Ringling Brothers circus, Sarasota, Florida has attracted throngs of eager beachgoers for decades — and not for nothing. Nestled on Florida’s sunny Gulf Coast, there’s ample reason to plan a warm weather getaway to this dreamy stretch of paradise.

One of the first things travelers should do in Sarasota is head to the beach. While there are plenty to choose from, we recommend Lido Beach, just a short drive from downtown. Trust us — it’s tough to say no to a 3,000-foot stretch of powder-soft sand. Not far off, Siesta Key offers shallow waters that are ideal for wading, as well as 99 percent quartz sand that stays cool even on sweltering days, so you can go barefoot without a second thought.

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Sarasota is a former 18th-century fishing village, but it’s now a fully modern beach town. Spend some time exploring the area, which boasts everything from high-rise condos to Midcentury homes. Carve out a few hours to spend in Southside Village, where visitors will find historic bungalows, a buzzing food scene, and a vibrant arts community.

While Sarasota has historically attracted a community of retirees and fishermen, in recent years the destination has started to draw a younger crowd. People come from all over for the culture, the food, and top-notch shopping. Don’t miss St. Armand's Circle, just across the bridge from town, featuring a cluster of elegant boutiques. And those interested in architecture and interior design will be happy to discover Sarasota Architectural Salvage: a cool collective where you can peruse chic home goods and unique decor.

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What to do when you’ve worked up an appetite in Sarasota? Order seafood. A trip to this seaside city would not be complete without a meal (or two) featuring the coast’s fresh catch.

Celebrated for its fishing heritage, visitors can enjoy sustainably-caught seafood at one of Sarasota’s esteemed restaurants, like the James Beard-honored Indigenous. Those who are on the market for a timeless seafood shack-style dinner will surely be impressed with the town’s close proximity to these classic venues, like Walt’s Fish Market just down the road in Cortez.

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