Things To Do In Downtown Sarasota, FL

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Even though we live in Sarasota, when we are exploring the area we still feel like we are on vacation sometimes! Maybe it’s all the palm trees and warm weather. If you are visiting or are new to the area, here are some things to do in downtown Sarasota.

Downtown Sarasota from the Ringling Bridge

Things to do in Downtown Sarasota

EAT

There are so many restaurants in downtown Sarasota to choose from. When people ask us for a restaurant recommendation, we have a hard time picking a favorite! Luckily, there is a lot of variety in the restaurants downtown, so you should be able to find whatever you have a taste for. There is everything from fine dining to casual.

Clasico: Always consistently good food and usually good service. Great seating indoors or outdoors.

Selva: If you want to dress up and go out for a really nice dinner, this is a great place to go. They also have a great bar area.

First Watch: Hands down the best breakfast place in Sarasota.

Mattison’s City Grille: This popular outdoor restaurant has good food and drinks and great people watching. They frequently have live music.

Boca Sarasota: Great place for happy hour! Fun vibe, always have had great service here and met interesting people.

Social Eatery & Bar: This place has a really cool atmosphere. We love the outside bar in the back. They also offer unique food offerings.

Marina Jacks: Located right on the water, this is a really popular place for both lunch and dinner. They have a casual outside restaurant and fancier dining inside. Sit at the bar outside if you want to feel like you’re on a cruise ship!

Lemon Tree Kitchen: This is a newer spot with healthier options. It is a little pricey, but the food and service is great.

DRINK

There is no shortage of places to grab a drink in Sarasota. There always seems to be a new bar opening up.

When we first moved down here, the one thing we really wanted was a rooftop bar. Finally the Westin Sarasota opened with a fabulous rooftop bar and pool with amazing views. This is one of our favorite spots to grab a drink. The Art Ovation also has a really nice rooftop bar (very pricey + have unfortunately experienced some very rude bartenders so we don’t go here that often.) The Embassy Suites recently opened up and they have a bar that’s located in the middle of the hotel with big picture windows that provide beautiful views of downtown Sarasota.

O’Leary’s Tiki Bar is the perfect place to go if you want a great Florida vibe. The views are of the beautiful bayfront and they usually have live music. This is a place where there is always a good combination of locals and tourists here.

If you want a more dive bar experience, Smokin’ Joe’s will give you just that. Obviously the name implies that you can smoke inside, so we are not fans of that (there is a cigar shop inside). Right next door to Smokin’ Joe’s is Brewster’s, which is a little nicer and doesn’t allow smoking. The Gator Club is also a popular spot and they have live music every night. Evie’s Tavern is a fun sports bar, and they have bowling lanes that you can rent out. (All located on Main Street.)

Mandeville Beer Garden is another great spot to grab a drink. It is also dog and kid friendly. (Located on Lemon.)

For those of you that are looking for more of a scene, we recommend Social, Art Ovation (on the weekends they have a DJ), Selva, and Sarasota Sky (check their calendar to see who is playing). So many places have live music or DJs on the weekend (and some have live music every day). Facebook Events are a great way to check out what is going on in the area.

There are also plenty of great coffee shops located downtown. Check out Kahwa Coffee, Buddy Brew, Pastry Art, and Out & About Coffee.


EXPLORE

The downtown Sarasota area is easy to walk around. It’s growing and expanding so much, and there are a lot of places to explore. You can take tours via trolley or Segway. There are also historical markers throughout downtown that you can check out. There is also the Gotcha ride sharing service now available to take you around downtown Sarasota for $3 per person.

Downtown Sarasota: The downtown area is certainly not the liveliest downtown you will ever visit, but that is slowly starting to change. There are a lot of cool things to check out and the nightlife is getting better. Besides the bars and restaurants, there are shops, live theater, parks, and public art installations. If you really like art, head to the Art Ovation hotel where they do rotating exhibits from local artists.

Bayfront Park: We love walking around Bayfront Park because we feel like we are on vacation! This is where Marina Jack’s and O’Leary’s Tiki Bar are located. If you really want a fun Sarasota experience, head out on the Le Barge for a sunset or dolphin watching cruise.

Rosemary District: This is a real up-and-coming area located right next to downtown Sarasota. There are a lot of small businesses and condos and apartment buildings here as well as restaurants and bars. The Overton is a newer spot with a great outdoor area. Sarasota Modern is a new hotel in the area as well.

Burns Court: This historic neighborhood is located a few minutes walk south of downtown. There are great small businesses here to check out if you like to shop. There is also the Burns Court Cinema where you can check out independent and classic films. The most popular spot is Owen’s Fish Camp. Be prepared to wait to be seated, but grab a drink and check out the patio in the back

Towles Court: This is an artist colony also located a few minutes walk from downtown. They do an Art Walk every third Friday of the month from October to May 5-9pm that is definitely worth checking out.

Historic Downtown Village: Located on Fruitville Ave, this community of bungalows was originally built for circus employees back in the ’20s. Now it is an eclectic mix of small businesses. Every fourth Friday of the month the shops stay open from 5-9pm and there is sometimes live music.

"Jumping Fish" Public Art Sculpture Sarasota, FL
“Jumping Fish” by Jeffrey Laramore

ENTERTAINMENT

When we first moved down to Sarasota, we had no idea it had such a thriving art community. There are so many art galleries downtown to check out. Palm Avenue has many art galleries and they do a First Friday art walk every Friday starting at 6pm.

There is also plenty of live theater. Check out Florida Studio Theatre, Van Wezel, Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Ballet, The Players Centre for Performing Arts (community theater), Urbanite Theater, and so much more. We even have our own opera house located right downtown.

Besides that, many of the bars have great local musicians. The Gator Club (located at Main + Lemon) pretty consistently has great bands. Sarasota also has its very own comedy club. McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre and Humor Institute hosts comics, open mic nights, and drag queen bingo.

The Downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market is every Saturday from 7am – 1pm (located on Lemon). After you visit the Farmer’s Market, head over to the Bazaar on Apricot & Lime for a really unique shopping experience. While not technically downtown, it’s a quick drive over. There are also a lot of art shows and outdoor markets downtown during “the season” (October to April).

Marie Selby Gardens is a botanical garden located right on the bay. The gardens are beautiful and they do a lot of special events and exhibits here.

Sarasota Modern

Other Resources

Happy Hour SRQ

Visit Sarasota

Downtown Sarasota Alliance

Sarasota Magazine

A note: These are all places we have personally spent our money at and recommend! This does not mean these are the only places you should check out in downtown Sarasota, but we only will recommend places we have been to.

Have you visited Sarasota before? We want to know your recommendations! Comment below your favorite things to do in downtown Sarasota.

The Traveling Gals

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