Nature & Outdoors
Selby Gardens Children’s RainForest Garden With its kid-sized caves, waterfall, rope bridge through a tree canopy, research station replica and more, this newish addition to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a hit with kids of all ages. Don’t miss the Kids Corner in the nearby Selby House; it’s filled with nature-themed games, books, puzzles, toys, and hands-on arts and crafts projects.
Mote Aquarium Wonder at more than 100 species of marine life, everything from seahorses to manatees, sharks and sea turtles. Two touch tanks allow the kids to feel stingrays, starfish and crabs. Special exhibits and events throughout the year, too, like the World Oceans Family Festival. 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, (941) 388-4441; mote.org
Save Our Seabirds This wild bird learning center offers face-to-face encounters with pelicans, blue herons, owls and other injured birds that have been rehab-ilitated but are unable to return to the wild. It’s adjacent to Mote Aquarium; show your Mote ticket and get half-off admission. 1708 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, (941) 388-3010; saveourseabirds.org
Arts & Creativity
Family Workshops at the Ringling Museum Channel your inner Picasso at The Ringling’s Family Workshops, drop-in activities in which you and your kids (age 4-10) work together to create your own masterpieces. You don’t even need to pay admission to participate; just visit the Visitors Pavilion welcome center Thursdays from 5-7:30 p.m.
Music Compound This family-oriented music collective offers family jam sessions, music movie nights, parent-child beginning guitar classes and even a summertime Rock Band Camp. A membership-based organization, it offers a 20 percent family discount for two or more members. The mission: “to inspire, collaborate and educate children and young adults in pursuit of their love of music.”
Sailor Circus The nation’s longest-running youth circus, 100-plus talented local youngsters strong, presents spring and winter performances in the Sailor Circus Arena under the auspices of the professional Circus Arts Conservatory. They’re fresh off their appearances at the 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.
Chalk Festival Professional pavement artists from around the world gather at the Venice Airport Fairgrounds each November for this event. Marvel at their artistry, and join in to create your own masterpieces, too.
InspireSarasota! The culmination of two weeks of cultural experiences of every description, the InspireSarasota! festival takes over Five Points Park in downtown Sarasota the first Saturday of November with mini-performances by youth arts groups, booths, food and fun. Produced by the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County.
Boo Fest at Lakewood Ranch This annual Halloween fest draws hundreds of youngsters to trick and treat along Lakewood Ranch Main Street, wander through a Spooktacular Maze, enjoy kids’ zone activities and take part in a costume contest.
Five to Try: Beach Fun
Beach fun for every age.
Both Venice and Siesta Key public beaches have volleyball courts. Or watch serious athletes compete on Siesta Key Beach in April in the largest collegiate sand volleyball competition in the U.S., Siesta on Fiesta. 948 Beach Road, Siesta Key; fiestaonsiestakey.com. Another popular Siesta contest is the Dig the Beach Volleyball series, which includes both professional and amateur players. This series runs April to August. digthebeach.com.
Sand Castle Competitions
Professional sand sculptors create larger-than-life sandscapes each November at the Siesta Key Crystal Classic international sand sculpting festival. 948 Beach Road, Siesta Key; (941) 349-3800. siestakeycrystalclassic.com. Or get creative at the Amateur Sand Sculpture Contest each May on Siesta Beach—a 45-year tradition. (941) 861-5000.
Kick off summer with weekly one-mile family beach runs sponsored by Sarasota County. Children up to 17 years old can participate; it’s free after a one-time registration. Siesta Key beach runs are Tuesday evenings from June 13 to Aug. 8. 948 Beach Road, Siesta Key. Venice beach runs are Wednesdays from June 14 to Aug. 9. 1600 S. Harbor Drive, Venice.
Shark’s Tooth Festival
Explore sharks’ tooth and fossil vendors’ wares as well as artworks, food booths and live music at the Shark Tooth’s Festival, April 13-15 at the Venice Airport festival grounds—and find out why Venice is known as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. 610 E. Airport Ave., Venice; sharkstoothfest.com
Shake it off on Nokomis Beach with a hula-hoop class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9 a.m., each class $15. 207 Casey Key Road, Nokomis; (941) 234-6808; peaceloveandhoopiness.com. SURfit USA offers standup paddleboard fitness and yoga classes, Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. $25 per class, all equipment included. 190 Taft Drive, Sarasota; (941) 952-8245; surfitusa.com. Venice Beach hosts free yoga sessions Monday-Saturday at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and Sunday at 8 a.m. 101 The Esplanade S., Venice; (941) 408- 9642; yogawithelin.us.