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14 Things to Know About Living in Sarasota

Moving to Sarasota? Circus City has something for everyone—including affordable Florida real estate, a vibrant art scene, and fun things to see and do while living along the coast. Here are 14 things to know about living in Sarasota!

Experience a High Quality of Life in Sarasota

With reasonably-priced real estate, an abundance of outdoor recreation, and a variety of other benefits, Sarasota has been consistently named among the best places to live in the country. No matter your reason for moving to Circus City, there’s something to enjoy for everyone! Families will appreciate that Sarasota has some of the best public schools in the country. Meanwhile, people of all ages can value the city’s robust healthcare system. Best of all, the cost of living in Sarasota is lower than other Florida beach towns, like Key West, and there are many safe neighborhoods throughout the Circus City metro that are even more affordable than the rest of the city. South Sarasota is one such community, boasting low crime rates and a laid-back pace of living—as are Alta Vista and Arlington Park, which are both also family-friendly Sarasota neighborhoods. No matter where you settle down in the city, another perk of living in Sarasota is that Florida has no state income tax!

Attend Great Florida Colleges & Universities

Rear view of bull mascot looks at campus building Photo by Instagram user @usfsm

Photo via @usfsm

Circus City isn’t just a great place to live—it’s also a fantastic place to get your degree, with a variety of top-notch Sarasota colleges and universities to choose from! Take part in research projects in your field of study alongside renowned experts, choose from undergraduate programs like accounting and social work, or continue your education with a graduate degree from University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Pursue your passions with a degree in various creative fields of study, including fine arts, motion design, and more at Ringling College of Arts & Design. Attend one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country and engage in hands-on learning in fields from archaeology, to marine biology, and beyond at New College of Florida. Prepare for a career in nursing, business, manufacturing, or a variety of other professions at State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota. Or find 100+ graduate and undergraduate programs with online options available at the Sarasota campus of Keiser University.

Further Your Career with Sarasota Jobs…

The Sarasota job market has seen significant wage increases recently and with an unemployment rate of just 4.6%, Circus City is a desirable option for Florida professionals. Prominent job industries in Sarasota include manufacturing, healthcare, and technology. Become part of Sarasota’s growing tech industry and work with smart home solutions at Clare Controls. Find a career in manufacturing or distributing water treatment chemicals at the sustainability-focused JCI Jones Chemicals. Enjoy a rewarding career in dentistry, oral surgery, or in a dental support position at a massive Dental Support Organization—Dental Care Alliance. Apply to work for a worldwide leader in first-aid product manufacturing and sales at The ASO Group. Experience a rewarding healthcare career serving patients across the SRQ metro with Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. Or work in commercial property and casualty insurance at a major Sarasota employer, FCCI.

…Or Retire in Sarasota

Sarasota is among the best places to retire in the country, with beautiful warm weather year-round, waterfront views and recreation, and many other draws. Retirees moving to this Florida beach town can enjoy a variety of practical amenities, including great healthcare at local hospitals like Sarasota Memorial Hospital—home to nationally-recognized rehabilitation programs. The city also has several 55+ communities where you’ll find affordable living alongside fellow retirees. As for recreation, you’ll never be short on things to do in Circus City. Spend a day on the green at Tatum Ridge Golf Link or any of the many other great golf courses in Sarasota. Stay active and practice your softball pitch by joining Sarasota Senior Softball Association. Or make new friends at local senior social clubs and centers, like the Senior Friendship Center, where you’ll find live music, card games, group classes, and more!

Easy Access to Other Florida Cities

There’s no shortage of things to do and see in Sarasota, but being within driving distance to other fun Florida cities is definitely a perk! Go on a weekend getaway to Tampa, just an hour north, to check out attractions like Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island. Road trip about four hours east to Miami to catch a Miami Dolphins (NFL) game, chow down at Cuban restaurants, or experience the city’s famous nightlife! Or hop on a two-hour SCAT Bus ride to Orlando and explore the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and other parks at Disney World—or immerse yourself in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort.

Soak Up the Sun at Sarasota Beaches

There are more than 35 miles’ worth of Gulf Coast beaches in and around Sarasota, with fine white-quartz sand and clear water. Go bird-watching or fishing at Lido Beach or wade in the clean, dazzling waters of Whitney Beach at Longboat Key. Work on your tan or go boogie boarding at the nationally renowned Siesta Key. Take a quick, hour-long road trip south of Sarasota to play sand volleyball at Manasota Beach or go snorkeling at Stump Pass Beach State Park at Manasota Key. See green and loggerhead turtle nests up close and camp out under the stars at Turtle Beach. Observe gopher tortoises in their natural habitat or walk along the coast at Palmer Point Beach Park. Or go boating off the shores of Sarasota’s oldest public beach, Nokomis Beach.

