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Unless you can figure out a way to actually slow the pace of the setting sun, hitting all of Sarasota’s hot spots in one day is virtually impossible. However, visitors who put a little planning into their trip can get well acquainted with the city, as well as the area’s natural beauty, in just a day. Get a taste of the best Sarasota has to offer with these “Sarasota in a day” recommendations.
To make the most of your day in Sarasota, you’ll want to start out early. Not only will setting the alarm early give you a chance to take advantage of those precious morning hours, but hitting the town early also gives you a chance to beat the heat. Before the beach crowd descends upon Siesta Key, take an early morning stroll on the powder white sands of Siesta Beach, ranked America’s No. 1 beach by “Dr. Beach” Stephen Leatherman in 2011. Follow it up with breakfast at one of the numerous cafés, diners or bakeries in charming Siesta Key Village.
After breakfast, it’s time to take in the natural scenery while the mid-morning sun is still at its mildest. For the adventurous, there are plenty of options for active, aquatic tours. Guided kayak tours and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) tours are some of the most popular ways to take in the sights on the water. From adventures through mangrove passages around Sarasota Bay to tours that pass lavish celebrity mansions and beautiful homes along the canals of the bay and the Gulf of Mexico, these outings generally last approximately two hours. Alternatively, Sarasota offers several eco-boat tour options around the Gulf and Intracoastal Waterway that get visitors up close and personal with dolphins, manatees and more.
Adventuring works up a mighty appetite, so take a drive over the John Ringling Causeway Bridge, taking in the sights of the glittering bay as you make your way onto the palm tree-lined streets of Lido Key, where you can grab lunch at one of the several cafés, delis, casual dining or upscale dining restaurants on St. Armands Circle. Treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a sweet confection from Kilwin’s Chocolates as you stroll the Circle, window-shopping the area nicknamed “The Rodeo Drive of Sarasota.”
Once you’ve shopped ’til you dropped or eaten until you’re ready to pop, it’s time to head back across the bridge and into town, where downtown Sarasota’s artsy neighborhoods await. A simple stroll down Sarasota’s Main Street is an adventure filled with hip bars and coffee shops, galleries, independent and antique bookstores, toy stores and more. Venture off Main Street and into artsy neighborhoods like the Rosemary District, where you’ll find quirky art galleries off the beaten path, or Burns Court, a neighborhood filled with a mix of vibrant street art and eclectic, upscale boutiques. Downtown Sarasota is a very pedestrian-friendly, walkable area with history at every step. Pedi-cabs and pedestrian transport services like the Green Hopper also make navigating the downtown area a snap.
Round out your evening with dinner at one of the many restaurants downtown that represent a range of international and fusion cuisine, followed by a little entertainment. From classic productions in the regal 1920s Sarasota Opera House to live indie rock and bluegrass in the bars, the downtown Sarasota music scene has something to offer for all tastes. You can also catch a contemporary theater or improv comedy performance at the Florida Studio Theatre on any given night, a community production at the Players Theatre downtown, or a national act at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, located just minutes away on the Bay.
If you’re up for it, have a nightcap or indulge in sumptuous desserts like crème brûlée or Earl Grey cheesecake at Mélange, a late-night full-service restaurant and lounge, before retiring from your Sarasota-packed day.