In these days of social distancing, you can still find plenty of ways to play in our beautiful region. And, fortunately, we have the sunny, balmy weather that makes it all possible. Our editors scanned the landscape to select some of their favorite things to do, see, eat and enjoy. Take a look.
Segway Your Way Around Downtown Sarasota
Cruise through downtown Sarasota on a Segway tour. Ninety-minute and two-hour rides are available for up to eight people. The tour begins in the Rosemary District, zips down Main Street to the bayfront and ends at the Ringling Bridge. Book online. 1370 Boulevard of the Arts, Suite C, Sarasota; sarasotabysegway.com; (941) 312-2615
Play Disc Golf at Lakeview Park
Send Frisbees flying at this 18-hole disc golf course east of I-75. Tees and baskets are located along the park’s walking trails and the dog park. BYOD (that’s bring your own discs) and enjoy a picnic lunch at the pavilion. Hours are 6 a.m. to sunset, daily. 7150 Lago St., Sarasota; scgov.net; (941) 861-5000
Rollerblade at Venetian Waterway Park
Feel the wind in your hair (and wheels) while rollerblading this 10-mile paved path along the Intracoastal Waterway. With five miles of straight path on either side of the waterway, it’s perfect to zip down on your blades. Park hours are dawn to dusk. 303 E. Venice Ave., Venice; venicegov.com; (941) 486-2626
Rent a Boat at Nathan Benderson Park
Nathan Benderson Park with its 400-acre lake is far more than a world-class rowing regatta center for top athletes. The public can rent pontoon pedal boats, stand-up paddleboards and kayaks or bring their own. And if you want to learn to row, check the park’s calendar for the eight-hour “Introduction to Sculling” course. 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, April-October, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and November-March, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; nathanbendersonpark.org; (941) 358-7275
Fish Off Siesta Key
Join Captain Casey Maloney on a fishing charter off Siesta Key aboard the 22-foot 2010 Hurricane FunDeck No Bad Days. Charters go out weekly for solo or group trips. Bring snacks and drinks. 1780 Phillippi Shores Drive, Sarasota; sarasotasaltwateradventures.com; (941) 928-0434
Head to Brohard Paw Park
Bring Fido to this public dog beach in Venice for a day of sun, surf and wagging tails. You and your pooch will enjoy the shaded paw park, washing station and walking trail. Bring towels, dog toys and drinking water for your four-pawed friend. 1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice; visitsarasota.com; (941) 861-5000
Bike at Legacy Trail
This 12.5-mile paved trail is perfect for road and mountain bikers. Stretching from Palmer Ranch to Venice, the trail connects to many local parks, like the Venetian Waterway in Venice and Oscar Scherer in Osprey. Open 6 a.m. to sunset daily. Central Sarasota Parkway, Sarasota; scgov.net; (941) 861-5000
Hike at Oscar Scherer State Park
This state park has 15 miles of hiking trails to explore, treasured by local hikers. Discover much of the coast’s wildlife, with a trail map and animal list provided by park rangers. Hours are 8 a.m. to sundown. 1843 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey; floridastateparks.org; (941) 483-5956
Explore Myakka River State Park
As the largest state park in Florida, Myakka River State Park sprawls over 58 square miles, about 37,000 acres of wetlands, trees and grassland with abundant wildlife. The Myakka River runs through the park, offering kayaking and fishing opportunities. And with everyone wanting to be outdoors right now, there’s no better time to explore. Here are some of our favorite activities. 13208 State Road 72, Sarasota; floridastateparks.org; (941) 361-6511
Take a Boat Tour
Board the Myakka River Queen pontoon boat for a ride around the 958-acre Upper Myakka Lake. You’ll be sure to spot gators and wading birds, and learn about the park’s wildlife up-close from the captain. These hour-long tours depart daily at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Ride the Tram, Hike or Bike
Ride the tram through the park’s backwoods and learn about the early Scottish settlers to the land, or the Florida Crackers who inhabited it. If you want some exercise, hike around the 38.9 miles of the park, or bike down the 6.1-mile paved path. Bike rentals are available at the Myakka Outpost concession stand.