Get Outdoors at Circus City Parks

Although it’s known for being a beach town, there is also plenty of in-land green space and public parks in Sarasota. Stroll through the Butterfly House at the Historic Spanish Point Campus, attend seasonal events like Lights in Bloom at the Downtown Campus, or tour stunning flora any time of year at the Marie Selby Botanical Garden. Go fishing, kayaking, or hiking at one of Florida’s oldest and largest parks—Myakka River State Park. Check out native plant life like the cabbage palm tree and mangrove spider lily, marvel at bronze sculptures, or have a picnic at Bayfront Park. Work on your kickflip at the Payne Skate Park, bring your little ones to the Circus Park playground, or grab a cup of coffee or a Caprese Sandwich to eat on the patio at the Cafe in the Park at Payne Park. Learn about seabirds of all kinds in a “living museum” atmosphere at local wildlife rehabilitation center Save Our Seabirds. Bring your dog along for a hike on multiple miles of trails at the 72-acre Red Bug Slough Preserve. Or meet new people in Sarasota’s LGBTQ community by joining the SRQ Kickball LGBTQ League, which plays at Bee Ridge Park.

Explore Family-Friendly Sarasota Activities

Closeup of young otter in the water Photo by Instagram user @motemarinelab

Photo via @motemarinelab

Families living in Sarasota will never be short on all-ages activities to enjoy. Observe manatees and other marine life or watch the Sarasota Ski-A-Rees put on a grand water ski performance at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. See live animal shows, take your kids to the petting zoo, or get close and personal with free-roaming flamingos at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. Send your kids to a summer camp or spend the day exploring whimsical attractions like Hobbitville at Sarasota Children’s Garden. Play bumper cars, hit up the massive arcade, and enjoy hand-crafted pizzas like the Meat Lovers Pizza or Hawaiian Pizza at Livingstons Amusements. Challenge the family to a round of mini-golf at the 18-hole Waterfall Adventure Mini-Golf Course, then grab some ice cream to celebrate the winner at Evie’s Family Golf Center. Or go barrel crawling or zip-lining through the trees at TreeUmph!

Visit the Great Ringling Estate

In 1911, one of the original owners of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, John Ringling, purchased land in the Sarasota area to call home during the winter months. Today, the Ringling Estate is home to some of the most spectacular and well-known Sarasota attractions, and is the namesake for the town’s nickname—Circus City. See an extraordinary collection of sculptures and paintings acquired by John Ringling himself, as well as a rotating display of contemporary exhibits from around the world, at The Ringling Museum of Art. Admire stunning costumes, performance props, hand-carved parade wagons, and other memorabilia from Ringling Bros. circus at the Circus Museum. Tour the Ringlings’ 56-room mansion, Ca’ d’Zan, for a glimpse into the entertainment legend’s lifestyle. Or buy tickets to live performances from dance to puppetry at the Historic Asolo Theatre.

Experience Sarasota Arts & Entertainment

A portion of the Sunshine State’s western coast is known as “Florida’s Cultural Coast” for the area’s robust arts and entertainment scene, and SRQ is nestled in the center of this artistic hot spot! Experience world-class opera performances during shows like Don Giovanni or Madama Butterfly at the Sarasota Opera House. Watch graceful dancers dazzle on stage as they perform classics like The Nutcracker or unique vignettes like Images of Dance at the Sarasota Ballet. Watch powerful performances on stage or take contemporary dance lessons for yourself at Sarasota Contemporary Dance. See jaw-dropping acrobatics, fire dancing, and other displays of circus art performance at The Circus Arts Conservatory. Get tickets to internationally-renowned live music acts like Kenny Loggins, see comedy sets from performers like Daniel Tosh, or listen to moving orchestra pieces at the Van Wenzel Performing Arts Hall. Or get seats to live theatre in Sarasota, including popular plays and musicals like Something Rotten and kid-friendly Charlotte’s Web at Florida Studio Theatre.

Participate in Sarasota Festivals & Events

Snapshot of large, cartoon-like snails as a sand sculpture from the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival. Photo by Instagram user @puremaxim.

