Sarasota's Top 10 Hidden Gems
Sarasota is one of the most underrated sunny Florida state cities, offering guests gorgeous bayside views, world-class shopping, and plenty of fun attractions and dining options along the way.
There are a few well-known attractions throughout the city, such as the Ringling Museum, Siesta Key Beach, and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, but there are also numerous 'hidden gems' scattered throughout.
Check out our top 10 choices for secret spots to see!
- The Celery Fields
Sarasota's Celery Fields is one of the most interesting natural attractions in the city, and one that not many visitors know about. In the 1920's this land was used for growing celery and over the years it has become a wetland/flood control area of over 360 acres. The land now holds over 200,000 aquatic plants and trees, 2 boardwalks for walking biking, and hiking, and is a sight on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Nature lovers will enjoy the wildlife watching opportunities and natural scenery or oaks, willows, and marshlands throughout.
- Bob's Train
One of 'Sarasota's best-kept secrets', Bob's Train Museum and Restaurant is a highly unique dining and immersive history experience. This lunch cafe is located in four different historic Pullman railcars, including the 1917 "Jomar". You will find a ton more great Ringling memorabilia inside, as well as a killer menu. Grilled Brie and Berry, Ham Rueben, Bacon wrapped lamp, PP&B (pesto provolone and bacon), and chocolate spaghetti? We're onboard!
- Van Wezel Performing Arts Center
Hit Broadway musicals, popular comedians, symphony orchestras, local Sarasota ballet and dance groups, and other various international performers are all featured here at Van Wezel, one of the lesser known 'cultural jewels' here in Sarasota. Various backstage and art tours are available with your visit, as is fabulous pre-show dining by Mattison's Bayside.
- Suncoast Science Center
'A hub of experiential learning for all ages', the Suncoast Science Center is the perfect spot to stop if you have students or kiddos with you. From hands-on science experiments to STEAM workshops, this place is all about making learning fun and attainable. Visit the Fab Lab and you will see 3D printers, laser cutters, and the like, or head to the Science Lending Library for more in-depth research tools.
- Siesta Key Village
Siesta Key is much more than just a beach, it is an entire 8-mile barrier island holding great nightlife, shopping, recreation, and dining options. While of course we encourage you to spend time soaking up the sun on any of the many white sand beaches along the way, we also encourage you to explore the hidden nooks and crannies throughout the entire village holding unbeatable shopping and fun along Midnight Pass Road.
- The Mall at UTC
Over 140 retail shops and eateries await you at The Mall at UTC (University Town Center). From Louis Vuitton and Sak's 5th Avenue to Macy's and Dillards, all your fashion needs will be covered here at the mall, which is known now as a 'world-class dining and fashion' destination. Make some time to have lunch or dinner here, with over 20 options ranging from quick snacks from Auntie Anne's to fine dining at the Capitol Grill.
- South Florida Museum
Technically located in Bradenton, the South Florida Museum is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida's Gulf Coast, a massive hidden gem in the Sarasota area. This education center explores this coasts history, from prehistoric times to the present day. There are several interactive exhibits throughout, as well as educational programs and exciting temporary exhibits. There is also the Bishop Planetarium and Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Aquarium onsite for further exploration!
- Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy
"... a friendly environment where people, especially adults, can relax and forget their problems even if only for a brief moment, to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy the present." This is a great description of the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy, a local gem in which you will find offbeat artwork, contemporary paintings, and interesting sculpture pieces. This museum is free, though donations are accepted, and is only open each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons.
- Ringling Bridge Causeway Park
While you have probably already seen the awe-inspiring Ringling Bridge during your visit, have you visited, or even heard of, the Ringling Bridge Causeway Park? This 12-acre park consists of a green space, the beach, and of course the bridge leading from Sarasota to Lido Key. The bridge was first created in 1925 by Ringling himself, though of course, it has seen many rebuilds since then. Walking along this bridge will provide you with what many locals consider to be the best view in the entire city. We suggest taking a walk, the entire trip right at 3 miles, right at sunset for the absolute best views.
- Sarasota Farmers Market
If you happen to be in Sunny Sarasota on a Saturday you MUST stop by the Sarasota Farmers Market, one of the freshest and friendliest activities to do during the summer! Located in the heart of downtown since 1979, this market features over 70 vendors and 5,000 square feet of fantastic local goods, from soap and seafood to orchids and oranges. Enjoy the goods from local farmers, businesses, and artisans, as well as the fantastic foods all along this 'true foodie paradise'.
Want more great hidden gem attractions across America? Check out these locations!