Are you looking for a destination that has a thriving culture, breathtaking beaches, and plenty of adventure to keep you entertained? Look no further than Sarasota! Located on the west coast of Florida, this sunny city will have you feeling like you’re in paradise. From its vibrant nightlife to its diverse range of outdoor activities and attractions, Sarasota offers something for everyone. And if that wasn’t enough, here are 25 fun facts about Sarasota that are sure to peak your interest in this incredible vacation destination.
1) Sarasota was once called “Circus City” after the influence of the Ringling Family.
Sarasota might just be the only city in the country that’s known for its circus culture. Dubbed as “Circus City,” this Gulf Coast town is a colorful destination filled with fascinating stories of the legendary Ringling Family. In 1927, the Ringling brothers were captivated by Sarasota’s sunny skies and vibrant lifestyle, and soon decided to make it the winter home of their famous circus. Now, the city is a haven for circus culture, showcasing the creativity and magic of their beloved performers. And even if you’re not a big fan of the circus, Sarasota’s vibrant energy and lush landscapes make it an ideal place to visit.
2) Origins of the name “Sarasota” are difficult to trace.
The origins of the name “Sarasota” present quite a mystery to locals and tourists alike. Despite much research and investigation, it’s difficult to trace the name back to its origins. One of the earliest recorded instances of the name appeared on a Spanish map from 1763, where the area was referred to as “Zarazote.” Some historians speculate that the name may have come from the extinct Calusa language of the area’s original inhabitants. Others believe that it could have been a variation of a Mediterranean name brought over by the Spanish explorers. Whatever the source of the name, Sarasota has come a long way from its mysterious beginnings and has established itself as a vibrant and dynamic coastal city.
3) Sarasota has the highest number of Zagat-rated restaurants in Florida.
Sarasota has taken the dining scene in Florida by storm, boasting the highest number (21!) of Zagat-rated restaurants of any city in the state. Being home to these top-rated dining establishments has brought a buzz to the city that foodies can’t resist. From fresh Peruvian seafood at Selva, to classic French fare at Bijou Garden Cafe, there is something for every palate. Sarasota has crafted a culinary experience that is hard to replicate elsewhere, making it a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a mouth-watering meal. So, whether you’re a local or visiting for the first time, don’t forget to add a Zagat-rated restaurant to your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed.
4) Siesta Key Beach is consistently ranked in the top ten beaches in the U.S.
Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota is a true paradise on earth, and it’s no surprise it has been frequently recognized as one of the best beaches in the United States. With its crystal-clear turquoise waters and mesmerizing white sand, visiting Siesta Key is a truly magical experience. Recently, the TripAdvisor’s 2023 Traveler’s Choice has awarded it the #2 Beach in the Country for its unique beauty. Whether you’re looking to bask in the sun, swim, surf, or just take a long walk on the shore, Siesta Key has everything you need to relax and unwind. Come and discover why this beach is one of the most beloved destinations in the country.
5) There are 76 golf courses within a 15-mile radius of Sarasota.
Florida is known for its beautiful weather and pristine golf courses, and Sarasota is certainly no exception. Within a 15-mile radius of the city, there are a staggering 76 golf courses to choose from, with a mix of public and private options to suit all preferences. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a round of golf on one of the 57 18-hole courses or opt for a shorter game on one of the 19 nine-hole courses available in the area. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on the lush greens of Sarasota.
6) Sarasota is consistently rated in the top ten Best Places to Live in the U.S.
Sarasota has often been considered one of the best places to live in the U.S., with high rankings in various prestigious lists. U.S. News & World Report, one of the most reputable authorities in the field, recently put the spotlight on Sarasota once again, ranking it No. 5 on its Best Places to Live in the U.S. list for 2023-24. This year’s list, which evaluates metro areas based on quality of life, job market, value, and desirability, continues to highlight the incredible appeal of Sarasota. It’s no wonder that Sarasota has long been a favorite destination for those seeking a high standard of living in a peaceful and vibrant environment.
7) Sarasota is home to eight institutions of higher learning.