Photo via @puremaxim

Sarasota is home to a variety of annual festivals and events for every season and occasion! Head down to the beach for live music, tasty food, and, most importantly, to vote for your favorite sand sculptures at the annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival. Celebrate LGBTQ pride at the annual Sarasota Pride event, featuring music, a parade, and more put on by local organization Project Pride! Put on your renaissance garb and spend a day watching knights joust, eating turkey legs and drinking mead, and watching live historical demonstrations for blacksmithing and more at the Sarasota Medieval Fair. Marvel at massive chalk-drawn art pieces, including 3D illusions, larger-than-life portraits, and more at Sarasota’s Chalk Festival. See boats race at speeds up to 180 mph off the shore of Lido Key during the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix. Watch a selection of more than 200 films—from documentaries to kid-friendly showings—at the annual Sarasota Film Festival. Or savor fresh seafood made on-site, then jam out to live music in genres from jazz to bluegrass at the Sarasota Seafood & Music Festival!

Visit Exciting Sarasota Museums & Galleries

Visit the self-described “second-oldest continuously operating antique car museum in the nation” to see a permanent collection of 75 antique cars in exhibits detailing the history of automotive engineering at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum. Step back in time and look around a model pioneer cabin, explore five Florida ecosystems along the boardwalk, or marvel at artifacts from American history at the Crowley Museum & Nature Center. Browse a massive collection of rare sheet music, vinyls, books, and other music memorabilia, attend expert lectures, or catch live music performances at the Sarasota Music Archive. See whimsical sculptures in the garden and other unique art pieces by local creators in the indoor gallery at the Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy. Ponder thought-provoking and visually stunning multi-media art in special exhibits like Journeys to Places Known and Unknown, or explore the permanent collection of art at the Sarasota Art Museum. Or support local artists, while also having the chance to see art from master painters around the world, at the AlexArt International Gallery.

Dig In at Incredible Sarasota Restaurants

With a variety of Sarasota restaurants in all kinds of cuisines, the foodie scene in Circus City is incredible! Wake up with brunch favorites like Huevos Gringos, Truffle Eggs Benedict, and Banana and Brown Sugar Pancakes at Station 400. Savor delicious seafood and Southern-inspired fare like Shrimp & Grits or Cornmeal Crusted Catfish at Owen’s Fish Camp. Find traditional Pollo Asado or Beef Barbacoa street tacos, or build your own burrito at Screaming Goat Taqueria. Indulge in comfort-food classics like Short Ribs, Double Dipped Fried Chicken, and Pork on Pork on Pork Mac n Cheese, made with ingredients sourced from local farmers, growers, and ranchers at Made Restaurant. Try wholesome Amish cooking for dinner with dishes like Roasted Turkey Breast & Stuffing, Salmon, and Mom’s Meatloaf at Yoder’s Restaurant. Or have a fine dining experience at a great Downtown Sarasota restaurant with seasonal New American entrees like Pork Funchi, Red Snapper, and Wild Mushroom Bisque at Indigenous.

Check Out the Nightlife & Bar Scene

Closeup of blue and green rum drink with Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar building in background Photo by Instagram user @daiquierideck

Photo via @daiquierideck

Whether you’re looking to unwind after work or party on the weekend with friends, Sarasota’s nightlife scene has plenty of things to do! Dance to live DJ sets or enjoy Happy Hour from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thirsty Thursdays at Sarasota’s premier LGBTQ bar and entertainment venue, Oasis. Gather with friends to enjoy cocktails, bingo, drag performances, and more at another LGBTQ venue in Sarasota, where proceeds go toward Red Ribbon (HIV) services—Purple Rhino. Take in beautiful ocean views while trying over two dozen frozen daiquiri flavors, from classic Strawberry to the unique Venice Vice, at Daiquiri Deck. Go for a swim or grab a table to enjoy cocktails like the “All-Day Draft” Margarita or Pretty in Pink at Perspective Rooftop Pool Bar. Find your way to a fun Sarasota speakeasy, Pangea Alchemy Lab, where you can try unique libations like Rose All Day and their famous Blue Mule. Spend your evening sipping brews in a friendly, unique atmosphere at the self-proclaimed “best dive bar in Florida,” Memories Lounge. Or test your pinball skills while you sip on anime-themed drinks like Sailor Moon Colada or the All Might Margarita at Arcade Monsters Lido Beach.


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11 Things to Know About Living in Sarsota

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.