I can’t believe I’ve lived in Florida my whole life and just visited Sarasota for the first time.
The downtown was a cool mix of 1920’s Mediterranean – mid-century modern – and chic new buildings. It was really easy to walk around the entire downtown and the beaches and other sites were a very short drive away.
We were there in late August when Ringling was out and all the snow birds were still up north so it was pretty dead but the up side to that is we didn’t have to wait for anything and we didn’t really need reservations to anywhere. But it was 1,000 degrees so we ended up spending a lot of time in the water. I definitely want to go back to see some of the other sites and spend more time exploring when it’s more pleasant.
You can tell there’s a large retirement community there – every block has an Italian, steak or old school seafood restaurant and a lot of the shops downtown were well lets say – mature. I’m assuming there’s more diverse shopping nearby because it’s an upscale area so there must be a Jcrew somewhere. But they have lots of new exciting restaurant options too. Farm to table – locally grown – and interesting prepared. I think the young people are slowly infiltrating the place.
Cute historic house with a modern interior. The chef literally catches the fish in the morning for the dinner menu.
Parmesan beignets with honey, pear and thyme – Local cobia with vegetable slaw and potatoes Lyonnais
Because this is their slow season they weren’t open most of the time we were there – the only opportunity we had to eat there was for Brunch. Which was really good but I’d love to go back when we can try their dinner menu.
Buddy Brew Coffee
Right next to Louies Modern there was a little coffee place that shared an open air lounge area with Louies they had great coffee and a little a/c area to enjoy it. But during months with nice weather the open air lounge area would be awesome to hang out in. I imagine in the evenings it doubles as a bar area for Louies.
The main restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, we met friends there for drinks and the waitress overheard us say it was our anniversary so she brought over a cheese tray with marcona almonds, honeycomb, dried and fresh fruit and crackers. My drink was Hendricks gin with ice cubes made of 3 different juices, mango, passion fruit, and rose water with a lily. You drink it slowly so the ice cubes slowly melt and mix with the gin.
Their breakfast had everything you can imagine only house made with local ingredients. Perfect service.
For dinner we had coffee rubbed steak with a house made steak sauce, pork belly Panini with peanut butter and banana (not usually on the dinner menu but I wasn’t very hungry so the waitress offered the lunch menu – the Ritz is cool like that) – dessert was chocolate mousse and a couple of skinny mochas.
Their homemade molasses bread baked in a can and served with fresh butter and sea salt
Some places we didn’t get to eat but want to try next time…
Social Eatery and Bar
in the historic Burns Court of downtown
The Ritz-Carlton Beach Club on Lido Key
We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton on the bay
It was right at the edge of downtown so we were able to walk everywhere – even though it was crazy hot we just sucked it up. But if you went in November it would be lovely walking weather. To get to St. Armands or the Beach Club on Lido Key it was a quick right out the driveway and over the bridge – about a 5 min drive. We rode bikes to a beautiful waterfront neighborhood with complimentary bikes (paddle boards and kayaks were available too). This Ritz was exactly what I expect in a Ritz so accommodating and great at making you feel special. Everyone asks your name and remembers it the next time you see them. Like you’ve been visiting there for years. They find you chairs by the pool, adjust your umbrella, cover your chairs in towels, bring you an ice bucket with water and wait on you hand and foot. We drank cucumber, gin and St Germain in the pool and Modelo’s over looking the beach at the Beach Club.
My only complaint is that they need a separate smaller pool without kids. Rich kids can be obnoxious. Their parents pay no attention to them and no matter what corner of the pool we tried to hide in one of them was constantly splashing by us or almost jumping on our heads even though I was shooting my best stink eye at them.
The Ritz has private residences at both locations but at the Beach Club it’s just private. The hotel guests get to use the pool, access to the beach, the tiki bar, and the pool side restaurant. Same amazing service. Every evening they have a sunset party with bongos at the tiki bar on the beach. The bartenders were so hospitable – every time they made someone a frozen drink they would give samples from what was left over in the blender.
On our bike ride we visited a couple of the historic neighborhoods in Sarasota. I started to read a coffee table book as I was waiting in the lobby, I didn’t get to finish it but the history of Sarasota is pretty interesting – Google it or look it up on Wikipedia. There’s a historic downtown that leads to an area called Burns Court that is a cool collection of shops now. That leads you to the Orange and Osprey Ave neighborhoods where there are waterfront homes. Turn west off of Osprey Ave onto Lincoln Drive. The 1 block oak lined drive that ends in a cul-de-sac has a park in the median. All the homes are new but built in historical styles and just really well done. Architecture and landscaping.
Turn west onto Bay Point Drive off of Orange Ave. and at the end of the drive you’ll see this beautiful mansion that overlooks the bay. The second photo is the backyard. If you look carefully you can see deck chairs on the roof we think there was a pool up there. What a dream, it reminded me of the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom and if know me you know that’s a compliment.
Most of the other homes in the area were just big. No character at all but this one was amazing.
Some places we didn’t get to see partly because of time and partly because as I already mentioned – it was a 1,000 degrees. So next time we visit it will be cooler and we’ll go see these sites…
the Venetian inspired home of the Ringlings
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
downtown near the Osprey neighborhood
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
just before Ringling
a shopping and restaurant area on a little island between Sarasota and Lido Key, it was very Tommy Bahamas
Mote Marine Aquarium
on the north end of Lido Key
There are also a ton of theaters and an opera in downtown Sarasota.
A friend whose daughter went to Ringling stays at the Lido Beach Resort right on the beach with it’s own tiki bar. Great option for next time. Can’t wait.