Known for its beautiful beaches, lush nature preserves, and many golf courses, Sarasota and Bradenton put Florida’s Gulf Coast on the map. Start your visit by diving straight into Sarasota’s natural offerings with a visit to Myakka River State Park. At this popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, biking, and hiking, visitors can catch a glimpse of unspoiled wetlands, pinelands, prairies, and hammocks. See Florida wildlife in its natural habitat, including eagles, vultures, limpkins, alligators, and the picturesque Sabal palm tree. Another unique draw is the Myakka Canopy Walkway, which is suspended 25 feet in the air and gives visitors a unique view of the park.
For a more manicured natural experience, check out the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. With almost centuries-old banyan trees, breathtaking orchid exhibitions, mangrove forests, and more local flora, the gardens are a family-friendly destination that offer an educational experience of nature. Don’t miss the butterfly garden and koi pond, perfect for stopping and enjoying a moment of tranquility.
Sarasota and the surrounding area are home to a number of museums, including the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, and The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature. Opened in 1930 and now managed by Florida State University, the Ringling Museum of Art features a collection of over 10,000 pieces that range from Ancient Greece to the present. If fossils and dinosaurs are more your speed, head over to the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature where visitors can explore artifacts that date back to ancient times including objects from Archaic and pre-contact cultures. Plus, you can see manatees up close and personal at the institution’s manatee habitat, where specialists work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to care for manatees in need of hospitalization and give educational presentations about these loveable marine mammals.