It’s time for a fun family getaway, and few cities deliver like Sarasota, Florida. Located 60 miles south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, this beautiful beach town has it all. Miles of fine-sand beaches and warm, shallow waters offer hours of entertainment for the whole family, but that’s only the half of it. From animal adventures and enchanted gardens to picnics in the park, a Sarasota Florida vacation makes memories that last forever.

Enjoy the Sand and Surf

When it comes to a family vacation, nothing beats a beach community, and with an average annual temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit, Sarasota, Florida, weather couldn’t be more inviting. Families looking for a fun-filled day often head to award-winning Siesta Key Beach, known for its soft, sugar-like sand. There’s something for kids of all ages like playground equipment, toddler-sized tide pools, body surfing, sand volleyball and tennis. For sustenance, march your family to the snack bar for a midday meal or cook up some hot dogs or burgers on one of the handy outdoor grills.

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Looking for more outdoor fun? Check out Lido Key Beach to the north featuring all kinds of amenities, from picnic tables and a playground to a heated swimming pool. If you have a different experience in mind, hunt for petrified sharks’ teeth on Turtle Beach. Visit Palmer Point Beach Park to escape the crowds, or enjoy the waters of both the Gulf of Mexico and Intracoastal Waterway at Nokomis Beach. Head to Venice Beach for sunbathing and scuba diving.

Walk on the Wild Side

Pint-sized zoologists or marine biologists never get bored in Sarasota, Florida. A variety of aquariums and animal sanctuaries offer up-close-and-personal fun with creatures of the land and sea. Hold snakes, interact with parrots or feed roaming flamingos at Sarasota Jungle Gardens, a popular attraction open to Floridians since 1939.

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Discover manatees, sea turtles and alligators or have breakfast with the sharks at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. You can also get hands-on with stingrays or experience the Immersion Cinema, a high-tech theater offering group games and movies on a massive 40-foot screen. With loads of exhibits to see and marine life to encounter, families can spend the whole day here.

For more animal fun, check out the Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary, a permanent home in Sarasota for exotic animals, from lions and bears to colorful birds. Families looking for a rare treat can even spot a liger (a captivity-only cross between a lion and a tiger).

Spark the Imagination

If you’re looking for a hidden gem in Sarasota, visit The Children’s Garden & Art Center tucked into a residential neighborhood just north of downtown. The smiles and giggles generated by this enchanting place make it almost as much fun for parents as it is for kids.

Just start by following the yellow brick road and enjoy the magic. From the Butterfly Garden and The Black Pearl pirate ship to the Caterpillar Cottage, kids can’t help but have the time of their lives. While you’re here, make sure to stop at the dressing room for colorful costumes and don’t forget to visit Snuffy the Dragon, the site’s resident protector.

Shop Until You Drop

While shopping might not seem like a family-friendly activity, St. Armands Circle in Sarasota may change your mind. With more than 130 shops and stores, there’s something for every member of the family, from gift shops and boutiques to stores selling specialty fudge and gourmet ice pops. Following an afternoon of shopping, satisfy hungry tummies with fish tacos or burgers from Cha Cha Coconuts.

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Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, downtown Sarasota offers a bustling farmers’ market featuring local produce, plants, flowers and handicrafts. While you’re touring the grounds, kids can paint coconuts or play in the children’s area, and the market offers all sorts of delicious bites for breakfast and lunch, from scratch-made muffins or scones to fresh pasta and teriyaki chicken.

Picnic in the Park

Because Sarasota was once the winter home of circus magnate John Ringling, it’s not surprising that many local attractions sport a circus theme. Children always love a picnic in the park, but Sarasota’s Payne Park offers even more enjoyment with a circus-inspired playground. Fun features include a fortune teller’s booth, circus animals, clown cars, climbing structures, bridges, tunnels and a misting area for cooling off.

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Also, spread across the 29 lush acres are a walking and jogging path, a skate park, a tennis center with 12 Har-Tru courts and plenty of shaded benches for resting. When the gang gets hungry, the Cafe in the Park serves up tasty bites like pressed Nutella sandwiches and chicken salad croissants along with sodas, juice, water, tea and adult beverages.

There’s nothing like a family vacation to make happy memories and build lasting bonds. If you’re looking for a balmy beach community chock full of fun things to do, check out Sarasota, Florida, for your next family getaway.