Amslee Institute, specializing in early childhood education, offers courses that prepare aspiring nannies and babysitters for their future careers. East West College of Natural Medicine teaches traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture techniques to change people’s lives. Another prominent school is Meridian College, which provides training in fields such as healthcare, technology, and HVAC. At the famous Ringling College of Art & Design, students unleash their creativity in a range of degrees from visual arts to animation. For those looking to follow an alternative path, the Sarasota School of Massage Therapy offers hands-on training in massage therapy and healing techniques. Suncoast Technical College has programs for individuals who want to pursue a vocational career in automotive technology, culinary arts, or cosmetology, among others. Lastly, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee brings academic excellence with its diverse programs in business, education, and humanities to name a few. For the ambitious students seeking an excellent education, Sarasota provides a wide variety of options.
8) Sarasota is consistently rated in the top ten Fastest Growing Places in the U.S.
Sarasota is quickly becoming a top destination for those seeking a new place to call home. With its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and thriving local economy, it’s no surprise that this Gulf Coast city consistently ranks in the top ten fastest growing places in the U.S. In fact, it recently landed the coveted No. 2 spot on U.S. News & World Report‘s Fastest Growing City list for 2023-24. Whether you’re looking for a change of scenery or want to explore a new environment, Sarasota offers the perfect mix of Southern charm and modern amenities. So why not pack up and head on down to this remarkable coastal oasis? The opportunities are endless and the future is bright in Sarasota.
9) From actors to musicians to athletes, many famous people call Sarasota home.
Sarasota, Florida is home to an impressive array of talented individuals. From actors to musicians to athletes, it’s clear that this beachside town attracts some of the biggest names in the industry. Some of the notable Sarasota residents include Stephen King, the famous horror writer, and Martina Navratilova, a tennis legend. For those more into the music scene, Brian Johnson of AC/DC and Joe Perry from Aerosmith are also residents of the area. And not to be missed is Carla Gugino, a talented actress and star of hit films and TV shows. These Sarasota residents are in good company among the founding Ringling family, and have certainly made a lasting impact on their community.
10) Siesta Key Beach’s sand is 99% quartz crystal.
Siesta Key Beach is not only one of the most beautiful places in the world, but it also boasts an interesting feature – its sand is 99% quartz crystal. Thought to be a natural energy conductor and vibratory mineral, it’s been said to contain healing powers, making this beach a prime destination for New Agers and holistic medicine practitioners. People travel to Siesta Key not only for a peaceful getaway but also to partake in meditation, drum circles, and yoga classes. Whether or not it’s true, Siesta Key is the perfect spot to recharge your mind, body, and soul.
11) Sarasota’s Myakka River State Park is host to the first-ever treetop trail in the U.S.
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind nature experience, look no further than Sarasota’s Myakka River State Park. Here, you’ll find the first-ever treetop trail in the US: the Myakka Canopy Walkway. Suspended 25 feet above the ground and extending 100 feet through the hammock canopy, this trail offers a unique perspective on the lush surroundings. But the real highlight of the trail is the taller of the two towers, which soars an impressive 74 feet in the air. From that vantage point, you’ll be treated to an unobstructed view of the treetops, wetlands, prairie, and hammock area. With a huge range of recreational features besides the walkway, the Myakka River State Park is a Sarasota experience that nature lovers won’t want to miss!
12) Sarasota’s turn-of-the-century land boom got its beginnings in Scotland.
While this gorgeous city has become a popular vacation spot, it all started with an unlikely beginning in Scotland. In 1885, the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company LTD purchased a whopping 50,000 acres in the area. The company’s first sales were made in Scotland and England, marking the beginnings of Sarasota’s land boom. Who would have thought that such a magnificent city, known for its stunning beaches and cultural offerings, could trace its roots back to a property deal across the pond? It just goes to show that you never know where success will come from.
13) One of Sarasota’s most popular diving sites is a shipwreck sunk by a 1919 hurricane.
For adventurous divers, the wreck of the Bay Ronto in Sarasota is a must-visit site. This 300-foot ship met its demise during a devastating hurricane in 1919, and now rests upside down in the depths of the ocean, 114 feet below sea level and 37 miles from shore. This popular diving spot draws in visitors from all over the world, all eager to explore the fascinating history that surrounds the Bay Ronto’s tragic end. With schools of colorful tropical fish swimming around the wreckage and the eerie yet awe-inspiring sight of the vessel frozen in time, it’s no wonder why this diving site is a local favorite.
