An artistic community blessed with beaches galore, Sarasota celebrates beauty created by both nature and people. In the high season, especially around Easter and spring break, the sandy shores teem with beachgoers. Siesta Key has been named the top beach in the world by “Dr. Beach” (Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, the director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University), who praises its powdery white sand, child-friendly waves, clean and clear waters, and recreational fitness opportunities. With a dozen or so public courses, golf is another popular outdoors pursuit.
Summer is a little slower in Sarasota, thanks to showers and high temps that send people looking for shade (although the heat usually tops out in the low 90s). But if fun in the sun is what you’re after, you’ll benefit from lower-priced accommodations. There are special kids’ programs at Sarasota Jungle Gardens, an old swampy banana grove–turned–botanical garden. Inside its 10 acres, reptiles, birds of prey, flamingos, and other animals (many of which are rescues) live among exotic flora. For classical music lovers, this season hosts a can’t-miss event: the Sarasota Music Festival. Top talents from around the world converge for three weeks in June to mentor the most promising up-and-coming student musicians, resulting in artist showcases and concerts that give the public rare listening opportunities.
Fall is a quieter time, when the kids go back to school and the snowbirds are still away. Check out the Sarasota Chalk Festival in November, an event that turns the street into a canvas you have to see to believe. For more handmade inspiration, hit the Towles Court Arts District, a collection of bungalows containing galleries and studios where you can usually find someone hard at work on a portrait, print, painting, or pair of earrings.