In Sarasota, you have its unusual charms and beaches, while in St. Petersburg you have its arts and culture, and also, its beaches. Both cities are perfect for those looking to have a bit of pizzazz to their travel experience other than the nightlife highs.
In Southwest Florida, Sarasota stands as one of the quirkiest. It is a low-key city filled with eccentricities and multi-awarded beaches. Sarasota is full of surprises, from its circus heritage to its uber-rich residents. In addition to its eccentric attractions, it has some of the nicest beaches in the US.
What Makes Sarasota Unique?
The eccentric Ringling Family is always closely associated with Sarasota. Thanks to their contributions, Sarasota has become what it is today. The family is better known for their showbusiness reputation around the US and their eclectic collection of art and love for culture. Their 66-acre (26.7 ha) estate will give you a glimpse of their lasting impact on the city’s culture.
This famed estate has several sections for everyone to visit. For art lovers and history buffs, the Museum of Art and Circus Museum are worth the visit. If you’re up for the aesthetics of it all, visit Ca’d’Zan and the Bayfront Gardens among others. Tour packages include all the areas of the estate, so it’s best to set a whole day in your itinerary.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
This museum is not just a typical art museum displaying donated and acquired art pieces. The Ringling Museum of Art is more of the family’s collection of art and antiquities in their exploits around the world. It is undeniably one of the most popular attractions in all of Sarasota.
The collection sports both classic art and architecture pieces, some mere copies, and some are originals. The museum first opened in 1927 thanks to the Ringlings’ unique contributions. Currently managed by Florida State University, it is considered the state’s primary museum. An icon in itself.
You can have a staggering collection of 15,000 artworks divided into six interesting categories. The museum has sections for pre-20th century European art, ancient art, modern art, and decorative art. It also has sections housing art from China, particularly ceramic, and other non-Western art pieces.
One of the Ringling Museum’s most popular features, the Circus Museum is a quirky and eclectic collection of circus art. You can also check out memorabilia and items from the Ringling circus and other historical pieces.
Perhaps the most iconic exhibits in the museum are the circus memorabilia. They are from the famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Marvel at the model circus featuring over 44,000 pieces.
The Ringling Mansion was a prime piece of real estate in its heyday, even up to today. It is the winter home of John and Mable Ringling. Also called the Ca’d’Zan, the mansion is so grand that it cost a stunning USD 1.6M. The mansion consists of 52 rooms inside its 36,000 sq. ft. (3,344 sq. m) expanse. You can already imagine the conspicuous and plush details of the mansion.
The cardigan is the perfect place for architecture lovers or even fans of Architectural Digest magazine. The mansion is masterfully built to mimic the romance of Venice’s canals with its waterfront location.
Florida’s Most Beautiful Beaches
Thanks to its coastal location bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, you can expect to find an exquisite selection of beaches in Sarasota. The city’s 35-mile (56 km) white-sand stretch is brimming with the surf and swim spots perfect for the beach bums and sun-lovers.
The entire coast has six keys or barrier islands that are home to many of the US’ best beaches. You can expect to find gleaming soft white sand, crystal clear blue waters, and amazing sunsets. Here are some of the best spots to visit:
The most famous and most visited beach in Sarasota, Lido Key offers a variety of flavors and experiences for the beach bums. The island has three distinct areas that are a bit different from each other. North Lido Beach is a little bit rugged and quiet. It has no facilities and a small parking space, but it is perfect for a quieter beach trip nonetheless.
Lido Beach is the more popular one, with all its touristy appeals. It is both vibrant and fun but is also laid-back and relaxed. And South Lido is the best for sightseeing on top of swimming and other fun water activities.
Siesta Key, a close second to Lido Key also offers a distinct experience perfect for different kinds of visitors. Siesta Beach is full of facilities and amenities perfect for children and families. Crescent Beach is perfect for the adventurous types with all its coral reefs and tidal pools. And Turtle Beach is a family favorite. It has a picnic area and many amenities.
Siesta Key Beaches always top the list of the US’ best beaches.
Venice Beach, just like its namesake, is perhaps the most beautiful beach in Sarasota. It also holds quite the fable. It is said that eager explorers in the area may just come across interesting finds, often regarded by many as treasure. You can also have picnics across the beach or refreshments in the waterfront cafe.
