This Gulf Coast city is just two and a half hours from the City Beautiful and it’s so charming, you may never want to leave. Sink your toes into its powdery sand, and you’ll definitely start making plans to return … or maybe even retire here. Current real estate prices might be a rude shock back to reality, though.
The Ringling Circus Museum
5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, ringling.org/circus-museum
This is a must-see: circus history told through handcrafted miniatures and interactive displays that amaze kids and kidults alike. How many of you can fit in the tiny car?
The Yoga Shack
514 Central Ave., Sarasota, theyogashack.com
If your idea of play is actually hard work on a yoga mat, go here for great instruction, small classes and zero pretension. They're on the MindBody app to make things simpler.
Sarasota Farmers Market
1 N. Lemon Ave., Sarasota, 941-225-9256, sarasotafarmers market.org
Saturday mornings downtown until 1 p.m., head to the Big Red Bus for locally roasted coffee and start your stroll. Don't miss: fish tacos, the breakfast burrito guy or the smoked fish dip. Eat that with crackers on the beach later – they'll pack it on ice for you.
Lido Beach and Park
At the end of Lido Key, the lesser-trafficked area where the Bay meets the Gulf, there's a playground, picnic area, parking and sandy dunes. Try it instead of the packed public beach or Siesta Key.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, 941-355-5305, sarasotajunglegardens.com
Established in 1939, the Jungle Gardens are a true old-Florida roadside attraction. See flamingos, alligators, exotic fruit trees, and "two bearded dragons, a skink and a creamsicle snake."
Cock & Bull Farmhouse
975 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota
Dog-friendly, 40 taps and 500-plus bottles. It's a hike, but if you're looking for local and unique brews from everywhere, this is the place – plus there's an outdoor beer garden, fire pit and live bands (that don't play covers).
The Blue Rooster
1525 Fourth St., Sarasota, blueroostersrq.com
Get yourself some fresh yardbird served up with a Belgian waffle and whisky maple syrup. The Sunday Gospel Brunch Buffet will feed your soul in so many ways.
1241 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, ionie.com
Raw vegan food spot and wellness retreat location where you can order house-made raw treats and juices to go or sit on the porch and chill.
Perq Coffee Bar
1821 Hillview St., Sarasota, perqcoffeebar.us
Exceptional coffee served with a sleek, bright, modern groove. The cold brew will kick you into high gear.
C'est La Vie
1553 Main St., Sarasota, cestlaviesarasota.com
If it's French fare you're after, this spot will transport you back to that summer you spent in Paris. The bread, the pastry, the salade Niçoise ... ooh la la.
Social Eatery & Bar
1219 First St., Sarasota, socialonfirst.com
Unique indoor/outdoor vibe with craft cocktails to sip slowly. Skip dinner, go for drinks. Make it your last stop of the night.
660 S. Washington Blvd., Sarasota
Locals call this old school greasy spoon the Elvis Café – because he ate here once. You'll know it the second you walk in. Order what he ate and you'll love every bite.
Five-O Donut Co.
2241 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, fiveodonutco.com
We can't tell you how good they are because they've sold out before we've ever gotten to try them. You tell us!
Artisan Cheese Co.
550 Central Ave., Sarasota, artisancheesecompany.com
Cheese Louise will give you a taste of everything and blow your mind with fresh flavors you may have never considered. Also, find gourmet foodie products you've only read about.
Sarasota Architectural Salvage
1093 Central Ave., Sarasota, sarasotasalvage.com
That thing you were looking for and couldn't find? It's here. Probably sourced from an old hotel. Find everything under the sun: giant letters, medical posters, wood, old windows. Plan to spend at least an hour.
118 Indian Place, Sarasota, hotelranola.com
This updated 1926 building hosts nine suites with full kitchens, comfy beds and Art Deco accents. Don't miss the rooftop deck. Downtown is walkable from here.