With 35 miles of beautiful sandy beaches, Sarasota, Florida offers a treasure trove of family activities in and near the water, ranging from swimming and watersports to adventures with exotic wildlife. If you’re already looking for vacation rentals in Sarasota, FL, consider trying out these once you arrive for your stay.
Six fun things to do in Sarasota with kids
- Go Stand-up Paddleboarding in the Sarasota Bay
At Lido Key in Sarasota, take lessons in stand-up paddleboarding, an emerging sport that’s a spinoff of surfing. Stand-up paddleboarding supplies a great physical workout. Beyond that, you can view what’s in the water easily while also keeping an eye on the horizon. Stand-up paddleboarding is becoming popular not just for exploring ocean coastlines and other waterways but also in whitewater boating, racing, fishing and camping.
Are some of your tastes more traditional? You can also rent sailboats, Jet Skis or kayaks near Lido or hop aboard a larger boat for dolphin watching.
- Collect Cool Seashells and Sharks’ Teeth on Sarasota Beach
Each stretch of sand in Sarasota carries its own vibe. Lido Beach is a terrific spot for finding beautiful seashells in the sane. So, too, is Turtle Beach on Siesta Key. The best times to go beachcombing for shells are in the morning, during the winter, after high tide or after a storm. You’ll find sharks’ teeth at Venice Beach and nearby Caspersen Beach on Venice Key in Sarasota. After you return home, the kids can make their own jewelry from what they’ve collected.
Are you bringing the family pooch along with you on vacation? Make another side trip to Venice and head for Brohard Paw Park, which features amenities like water fountains and showers expressly designed for canines. Dogs and their owners can roam and romp freely on the beach.
- Adopt a Seahorse or Otter
The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is helping to support populations of seahorses and other marine animals by breeding them right there. Your family can pitch in by adopting a creature like a seahorse, sea turtle or otter. For a small financial contribution, you get a digital adoption certificate and a photo of the animal with a fact sheet. The aquarium also features dolphin and manatee exhibits, touch pools for stingrays and other ocean life, a turtle rehabilitation hospital, and Shark Zone, a 135,000-gallon shark habitat. Take an eco-boat tour of the facility for the full experience.
- Feed Flamingos at Sarasota Jungle
At Sarasota Jungle Gardens, you can view fabulous flamingos, walk among them, and even feed these spectacular bright-pink birds. Pet a skunk, or watch parrots riding bikes. Other wildlife you and the children might come across include lemurs, vultures, crocodiles and alligators. Another popular attraction is the butterfly garden. Situated under a canopy of trees, it lures a variety of butterflies, including Swallowtail, Sulfur and Monarch.
At the Biblical Garden, get up close to fig, olive, date, cedar and bulrush trees. Other intriguing vegetation at Sarasota Jungle Gardens includes lychee trees from China, Norfolk pines and Ponderosa lemon trees bearing football-sized fruit.
On Good Friday of each year, you can wander through the Sarasota Jungle Gardens trails and hunt Easter eggs on a Bunny Trail. The holiday lights show in December is spectacular. A zoo camp for kids is available in June, too.
- Frolic at an Old-fashioned Circus
Sarasota is also the historic home of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Preserving the legacy of John Ringling and his wife Mabel, an establishment called The Ringling now houses an interactive circus museum, along with the State Art Museum of Florida, Asolo Repertory Theatre and Bayfront Gardens.
In the circus museum, you can test your balance skills on the tightrope and see just how many clowns can squeeze into one of those tiny cars. Take a gander at antique circus posters, glittering circus costumes and a cannon that shot circus performers through the air. By going on a tour, you’ll learn how the brothers worked together to create a world-class circus. Children also love the mural celebrating the entertainment that the circus delivered to towns and cities throughout the United States before the days of TV and the Internet, along with an intricate 44,000-piece miniature circus model.
- Go Further Back in Time with a trip to the museum
Sarasota wasn’t always a beach resort, of course. At the Crowley Museum & Nature Center, you can see how early settlers lived in addition to exploring nature in the marshlands adjoining Sarasota beach. Visit a pioneer cabin, working sugar cane mill and blacksmith shop. Introduce your kids to farm animals like cattle, chickens and pigs. Rent a primitive campsite for your family.
Kids can take part in hands-on science and learning activities by following the nature trails. There’s also a half-mile boardwalk that takes you through five Florida habitats, such as Tatum Sawgrass Marsh and Maple Branch Swamp. At the end of the boardwalk, climb a two-story observation tower to view the surrounding marsh and Myakka River.