Whether you live in Sarasota all year or are an occasional visitor, you’ll probably eventually tire of the beach. Hands down, it’s one of the best parts of life on the Suncoast, but there are tons of other things to do and see.
Of course, entertainment isn’t always cheap, especially for families or large groups. But don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with these great ways to save!
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Sarasota’s beloved “Purple Cow” is a seashell-shaped theater located just north of the Ringling Bridge. Showcasing world-class artists and household names, the Van Wezel is also home to Mattison’s Bayside restaurant and several bars that are open during shows, in addition to mangrove trails and an outdoor patio. From Broadway to ballet, comedians and rock bands, they offer a huge variety of entertainment.
If you’re a big fan of live entertainment, you should consider purchasing a subscription. You can save up to a whopping 20 percent by buying several shows at once, and can secure your favorite seats before single tickets go on sale in the fall. With huge musicals like Disney’s The Lion King and the Rent: 20th Anniversary Tour coming this season, you may want to consider reserving your subscription early—the best seats are already being snatched up!
On top of those deals, Van Wezel is running a special promotion right now where you can enter to win free tickets! One lucky winner will receive a family four-pack to Disney's The Lion King on Thursday, March 14 and dinner at Mattison’s Bayside. Other prize winners can select two tickets to any one of these shows: Salute to Vienna, Pilobolus, Russian National Ballet, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, The King & I, The Sound of Music, On Your Feet!, Stomp, Finding Neverland, or the Rent 20th Anniversary Tour. Offer ends August 3, so don’t wait! Enter now HERE.
The Ringling Museum
Sarasota’s history is entwined with the Ringling family – yes, the Ringling family of the Ringling Bros. Circus and “The Greatest Show on Earth.” John and Mable Ringling not only built a luxurious estate right on Sarasota Bay, but were passionate art collectors. Now operated by Florida State University as a museum, the public can tour The Ringling’s permanent and visiting art collections, explore the world’s largest model circus, grab a sandwich at the Banyan Café, and tour the Ca’ d’Zan, John and Mable’s winter home. Plus, every Monday, The Ringling’s Museum of Art is totally free to the public—and the grounds are always free for a lovely walk near the water.
Twenty Bucks-ish (or less!)
There are several local attractions that you can enjoy for about $20 per person, with kids often costing even less.
The Sarasota Film Society, a local non-profit, owns and operates two theaters—one in downtown Sarasota in Burns Court and one in Lakewood Ranch. While the Burns Court theater shows unique, independent films, the eight-screen LWR location shows Hollywood blockbusters. Non-member tickets cost $9 each ($7 for children), and member tickets are only $6.00. Memberships run as low as $30, so it’s a great stop for movie fans.
Mote Marine Laboratory is an aquarium and rehabilitation facility for local marine life. Adult tickets cost $22 and kids cost $16, but if you’ve got a group of 10 or more, the rates jump down to $17 and $14, respectively. It’s a fabulous place to learn about and interact with Floridian marine life and to support keeping our local water-dwellers healthy.
Exotic animal lovers should definitely make a trip to Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary. The non-profit zoo is a permanent home for exotic animals in need, and works to educate the public about animal care and conservation. Adult tickets cost $18 and children cost $8, and there are restrooms and snacks available for purchase on-site.
Finally, if you want to catch a summer sunset right on the bay, you can’t miss Friday Fest, the Van Wezel’s free outdoor summertime concert series! Shows run from 5-9 p.m. each month during the summer, featuring food trucks, beverage vendors, and a fun-filled night of great music.