Go kayaking or canoeing and drift down to Park Drive Bridge to spot the ever-present alligators. Fourteen of Myakka River’s 66 miles flow through the park, making it a wild and scenic route to explore. Or paddle from Lower to Upper Myakka Lake and spot a variety of wetland creatures along the way. You can rent a canoe or kayak at the concession stand.
Cross the Canopy Walkway
The swinging, suspended bridge hangs 25 feet above the ground and traverses 100 feet of treetops. At the top of the adjacent 74-foot observation tower, you can marvel at Myakka’s river, wetlands, treetops and prairie hammock, and get a closer look at many birds.
Ride Horses in Myakka
Pretend you’re in the Old West, riding horseback through Myakka’s fields and shaded trails. Myakka River Trail Rides offers rides and lessons with trained horses for beginner to advanced riders. Rides are daily upon reservation. 46405 Clay Gully Road, Myakka City; myakkatrailrides.com; (941) 219-9399
Breathe Deep at These Outdoor Yoga Venues
Get giggling with Laughter Yoga Venice on Saturday mornings at Centennial Park. Enjoy a series of poses and breathing exercises that stimulate laughter and help produce happy hormones, or endorphins. No mat required, but come prepared with a silly joke or two. 200 W. Venice Ave., Venice; laughteryogavenice.com
All levels are welcome to join morning or sunset beach yoga sessions with Elin, a certified yoga teacher in Venice. All ages and levels can join for exercise and relaxation. Class is free; no reservations needed. Venice Beach Pavilion, Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. and every morning at 8 a.m.; yogawithelin.us
Try practicing yoga under the bright, full moon at Siesta Key Beach. Classes hosted once a month by Alicia Stevens of Sarasota’s Full Moon Yoga. All are welcome and no registration necessary, but times vary, so check her Facebook page. 10 Beach Road, Sarasota, Access Point 7, facebook.com/groups/siestafullmoonyoga
Anna Maria Island
Enjoy beach yoga every weekend morning on Anna Maria Island with Thrive Yoga and Fitness. This free, hour-long class is suitable for all levels and ages. Bring a yoga mat or beach blanket to use on the sand. Pine Avenue, Anna Maria Island (by the Sandbar restaurant), Saturdays and Sundays at 8:30 a.m.; thriveyogafit.com
Join the Yoga Shack at Lakewood Ranch for free yoga classes at Bob Gardner Community Park on the second Sunday of every month. Classes are one hour and free, no registration required. Bring a yoga mat. 710 White Eagle Blvd., Bradenton, second Sunday or every month at 9 a.m.; lakewoodranch.com
The Ringling on Mondays
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Pay a visit to the museum on a Monday, and, actually, you pay nothing to enjoy the art galleries, the grounds and the bayfront gardens. Plus, now Mable’s Coffee and Tea is open for your refreshment. 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, (941) 359-5700; ringling.org
The Sarasota Art Museum Grounds
If you stroll what’s called “The Meander,” a pathway connecting one part of this museum to the other, you’ll view outdoor sculptures, the Collegiate Gothic exterior of the renovated Sarasota High building, the modern Paul Rudolph addition, and, eventually, end up at the new Bistro restaurant for a tartine. Perfect. 1001 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 309-7662; sarasotaartmuseum.org
Sarasota School of Architecture Tour
Soak up the aesthetics of this unique Sarasota school of midcentury modern buildings, paying tribute to the work of such practitioners as Paul Rudolph, Victor Lundy and Tim Seibert. You can find info on the top 10 structures (and more) at the website of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, saf-srq-org.
The Public Art Experience
We have an ever-growing collection of sculptures, murals and more scattered around our downtown and beyond—some present since the John Ringling era, some installed more recently beside buildings, in parks and, yes, even in traffic roundabouts. Start exploring at the website of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County (sarasotaarts.org), where there’s a fun scavenger hunt along with more info.
Outside Dining and Drinking
Hit the Road With a Food Truck
Food trucks are more popular now than ever, and our roadways are choked with great options. Spice Boys pops up at local breweries and in empty lots, serving creative twists on Middle Eastern cuisine. The truck’s sabich, a pita stuffed with soft eggplant, chunks of potato and wedges of hard-boiled egg and doused with tahini, an Israeli salsa and a mango pickle sauce, is a beloved classic. You can find the truck’s whereabouts at spiceboyskitchen.com, or check them out on Facebook or Instagram.
