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Tourism is the main industry in Sarasota — and that has been true since the days before a single house was built, when anglers used to pitch tents on the beach. The standard Florida attractions of beaches, fishing, golf and sunbathing are available here, and the city has more than earned its claim as “the cradle of golf” since the first Florida course was laid out in 1886 by Col. J. Hamilton Gillespie. Visit Sarasota Jungle gardens, Sarasota Art Gallery and the Ringing Museum of Art and Ringling Residence. If you stay at the Four-Star Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota—and we suggest that you do—be sure to hit up their pampering spa.
1. Jungle Gardens: At Sarasota Jungle Gardens, tropical birds frolic in a jungle paradise featuring more than 5,000 varieties of plants, wild jungle trails and even formal gardens. Flamingos, swans, peacocks and pelicans roam free. Take a break from the animal action at the Flamingo Cafe, which serves delicious sandwiches, ice cream and snacks.
2. Art Gallery: An Italian Renaissance-style villa houses Sarasota Art Gallery, which was created by local crafters with shiploads of columns, doorways, roof sculptures and marble collected in Italy by John Ringling. The gallery features one of the most distinguished collections of Baroque art in the Western Hemisphere. There is also contemporary art, a Rubens collection and sculpture garden in courtyard.
3. Ringling Museum: The “Ringling” of this museum’s name is courtesy of John Ringling, the man responsible for uniting the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses into the “Greatest Show on Earth.” In the Ringling Museum of Art and Ringling Residence, you’ll find big-top memorabilia, including performers’ costumes and retro circus posters. But the 66-acre Ringling estate isn’t just a freak show. It’s a cultural complex that features the family’s elaborate Venetian Gothic mansion, an art museum filled with works from Old Masters like El Greco, a sculpture courtyard and a rose garden.
4. Members Spa Club: The Four-Star Ritz-Carlton Members Spa Club, Sarasota, for use only by guests of the resort and members of the Ritz-Carlton Members Club, combines state-of-the-art design with European techniques. More than 100 treatments make up the comprehensive menu; but massages, masks, scrubs and body treatments are the specialties. Hand and foot treatments go beyond the basic manicure or pedicure to include citrus anti-aging manis and mineral powder pedis. Salon services include hair care and styling, as well as makeup application and lessons.