When I’m planning a trip to Florida’s West Coast I always make sure I stop off at Sarasota. Not only is Sarasota the culture capital of Florida, it’s also home to great shopping, food and award winning beaches
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota Bay pays homage to the Ringlings, the family behind America’s most famous circus. Check out circus memorabilia including old costumes, wagons and my favourite, the world’s largest miniature circus. Art lovers can also appreciate the largest collections of Rubens canvasses in the world, plus works by Old Masters. You can also tour Ca d'Zan Mansion, a magnificent 56-room Venetian Gothic palace, and the Ringling’s old family home.
I love to shop at St Armand’s Circle when I’m in Sarasota. Located in Sarasota Bay, it has over 150 shops and restaurants, with a real mix of brands and boutiques – check out Foxy Lady for women’s designer labels and Little Bo-Tique is great for kids’ clothes.
Just make sure you leave enough time for an ice cream made locally from the Big Olaf Creamery. With so many unusual flavours to choose from, including Dutch peanut butter fudge and birthday cake, it usually takes me ages to decide what to have!
For Beach Lovers
Siesta Key in Sarasota was voted best US beach in 2011 by coastal expert Stephen Leatherman (Dr Beach). Sunday evenings are pretty chilled out at Siesta Key as you can dance to the beat of the Siesta Key Drum Circle, which kicks off around one hour before sunset.
For Animal Lovers
The Sarasota Jungle Gardens is one of Sarasota's most popular family attractions. Home to exotic birds and wildlife, kids can feed flamingos, see alligators close up and learn about the animals and fauna through its interactive shows. The Mote Marine Library and Aquariumbrings the ocean to life. Visitors can see over 100 species of marine life and exhibits including a seahorse conservation lab and shark training sessions.