Downtown Neighborhood Guide

Things to Do in Downtown Sarasota

Art, culture, outdoor adventures and more--downtown Sarasota has it all.

By Staff April 18, 2017

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The John Ringling Causeway is good for pretty views and great exercise.

Editor’s note: In-person events are subject to change due to Covid-19. Please check before venturing out.

Stroll Historic Burns Square

In this charming enclave of 1920s bungalows, shops and restaurants, you can take in a foreign flick at Burns Court Cinemas (temporarily closed due to the pandemic), chill out with a yoga class at Pineapple Square Yoga, and treasure-hunt in the boutiques, galleries and antique shops. 

Stop and smell the flowers at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Beautiful Marie Selby Botanical Gardens shelters more than 20,000 plants and some of the rarest orchids in the world. There’s a Tropical Conservatory and kids’ rainforest garden, too. The Garden Shop offers plants and gifts. 1534 Mound St., Sarasota, (941) 366-5731, 

Get a drink at the historic Gator Club

Downstairs at The Gator Club during pre-pandemic times, the joint jumps with live rhythm and blues, top 40 and reggae. The upstairs bar is more tranquil, with 180 varieties of whiskeys. 1490 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 366-5969,

Walk (or run or bike) the Ringling Bridge

Join the steady stream of runners, walkers and cyclists making their way over the John Ringling Causeway bridge. This 60-foot-high span commands spectacular views of downtown Sarasota and Sarasota Bay. You can get bait (and beer) at Hart’s Landing beneath the bridge and fish from the T.J. “Tony” Saprito Fishing Pier. (The pier is currently closed for renovations, but is expected to reopen late this winter). 920 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 955-0011,

See world-class opera at Sarasota Opera House

The company ordinarily presents four operas in its February-March winter season, plus a fall performance in October-November, along with recitals and concerts. Also home to a youth opera. The redesigned 2021 winter/spring opera festival will include two operas featuring a smaller cast and orchestra in February and March and a second two-opera season in April. 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, (941) 328-1300,

Admire the art at Art Center Sarasota

Established in 1926, Art Center Sarasota is Sarasota's oldest arts organization. It's temporarily closed to the public due to Covid-19, but normally hosts several rotating exhibits each year. 707 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 365-2032,

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Sarasota Children's Garden

Get in touch with nature at Sarasota Children's Garden

Little ones can get in touch with nature and play on fun installations at this lovely two-acre oasis. Check out the daily organized art and gardening classes, which have been reworked for social distancing. 1670 10th Way, Sarasota, (941) 330-1711, 

Visit local artists in Towles Court

Towles Court's third Friday art walks allow gallery-goers to peek into artists' studios after hours and get to know local makers firsthand. There's often live entertainment and refreshments, too.

Play at Payne Park

A big, bright, happy red and yellow circus-themed playground where kids climb, swing, jump and slide to their hearts' content. There's a separate, tamer play area for toddlers, too, and for tweens and teens, the city skateboard park is right next door. 2100 Adams Lane, Sarasota

Take in a show at Florida Studio Theatre

Currently in hiatus due to the pandemic, FST ordinarily presents four mainstage shows, three cabaret shows, a summer season and improv performances in the five theaters downtown under its umbrella. 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-9000,

Laugh your a** off at McCurdy's

McCurdy's Comedy Theatre is reopening Nov. 20 with Covid guidelines in place; the poular comedy club usually packs in the crowds for comics both known (Tom Arnold, Jon Lovitz) and unknown (frequent open mic nights for the aspiring laugh getter). 1923 Ringling Blvd., (941) 925-3869,

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Get into the groove at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

Now 21 years old, this company produces musicals, revues, dramas and comedies related to the African-American experience. 1646 10th Way, Sarasota, (941) 366-1505,

Watch the best indie films at Burns Court Cinemas

At our own little downtown arthouse cinema, you can satisfy your thirst for international films and a cold beer or glass of wine at the same time. 506 Burns Court, (941) 955-3456,

Catch national touring acts at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

The city's bayfront hall presents a full season of touring Broadway shows, orchestras, dance, comedy, pop music and more, mostly October-April. Creative programming during the pandemic includes intimate cabaret shows in the Grand Foyer and virtual Broadway performances.  777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 953-3368,

Watch the sunset at Bayfront Park

TBH, it's a perfect spot to relax any time of day, thanks to its waterfront location, playground, perfect-for-picnics grassy lawn, dog-friendly sidewalks and proximity to O'Leary's Tiki Bar. But we're partial to this popular park at sunset, where we recommend sitting back on a bench or a swing and watching the sun dip below the horizon, with the silhouette of the Ringling Bridge in the distance.  

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