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Sarasota, once known as the "circus city", is a city that combines art, the historical, the modern styles, and the wild. Today, the city is the cultural capital of Florida attracting visitors wishing more than just a beach experience.
Circus master John Ringling had a strong passion for art and his contributions to the arts helped build Sarasota's deep cultural base. Along with historical buildings that date from the city’s foundation, the city boasts a theater and arts district that includes state and local theater companies, a renowned opera, orchestra, ballet company, art galleries, particularly along Main Street and Palm Avenue, trendy restaurants.
The city has changed tremendously since the early 1900’s when John Ringling arrived along with Owen Burns and Mrs. Bertha Palmer. As part of this rapid development, new communities were created adding a modern look to this paradise haven in South Florida In rapid process of renovation, Bird Key, Lido Shores and homes west of the trail are some of the most desireable residential areas in Sarasota. No trip to Sarasota is complete without a stroll around quirky, historic Burns Court, a National Historic Register District. You will not suffer a boring chain shopping experience here: nestled between downtown and city's toniest residential area, you'll find plenty to take home from the area's unique shops, antique emporiums and tasty, excellent local independent Florida restaurants. Be sure to leave time to sample the fare at the superb Sarasota Film Society's art theatre, the Burns Court Cinema.
The most notable neighborhood in the heart of the downtown is Laurel Park a National Register of Historic Places District. It is one of the oldest Sarasota neighborhoods and is surrounded by a mix of art galleries, restaurants, & boutique shops. The bayfront is within a short walk of the neighborhood as are all downtown amenities including the main public library, Whole Foods Market, City Hall and the County Administration offices. The art colony at Towles Court is next door with a monthly third Friday walk.
The Rosemary District, just north of the downtown on Central Avenue, named for the city's two acre pioneer burial ground is another National Register District that is growing in popularity with the artsy, hip crowd. The AME Church, the Hood Building and the Hornes Grocery are renovated historic buildings that have brought life back into this old district once known as Overtown. "Community" a 17 foot steel sculpture along Central Avenue tells the history of the community's development and across the street is the not to be missed Derek's Restaurant that serves the most incredible fish tacos and burger at lunch and an ever changing delicious array of dinners most nights. Don't miss Ringling College's Art Gallery, Home Resource and the new Naked Florist. And no trip to the district would be complete without a visit to the cemetery, Rosemary Cemetery between 8th and 9th Streets on Central Avenue.
More modest residential neighborhoods in the surrounding county are Forest Lakes, Southgate, and Gulfgate. These communities developed from the 1950's.
Then there are the “beach communities”! You can't write about the city without acknowledging why most make Sarasota their home.
Lido Key has something for everyone. Residences, condominiums, hotels, restaurants, upscale shopping at St. Armand’s Circle, and a fine public beach with an olympic pool are central to the island.
Stretching between the Gulf of Mexico and serene Sarasota Bay, Longboat Key is bridged at the north from Bradenton Beach and at the southern tip at Lido Key. This exclusive island offers plenty of activity with golf, tennis, boating and marvelous resorts and motels including the Longboat Key Club.
Only eight miles in length, Siesta Key is renowned… the world over… by travel experts to beach lovers… for cool luxurious sand… placid waters… and awesome sunsets. The island has a youthful spirit with a happy mix of everything. Not only do the Award-winning beaches draw kite surfing, snorkeling, and skim boarding but, 50 miles of canals and waterways attract jet skiers, boaters and fishermen. Siesta Village yields quaint little shops from unique swimwear to sand toys and brightly colored rafts. Restaurants offer simple to gourmet with waterfront, roadside and tropical views. Nighttime heats up with a lively mix while Sarasota’s entertainment and cultural district is just a bridge away.
Casey Key is an eight-mile stretch of lush seclusion. Two bridges, one of which a single lane swing bridge from the 1920’s, access… the one and only… narrow island road. Whether biking or driving, note the few “old Florida” cottages obscured by stately mansions, lush foliage and awe-inspiring views of the Gulf. The northern portion of the road eventually turns private where Stephen King and Martina Navratilova have homes. Like most remote destinations, shopping and dining are nonexistent however Venice and Sarasota are close at hand.Add the tropical climate, whitest sand beaches in the world, and you've discovered "The Land of Enchantment".