Caught up in campus life? Escape the New College “bubble” and get to know Sarasota from a new perspective: by looking through the lens of a tourist. This guide to spending 72 hours in Sarasota will not only reveal some of the more popular restaurants and attractions, but also those that can be found off the beaten trail.
Adjust to Sarasota with an easy start to the day by visiting the Station 400 restaurant for breakfast. This restaurant is reminiscent of the railroad days, when a slower pace of life was appreciated, and serves classic meals with creative twists. One such dish is the cinnamon roll pancakes, which features cream cheese icing and vanilla bean syrup.
Get a change of scenery at Myakka River State Park, which is about a half-hour drive away from downtown Sarasota. Here visitors will be able to experience Florida wildlife firsthand. Whether it be through hiking, boating, biking or simply birdwatching, there are plenty of activities for everyone and nature enthusiasts are welcome to spend the night on a campsite.
For those who want to return to civilization, hop into the car and head back towards Sarasota. Finish off the evening by enjoying local Chinese cuisine at the popular and reasonably priced Yummy House China Bistro, located on North Tamiami Trail.
“Yummy House is delicious, it’s really great authentic Chinese food,” third-year Melissa Solis said. “You order one thing and a giant plate of food arrives – it’s so much food that you’re going to have leftovers for days.”
Wake up early and start towards the local farmers market on Lemon Avenue in downtown Sarasota. Every Saturday, while most rational beings are deep in slumber, vendors are assembling their booths for their busy work day ahead, which begins at 7 a.m. and lasts until 1 p.m.
For visitors who have been to the market before, take this time to check out some of the Main Street shops. Satisfy any feelings of morning hunger with a visit to one of the countless cafés on main street, such as C’est La Vie, which is an authentic French bistro.
Looking for a cheap and easy spot for lunch? Stop in at the New Pass Grill and Bait Shop, which offers informal fare such as burgers, sandwiches and soups. Simply walk up to the counter and place an order, then savor every last bite while overlooking the ocean on their outside porch. Afterwards, take a glimpse inside their bait and tackle shop that is said to have an impressive hat collection.
Once properly satiated, hop in a car and head north on Tamiami Trail towards the Ringling Museum, which has been rated as the number one attraction in Sarasota by TripAdvisor users and is free for New College students. This museum features several spectacles including the museum of art and the circus museum, along with the Bayfront Gardens and Ca’ d’Zan mansion where John Ringling used to reside. While there, students must not forget to visit the playground that is fit for those who still have a little adventure left in them.
“I enjoy visiting the rose garden and I know they’re opening up a new Asian exhibit [in the Museum of Art] that I’m interested in going to see,” Solis said. “The circus museum is also really cool, you get to walk through a model of it.”
Once dinnertime rolls around, head back downtown to Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi Grill. Not a fan of sushi? Tsunami has that covered, offering a choice of entrées that are served with soup and a salad. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert too, as this is a popular destination for those with a sweet tooth. The tempura cheesecake comes highly recommended by Solis.
To work off the meal, take a brisk walk down Main Street where there are an assortment of petite shops ranging from dainty cafés, to bold and colorful art galleries, to lively bars where those of age can seek a nightcap.
For the most important meal of the day, it’s off to the Toasted Mango Café where they serve breakfast from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. every day. This restaurant also offers an assortment of salads, wraps and sandwiches to cater to those who aren’t in the mood for breakfast.
“There’s always a line out the door but it goes really fast because the restaurant knows how to handle it. It’s worth it. The biscuits and gravy is so good,” third-year Madison Smith said.
Amble back to campus and take a quick siesta to digest breakfast, then pack a beach bag and head to Beer Can Beach, more famously known as Dead Tree Beach.
“It’s [Dead Tree Beach] is secluded and aesthetically pleasing,” third-year Elle Linz said. “You get there by turning left at St. Armands Circle towards Longboat Key and continuing until you reach North Shore Road on the left. Then you drive until you get to the beach access parking and walk up the beach until you reach the trees.”
Dead Tree Beach boasts white sand, clear waters and fallen trees that provide a place to sit, to climb and to hang wet towels or clothing during a day of relaxation, beach games and swimming. Need a refreshment or a break from the sun? At only a short drive away, visitors will find the famous St. Armands Circle that is lined with restaurants, boutiques and art galleries.
After working up an appetite, head North towards Longboat Key to arrive at the Old Salty Dog’s City Island location. Upon reaching this destination, grab a table with a view and check out their menu that offers options for seafood and meat lovers alike, although vegetarians and vegans must be warned that their pickings are slim. “If you like fried food, it’s the place to go. It’s a really nice restaurant for sunset eating,” Smith said.
Florida weather can be unpredictable at times and is known to quickly change from sunshine to rain. If this occurs then two alternative indoor destinations include the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium as well as the Sarasota Classic Car Museum.
“My dad loves antique cars and he really enjoyed going there— he has an old car himself,” Smith said. “I’m pretty sure it was my dad’s favorite place in Sarasota.”
Not in the mood to go out? Rent a movie from Video Renaissance, Sarasota’s alternative video store on Bee Ridge Road. This cheap DVD and video rental store carries over 35,000 options, which means that there is likely a video that will suit everyone’s interests.
“Video Renaissance is a Sarasota treasure,” thesis student Joy Feagan said in an email interview. “The employees are fantastic. They’re all huge film nerds. They love to give recommendations. If you’re a regular, they’ll note what kinds of movies you rent and make recommendations based on that. They all know my name. The owner loves to bake so there’s almost always a bunch of free cookies at checkout. They even provide little baggies if you want to take some home.”
Information for this article was gathered from surveymonkey.com, station400.com, floridastateparks.org, yummyhouseflorida.com, sarasotafarmersmarket.org, tripadvisor.com, ringling.org, tsunami-sarasota.com, toastedmangocafe.com, theoldsaltydog.com, mote.org, sarasotacarmuseum.org, videorenaissance.net.
Sidebar: 10 restaurants to visit when someone else is paying
- Columbia Restaurant— Cuban cuisine ($$)
- Owen’s Fish Camp— Seafood ($$)
- Duval’s— Seafood ($$)
- Selva Grill— Latin American cuisine ($$$)
- MoZaic— Mediterranean cuisine ($$$)
- Yoder’s Amish Restaurant— American cuisine ($$)
- Melange— Eclectic cuisine ($$$)
- Drunken Poet Café— Thai cuisine ($$)
- Mediterraneo— Italian cuisine ($$$)
- El Greco Café— Mediterranean cuisine ($$)