Thanks to Independence Day I had a 4 day weekend. Thanks to taking Friday off being rather last minute I didn’t make any advance plans. Lame, I know.

However, living in vacation-land means I don’t really have to plan too far in advance to find something interesting to do. I decided to drive to Sarasota and see what was around, I’ve never really done anything there except go to the Mote Aquarium once. Which was fun and you should go.

I wanted to keep my visit inexpensive, so the first stop was Bayfront Gardens. The gardens are on the Ringling property, which are right on Sarasota Bay and there isn’t a charge to walk around and enjoy them or to park. There are several small gardens on the grounds including a Secret Garden that they must really keep secret because I don’t think I saw it.

There is a rose garden that dates back to 1913. It’s the oldest rose garden in continuous use in Florida. It’s not huge but it does have a great assortment of roses and of course the smell when you are walking among the roses is spectacular.

 Past the rose garden and at the edge of the property is Ca’ d’Zan, the historic home of John and Mable Ringling. You can take a tour of the mansion, but we stayed outside. The home looks out on Sarasota Bay and has a huge marble patio area where you can sit and relax while looking for dolphins or just enjoying the view.

In addition to the gardens and mansion there is quite a lot more to do at The Ringling. There are a couple of places to eat, a theater, and of course the Circus Museum and the Museum of Art. It would easily take a couple of days to see everything there is to see.

If you get hungry while you are in the area check out Leaf and Lentil. It’s a small restaurant in a strip mall that offers a changing menu of vegan and vegetarian food. We had the New Orleans Po Boy and the Eggplant Muffulatta and they were both outstanding. The food was out fast and the people were really friendly too. Stop in if you can!

Here’s what you need to know to play tourist:

5401 Bay Shore Rd
Sarasota, FL 34243

 (941) 359-5700