Sometimes overlooked in favor of its larger neighbors to the north, Sarasota
is a warm, attractive city surrounded by pristine beaches and full of marvelous things to do, from visiting unique museums to attending dinner theater productions to exploring natural attractions that will enthrall the entire family.
Sarasota has a long and storied history as a premiere vacation spot. Shortly after European settlers began arriving in the area in the late 1840s, word got out that this area on Florida's Gulf Coast was the perfect warm weather spot for those relocating from the cold Northeast. As a matter of fact, one of Sarasota's first pioneer families – the Webbs –were from chilly Utica, New York.
It wasn't until the late 19th century, however, that the town really began to blossom, particularly with the arrival of the Ringling brothers of circus fame. Even long before they joined their circus enterprises together to form "the Greatest Show on Earth", the brothers began buying and developing land in the area and made it the winter home for their individual circuses. And even though the brothers owned lots of land and built huge homes in Sarasota, they were extremely philanthropic as well, donating land to build government offices and other public spaces. Today, evidence of the Ringling's importance in Sarasota is still very much present, though the city has certainly come into its own, boasting a diverse population of both permanent residents and snowbirds.
Obviously, Ringling and others like him recognized the special-ness of Sarasota and its surrounding areas. Perhaps that's because of its ideal location. Sarasota sits on the Gulf Coast of Florida, just about halfway between the top and bottom of the state.
Sarasota visitors or residents who wanted to see other parts of the state would need to travel about 100 miles to get to Orlando, 400 to the state capital of Tallahassee or to Miami, and just over 50 to nearby Tampa.
At about 26-square-miles in size, Sarasota is considered a mid-sized city, boasting a population of about 53,000 residents. Nearly half of its calculated area is water.
The closest large city to Sarasota is its northern neighbor – Tampa. Travelers heading to Sarasota often fly to Tampa instead of smaller Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport as more direct flights are available from other cities throughout the U.S., though the fares to Sarasota can be excellent at times.
The metropolitan Tampa area is about 50 miles north of Sarasota and easy to reach. Here you'll find a number of other cultural attractions, including the Florida State Aquarium, and several additional beaches, like St. Pete Beach. The charming town of Venice and its pretty beaches lies just 18 miles to the south.