The area is a cultural center with a nice blend of museums, gardens, theaters and parks. Located on the west coast of Florida just south of Tampa Bay, it has some excellent beaches out on the barrier islands of Longboat, Lido, and Siesta Keys.
One of the best known landmarks is the Ringling Museum. This former Ringling estate was once home to John and Mabel Ringling of the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus and the "The Greatest Show on Earth". The Ringling Museum shows off its exquisite grand Italian Renaissance style architecture on the outside with marvelous treasures of art on the inside. Paintings from the Renaissance and Baroque periods are on display. The museum also has a collection of antique circus wagons and memorabilia.
In and around are a number of cultural offerings and points of interest. The Opera House hosts the Sarasota Opera in its 1920s Spanish style building. Several small performing arts halls and theaters provide a variety of entertainment including the Florida State University for the Performing Arts, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the Asolo Center for the Performing Arts.
The DeSoto National Memorial is located on the mouth of the Manatee River. This park commemorates early Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto who landed in the area in 1539.
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens shows off a beautiful display of thousands of orchids, tropical and colorful plants.
Nearby Myakka River State Park covers nearly 30,000 acres of Florida natural habitat. The park is home to hundreds of animal and plant species including alligators, deer, bobcat and beautiful wading birds. Walking trails, boating, picnicking, camping, fishing, and bicycling are all available at the park.
On the way to the barrier islands is St. Armand's Circle. This upscale shopping district is a collection of boutiques, galleries and restaurants.
The barrier islands offer fine Florida beaches at Long Boat, Lido and Siesta Keys. Lido Key has a nice park at its south end offering picnicking and fishing.