14) On January 9, 1886 a nationwide snowstorm reached Sarasota which caused widespread damage.
Imagine waking up one morning in Sarasota and looking out your window to find that everything is completely covered in snow. This is exactly what happened on January 9, 1886 when a nationwide snowstorm hit the small Florida town. For the early settlers who had come for the warm climate, this was a shocking experience. Not only were they unprepared for the cold and snowy weather, but the storm caused significant damage to their crops. Despite the challenges they faced, the residents of Sarasota were determined to persevere and rebuild their community in the aftermath of the storm. Today, the snowstorm of 1886 remains a unique and memorable piece of Sarasota’s history.
15) One of Elvis Presley’s first gigs was in Sarasota.
The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, had a humble beginning in the music industry. One of his earliest gigs was in the city of Sarasota, where he played at the Edwards Theater (now Sarasota Opera House) on February 21, 1956. Despite his being relatively unknown at that time, many locals had the chance to watch the iconic musician perform. Presley shared the stage with several other music acts and movie showings throughout the day. If you can believe it, the adult matinee price for the event was only 76 cents! Nevertheless, it was a momentous occasion that was forever etched in Sarasota’s music culture.
16) Sarasota County excavations have revealed ancient wonders.
Excavations in Florida have unearthed some of the most interesting finds. In the case of Sarasota County, researchers have been lucky enough to uncover some incredible artifacts in their explorations below ground. From 12,000 year old Paleo-Indian skeletons that give us insight into prehistoric life, to the discovery of saber tooth tiger bones in the underwater caverns beneath Warm Mineral Springs Park — these findings breathe new life into our understanding of the past. For those interested in pre-colonial history and beyond, the discoveries that have been made in Sarasota County have expanded our understanding of Florida’s ancient history.
17) Sarasota was nearly the theme park capital of Florida.
We often associate Florida with theme parks, but it may surprise you to know that the Sarasota area was once a contender in this industry. Just south of Sarasota, Osprey was home to Floridaland, a unique amusement park which opened its doors in 1964. This park was not about roller coasters and thrill rides, but featured a combination of a western pioneer town, dolphin show, zoo and garden. Visitors could enjoy train rides, covered wagon adventures, and even a riverboat experience. However, competition from Disney proved too much for Floridaland, and it ultimately closed its doors in 1971.
18) The historic Asolo Repertory Theatre was originally built in Italy.
The historic Asolo Repertory Theatre is a true wonder of the world, with a story that spans centuries and continents. Originally built in Italy in 1798, this grand building was once a beloved cultural landmark in its home country before being dismantled and shipped to Florida a century later. Today, the Asolo Theatre is a treasured piece of history, a testament to the enduring power of art and the human spirit. As you step inside its doors, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe at the beauty and grandeur of this incredible space, a space that has played a vital role in the cultural life of both Sarasota and Italy. Whether you’re a theater lover, a history buff, or simply someone who appreciates beautiful architecture, the Asolo Repertory Theatre is a must-see destination that will leave you breathless.
19) The popularity of golf in Sarasota is thanks to founding father John Hamilton Gillespie.
As a founding father of the city and six term mayor, Gillespie left quite a legacy in Sarasota and the Gulf Coast. But perhaps his most noteworthy contribution was popularizing golf in the 1880s. Thanks to his Scottish roots, Gillespie had a deep appreciation for the sport and was eager to introduce it to the Florida community. He started with a 2-hole course and expanded it to the state’s first 9-hole course, which was also just the second of its kind in the entire country. Through his vision and dedication, Gillespie helped open the door to a sport that has become a beloved pastime for countless residents and visitors alike.
20) Sarasota has a substantial Amish community.
Famous as a beach destination in Florida, it may come as a surprise that Sarasota is actually home to many of the Amish faith. Just a little stroll through the peaceful neighborhood of Pinecraft can offer a unique and enriching cultural experience. This charming village consists of around 500 homes, as well as several stores and shops. Here, you can savor the delectable offerings at Yoder’s Restaurant, where their famous pies have garnered quite a reputation. Or head over to local grocery store Detwiler’s Market for a fantastic selection of fresh produce, meats, and baked goods. The Amish community in Pinecraft is a thriving and distinctive part of Sarasota, providing a glimpse into their beautiful and traditional way of life.
