As most of you know, we've hunkered down in Sarasota for the first part of our journey. We're still getting things situated with Maude and we are lucky enough to have family in Sarasota to have sort of a "dry run" if you will.
The best part though, is being able to explore Sarasota the way we intend to explore every other city we visit in the country. We're looking for a mix of touristy things along with off-the-grid experiences. We've asked locals for their advice on what to do and had some very insightful and fulfilling conversations with new friends. There isn't a method to our exploration of a city except that we try to find experiences that fit our budget, that inspire us, and that fulfill us spiritually, athletically, and adventurously. Have a look at the top 10 things you need to do in Sarasota, Florida.
1. The Crystal Cave
We loved The Crystal Cave so much that we went back twice. Even if you aren't familiar with crystal healing, it's worth a trip to check out The Crystal Cave on Fruitville Rd. Owner Susan Moen was SUPER friendly as well as being extremely knowledgeable. We bought a slew of crystals all of which Susan described in detail and even wrote the properties down on the card. Great shop with the most amazing crystal selection we've ever seen.
2. Brant's Books
Vanessa and I are avid readers and we love a good used bookstore. Brant's Books exceeded our expectations and then some. Not only is there over 150,000 used books....yeah, our jaws dropped, too....but owner Barbara Sciarretta was an absolute pleasure to talk to. She ended up sharing a lot of personal advice and wisdom that we will certainly implement during our travels. Great books at a great price.
3. Tea House
Right next to The Crystal Cave was a little blue house with white trim that had been turned into a tea shop. We decided to peruse a bit after we heard about Open Mic night on Tuesday's starting at 7pm. The tea selection first of all is phenomenal, such a wide variety of whites, blacks, and greens that you can mix at your leisure for an eclectically flavored pot. The decor is funky and boho, with mismatching furniture and vibrant colors. We ended up chatting with Dana, who not only recommended a great custom blend, but also wrote down some of the places along the East Coast that we needed to see during our travels.
4. Celery Fields
Right next to the Big Cat Habitat you'll find Celery Fields, a wetlands site of over 300 acres. More than 20,000 aquatic plants and trees have been planted, and two boardwalks have been installed. We went for the sunset (as recommended by Dana!) and it truly was a beautiful thing. Sunsets in Sarasota already are magical, but when seen across the dips and bumps of celery fields, and reflecting off the various pools of water, it seems enchanting.
5. Drum Circle Siesta Key
Every Sunday night on the beaches of Siesta Key there's a drum circle. Every. Sunday. Night. In Miami, it's once a month for the full moon, but in Sarasota, we were lucky enough to join one of the Sunday night rituals. People flock from all over the community: younger, older, families, friends -- everyone comes out to dance, listen to some drums, and watch the sunset. Vanessa and I sat and watched the fire dancers for quite some time, before getting caught in a rain storm and racing back to the car laughing the entire way. I would suggest going before the sunset rather than after if you have family or young kids. We pulled up around 9pm and witnessed a few grown men, very drunk, about to throw down in the parking lot.
6. Fudge Factory
One of our favorite spots on St. Armand's has to be Fudge Factory. They have a TON of ice cream flavors, each of which you're welcomed to try. Although Vanessa and I aren't huge on sweets, we still can indulge every once in a while. Try the Blueberry Pie ice cream with a sugar cone! That flavor quickly became my favorite of all time.
7. Myakka state park
There have been a lot of floods here in Sarasota, which haven't helped our exploration at all. We visited the Myakka State Park the day after a bad rain storm and were told the parks and trails were extremely flooded. Yet, this didn't stop us. We took our pups Penny and Spike with us and got some exercise along the main road. There were so many beautiful trees and birds, that it's definitely worth a trip. Vanessa was desperate to see an alligator, which apparently there are in ABUNDANCE, yet it wasn't until our car ran out of gas (I kid you not) that we spotted our first gator in the marsh by our car. How fun! : |
The park rangers helped us with a gallon of gas and we were on our way. The gator was massive and scared the sh$# out of me, but hey, at least we got a photo.
8. Station 400
You must go to Station 400 for breakfast. YOU MUST. The building itself was over 150 years old and used to be an old train station. There are still many features and decor that bring back the old train feel, especially the worn copper tables throughout. We split the Truffle Eggs Benedict and Coconut Custard Pancakes which were both equally amazing. The truffle didn't overpower and the hollandaise was smooth, never salty. The coconut pancakes were sweet, but not sugary sweet. You could eat them with or without syrup and they'd be equally enjoyable. Everything on the breakfast menu is under $10, so that fit perfectly for us.
9. sarasota national CEMETERY
Down the street from Myakka is the Sarasota National Cemetery, a sprawling memorial dedicated to the men and women who served our country. It's free to peruse and we recommend taking a gander and paying your respects to the souls who fought for our freedoms. It just so happens my grandparents Fred and Carol Botha both share a stone here, and I visit as often as I can to send them light and love and give thanks for all they've done for me.
10. Maharaja Indian
We went for the lunch buffet after a chance encounter after the $2 theater. Thank goodness for Maharaja. They really brought the flavor and food we were looking for all along. Their lunch buffet is of very good size and has some amazing dishes beyond just the regulars you would find.
The owner was such a pleasure to speak with and really cared what we thought of the food. I would definitely come back for another lunch (addendum: as of 8/29 we went back again), especially because it's such incredible food for $9.99. The only thing I wish they had was palak paneer because it's my absolute favorite, but that only means I'll have to go back for dinner to order it off the menu! P.S. The tamarind chutney was the best I have ever tasted.
Bonus: WOnderland Hookah lounge
On the way home one night, we decided to try out Wonderland Hookah which stays open until 12am most nights if not later. It wasn't packed on a Monday which was nice and the owner was extremely helpful. For $15.99 per person you get your own beautiful 3ft hookah with a flavor of your choice and a beverage. We said yes, albeit not really in our price range. Overall it was a nice experience. We sat on torn couches and lazily smoked our Blueberry Muffin and Strawberry Daiquiri hookahs. We were served freshly brewed Moroccan tea, and had the privacy of sheer white curtains to separate us from everyone else. The lighting was a bit odd, blacklights and strobe lights that danced around. We probably would've been happy splitting a hookah for $15.99, but I'm not sure they offer that as an option. Will go back when they do, because two giant hookahs were more than we needed.
There are other amazingly unique places in Sarasota that we had the pleasure of visiting, but these were what we wanted to include. Sarasota is a very family-friendly place with powdery white beaches and beautiful sunsets. We recommend stopping at Bird Key in particular to get a good sunset in. If you have any other places you'd like us to check out, let us know!
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Marisa & Vanessa have a whole "About Us" blurb that they are dying for you to check out.