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Best New Reason to Visit a State Park

Along with primal nature, visitors to Oscar Scherer can now enjoy free concerts from 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. On the second Sunday of the month, ice cream sundaes come with the music for just $3. And local and traveling musicians show up for jam nights from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays. 

Best News for Dogs

Sarasota County parks are finally going to the dogs, after the powers-that-be in January loosened the rules about allowing man’s best friend—on leashes—at 71 county parks. (City of Sarasota parks have long welcomed dogs, as have Myakka River and Oscar Scherer state parks.)

Best New Exhibition Series

Selby Gardens’ current exhibit of works by 20th-century master artist Marc Chagall is the first to explore the role that nature played in his work. But Selby took it further by creating a little piece of the French Riviera, where Chagall spent the last decades of his life, on its grounds and in its tropical conservatory. And they’ve hired a guest curator to plan more art-plus-nature exhibitions, like 2018's Flowers in the Factory

Best New Building

Nestled amid 70-plus acres in south Sarasota sits the new Guy Peterson-designed Elling Eide Center Research Library and Preserve, a home for the study of Asian culture. Surrounded by Florida fauna and flora, the 17,000-square-foot modern building houses the late Eide’s collection of books and artifacts and provides a haven for scholars from around the world. 

Best New Library

The Alfred R. Goldstein Library on the Ringling College of Art and Design campus was long aborning, but worth the wait. The 46,000-square-foot, three-story library opened in January and is a big hit with students and faculty alike, offering not only books, films and video games (75,000 items in all) but a variety of spaces to study, contemplate and collaborate. And it’s open 24/7. 

Best New Revival

Florida Studio Theatre’s Stage III productions, offering grittier, edgier material than often seen on its mainstage, first appeared in 2004. They went away for a while but returned this season with compelling shows staged in Bowne’s Lab Theatre, where there is no barrier between the actors and the audiences, thrusting viewers into the heart of the drama. Corner of Cocoanut and First Street, (941) 366-9000

Best New Sporting Event

Last year, 1,700 of the world’s best rowers were in Rio for the Olympic Games. This year, they’re here. In September, Nathan Benderson Park becomes the first U.S. site to host the World Rowing Championships—the annual Super Bowl of rowing—since 1994. The weeklong event, expected to bring 40,000 visitors and have a $25 million economic impact, will include fun spectator activities—including some resort-style seating on the rowing lake’s beach, complete with drink service. wrch2017.com

Best News for Baseball Fans

Lovers of the game are thrilled that the Atlanta Braves will be making their spring training home here in south Sarasota County, at the new West Villages development, starting in 2019. The Braves join the Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays in training here, and they plan to stay for at least 30 years, per their lease. Play ball!

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