On the calm Gulf Coast, Sarasota is popular with vacationers who prefer a quiet getaway over the more frenetic east coast options. This is a place of easy-going lifestyles and good old-fashioned family attractions framed by beautiful beaches.
And those beaches remain the area's main attraction, from central Sarasota to the many keys that stretch across the region. A one-time "secret" escape for the rich and famous, peaceful Longboat Key is a relaxing barrier island community that welcomes all just north of Sarasota. Nearby Siesta Key shelters the finest, whitest beach in the entire world, according to the esteemed opinions of Conde Nast Traveler, The Travel Channel, USA Today, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Why doubt the experts?!
Florida also means golf, and Sarasota pitches in with more than 30 courses around the county, perfect for all skill levels and budgets.
Sarasota also teems with entertainment and cultural attractions that exceed expectations for a small town: The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art (named for the circus mogul) exhibits works spanning from antiquities to modern masterpieces. And don't miss the Circus Museum, a joyous collection of costumes, wagons, performance equipment, and other circus artifacts. In addition, Sarasota hosts live theatre, ballet, opera, and classical music.
Sophistication and quiet charm make Sarasota a gem of Florida's Gulf Coast.
Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel - Lido Key - Sun, sand, and swaying palms envelope this expansive resort on a broad stretch of private, white-sand Gulf beach where volleyball, sailboats, and kayaks rule the day. Two free-from swimming pools are surrounded by a sundeck with lounge chairs and thatched huts. Breezy guest rooms have views of the pool, courtyard, or Gulf of Mexico.
Holiday Inn Lido Beach - Lido Key - This intimate hotel is an excellent value choice just across the street from world-famous Lido Beach. Guest rooms open onto private verandahs with views of the Gulf of Mexico, or of the city and the Bay of Sarasota, plus, it's just a short walk from St. Armands's Circle shopping and entertainment. The rooftop restaurant specializes in fresh seafood and amazing sunset views.
Longboat Key Club and Resort - Longboat Key - The premier beachfront resort is favored by golfers and tennis players. Water hazards on every hole of the Islandside course challenge golfers, and the huge tennis center - 38 Har-Tru courts! - make this one of Tennis Magazine's "Top 50 Tennis Resorts." Rooms and suites overlook the beach, lagoon, or golf course from private balconies.
Hilton Longboat Key Beach Resort - Longboat Key - Sun-lovers feel right at home in this family-oriented resort, fronting a wide stretch of sandy beach along the Gulf where you can watch dolphins at play. Verandahs with ocean, pool, or garden views highlight the newly renovated guest rooms and suites. Rustic boardwalks lead from the hotel to the restaurant and beach.
Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota - Sarasota - A standout even on Travel & Leisure's "500 List" of the world's best hotels, this high-rise resort overlooking Sarasota Bay is surrounded by 16 lakes and the Braden River. Guest rooms have private balconies with sweeping views of the bay or city, and the brilliant Tom Fazio-designed golf course provides multiple tees to accommodate all skill levels.