Homes for Your Holidays

By staff December 1, 2003

Sarasota is known as much for the quality and diversity of our resorts as we are our natural attractions. If you crave the relaxation of balmy, sub-tropical breezes, look to those on our barrier islands and beaches. If the cultural circuit is more your taste, we're blessed with stylish hotels and national chains just moments away from galleries, shopping, fine dining and attractions for the entire family.

Wherever they're located, our top resorts offer plentiful amenities and well-furnished rooms, many equipped for extended stays. From Osprey to the airport, they're all within minutes of golf courses, tennis courts, marinas and other recreational opportunities. Take your pick, and make yourself at home.


Situated downtown overlooking Sarasota Bay, The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota is a Condé Nast Traveler's prestigious Readers' Choice winner and has received a spot on its 100 Best in the World. The hotel has also recently achieved the AAA Four-Diamond Award and the Mobil Four-Star Award for Lodging.

This luxurious new landmark offers 266 guest rooms, including a stunning 2,500-square-foot suite. All guest accommodations offer views of Sarasota Bay, the marina or the city skyline. Each guest room is handsomely appointed and features a refrigerated bar, personal safe, two telephones (plus one cordless model), and a marble bath with signature Ritz-Carlton robes.

Lavish amenities include concierge service and 24-hour valet parking, the full-service Vernona restaurant, the Lobby Lounge, and the lively Cà d'Zan Bar and Cigar Lounge. The Bay View Bar & Grill offers a casual outdoor menu and poolside service. Boutique Chocolat offers freshly made sandwiches, pastries and desserts. Guests on The Ritz-Carlton Club Level enjoy the services of a dedicated concierge staff and five food and beverage presentations daily.

The newly opened Ritz-Carlton Spa features a state-of-the-art facility that offers customized health and beauty treatments, including Pilates studio, massage therapy, hydrotherapy and facials. A full-service beauty salon with hair and nail treatments is open to the public.

The Ritz-Carlton Beach Club on Lido Key offers guests a private white sand Gulf of Mexico beach, beachside swimming pool, casual restaurant, changing facilities and much more. Complimentary transportation to and from the Beach Club is provided for hotel guests.

More than 18,000 square feet of conference and banquet facilities are available, and golf can be arranged at a variety of local courses. For reservations call (800) 241-3333.

Hyatt Sarasota on Sarasota Bay provides a relaxing escape into an oasis of lush gardens, blue waters and spectacular sunset views. An ideal setting for business and pleasure, recreation or relaxation, it's just steps away from downtown Sarasota, Sarasota Quay, theaters, museums, restaurants and the G.WIZ children's hands-on museum.

A panoramic atrium anchors 294 guest rooms, including 12 suites. Relax by the new lagoon pool with cascading waterfall and a 12-person hot tub, enjoy tropical beverages at the Hurricane Hut, or challenge yourself with water sports, championship golf, fishing, boating, bicycling, health club and more.

Also, the Hyatt introduces its newly renovated private marina with state-of-the-art Bellingham floating dock system. Located at the marina, the Boathouse restaurant provides a casual dining setting with bay views.

The Hyatt's 10,000-square-foot Sarasota Ballroom provides a generous pre-function area, office and storage space, permanent registration desk, and the flexibility to divide into eight sections. With this addition, the Hyatt Sarasota's total meeting space extends to 20,000 square feet, making it the largest conference facility between Tampa and Fort Myers. For reservations, call toll-free (800) 233-1234, or locally (941) 953-1234.


One of the few offerings east of I-75, the new Holiday Inn Lakewood Ranch is only seven miles from the Sarasota/Bradenton International airport and full of guest amenities. Spacious rooms feature cable TV, free local calls, in-room refrigerators, fitness facility and whirlpool. A business center makes it ideal for techno-philes and corporate travelers, and its central location makes it convenient to area beaches and downtown attractions. For reservations, call (941) 782-4400.


