Vacation Basics

By Su Byron November 30, 2011

Flotation DeviceStaying Safe

From sun protection to swimming, a few simple rules.

Sun protection: It’s no longer cool to broil on the beach. Just a few hours in our intense sun can result in an immediate burn—and long-term skin damage,

Protect your skin from skin cancer (and wrinkles and aging spots) by keeping sunscreen on exposed areas—and not just while you’re on the beach. You can even get too much exposure on a long drive in Florida. Apply sunscreen whenever you are outside. Look for a waterproof sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 rating or higher. Apply generously 30 minutes before sun exposure; keep applying it every two hours throughout the day—despite any “all day” claims. If it’s “very water resistant,” reapply every 90 minutes when swimming. If it’s “water resistant,” reapply every 40 minutes when swimming.

Sunscreen isn’t your only protection. Clothes are your skin’s second line of defense—but only the right clothes. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests a few rules of thumb. Generally, the darker the garment, the more skin it covers, and the more tightly woven it is, the better. And there’s a whole new world of sun-protective fabric. Look for clothing offering UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) protection. UPF indicates how much UV radiation the garment absorbs. A fabric with a rating of 50 will allow only 1/50th of the sun’s UV rays to pass through. Tip: A local store, Environeers, offers a serious selection of sun-protective clothing and accessories. It sells women’s and men’s shirts, shorts, pants, skirts, dresses and beachwear with the highest available level of UPF protection. 5373 Fruitville Road, Sarasota; (941) 371-6208.

Dehydration can also be a problem in these latitudes. Bring lots of water or sports drinks if you’re going out in the sun.

Water safety If you’re walking in the water, do the “stingray shuffle”—slowly shuffle your feet to keep the critters away. If you’re bitten by a stingray or jellyfish, don’t panic! The sting does hurt, but isn’t usually harmful. Wash the area in warm water; use a topical antiseptic if you’ve got it; wrap the wound with something clean. Then get to a doctor, walk-in clinic, or emergency room. At the very least, you may need medication to help with the inflammation, infection and pain.

The glorious Gulf of Mexico hides strong currents and rip tides. What to do if you’re caught? Don’t freak out or fight against the current. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current, then swim diagonally back to shore.

Lifeguards: When in doubt, ask a lifeguard. They’re available at six beaches: Lido, Siesta, Nokomis, North Jetty, Venice and Manasota.

Beach Flags

Beach flags provide information on swimming conditions:


Green Beach Flag

Good swimming conditions


Yellow Beach Flag

Use caution


Red Beach Flag

Dangerous swimming conditions

Double Red

Double Red Beach Flag

Beach is closed to swimming


Purple Beach Flag

Hazardous marine life

Getting Around

However you travel around Sarasota, we’ve got the wheels for you.

Sarasota Pedicab Company offers bike cab tours of downtown Sarasota. (941) 724-2244.

Florida Ever-Glides provides guided Segway Personal Transporters tours of downtown Sarasota. (941) 363-9556.

Sarasota Trolley features 34-seat, open-air vehicles with traditional oak wood interiors. (941) 346-3115.

SRQ Trolley provides a variety of tours and special occasion uses, including city, bar hopping and holiday tours. (941) 538-1414.

Siesta Island Trolley offers two 25-passenger, open-air trolleys, and two 34-passenger, closed-air trolleys. Extras include catered trips, tours of holiday lights and pub crawling. (941) 915-3232.

For more standard modes of transportation

Bus service. (941) 861-1234.

Yellow Cab of Sarasota: Servicing areas in Sarasota County only. (941) 955-3341.

Roxy’s Airport Transportation: Servicing airports in Tampa, Orlando, St. Petersburg and Miami and also offering other long-distance transportation options. (941) 906-1010.

Regal Transportation of Sarasota: Specializing in door-to-door luxury sedans and SUVs to airports in Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando, St. Petersburg and Miami. (941) 351-2547.

Prime Time Limousines: Offering sedans, vans and limos for transportation to regional airports and other locations. (941) 792-3400.

Biking Around SarasotaBiking Around Sarasota:

Sarasota’s balmy weather and pretty neighborhoods offer the perfect setting for recreational biking. Some of the best biking is along the wide bike path that runs along Longboat Key. Bicyclists also delight in the Legacy Trail, a 12.4-mile-long, 100-foot-wide corridor that stretches from a mile south of Clark Road in Sarasota County to the Venice Train Depot. Open from dawn to dusk. The area has a number of bicycle shops that sell and rent equipment and are a source of information about group biking excursions as well.

For detailed information about Sarasota’s bike paths and lanes, check out the Sarasota-Manatee Bicycle Club at

John Ringling CausewayScenic Drives

Fasten your seat belt and soak up local beauty.

