Where the Wild Things Are

These Outdoor Spaces Welcome Kids

Kids and adults alike will enjoy these six great spots.

Photography by Cooper Levey-Baker January 25, 2018 Published in the February 2018 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Enjoying the back yard at Owen's Fish Camp.

Image: Jenn Soos

Mandeville Beer Garden

With a wide expanse of fake grass, hands-on games and (most important) fortified fencing, this Rosemary District beer garden has become a de facto meeting spot for local households headed by parents who enjoy a good brew. Grab a spot at one of Mandeville’s shaded picnic tables and let the kids go wild while you share piles of hand-cut French fries and complain about homework with your fellow ’rents.

Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse

The kids can enjoy the sprawling sandlot and the cornhole boards; the parents can enjoy the huge chickee hut lit up like Christmas. Stottlemyer’s is better known for its brisket and other smoked items, but the fried chicken here is the star. Order it in a basket or as part of a sandwich, pair it with a stiff cocktail and watch the kids go nuts.

Nancy’s Bar-B-Q

The tractor that sits at the corner of Pineapple and Ringling is both a beacon for customers hunting for Nancy’s Bar-B-Q and a righteous climbing apparatus for the restaurant’s littlest customers. A gravel yard and picnic tables complete the scene, creating a fun space for families catching up over trays weighed down by enormous piles of brisket and pulled pork. 

Owen’s Fish Camp

The wait for an inside table can take forever, but we’ll never complain, because a long delay just means more time to hang out in the back yard. A hipster-bluegrass band sets the scene, while kids and date-nighting adults swoop around on the tire swing. In the rear, a blazing fire makes oysters sizzle. Topped with a nugget of bacon and a ring of jalapeño, the bivalves will stave off your hunger pains. 

Evie’s at Spanish Point

The Evie’s empire stepped in to overhaul this longtime bayfront favorite two years ago, and the results are a delight. Dominated by a large chickee structure, the space also provides plenty of room for kids to roam, with a small grassy area down by the water and a dock that’s good for a stroll and a gaze. With its better-than-average old Florida fish favorites and burgers, it’s a great place for locals to pretend they’re on vacation. Particularly if you show up by boat. Sometimes they screen family-friendly outdoor movies; call for details.

Sharky’s on the Pier

Connected to Venice beach’s long, tall pier, with direct access to slopes of white sand, Sharky’s, with an indoor restaurant and outdoor patio and tiki bar, has been a go-to destination for sunset supping for decades. Order a grouper sandwich and share an order of onion rings with friends while the young ones explore the premises. Then gather back together to ooh and aah as the sun dips into the Gulf.

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