We Live in Paradise—Enjoy It With These Free Outdoor Actvities
Explore the Treetops
View flora and fauna atop a 100-foot-long suspended canopy walk 25 feet above ground at Myakka River State Park. Park admission is $6. Open every day, 8 a.m. to sunset, 13208 State Road 72, Sarasota, (941) 361-6511, floridastateparks.org
Visit Our Parks
County parks, each with their own personality, are free, and our state parks have reasonable admission fees ($6 a car to enter Myakka River State Park and $5 a car at Oscar Scherer).
Breathe Deep with Outdoor Yoga
Our yoga-loving town offers free outdoor classes put on by local studios. Join a class every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. at Nathan Benderson Park, or one at Bob Gardner Park in Lakewood Ranch the second Sunday of every month at 9 a.m. Also try beach yoga with Elin at the Venice Beach Pavilion every morning at 8 a.m. Search for other classes on Facebook.
Birdwatch at the Celery Fields
The 400-acre Sarasota County-owned Celery Fields is also the site of the Sarasota Audubon Society; you can spot 246 species of birds. Download a free bird identification app on your phone and look for migrating species that have flown thousands of miles to nest here and our feathered friends that stay year-round. You can also bike, hike, fish, kayak and sprint up an 80-foot hill, the highest elevation in Sarasota. 6893 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 861-5000
Roll With It at Skate Parks
Grab your board and helmet for a skate session at one of the area’s two free skate parks. There’s one at the Bradenton Riverwalk, with plenty of ramps and bowls just steps from the Manatee River. Over at Sarasota’s Payne Park, there’s always plenty of room to work on those tricks you’re trying to master. 100 Riverfront Blvd., Bradenton; 2110 Adams Lane, Sarasota
A modern twist on a classic scavenger hunt, geocaching has players hunt for small, hidden items placed by geocachers (regular folk from all walks of life who have joined the global geocaching community) while being guided by the GPS system on their phones. To get started, download the free Geocaching app, create an account and explore an interactive map that shows you where the so-called “caches,” or hidden items, are located. Then drive or hike to the nearest one. Be sure to look at your surroundings closely. Sarasota has hundreds of caches, and they can be extremely well hidden.
Show off your disc skills at North Water Tower Park, Lakeview Park or Payne Park, each boasting an 18-hole course. All you need to bring is your discs, and a strong arm.
Bike the Legacy Trail
When another portion of the 22.5-mile Legacy Trail is completed this month, you’ll be able to ride (rollerblade, walk or run) from North Port to Fruitville Road in north Sarasota with nary a pause. friendsofthelegacytrail.org
Discover Nature at Palma Sola Botanical Park
Immerse yourself in luscious vegetation at this interactive 10-acre park teeming with wildlife and various tropical plants. Partake of free educational programs and learn about animals and plants inhabiting the area. Palma Sola also offers swings, gazebos and a screened pavilion for taking a load off. 9800 17th Ave. N.W., Bradenton, (941) 761-2866, palmasolabp.org
Splash at Greenbrook Adventure Park
This huge Lakewood Ranch park has a trail that loops around a pond, with smaller side trails that deposit you on the banks of the Braden River, where it’s shallow and clear enough for you to splash around without worrying about gators. 13010 Adventure Place, Bradenton
Dance at Drum Circles
Live like a hippie, even just for one night, at a drum circle on the beach. These free celebrations happen every Sunday at sunset on Siesta, Englewood and Nokomis beaches. Dance to the beat, make music of your own, or bring a hula hoop and ribbon to cut loose. Kids are welcome. Located at 948 Beach Road, Siesta Key; 2100 N. Beach Road, Englewood; 207 Casey Key Road, Nokomis.
Join a Walking Group
Get exercise and meet new people through a walking group. Sarasota has several, but one of the most popular is the Sarasota Walkers Meetup, gathering every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to walk over the Ringling Bridge and every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at North Jetty Park in Venice. Learn more at meetup.com/sarasota-walkers-meetup.
Scrub Jay Walk
Want to learn more about Florida’s beloved scrub jay? Take a walk through the flat woods of Oscar Scherer State Park, one of the few locales the bird calls home. To participate in this free walk, you’ll need to meet up with other attendees at the nature center near Lake Osprey. The walk takes place every Sunday from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Bring sunscreen, water, bug repellent and a camera. 1843 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, (941) 483-5956, floridastateparks.org
Fit for Fun
Join UTC Fit’s free outdoor fitness program, with classes from CrossFit to dance to yoga to high-intensity interval workouts. Instructor-led, the weekly, outdoor groups meet every Saturday, 9:30-10:30 a.m., across from the Vitamin Shoppe at UTC mall.
Bring Your Pooch
More than 70 Sarasota County parks allow dogs as long as they’re on a leash and several are “paw parks” that allow dogs to run freely. At Brohard Beach and Paw Park in Venice, your dog can romp in surf and sand. Get the list of parks here.
We have 35 miles of beaches. Here’s our guide to public sand.