Howard Bros Circus Model
Fla. — The Sunshine State has so many attractions that
it’s difficult for potential visitors to know where to
start. Should it be the beaches of the Panhandle or Miami’s
South Beach; the horse country around Ocala or the Mouse
Kingdom in Orlando; the Florida of yesterday at Captiva or
the Florida of tomorrow at Cape Canaveral?
this reason, one might be excused for not immediately
thinking of Sarasota when planning a Florida getaway. The
city, located on the southern Gulf of Mexico, along with
its surrounding beach communities of Longboat Key and Anna
Maria Island, have a lot to recommend them. Here are eight
reasons to put the Sarasota area on your
Museum Complex — Where the Glory Days of the Big Top
Live On, Sarasota
of this past May, the tradition of the American circus is
no more; its spectacle and glamor, however, live on at the
Ringling Brothers Circus Museum. Children and adults
marvel at exhibits ranging from elaborately hand-carved
calliopes to the tiny clown car from which famed
contortionist Lou Jacobs unfolded his six-foot frame.
piece de resistance is the 3,800-square-foot Circus
Miniature, painstakingly crafted over a 60-year period by
circus historian Howard Tibbels. With eight tents and some
42,000 tiny objects – from elephants peeping out of
train cars to spectators in the seats — it depicts life
in the fictional Howard Brothers Circus during the early
part of the 20th century.
Circus Museum is just one aspect of the 66-acre former
winter home of John and Mable Ringling who spared no
expense in making it a Florida showplace. Ca d’Zan, the
couple’s mansion, has been lovingly restored and is open
for tours, and the pink Renaissance-style art museum
houses a collection of European paintings, with special
emphasis on works by Peter Paul Rubens.
grounds and gardens are equally spectacular and just
across the way is the acclaimed Asolo Theater, the largest
repertory theater in the Southeast. It’s hard to decide
which is more impressive — the innovative performances
(the one I saw, Jules Verne’s "20,000 Leagues Under
the Sea," had a scene-stealing squid) or the theater
itself, which was originally located outside of Venice,
Italy, and was moved piece by piece to Sarasota and
recreated in all its splendor.
Selby Botanical Gardens — Where Flowers Become Art,
William Selby, an executive with Texaco Oil Company, and
his wife Marie built an imposing mansion overlooking
Sarasota Bay, they probably didn’t realize that the 15
acre grounds would evolve into the only botanical garden
in the world focusing solely on epiphytes, plants that get
moisture and nutrients from the air.
wander through meandering tropical gardens under a canopy
of trees draped in Spanish moss. This natural habitat
allows for reflection on the true essence of Florida.
befits a place where flora is art, the Selby hosts an
annual art exhibition, strategically interspersed among
displays of orchids and bromeliads.
you get there before July 31, you can take in Marc Chagall’s
"Flowers and the French Riviera: the Color of
Dreams." If not, you can start planning for "Warhol:
Flowers and the Factory," opening in February, 2018.
and aaah at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Spa, Sarasota
those who want the ultimate pampering package in an
opulent oasis, the "Day of Indulgences" at the
Ritz-Carlton is just the ticket, although admittedly
something of a pricy one. You get what you pay for,
however, and here you’re paying for 16,000-square feet
of luxury and 100 treatment options.
Relaxation Sanctuary will have you thinking you’re
lounging in a Roman bath, waiting for your attendant to
pop a grape in your mouth. If you prefer your grapes in
liquid form, enjoy a flute of champagne on the outdoor
terrace before lunch (included in your package). Also
included are three treatments of your choice — one of
which should be the Ritz-Carlton’s signature massage,
customized to fit the individual needs of each client.
Chic on Longboat Key
the barrier island of Longboat Key 12 miles of spun sugar
beaches attract retirees and visitors. If you’re the
latter, join the former and stake out your spot
overlooking the turquoise Gulf or play a round of
won’t lack for places to experience fine dining on the
Key. Harry’s Continental Kitchens is the perfect brunch
spot (it also has a deli for takeout); Dry Dock Waterfront
Grill is the place to go for sunset-watching and seafood
platters, and if you’re still hungry after dinner, head
for Euphemia Haye Restaurant and the Haye Loft for
delectable desserts accompanied by live music.
Chic on Anna Maria Island
you prefer bare feet and beach attire to dressy duds, you
might opt for Longboat Key’s more down-home cousin, Anna
Maria Island. Here, accommodations are more likely to be
guest houses and quaint cottages than luxury resorts, and
a burger at the beach heads up the dining scene. The main
street, however, is chock-a-block with art galleries and
one-of-a-kind shops such as Tide and Moon Jewelry, Bella
by the Sea and the Anna Maria Olive Oil Outpost. Funky but
Moveable Feast at St. Armand’s Circle, Sarasota.
150 shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants, the Circle is
the best place to shop and dine in Sarasota. It has the
exclusive, "village-y" feel (although not the
steep prices) of Miami’s Bal Harbour. You won’t lack
for places to indulge your appetite, but the Circle’s
most famous eatery is Columbia, a sister restaurant of the
Tampa landmark in historic Ybor City.
the Sarasota property doesn’t have the legendary
flamenco show like in Tampa, it does have the signature
sangria, the mouthwatering paella and the atmospheric
dining room which will put you in mind of an evening in
With the Clams at the Clam Factory, West Bradenton
near the fishing village of Cortez, the Clam Factory is a
roadhouse in the best sense of those establishments.
Bi-valves (don’t pass up the crabby balls) and brewskis
dominate the menu; T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops are
acceptable attire, and don’t expect to have a quiet
conversation with your dinner companions as the decibel
level is ear-splitting.
the talk for later, especially if you go on Tuesday nights
when the house rocks at the "Clam Jam." Patrons
are treated to an epic jam featuring bands such as B.C.
and the Gang, on stage the night I was there. While most
of the band members looked to be more familiar with Social
Security than social media, they could rock out with the
best of them.
can have a good time (and hear great music) at the jam for
relatively few clams.
Casa es Su Casa at Casa Del Mar, Longboat Key
Longboat Key has no lack of beachfront condo
accommodations, many of them can make a serious dent in
your wallet. Even those at the less expensive end of the
scale often require a one to three month minimum stay. An
exception is Casa Del Mar that offers four and seven night
102 units have two bedrooms and two baths, fully equipped
kitchen, living and dining quarters, and many of them have
a large screened-in porch perfect for sipping a glass of
wine and listening to the surf. Guests enjoy flat screen
TVs and free Wifi, as well as a pool, six acres of
landscaped grounds and an on-site staff.
entire family can stay at Casa Del Mar for a rate equal to
or less than that of a single room at many of the island’s