Grab Lunch at a Farmers Market
Our local farmers markets offer lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, but they also supply plenty of ways to make a meal out of your shopping trip. Grab a coffee from O & A Coffee and Supply, snag a pizza from Polpo Pizza Co. or empanadas from The Empanada Girl and don’t skip dessert. A warm, gooey doughnut from Peachey’s Baking Company is a must. Phillippi Farmhouse Market, farmhousemarket.org; Sarasota Farmers Market, sarasotafarmersmarket.org; Bradenton Farmers Market, realizebradenton.com/farmers-market; The Market at Lakewood Ranch, themarketlwr.com
Delivery on the Beach
Lots of restaurants have added innovative delivery options since the onset of Covid-19, but Duval’s has one-upped them all. In September, the restaurant began offering delivery to Lido Beach, giving you the option of indulging in a great sunset meal without having to pack a picnic. You can order from the restaurant’s normal menu or pick a specially designed sand-friendly combo meal. duvalsfreshlocalseafood.com/beachdelivery
Put Together a Picnic Basket
With its curated selection of charcuterie, cheeses, snacks and fresh produce, Morton’s Gourmet Market makes it easy to cobble together an excellent picnic basket that will please everyone. Ask the cheesemonger for some help finding the right variety, and be sure to pair it with pâté, a dry sausage and, of course, a crusty baguette. 1924 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 955-9856, mortonsmarket.com
Order Beer in Bulk
Calusa Brewing is the region’s best brewery, and its new online ordering system makes sampling its brews a breeze. Just scroll through the brewery’s website, pick what sounds good (i.e., all of it) and schedule a curbside pickup for later in the day. The brewery’s IPAs are some of the best we’ve ever had. We also love its saisons and tart wild ales. 5701 Derek Ave., Sarasota, (941) 922-8150, calusabrewing.com
Explore a Beer Garden
Siegfried’s Restaurant serves the area’s best German food, and it doesn’t hurt that its backyard beer garden is one of downtown’s most fetching outdoor dining spots and that it offers many excellent German-style beers. You can pick from a number of imported beers on draft or in bottles or opt for a delicious altbier brewed by Lakewood Ranch’s Naughty Monk Brewery specifically for Siegfried’s. 1869 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, (941) 330-9330, siegfrieds-restaurant.com
A cocktail tastes better when it comes with a great view, and downtown Sarasota is blessed with several rooftop bars where you can lounge and soak in the sights. The Westin hotel offers jaw-dropping views of the Gulf and barrier islands from its 19th floor bar. Across the street, the Art Ovation hotel doesn’t rise quite as high, but its pool and bar area offers a gorgeous panorama of downtown, particularly at sunset. If the quality of the cocktails is what matters most to you, head to the restaurant Sage, which serves innovative seasonal drinks in a stylish open-air space. The Westin: 100 Marina View Drive, Sarasota, (941) 217-4777, marriott.com; Art Ovation: 1255 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 316-0808, artovationhorel.com; Sage: 1216 First St., Sarasota, (941) 445-5660, sagesrq.com
Step Outside the Pizza and Chinese Food Delivery Rut
These days, thanks to apps like Bite Squad and Uber Eats and innovative restaurateurs, you can explore Sarasota’s rich restaurant scene without leaving your couch. Some of the city’s most popular restaurants, like Mélange, Lila and JPan, have jumped into the online ordering world, meaning you don’t have to just order pizza or Chinese when you’re craving a dinner in.
Anyone in need of retail therapy will get their fix in downtown Sarasota, and the best way to do it is on foot. Main Street is home to an eclectic mix of boutiques, from national chains like Eileen Fisher to mom-and-pop shops like the much-beloved Toy Lab and A. Parker’s Books. Sophisticated Palm Avenue is home to Bookstore1Sarasota, local designer Camilyn Beth’s flagship shop, Greiner’s Fine Men’s Clothing and June Simmons Designs, which sells high-end custom jewelry. And in historic Burns Court, get pampered at L.Spa, then pick up a new outfit at its sister store, L.Boutique, and enjoy the art of the find at Sarasota Trading Company or a sparkly new piece of unique jewelry at Nikki Sedacca. Meanwhile, on First Street, stock up on organic goodies at Whole Foods Market and grab a new pair of shoes at T.Georgiano’s. And in the Rosemary District, you’ll find gourmet food at Artisan Cheese Company and high-end furniture at Home Resource, the Sarasota Collection and Soft Square.
