click to enlarge Waffle Stop

Photo by Jenny De Witt

Waffle Stop

Sarasota is so charming you may never want to leave 

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.

PLAY

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."

EAT

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.

Ionie Retreat

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.

Waffle Stop

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!

SHOP

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.

STAY

Hotel Ranola

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.

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