Sarasota is filled with scenic drives—but be warned. In peak season, our roads can be choked with drivers scoping out the scenery and driving at the speed of farmers looking at crops. Check out the sights, but drive safely!

Looking for picture-postcard perfection? The short drive across the John Ringling Causeway reveals a panoramic vista of downtown Sarasota and the sailboat-dotted Sarasota Bay. At night, the skyline lights up, reflected in the sparkling waters below.

Gulf of Mexico Drive offers a 45-minute ride past gorgeous stretches of beach and Gulf, from the upscale, well-groomed island of Longboat Key to the quaint beachside towns of Anna Maria Island—Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and the city of Anna Maria. At journey’s end, you’ll find a funky pier with the Rod and Reel restaurant. Reward yourself with a pitcher of ice-cold beer, a fresh fish sandwich and a spectacular view of Tampa Bay.

Bay Shore Road: This long and winding road snakes its way from the curve at Indian Beach Drive to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Along the way, you’ll pass the Eden-like setting of Sarasota Jungle Gardens, charming bungalows and old-school Spanish Revival mansions from the 1920s.

Casey Key Road: This narrow stretch of road takes you from Blackburn Point Bridge in Nokomis to North Jetty Park at the island’s southernmost tip. The 25-minute drive offers magnificent views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway, as glimpsed through jaw-dropping estates and the occasional modest home.

Orange Avenue: A more relaxing alternative to U.S. 41, this civilized drive through mid-Sarasota provides a look at some of the city’s original core neighborhoods, still full of life and sheltered in sprawling live oak trees.

Two slices of bread. Infinite possibilities for lunch—or a picnic. (Smokehouse burger, Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota)Sensational Sandwiches

The Ritz-Carlton’s BayView Burger Bar, a casual outdoor café overlooking Sarasota Bay, is nothing less than, well, ritzy. The bodacious burger menu is, too. A great way to experience the luxury life and still stay on budget. Try the Smokehouse, a towering structure built from beef, bacon, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce. 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota; (941) 309-2008;

Grouper served in Florida isn’t always caught in Florida. The Sandbar serves only fresh, unfrozen Florida grouper. If it’s not real, it’s not on the menu. Whether grilled or blackened, this beachside restaurant’s grouper sandwiches are the real deal—and that’s no fish story. 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria; (941) 778-0444;

The “BLT with a Pacific Twist,” a protein-rich concoction of smoked applewood bacon, fresh avocado and house-made mustard on marble rye bread, rules at Monterey Grill. Owners Michael and Julie Venafro think it’s the best sandwich this side of any ocean. We think it’s a great twist on a classic. 3800 S. Tamiami Trail, Paradise Plaza, Sarasota; (941) 366-0729;

The Main Bar Sandwich Shop’s “Famous Italian,” a multi-tiered legend of salami, ham, provolone, tomatoes, peppers and onions, served up on a toasted bun, may indeed be Sarasota’s most celebrated sandwich. The shop’s original owners, retired circus performers Antonio and Thea Borza, invented this sandwich in 1958; its fame has been growing ever since. 1944 Main St., Sarasota; (941) 316-0272;

Falafel is to the Middle East what the hamburger is to the U.S.A.; this spicy chickpea sandwich is sold on street corners from Tel Aviv to Casablanca. To find one slightly closer to home, head to Chutney’s. They fry their chickpea spheroids to a crispy golden brown and stuff them in pita, along with plenty of veggies and tahini. It’s a taste of Middle East peace. 1944 Hillview St., Sarasota; (941) 954-4444;

All the sandwich superheroes—turkey, roast beef, tuna and cheese—are ready for action at downtown’s Michelle’s Brown Bag Café. For something adventurous, try the grilled panini served with pesto aioli on fresh baked foccacia. The green apple, cheddar and spinach will rock your day. 32 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota; (941) 365-5858;

Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, a smoking new spot downtown, is the place to go for a down-home barbecue sandwich fix. Head here for mouthwatering pulled-pork, ribs, chicken and beef brisket sandwiches. Don’t sideline Nancy’s house-made sides, including sweet potato mash, cool cucumber salad, edamame succotash and sesame crunch slaw. 301 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota; (941) 366-2271;

Down the Farms (J. B. Mccourtney)Down on the Farm

Where to find the freshest local flavors.