St. Armands Circle
St. Armands Circle has something for shoppers of every stripe: from home décor to clothing to art, it’s easy to spend a full day on the circle. Stop by INfluence Style, Foxy Lady, The Met and Apricot Lane for top trends; Little Bo-Tique for children’s outfits, Binjara Traders for global ethnic wear; Lilly Pulitzer for that colorful, Palm-Beach inspired fashion, and The Spice and Tea Exchange for tea, spices, salts and other gifts. Make sure to rest and restore at Karma Luna Salon, Boutique & Day Spa.
Lakewood Ranch: Main Street and Waterside Place
Did you know that Lakewood Ranch is home to more than 200 shops? Take a stroll down open-air Main Street, home to longtime tenants like Naples Soap Company and Wish Boutique. Waterside Place, which opens next year, will host local chains like Paint Nail Bar, Crop Juice and the Yoga Shack, among others.
For South County residents, Venice offers vibrant shopping on its palm-lined Venice Avenue. For fans of a great find, Fifi’s of Venice offers high-end consignment. Sea Pleasures and Treasures has interesting souvenirs for locals and visitors alike, Sandy’s Designer Clothing is a favorite for women, and Captain’s Landing is a longtime purveyor of high-end menswear. Don’t miss Clyde Butcher Studio and Gallery, where you can view the famous photographer’s black-and-white work.
Anna Maria Island: Pine Avenue
Stroll Pine Avenue before visiting Anna Maria City Pier or the Rod and Reel Pier and stop by shops like Pink & Navy Boutique, Anna Maria General Store, and Olive Oil Outpost. From November through April, the Vintage Market at Ginny’s and Jane E’s offers fun vintage finds in a beautiful (and safe) outdoor setting the second Sunday of each month. Toward the eastern end of Pine Avenue, Green Village is a historic area that now features the latest in green technology. Top off your day with a sweet treat from The Donut Experiment or Hometown Desserts.
Bishop Museum of Science and Nature
Kids will have a field day at the Gulf Coast’s largest natural and cultural history museum, located on downtown Bradenton’s riverfront: creative play in the Mosaic Backyard Universe, stargazing in the state-of-the-art planetarium, marveling at the manatees in the rehabilitation center and lots more to explore. 201 10th St. W., Bradenton; (941) 746-4131; bishopscience.org
Dolphin Watching Tours
Siesta Key Aqua Adventures offers lots of dolphin watching tours in Sarasota Bay; the most family-friendly among them is a boat ride to “Koko Island,” where kids can become pirates and embark on their own scavenger hunt. 5253 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; (941) 359-2782; siestakeyaquaadventures.com
North Port Aquatic Center
This brand-new municipal aquatic center is making waves with families across south Sarasota County, whether they splash down the thrilling flume rides or take a slow-moving tube ride around the Relaxahatchee Lazy River. 6205 W. Price Blvd., North Port; (941) 429-7275; cityofnorthport.com
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Feed the flamingos, wander down the “jungle trails,” pose for a photo with a bird perched on your arm (or head), and enjoy the entertaining bird and reptile shows. Sarasota’s oldest tourist attraction is back with limited hours during the pandemic. Visit sarasotajunglegardens.com for details. 3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota; (941) 355-5305; sarasotajunglegardens.com
Want to participate in the world’s largest outdoor treasure hunt? Sign up on your smartphone and start searching via GPS for some of the hundreds of geocaches (usually small boxes that contain a small prize and a logbook) hidden around Sarasota and Manatee counties. You’ll be surprised at what you may find. geocaching.com
Tree-umph! Adventure Course
Kids can swing through the trees, climbing and zip-lining through obstacle courses built just for them. Masks and reservations required. Recommended for age 7 and up. 21805 E. State Road 70, Bradenton; (941) 322-2130; treeumph.com