Home of exciting Ringling Museum, Beaches on Siesta Key, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and many other activities to do in Sarasota on Memorial Day. We've compiled some of the best activities to do in Sarasota on this Memorial Day holiday.
Come one, come all, folks! See the greatest circus museum on Earth, and see a great art museum and Asian art museum along with it. John Ringling was one of five brothers who created 'The Greatest Show On Earth," as they branded their circus.
In the early 1900s, John and his wife Mable decided to build an Italian palace on twenty acres in Sarasota. They named it Ca d'Zan, and on these grounds today stands one of Florida's preeminent cultural treasures.
The must-visit Circus Museum houses the greatest collection of circus memorabilia and art anywhere. Spread over two buildings, the museum is filled with colorful displays and a huge model of the circus in its heyday. No matter how old you are, it's an unadulterated fantasy for everyone to enjoy. The photos and backgrounds of the freak show performers are especially interesting.
It's a strange feeling to step into the Museum of Art after touring the Circus Museum. The art on display is definitely not to everyone's taste, and unless you appreciate the work of artists from the 16th century, you may find yourself passing quickly through the galleries. That said, a few highlights include Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek by Peter Paul Rubens in gallery two, Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Paolo Veronese in gallery six, and the cast of Michelangelo's David in the center courtyard.
In addition to the two museums, the former home of the Ringlings is also a must-see. Built to resemble a canal-side home in Venice, the 36,000-square-foot home is clad in glazed tile that shines in the hot Florida sun. Be sure to walk around the front of the home and out to the large patio area on the waterfront, where the most impressive views (and photos) can be had. Self-guided tours of the first floor are available for an additional fee and must be purchased when you enter at the front gate.
Be sure to spend time exploring the grounds and gardens: they're every bit as impressive as the works of art inside. Towering old banyan trees and an expansive Rose Garden speak to the passion that Mabel Ringling had for nature.
If art's your thing, you may also want to pay a visit on Memorial Day to the Sarasota Museum of Art. Part of the Ringling College of Art + Design, the museum focuses on contemporary art and artists from across the globe.
A trip to Sarasota would be remiss without a trip to one of the spectacular beaches on Siesta Key. The largest and easiest to access is Siesta Key Public Beach. A visit here is a must for the softest sand on which you'll ever step, as unlike most other beaches, which are coral, its sand is made of quartz. It's also cool to the touch when you walk on it.
The shallow areas extend far from shore, making this an ideal family beach. If you'd like your day to be an active one, there are beach volleyball and tennis courts, and if you want to just relax with the family, there are also picnic tables and playgrounds. Extensive free parking is available off Beach Road.
Drive a bit farther south, and you'll come to Turtle Beach. This spectacular beach is a laid-back place to visit, with black and white, salt and pepper sand. Bring your kayak and explore Jim Neville Marine Preserve or Palmer Point Park.
For a hidden gem of a beach with a very natural feel, seek out Sarasota Beach at beach access #7. Here, the beach is backed by sea oats and cabbage palms, and the homes and condos are set a long way back, giving the place a park-like feel.
If you are on Siesta Key late in the day, be sure to walk from Siesta Key Village down Columbus Blvd to Sunset Beach to watch the sun descend into the Gulf of Mexico.
Fronting Sarasota Bay, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a beautiful spot for a relaxing stroll, even if you're not a garden enthusiast. Peaceful sitting areas punctuate the 15-acre grounds, so you can linger and soak up all the scenery. You can also venture along a wooden boardwalk through mangrove forests and see beautiful views of the bay.
Botanical highlights include one of the world's most spectacular displays and collections of orchids and bromeliads. Other impressive specimens include, bamboo, ferns, cycads, and magnificent old banyan trees that are almost 100 years old.
Kids love the koi pond and butterfly garden and the elevated children's rainforest garden. This popular area features hanging bridges, a waterfall, an Amazon village, and an adventure trail with treetop-views of the tropical plants. After admiring all the botanical beauties, you can shop for souvenirs in the on-site gift shop.
If you still want to be awed by more botanical specimens, head south to the Historic Spanish Point Campus in Osprey.
Big plans are afoot at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. A 92-million-dollar, three-phase plan is just starting that will see a new research center, archive facilities, a restaurant, restoration of the original mansion plus a new parking garage, a greenhouse, and pedestrian promenade.
At the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, the focus is not only on nursing injured marine life back to health and caring for them afterward but also on using what scientists learn here to help humans. This is a true research facility, staffed by a group of world-class scientists who spend their lives pushing boundaries.
The research extends from citizens of the sea such as manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, and sharks, to coral reefs and other ocean ecosystems. Interestingly, some of this work may actually have implications for curing human diseases.
As for the exhibits during Memorial Day, you can touch all sorts of rays, and you can see sharks swimming, delicate seahorses, and brilliantly colored fish.
If you've spent any time in Florida, you will have likely noticed the abundance of birds wading on the beach, soaring in the sky, or dive bombing into the water. To learn more about these fascinating avian creatures, swing by the Save our Seabirds facility. Easily combined with a trip to the Mote Aquarium on Memorial Day, just across the parking lot, this non-profit operation is devoted to rehabilitating birds to be returned to the wild.
However, some birds are non-releasable due to the severity of their injuries and have become residents at the facility. Seeing and learning about these birds, which you can see up close, is fascinating, and makes for an excellent family-friendly thing to do.
For shoppers and gourmands, be sure to visit Saint Armands Circle on Memorial Day. Located on a small island just across Sarasota Bay, this shoppers' paradise consists of a large circle of 130 luxury stores and high-end restaurants just waiting to be explored. Pull up a chair at any one of the eateries in this pedestrian-friendly area, relax, and watch the world go by.
Saint Armands Circle was envisioned by John Ringling and built in 1926. The Depression caused it to fail and wither under the onslaught of the elements, until the 1950s, when it slowly came back to life. Today the area has towering palm trees, 33 statues from John Ringling's collection, the Circus Ring of Fame, wide sidewalks, and colorful tropical plants.
Residents of the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary range from cute domestic critters like goats, sheep, and donkeys in the petting zoo, to magnificent lions.
Other animals here include huge tortoises, birds of some very beautiful feathers flocking together, monkeys and apes, camels, bears, ligers (half-tiger, half-lion), and tigers. All are kept in naturalistic environments, and many have been rescued and nursed back to health.
You can see dozens of rare and exotic species here, many of which you may not have seen before. The two daily shows are "Parrots In Paradise" and "Big Cat Encounter." All admission fees are used to house, feed, and care for the animals.
Devotees of yoga may want to participate in Lemur Yoga. In this interactive class, two ruffed lemurs join you on your mat and help you with your practice. Other interactive yoga classes are with silver foxes and tigers. Don't worry, the tigers remain in their cages!
Another interesting animal experience during Memorial Day visit can be had at Sarasota Jungle Gardens, a 10-acre tropical setting that includes an opportunity to hand-feed flamingos.