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Looking for a family or couples getaway can be overwhelming and can seem
expensive. You’ve done the Florida Keys already and you really can’t afford
to go out of state.

Well, Sarasota is the ideal escape from the mundane. May I add it is also
affordable and convenient? If you live in Florida, it is a modest drive. If
you don’t, there is an airport located near the Downtown area which is
beaming with local attractions that are must-dos.

Laid-back Itinerary Tips

Start it all off with a trip to the majestic John and Mable Ringling Museum
of Art. Spread out over 66 acres, the estate boasts of an art museum, circus
museum and the Ringlings’ once private haven. And don’t think the art museum
only holds circus-related artifacts. It is home to the circus mogul’s
private art collection and consists of stunning ancient and modern pieces.
(Hint: Look for the portrait of Marie Antoinette. It is hauntingly

There is one, small downside to visiting this marvelous site – be prepared
to easily spend 4 to 6 hours there. There is really so much to see and take
in, it would be a shame to miss any of it. Also, bring sunscreen and
comfortable sneakers. Sandals may not cut it.

Also nearby is the Mote Marine Aquarium. The exhibition has both indoor and
outdoor areas. Inside are sea life you would see in your very own aquarium
such as clownfish and hermit crabs. There are also animals you do not find
in the usual household such as sea horses and jellyfish. Outside, one can
pet rays and check out a very large manatee. (Fun Alert: The rays will
splash you when you touch their slimy skin!)

St. Armand’s Circle is a quick detour from The Mote. There you will find
boutique shops perfect for mom. Don’t forget to grab a bite at one of their
many fine dining establishments. Recommended is Tommy Bahama’s restaurant
(don’t miss the fish tacos) or Columbia for Spanish/Cuban fare.

Nighttime can be a blast for the whole family, too. The Marina is a good
place for people or boat viewing. (Secret Hint: Great photo-op with a giant
sailor). Take a lift on LeBarge Tropical Cruises’ sunset cruise. Jimmy
Buffet-style music is played by a live performer while you sit back and
peruse mansions on the waterfront. As the sun sets, the mood is right for
some dancing and conversation.

When the cruise docks back at the Marina, walk to your right to O’Leary’s
for one of the best burgers you will ever taste. The locals swear by it and
you can probably find them by the tiki hut area munching on alligator bites.

A bit off the path, but try to top the night off with Big Olaf’s ice cream
in Siesta Key Village. On weekends the line is out the door, but only
because it is some of the best ice cream you will taste. Their “Trash Can”
(with nearly every topping) flavor is not to be missed. Oh, and don’t forget
the waffle bowl!

Walk it off around the Village by visiting quaint stores and shopping for
those back at home. You can also scope out great restaurant atmospheres
created by the Daiquiri Deck and Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB). Most nights
you can hear live music by local artists and snack on some great seafood.
Try the buffalo shrimp – always a pleaser. If you are looking for a more
upscale dining experience in the Village, visit Blu. Their award-winning
pork chops are to die for.

Dinner isn’t the only culinary delight. A good breakfast to start off the
site-seeing day is at The Broken Egg in Siesta Key Village. Good luck
getting a parking spot, though. Locals and tourists alike flock here for
their scrumptious omelets and egg sandwich.

Your breakfast should give you enough energy and stamina to visit Sarasota
Jungle Gardens. Brightly-colored and talented Macaws steal the show. There
is also a white Macaw that performs the bicycle high-wire act once featured
on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Reptile exhibition is also very educational for
the kiddies (and even adults!) Do you really know the differences between an
alligator and a crocodile? The wonderful staff here will make sure you do
before you leave.

Don’t forget to feed the flamingos. This will make for a great family
photo-op or possibly even a video entry for America’s Funniest Home Videos.
But beware of the ducks lurking by. They are quite greedy.

The Jungle Gardens are a nice trip and can be followed by the Marie Selby
Botanical Gardens. Right on the water, this land is chock full of greenery
of varying species. Walk on the Gardens’ paths and explore their luster.
Stop for lunch at their café and taste sandwiches made with local and
organic ingredients. Their tea is what they are known for, so try it either
hot or cold.

Enjoy your Stay

The key to being in the center of it all is to either stay in Siesta Key
Village (preferably Ocean Blvd) or by the Marina. This will put you right
smack in the middle of all the fun aforementioned. The Tropical Breeze Inn
is a great choice for staying in the Village. With most of their properties
literally across the street from the pristine beach, one cannot go wrong.
They have options for one-room rentals to full family accommodations (even
with access to a grill and pool) at an affordable price.

In Siesta Key, you are minutes away from the beach and attractions! You
cannot go wrong with this vacation idea. The family or spouse will thank

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