Attractions & Parks
Sarasota attractions and parks showcase interactive exhibits, live shows and many are in beautiful locations on the water. Enjoy browsing orchids at the botanical gardens; or interact with stingrays at the aquarium. Children will love seeing animals up close, and swinging on benches under the banyan trees. Sarasota area parks and attractions are truly special and provide a more intimate experience than the big theme parks that the state is famous for.
Located approximately two miles from the north end of Longboat Key, this 32 acre wetland and coastal dune forest is a true conservation success story. The state and federal government participated in the community initiative to enhance and restore the site, one of the only remaining vacant island properties on Longboat Key. Great care was taken to protect the native vegetation and old growth trees on site, making sure that live oaks, sabal palms and banyans were saved and incorporated into the park.
Located just north of downtown, a visit to the jungle is a great way to spend a few hours with the young and young at heart. Pet an alligator, talk to a parrot or feed a friendly flamingo right out of your hand; this 10 acre Old Florida attraction is the perfect size for little ones. Complete with a petting zoo appropriate for the very youngest of children, the gardens also provides plenty of shade along tree-lined walkways.
Once the estate of Sarasota philanthropist Marie Selby, Sarasota's Botanical Gardens are known for having the most diverse and beautiful orchid collection in the world, displaying more than 6,000 examples of the exotic flower. Stroll through the grounds situated on 9.5 bayfront acres; tiptoe through the butterfly garden, explore the greenhouses and be amazed. More than 20,000 colorful plants, bonsai trees and sprawling banyan and fig trees will keep you intrigued, while walkways through the trees are sure to delight the children. Check the website for special events, which include concerts on the lawn during the summer; and a spectacular light display throughout the Gardens over the holidays.
Home to one of the finest collections of art in Florida, John and Mable Ringling's waterfront mansion, Ca d'Zan, should not be missed. Aside from the permanent collection, the Ringling also features visiting exhibitions. The resident Circus Museum, showcasing the world's largest miniature circus, is a true testament to the man, the history and the legacy of the circus family in Sarasota. Just walking the grounds is impressive, serving as the backdrop for weddings, prom pictures and black tie events throughout the year.
The Mote Marine's primary function is as a research and rescue facility; rescuing, treating and rehabilitating injured marine animals; releasing them back into the wild when possible. If release is not possible, the animals are cared for and exhibited to educate visitors about conservation, our resident wildlife, and how we can help to make our local environment safer for all creatures. The aquarium features a shark habitat; as well as manatee, dolphin and sea turtle exhibits. Children will enjoy the interactive touch tank and colorful fish tanks. Moray eels, seahorses and iridescent jellyfish delight and amaze visitors of all ages. With over 100 species of marine life to learn about, Mote Marine is guaranteed to be enjoyed by all. Also on site is the Pelican Man Bird Sanctuary.
This Florida State Park is located nine miles east of I-75 in Sarasota County. It's one of the state's oldest and largest parks, featuring an excellent system of walking, hiking and biking trails. Known for its wildlife and bird-watching, you can spot many of Florida's native species in their natural habitat. Take an airboat ride to immerse yourself in alligators, walk the canopy bridge high above the trees, and use binoculars to spot bald eagles, roseate spoonbill and great blue herons; as well as deer, wild boar and more. Besides the tours, you can rent canoes or kayaks to venture out into the waterways, and a general store will provide all the memorabilia, ice cream and drinks you need. This is the best way in Sarasota to explore old Florida as it was hundreds of years ago.
This recently developed 600 acre park is located just west of Interstate 75 south of University Parkway. Home to a number of International Championships and local competitions, this world class rowing facility hosts rowing, kayaking, canoeing and Dragon Boat races, triathlons, cross country races and local running events. Families and visitors can personally enjoy the 400 acre lake, which is open for recreational boating, kayaking or paddle boarding (when not in use for an event). Run, bike or walk the manicured trails that meander around the lake, totaling approximately 3.5 miles. Nathan Bendersen Park a great place for the family to spend an active day.
While encountering bears, primates, birds and other animals, you will observe and learn about endangered Siberian tigers, African lions and very rare white tigers at this safe haven for big cats. Also featured is a petting zoo and koi pond. Special events happen throughout the year.