For a city the size of Sarasota with a population under 100,000, the art scene is surprisingly impressive and varied. An hour south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota offers a range of activities and options for tourists and business visitors alike.
Any visit to Sarasota would be incomplete without a visit to the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art (above). The museum was established in 1927 as the legacy to the people of Florida from Circus legend, John Ringling and his wife, Mable. The museum is home to more than 10,000 objects of international art and antiques and includes works from Peter Paul Rubens, Van Dyck, El Greco, Velazquez, and Gainsborough. And given its founder, there is also a Circus Museum, which contains hand-carved parade wagons, circus memorabilia and John and Mable’s private train car. Visitors to the museum can also tour, Ca’ d’Zan, the Venetian Gothic mansion which reflects the Ringling’s lavish lifestyle.
Along with the permanent collection, the museum also runs special exhibits. Currently showing through October 28 is an exhibit: Deco Japan – Shaping Art and Culture 1920-1945. This exhibit features almost 200 works from the Levenson Collection, the premier collection of Japanese art in the Deco style. Works in the exhibit range from fine art objects made for wealthy individuals to goods mass-produced for the home. It includes works in metal, ceramics, lacquer, glass, wood furniture, jewelry, graphic design, painting and prints. I highly recommend it; It is both beautiful and a clear example of the influence of the Art Deco movement not only in the United States but also in Japan.
The locals show great pride in Sarasota’s vibrant arts scene. Sarasota is also home to the Sarasota Ballet, the Sarasota Opera and the Asolo Repertory Theater.
The arts aside, Sarasota has beautiful beaches and a range of hotels, restaurants and shopping experiences to provide a fun, relaxed vacation. Sarasota’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel offers affordable rates before the winter peak season starts. Included in the room rate is access to its beach club – a spectacular place to watch the sunset. St. Armand’s Circle offers European-style shopping with boutiques such as Lilly Pulitzer among its offerings.
Sarasota also has a somber place in history. It was at a Sarasota elementary school on the morning of September 11, 2001 where President Bush received the news from his Chief of Staff, Andy Card about the attacks on the World Trade Center. What began as a happy morning with Sarasota school children became a national – and worldwide – day of sadness.
As summer fades and temperatures moderate, consider a long weekend in Sarasota. Jet Blue offers non-stop flights from La Guardia to Sarasota/Bradenton airport.
Here are a few restaurant options:
The Bijou Café: 1287 1st Street at Pineapple Avenue (Sarasota’s Theater and Arts District)
Drunken Poet Café, Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar: 1572 Main Street
Flemings, Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar: 2001 Siesta Drive
Javier’s Restaurant and Wine Bar, Peruvian: 6621 Midnight Pass Road