21) Sarasota is home to around 58,000 residents, with about 1 million tourists visiting per year.
Located on the southwestern coast of Florida, Sarasota is a vibrant city that attracts visitors from all corners of the world. With a population of approximately 58,000 residents, this charming community is both welcoming and thriving. Sarasota’s bustling beauty is not only enjoyed by its residents, but also by the million or so tourists who visit each year. From its famous white-sand beaches to its unique cultural attractions, there is no shortage of things to see and do in this eclectic city. Whether you are seeking outdoor adventures or artistic inspirations, Sarasota is the perfect destination for all types of travelers.
22) Sarasota County is home to 10 different farmers’ markets.
Sarasota, Florida is known for its plethora of farmers’ markets, offering fresh, locally-sourced products to residents and visitors alike. From the vibrant Sarasota Farmers Market to the quaint Olde Englewood Village Farmers Market, each market has its own unique character and charm. The Farmers’ Market at Lakewood Ranch boasts over 50 vendors selling everything from artisanal cheeses to freshly-baked bread, while the Siesta Key Farmers Market offers a more laid-back atmosphere with beachy vibes. The Rosemary Art & Design District Night Market is the perfect spot to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts and handmade crafts, while the Newtown Farmers Market supports local minority-owned businesses. And if you’re looking for a midweek pick-me-up, head to the Fresh Harvest Famers Market or the Meadows Farmers Market. Or browse through the specialty items at the Venice Farmers’ Market or Phillippi Farmhouse Market. No matter which market you choose to visit, you’re guaranteed to find fresh produce, unique products, and a vibrant sense of community.
23) William Whitaker was the first documented settler of European descent in what became the village of Sarasota.
Sarasota history is full of fascinating stories, but few are as captivating as the tale of William Whitaker. As the first documented settler of European descent in what would one day become the bustling village of Sarasota, Whitaker played a pivotal role in the region’s history. With a keen eye for business, he saw an opportunity to sell dried fish and roe to Cuban traders plying the waters of the Gulf Coast. Eventually, he expanded his entrepreneurial ventures to include a thriving cattle business. Today, Sarasota is a vibrant and thriving city, but it all started with the initiative and ingenuity of pioneers like William Whitaker.
24) Sarasota has its own regional style of mid-century architecture known as “Sarasota Modern”.
The Sarasota Modern movement was a revolutionary approach to architectural design that brought a fresh, innovative look and feel to the southwest coast of Florida. Spearheaded by co-founders of the Sarasota School of Architecture Paul Rudolph and Ralph Twitchell, a team of talented architects collaborated to create stunning Modernist homes and public buildings that truly captured the essence of the Floridian lifestyle. Architects Victor Lundy, Jack West, Tim Seibert, Philip Hiss, and William Rupp, were inspired by Southwest Florida’s subtropical setting to create structures that were not only aesthetically attractive, but also functional and uniquely sustainable. The Sarasota Modern movement left an indelible mark on Sarasota’s architecture and continues to inspire designers to this day.
25) The Downtown Sarasota Festival of the Arts ranks in the top 100 Art Festivals in the country.
Art lovers unite in the heart of downtown Sarasota each February for the highly anticipated Festival of the Arts. This renowned event has snagged a spot as one of the top 100 Art Festivals in the country, and for good reason. For 35 years, the festival has showcased the work of talented artists from around the world, drawing crowds from far and wide. The bustling streets transform into a colorful oasis of creativity, offering visitors a chance to not only admire but also purchase unique pieces of art. From delicate watercolors to striking sculptures, there’s something here for every taste and budget. It’s no wonder this festival has gained national recognition and secured its place as a must-see event for art enthusiasts everywhere.
From its incredible history with the Ringling Circus to its vibrant art and restaurant scene, you’ll never be bored in this city. Whatever brings you to Florida’s Gulf Coast region, whether it’s relaxing on the picturesque beaches or spending time at one of the many golf courses, there is something special waiting to be discovered in Sarasota. Take some time to explore all it has to offer – from its award-winning restaurants and iconic architecture, to its culture-filled marketplaces and communities. You’ll find something exciting everywhere you look! Need help with planning your getaway? Check out our Sarasota Vacation Guide for more tips on truly experiencing a piece of paradise on Florida’s Gulf Coast.