With the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico as a backdrop, the Radison Lido Beach Resort features two beachfront heated free-form pools, three poolside Jacuzzis, a 900-square-foot fitness center, on-site laundry and shuttle to nearby St. Armands Circle. Within a six-mile radius of the resort you can find miles of white sand beaches, shopping, dining, entertainment, golf and tennis.

The four-story main building features 110 beachfront mini-suites, beachfront kitchenettes, deluxe kitchenettes and deluxe guest rooms. The 12-story South Tower offers 112 one- and two-bedroom suites and junior suites with a combination of beachfront, Gulf and bay views.

Atop the South Tower, locals and guests flock to Christopher's for fine dining and spectacular sunsets viewed from the bar. Downstairs, Café Lido provides casual indoor or outdoor patio dining. A poolside menu is also available, and the beachside tiki bar is always buzzing with a lively crowd.

The 5,800-square-foot meeting and banquet facilities can accommodate groups of up to 300, and the resort is a favorite for weddings and holiday parties. For reservations call (800) 441-2113.

The Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel, with its 600 feet of private powder white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico, is a full-service resort with a friendly tropical atmosphere. Spectacular views, coupled with superb accommodations and top-notch service, make this the perfect setting in which to relax and be pampered. The Sandcastle offers casual open-air or formal dining in two restaurants and live entertainment nightly in its lounge. It also features two heated pools and a pool bar with complimentary hors d'oeuvres in the afternoon.

A complete recreational department arranges Aqua Cat sailboats, aqua cycles or kayaks, and offers lessons on each. Each guest room includes a refrigerator, in-room safe, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, makeup mirror and daily newspaper. Professional meeting space accommodates all the needs of the corporate traveler, too. For information or reservations call (941) 388-2181 or toll-free (800) 225-2181.

Situated just footsteps from the powdery sands of Lido Beach and only two blocks from the fine shopping and dining on St. Armands Circle, the Holiday Inn Lido Beach provides the ideal location for exploring all that Sarasota has to offer. Sophisticated yet "Florida casual" best describes the tropical décor throughout the hotel. Captivating views of the city and bay of Sarasota or the Gulf of Mexico are standard features in all of the luxurious guest rooms and one-bedroom suites.

In the SandDollar Rooftop Restaurant, high above Lido Beach, diners indulge in views of the Gulf and culinary delights. Refreshing drinks and "light" fare complement the relaxed atmosphere in both the Kokonuts Lobby Lounge and Pool Bar. Excellent banquet/meeting rooms, full catering and complimentary transportation to and from the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport are also available. For reservations call (941) 388-5555 or (800) 892-9174, or e-mail [email protected].


The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, long recognized as the No. 1 tennis resort in the nation and a top-notch destination for couples and families, is nestled in the secluded surroundings of Longboat Key. With 208 one- and two-bedroom villa suites, The Colony's accommodations each feature a private sun balcony, private master bedroom, living/dining area, full kitchen and master bathroom with whirlpool bath and steam showers. Specialty suites, totaling 26 and including three private beach houses, give guests the ultimate in luxury.

A modern six-story clubhouse at The Colony houses the spa, with men's and women's facilities and an array of treatments performed by licensed therapists, as well as a salon with a variety of services. The Colony's new business center and Sports Shop are also in the high-rise.

Tennis is top-notch at The Colony, with 21 courts (10 hydro-soft, two lighted), complimentary court time and game matching, nine daily clinics and private and semi-private lessons led by outstanding and entertaining instructors.

Additional complimentary amenities include use of a state-of-the-art fitness center, complete with weight training and cardiovascular equipment. Aerobics, fitness classes, personal training and body-fat analysis are also available. And the resort's highly praised children's recreation programs for ages 3-12, offered 365 days a year, are free to all guests.

The Colony Dining Room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, offers views of the Gulf of Mexico along with contemporary Continental cuisine and one of the nation's finest wine lists. It's open nightly for lunch and dinner and also for Sunday brunch.