Sprawling across five city blocks, the Sarasota Farmers Market celebrates the bounty of earth and sea. This vibrant, aromatic marketplace boasts a cornucopia of locally grown foods from regional farmers, seafood providers, bakers, cheese-makers, nurseries and specialty foods producers. It’s also a terrific spot to see a cross-section of locals, from bank presidents and politicians to everyday folk.  Every Saturday, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. at Main Street and Lemon Avenue, Sarasota; (941) 951-2656;

The Phillippi Farmhouse Market at Phillippi Estate Park, a scenic, 60-acre setting on the banks of Phillippi Creek, is the ideal spot to buy your veggies and other fresh treats—then feast on them at one of many picnic tables. Be sure  to check out the historic Edson Keith Mansion while there. Every Wednesday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; November through April. 5500 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota;

Siesta Farmers Market has an island, street-party vibe, with live music and entertainment. Vendors offer raw foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, home-baked pastries and breads, specialty cheeses, jellies, pastas, seafood, coffees, fresh-cut flowers and artisanal soaps. Every Sunday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. 5124 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Village;

On their bucolic, 40-acre King Family Farm and Market, Shelby and Ben King raise a cornucopia of non-certified organic crops. Veg out on heirloom tomatoes, blueberries, citrus, squash, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, herbs, salad greens and kale. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. King Family Farm and Market, 4630 60th St. E., Bradenton; (941) 773-1624.

Jessica’s Stand offers a bounty of certified organic produce, fruits and herbs. This thriving outdoor market is part of Bill and Pam Pischer’s five-acre farm, where, depending on the season, rows of chard, salad greens, kale, green beans, beets, cukes and peppers flourish in the Florida sun. Open Fridays, noon to 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Jessica’s Stand, 4180 47th St., Sarasota; (941) 993-2064;

At Dakin Dairy Farms, husband-and-wife owners Jerry and Karen Dakin are happy to lead tours. Bring the kids and take back some of their hormone-free, farm-fresh milk bottled on the premises. It’s a taste of heaven—and you know exactly where it comes from. 30771 Betts Road, Myakka City; (941) 322-2802;

Housed in a charming red barn straight out of a children’s story, the on-site market at Hunsader Farms offers a colorful abundance of seasonal vegetables and homemade honey, jams, jellies and other delectables. During “u-pick” season, the farmer is you. Open Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from mid-September through mid-June. 5100 C.R. 675 E., Bradenton; (941) 322-2168;

And if you’re looking for a new experience in wine, try Rosa and Antonio Fiorelli’s 10-acre spread in Manatee County. The land here reminded them of their native Sicily. Being wine-loving Italians, they naturally planted grapevines. For more than a decade, Rosa Fiorelli Winery has borne fruit and bottled wines from these grapes, including the semi-dry Manatee Red and a Florida Muscadine Blush. Wine-tasting tours are offered. 4250 C.R. 675 E., Bradenton; (941) 322-0976;

For Fido and FelixFor Fido and Felix

Brought your pets along? Give them the vacation of their lives.

No matter how much you love your canine and feline companions, every now and then you need someone else to do the legwork for you. Fetch! Pet Care of Sarasota’s services include pet-sitting—at your place or at a qualified pet sitter’s home—dog walking, doggie and kitty daycare, bathing and grooming, and pet transportation. They’ll even come to your hotel or vacation home and stay with your cat or dog while you’re out on the town for the evening. (941) 256-0437;

Skip the claustrophobic kennel runs while you’re here and check your pooch into Animal House’s airy playrooms. Dogs frolic together in three large playrooms (for small, medium and large canines) staffed by alpha humans who make sure the dogs play nice. After either a daytime or overnight stay, your dog will be refreshed and panting for the next visit. 42 Vic Edwards Road, Sarasota; (941) 378-3393.

Our beaches are blissful—unless you’re a dog. Paw Park at Venice’s South Brohard Beach is the exception to the general ban on dogs at public beaches. Dogs run free in the sand and surf at this one-acre, fenced-in park. They also provide picnic tables, benches, showers, drinking fountains and other human amenities. Open daily from 7 a.m. until dusk. 1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice.

Need a Swarovski crystal collar or a catnip pumpkin? Visit Saturday’s downtown Farmer’s Market and accessorize your animals at Wet Noses’ new booth, offering dog and cat toys, clothing, gear, natural treats and foods. Main Street and Lemon Avenue, downtown Sarasota

The Integrated Animal Medical Center treats small pets with a combination of Western medicine and holistic treatments, including acupuncture, Reiki, homeopathy and herbal and traditional Chinese medicine. 3646 Birky St., Sarasota; (941) 954-4771;

Have a gourmet dog to please? Head to Woof Gang Bakery for gourmet dog treats made from natural, human-grade ingredients, with no added salt, sugar or preservatives. 1809 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota; (941) 312-5233 and 8314 Market Street, Lakewood Ranch, (941)907-9111,

Kids having funKid Stuff

Kids just want to have fun. Here are a few places where they will.

