When many people think of Florida’s beaches, their minds quickly divert to the shining sands down in South Florida on the east coast. But a well-kept secret among native Floridians is the west coast, which boasts stunning sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico and a beach experience much more relaxed than those that host spring break party crowds.

Enter Sarasota, located on the southwestern coast of Florida, while it is a place of calming respite, it is a vibrant lifestyle with beachside views and culturally rich activities. Like many of our other day destinations, Sarasota is an easy 52 statute miles from Ridge Landing Airpark when you fly into Hidden River Airport. 

Fly into 22FA

ridge landing to sarasota

Sarasota is a must-visit city for any Floridian, so if you’re crossing to-do’s off your bucket list, it’s time to fly into Sarasota for a day or weekend trip.

Heed the History

Ever heard of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus? Of course you have.

One of the most well-known attractions in Sarasota is The Ringling – a 66-acre property serving as the State Art Museum of Florida. It is home to a museum of both classical and contemporary art collections, a circus museum, and the Ca’D’ Zan – John and Mable Ringling’s palace – among many other points of interest.

In 1927, John Ringling made Sarasota the winter quarters of the circus, and the city’s circus history has been a large part of the culture ever since. But the circus museum is not the only part of The Ringling worth visiting – the grounds are also home to Mable’s beautiful rose garden, and the Ringling’s 56-room home is a tour all on its own.

Visitors recommend making this your first stop in Sarasota and arriving right before it opens at 10:00 a.m. – it’s extremely popular and you’ll want to avoid the lines.

sarasota from ridge landing

Image via ringling.org

Support Marine Life

The Gulf coast is home to many beautiful and interesting marine animals. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium takes animal appreciation a bit further and focuses efforts on ongoing research to better the future of ocean life.

New exhibits are always being opened at Mote, so you never know which animals you’ll get to see during each visit. The aquarium is open seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., so you’ll never miss your chance to check out the marine life and maybe even learn a thing or two!

fresh sea fare

Image via mustdo.com

Fresh Sea Fare

While you’re on the coast, it would almost be a sin not to indulge in fresh seafood straight from the ocean below. For either lunch or dinner, treat yourself to a fine meal at Duval’s Fresh Local Seafood, where all the ingredients are sourced from local fishermen and farmers, providing a truly unique dining experience.

lido key sarosota

Google Street View

Park It At The Beach

For a little relaxation, enjoy the beautiful outdoors and head over to Lido Key. North Lido Beach is uniquely kept in its natural state, so you can experience the environment exactly how it’s meant to be – including a dune system and the nesting shore birds that call the beach home.

But when you get to Lido Beach, you’ll find all of the lodging and amenities you might need. Serving as a destination for travelers from all over the world, this beach is more visitor-friendly than other nearby popular beaches such as Siesta Key (although Siesta is rated one of the top beaches in the world!). Lido Beach is less crowded, and it used to have a casino on the grounds, making for an interesting history lesson, to say the least!

Like we mentioned earlier, Florida’s sunsets on the west coast are tough to beat, so sit back and relax, and enjoy sundown. You might even catch a couple getting married on one end of the beach!