Experience luxury travel in Sarasota with its history of affluence and good taste, starting in the early 1900s when Bertha Potter Palmer (of the Chicago Palmer House fame) and John Ringling (of circus fame) made their winter homes in town. Ringling also introduced a legacy of arts that combines with the wealth to make Sarasota a destination for cultured sophisticates.
Let’s start with some of the top luxury accommodations to give your stay the deluxe edge. Newest on the scene, Zota Beach Resort on Longboat Key makes a divine statement of clean, modern lines and black-bottomed reflecting ponds that wind from the lobby throughout the property.
Longboat Key is the cream of the Sarasota crop, and its Resort at Longboat Key Club is another top choice among golfers, tennis players, beach-lovers, and connoisseurs. On the mainland, The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, of course, is synonymous with top luxe. It has its own beach club on nearby Lido Key.
Once settled into your luxe accommodations, next thoughts may turn to dinner. Each of the three aforementioned resorts boast top-of-the-line dining options. At Zota’s Viento Kitchen + Bar, overlook the Gulf of Mexico while relishing exquisite dishes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Influence comes from Florida, Caribbean, and Mediterranean cooking techniques and flavors.
In downtown Sarasota’s fine dining mecca, Bijou Café is the gem its name implies. The longtime bastion of fine for lunch and dinner, it tweaks classic Continental with fresh interpretations. Discerning diners also head to Michael’s on East to the south and Ophelia’s on the Bay on Siesta Key.
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To start your sightseeing in Sarasota on the right foot, head to The Ringling, a beautiful bayside complex that includes art museums, circus museums, theaters, John Ringling’s Cà d’Zan Italianate palace, and lovely gardens.
Another bayside estate too boasts world-class gardens. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens specializes in orchids. It also wows plant-lovers with plots of palms, bamboo, hibiscus, tropical fruit plants, and herbs; a koi pond; and a canopy boardwalk with a rope bridge in the Children’s Rainforest Garden.
To learn more about the legacy of Bertha Potter, plan on a visit to her Historic Spanish Point estate. It gathers historical structures and gardens from native settlers to the late Victorian era.
Sarasota’s performing arts scene is legendary for a town its size. For the highest brow, buy your tickets early at Sarasota’s Opera House. In operation for more than 50 years, it stages classic and rare works in its beautifully restored, 1926 Mediterranean Revival–style structure.
Designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall presents comedians to Broadway plays. At The Ringling, the Historic Asolo Theatre and FSU Center for the Performing Arts provide venues for stage arts. The Circus Conservatory preserves Sarasota’s heritage of circus arts performance.