G.WIZ is a hands-on science and imagination center with interactive exhibits, activities and year-round programs for whiz kids of all ages. Children and their adult sidekicks can learn about Florida’s native inhabitants, appearing live in the Critter Garden; tots can play in the center’s “Tot Zone,” and wannabe inventors can tinker in the new “Fab Lab”—a fully loaded, high-tech, small-scale workshop. 1001 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota; (941) 309-4949;

Adults and children flock to Mote Marine Laboratory to get up close and personal with 100 species of marine life. This internationally recognized marine research facility celebrates the life aquatic with an aquarium and interactive touch tank. An all-star cast of sharks, manatees, turtles, rays, eels and more will keep you entertained. 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota; (941) 388-4441;

Arr, mateys. Spend the afternoon at Smugglers Cove Adventure Mini-Golf, where you can putt your way through a course of cascading waters, mysterious caves and waterfalls on mountainous tropical terrain. Keep an eye out for alligators and pirates! 3815 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; (941) 351-6620;

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art’s Circus Museum celebrates the legacy of the circus with a world-class collection of circus art and mementos. The Tibbals Learning Center boasts a scale model replica of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 to 1938. Children of all ages make pilgrimages from near and far to gasp over the model, which is the world’s largest miniature circus. 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota; (941) 359-5700;

Sarasota Classic Car Museum is a motorhead’s dream, boasting more than 100 vintage automobiles spanning a century of automotive history. Shining examples include John and Mable Ringling’s collection of Rolls-Royce motorcars and John Lennon’s 1965 Mercedes-Benz. A special “Kids’ Corner” features miniature mementos of kids’ favorite cars. 5500 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; (941) 355-6228;

At Sarasota Jungle Gardens, kids can feed free-roaming flamingoes, get close to raptors, learn about rainforests, stroll through lush gardens, and interact with slimy reptiles. There’s a “Kiddie Jungle” playground, picnic tables and continuous live shows featuring birds and reptiles. 3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota; (941) 355-5305;

Sarasota County’s library system is excellent, with eight different branches. Located in the heart of downtown Sarasota, Selby Library tailors programs to children from toddlers to the teens. Activities include story times, play times, holiday fun and events designed around history, science and the arts. 1331 First St., Sarasota; (941) 861-1130;

Teach your children how to sail and they’ll thank you for the rest of their lives. The Sarasota Youth Sailing Program offers a host of programs that introduce children and teens to this stirring sport. Sarasota Sailing Squadron, 1717 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota; (941) 924-5118;

Water AdventureWater Adventures

Explore our main attraction—our beautiful bays and Gulf.

The Flying Fish Fleet offers deep sea fishing charter trips for up to six people on its luxe 41-foot Big Catch. Also offers party boats for public fishing tours. (941) 366-3373.

For close encounters with snook, redfish, speckled trout, giant tarpon, bonito, and other species, C.B.'s Saltwater Outfitters offers loads of charters for fly and spin fishers of all ages. They also lead special snook fishing expeditions at night, taking you down the Intracoastal to battle snook, which are attracted to lighted docks. (941) 349-4400.

Captain Joseph C. Peters, owner and captain of Native Angler Charters, is a fourth-generation, native-born Floridian who will custom-design any fishing trip—including tarpon. (941) 232-2140.

Join a marine biologist on a two-hour cruise on Le Barge and learn about the lifestyles and behaviors of our local population of bottlenose dolphins. (941) 366-6116.

Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures provides a wide range of guided, kayak eco-tours. Their prime directive? Helping adventurers like you explore the natural beauty of Florida’s pristine habitats and ecosystems. (941) 504-6296.

Below the surface of Florida’s pristine waters, a world awaits that’s just as magical. The expert guides at Florida Under-water Sports will take you down into that deep blue yonder. (941) 870-4461.

Island Style Watersports exists to fulfill your kiteboarding and windsurfing dreams. Ride the wind. You can do it. (941) 954-1009.

Learn to sail with sailing lessons at Sara-Bay Sailing School. Beginner and advanced classes offered. Also sailboat rentals and captained charters. (941) 914-5132.

Graduate from the crew! Be captain of your own boat by renting one from Cannons Marina. (941) 383-1311.

Hot Spots

A few of the area’s free WiFi locations

First Watch 1395 Main St. Sarasota; (941) 923-6754.

Whole Foods 1451 First St., Sarasota; (941) 955-8500.

Pastry Art 1512 Main St., Sarasota;  (941) 955-7545; pastryartbakery.

Word of Mouth 711 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota; (941) 365-1800.

Starbucks 1441 First St., Sarasota; (941) 955-0273.

Panera Bread 5860 Bee Ridge Road; (941) 343-9977.

Downtown Unplugged Downtown Unplugged allows users to access the Internet at no charge throughout much of downtown—from Washington Boulevard to Bird Key.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers 4010 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; (941) 923-9907.

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