The Colony's newest creation, The Monkey Room, with its choice of outdoor and indoor seating, features creative and flavorful dishes with island influences. Adjacent is a comfortable lounge with live nightly entertainment. Outside, bartenders serve exotic drinks on the Monkey Room Patio. Tastebuds Gourmet and Wine Shop also offers sandwiches, cheeses, pastries, wine, gift baskets and more.

Banquet and conference facilities, an elegant designer boutique (Le Tennique), water sports center and private, sugar-sand beach round out the amenities. Call 800-4-COLONY or (941) 383-6464.

Elegance and rich simplicity are the hallmarks of Hilton Longboat Key Beach Resort. Situated just steps from a private sandy beach and the Gulf of Mexico, the Hilton will accommodate you in gracious comfort with 80 rooms and 22 suites, all with private balconies and in-room refreshment centers. The Gulf view is spectacular from the Sunset Bar & Grille and Seascapes Poolside Cafe. Bask beside the sparkling heated pool, pursue various water sports, or just enjoy walking along the sugar-white sand beach. Call (941) 383-2451 or (800) 282-3046.


The Best Western Midtown is located in the heart of Sarasota, central to shopping, restaurants, beaches and downtown, and just minutes from all area attractions. Call toll-free (800) 722-8227 to reserve one of its 100 rooms.


The Holiday Inn Airport is a boat lover's dream, with a 75-slip marina, bathhouse facility, full-service marina and marina-view rooms. Some rooms feature private balconies and patios. Guests staying in one of the 178 guest rooms or four suites receive complimentary shuttle service to the Sarasota/Bradenton Airport. They also enjoy an outdoor heated pool, sundeck and relaxing outdoor tiki bar. The hotel offers indoor and waterfront dining from its restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Weekends, the lounge comes alive with Friday Night Oldies Dance Parties and other seasonal entertainment. There's also a 10,000-square-foot conference and banquet facility. Call (941) 355-2781 for reservations.

Located just one mile north of the airport, the Hilton Garden Inn is a lushly landscaped hotel that features all the comforts and conveniences that appeal to vacationers and business visitors, including complimentary shuttle to and from the airport. Nearby attractions include the Crosley Mansion, Ringling Museum of Art, Mote Aquarium, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the theater district. There are 115 rooms, a comfortable lounge/bar, heated outdoor pool and fitness center with spa, (941) 552-1100.

Like all its namesakes, the Hampton Inn on the North Trail has plenty of quality, value-priced rooms. Amenities like irons and ironing boards, free in-room movie channels and coffee makers are standard, as are complimentary breakfast and free local calls. Convenient to the airport, this Hampton also offers meeting facilities as well as an outdoor pool and exercise room. Call (941) 351-7734 for reservations.

The AAA Three Diamond-rated Courtyard by Marriott is located a quarter mile from Ringling Museum, two miles from Ringling School of Art and Design, and five miles from the Chicago White Sox training camp, Selby Botanical Gardens and historic St. Armands Circle. The resort offers 81 guest rooms, including three suites with kitchens. Amenities include an outdoor pool, whirlpool and fitness room and large desks. King suites have pull-out sofas as well. For reservations call (941) 355-3337 or (800) 321-2211.

Nestled on three acres of tropically landscaped grounds, the Best Western Golden Host is located just one half mile south of the Ringling Museum, FSU/Asolo Center, Sarasota Classic Car Museum and Jungle Gardens. Guests have access to a 50-foot heated pool and shuffleboard courts, and plenty of room amenities, including data port telephones, irons and ironing boards, hairdryers, and complimentary deluxe continental breakfast. Also home of the legendary Bahi Hut cocktail lounge (famous for its Mai Tais and rollicking weekend clientele). Call (941) 355-5141.


