Best New Drive
It took three and a half years of unsightly construction and delays, but one of the nicest drives in the city is now a stretch of North Trail from Fruitville Road to 14th Street. The City of Sarasota and the Florida Department of Transportation finished three roundabouts, adding palm-lined medians, public art and wide sidewalks. Some people gripe about navigating the roundabouts, but they’ve made the drive smoother and created a beautiful entrance to downtown. Next up? The roundabout at U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue. Estimated completion: fall 2022. Patience, everyone.
Best New City Program
The pandemic didn’t improve much, but we can’t complain that the City of Sarasota has been closing off parts of Main Street to vehicles, allowing retailers and restaurants to offer outdoor shopping and dining on the street so people can venture from their dens and enjoy being part of a community. The closures run from 3:30 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays at Lemon Avenue from Main Street to State Street, and on Main Street from Mira Mar Court to South Palm Avenue. We hope these temporary closures become permanent.
Best New (Reopened) Pier
Almost three years after Hurricane Irma destroyed the historic Anna Maria Pier, and $6.8 million later, the newly constructed 700-foot dock reclaims its rightful place as the beach town’s community hub. Two other tropical storms and red tide added barriers to its rebuild, but it’s back stronger than ever and The City Pier Bait Shop makes it easy to grab a cold beer, cast a lucky line and catch a postcard sunset. 100 N. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria, (941) 708-6130, annamaria.com/history-of-the-anna-maria-island-city-pier
Best New Beach
If you’re headed to the south end of Lido Key, you may want to take a beach cart to navigate the sand. Yes, sand! Over the years, erosion had whittled the shoreline on the southern end, threatening homes, businesses and infrastructure, so there was no beach to traverse. But the just-completed Lido Beach Hurricane and Shoreline Damage Reduction project brought 710,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from Big Pass to renourish more than 1.5 miles of beach and added more than 150 feet of width to its shore. But how long will it last?
Best New Treetop View
Want to explore nature from a bird’s-eye view? Visit the Canopy Zone, a new attraction at Robinson Preserve in Manatee County. Climb two stories and enter a world nestled in the treetops, with a series of boardwalks, rope bridges and slides. Whether you’re a kid or a seasoned birdwatcher, the Canopy Zone will foster your sense of adventure. Find the attraction at the south end of the preserve. 99th Street N.W. and 17th Avenue N.W., Bradenton, (941) 748-4501, mymanatee.org
Best New Walk
The Bay Sarasota is planning a 53-acre park along Sarasota Bay, and has completed phase one, a lush mangrove boardwalk that meanders around the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Completed during the pandemic, the covered boardwalk, landscaped trail and lit path are great for walking and spotting local wildlife, day or night. 655 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 203-5316, thebaysarasota.org