Sarasota, Florida is conveniently located directly between Tampa and Ft Myers on the West Coast of Florida. Like Sanibel, it has fantastic white sandy beaches with crystal clear blue water. The locals like to go boating and I recommend you stay on the beach on Longboat, Lido or St. Armands Key if you stay for the weekend. In St. Armands Circle you will find a wide range of shopping and restaurants. If you are here for a weekend, I would spend time strolling around the circle and going to the beach. However, if you only have a day, skip all that and go to the Ringling Museum of Art.
The Ringling Museum of Art started as the art collection and home of John and Mable Ringling (yes, like the circus). It is located just off the inter coastal waterway and as you walk around the grounds you can imagine the wildly fabulous parties they must have through back in the 1920's and 30's.
Ca' d'Zan Mansion
These days it is the cultural center of Sarasota. It has a fantastic collection of fine art ranging from medieval to contemporary including a number of momentous Peter Paul Rubens Baroque style oil paintings. Start your day by perusing the art museum in the morning. Then have lunch in their cafe, which is actually quite delish.
In the afternoon, check out the miniature circus museum. Not only does it give a thorough history of the circus, and John and Mable's role, but it will take you back to your childhood in an instant! As a die hard Barbie fan growing up I found the miniatures really impressive.
My favorite part of this cultural compound is their beautiful rose garden. Lovely and fragrant, being in the gardens feels so romantic. I also must point out the famous Banyan trees. You can't miss them as their roots start growing from the branches (!). Many tourists come here just to see these trees.
Lastly go to John and Mable Ringling's home, the Ca' d'Zan Mansion. Although I don't normally recommend guided tours, this one gives a good history of the home and the pieces inside. Walking through here, you can imagine the fabulously glamorous parties they once threw...
Back porch of the Ca' d'Zan
I found these old tiles surrounding the pool (now garden) particularly inspiring. I would love to design a kitchen around these!
(Getting there: As with all destinations in Florida, the best way to get here is by car. )