The Holiday Inn Express on Siesta Key is a contemporary, tropically appointed 131-room hotel. Restaurants and shopping are within easy walking distance, and the hotel is just minutes from local attractions. Amenities include deluxe complimentary continental breakfast, on-site laundry facilities and in-room data ports. Children under 18 stay free. To reserve, call (941) 924-4900.

Nestled between Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on Siesta Key is The Palm Bay Club, a perfect spot for sunning, shelling or relaxing by the ocean. Along with a secluded beach there are two heated pools, lighted tennis courts, a yacht basin, fishing pier, private clubhouse and exercise equipment. Suites are all fully furnished and provide breathtaking views of the Gulf and tropical landscaping. For reservations, call toll-free (800) 725-6229.

Situated directly on the Gulf of Mexico near Siesta Key Village, Sarasota Surf and Racquet Club features two heated swimming pools, multiple tennis courts, a fitness and business center. There's also a beachside barbecue grill available. One- and two-bedroom condominiums are fully furnished, and kitchens come equipped with microwaves, refrigerators, coffeemakers and ovens. Call (941) 349-2200 or toll-free (800) 237-5671 for reservations.

One of Sarasota's premier residential resorts, the Gulf and Bay Club is located on three miles of Crescent Beach. It offers one-month rentals of two-bedroom, two bath units that are fully furnished and enjoy 24-hour security. Other amenities include athletic courts, fitness center, saunas and two freshwater lakes with fishing privileges.

Midnight Cove is a condominium resort directly across the street from Siesta Key, just down from the Stickney Point bridge, but on-site extras make the property just as attractive: a large, heated swimming pool, two hard surface tennis courts, picnic area, and fishing available from its docks. It's also easy walking distance to shopping, restaurants, boat rental and village markets, (941) 349-2428.


Each of the king and two-double-bedded rooms at Springhill Suites features separate sleeping, dining and work areas. The many amenities include pull-out sofa beds, pantries and refrigerators and two-line telephones with data port. Rated three AAA diamonds. Call (941) 358-3385 or toll-free (800) 287-9400.

The studio and one- and two-bedroom suites at Residence Inn by Marriott offer an average of 50 percent more space than traditional hotel rooms and are less than a mile from Sarasota Kennel Club and the Ringling Museum. Some two-bedroom suites even have a fireplace, and all the rooms are stocked with useful amenities. Call (941) 358-1468.


The Hampton Inn & Suites offers 110 guest rooms and two-room suites, outdoor heated swimming pool fitness center, guest laundry and convenience store. Call (941) 488-5900 for reservations.

Holiday Inn Venice has scrumptious breakfasts and all-you-can-eat weekend breakfast buffets. Their Buffalo Bill's restaurant specializes in home-cooked dinners with a Southern flair. You'll need the food for fuel: This resort features white sand volleyball courts, heated pool and spa and a state-of-the-art fitness center with climate control. Call (941) 485-5411 or toll-free (800) 237-3712 to reserve.

One of Venice's newest hotels is the Best Western Ambassador Suites. Its location at I-75 and Jacaranda provides an easy gateway to all of Florida's west coast. Complimentary breakfast, heated outdoor pool and full conference and business center make it the choice for corporate or leisure travel. To reserve, call (941) 480-9898.

The Best Western Sandbar is also conveniently located at I-75 and Jacaranda Boulevard, minutes from the exceptional shops and boutiques of Florida's second oldest city. It's also just a short drive away from The Springs spa and resort, and the cultural attractions of Sarasota. Children under 17 stay free. (941) 488-2251.

For top-quality vacation properties from Anna Maria Island to Venice and all points in between, you can also turn to Florida Vacation Accommodations. As part of ResortQuest, the world's largest vacation rental property management company, they can show you countless privately owned homes, villas and condominiums, fully equipped with luxurious amenities like pools, spas, tennis courts and boat docks.

Florida Vacation Accommodations is also a full-service travel agency and can help with any transportation needs. For information, call toll-free (800) 237-9505, or locally (941) 383-9505. Or visit their Web site:

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