The city has an interesting large concentration of well-heeled denizens. Sarasota is considered a millionaire’s paradise in southern Florida. The city has seen a recent rise in millionaire migration over the last few years. Sarasota basically ranked at the top of the US metropolitan statistical areas. It has the highest number of high-income residents.
The statistics have shown that there are almost 17,000 true millionaires in the city. A far cry from conventional numbers, over 2,000 of them have a net worth of USD 5M.
Among the high-profile residents are entertainment and media giants. Stephen King, Jerry Springer, and Rosie O’Donnell have residences here. Sportsmen also have set up homes in the city such as Martina Navratilova and football legend Terry Bradshaw.
The city has built areas and features that have lured these highbrow residents. The city offers a rather safe and secure life away from prying eyes. Sarasota has quite an ensemble of gated communities, golf, and country clubs, as well as luxury condominiums.
Parks and Museums
Sarasota is one of Florida’s valuable capitals of culture and history, it’s no surprise you’ll see quite a roster of parks and museums around. You can have aquariums, museums with odd collections, and state parks. Here are some of the must-visits in the city:
Myakka River State Park
If you love the outdoors and a bit of an adventure, the Myakka River State Park should be at the top of your list. The expanse is one of Florida’s largest state parks with its vast 57 sq. mile area (147 sq km).
The park comprises virgin forests, a river, and a lake. It also features an elevated boardwalk over canopies allowing you to easily explore the park. You can also camp, on top of the many outdoor activities you can do.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is not your typical marine life exhibit. The center helps and rescues marine animals across the sea and tends to them. You can find a vast array of fish species and marine animals. A tour will also take you around the center’s laboratories, and other interesting areas through a clear glass wall.
Sarasota Classic Car Museum
If you’re looking for a quirky collection, the Sarasota Classic Car Museum is one of the must-visits in Sarasota. The museum houses a rich collection of classic cars that span 100 years of the automobile industry.
The car museum spans 60,000 sq. ft, (5,574 sq. m) with a rotating collection of unique and exotic cars. Its best exhibits are the 1965 Mercedez-Benz from John Lennon and the Ringlings’ large collection of Rolls-Royce cars.
With top-rated beaches and the sunniest place in the US, there’s nothing but good spirits in St. Petersburg. Home to famous museums and a thriving business district, St. Petersburg is a must-visit in your great Florida Tour.
Perfect for the ever-curious city slicker, the city offers cute yet interesting draws. Not to mention, the city boasts cleanliness and good-natured people. St. Petersburg is one of the most defining cities in Florida.
What Makes St. Petersburg Unique?
Florida’s First Green City
St. Petersburg was named Florida’s first green city. It has initiatives for water conservation, tree planting, recycling, fuel efficiency, and many more. The city totally switched over to using clean and renewable energy from the beginning of 2017.
St. Petersburg established collaborations with NGOs. They have partnered with FGBC, US Green Building Council, and Environmental Protection Agency.
The city has expanded its green activities to include a scheme for “streetscaping” trees. It also has developed a pedestrian-friendly environment. For more than 20 years, the Arbor Day Foundation has recognized it as a USA Tree City. The Arbor Day Foundation has named St. Pete a “Tree City USA” since it is home to more than 250,000 trees.
The Sunshine City
Florida is not called Sunshine State for no reason. The state gets a lot of sun more than any other place in all of the continental US. And St. Petersburg perhaps sees the most number of sunny days out of all the other Florida cities.
St. Petersburg, Florida, is known as “The Sunshine City” because it experiences 361 days of sunshine annually. It also holds the record for the most consecutive sunny days in Guinness World Records.
The weather in St. Petersburg is often pleasant and steady because of all the sun. Rarely do summertime highs of 90 degrees or wintertime lows of 50 degrees occur. You won’t have to worry about snow here, even though the summers can be rainy, especially in July and August.
The Beaches, of Course
With its coastal location, white-sand stretches, and endless sunny days, you can expect St. Petersburg to be an epic beach city. Arguably, St. Petersburg has the longest roster of the best beaches in the entire country. You can easily find laid-back beaches with vast white-sand expanses. Many of them even offer a variety of activities, from sports to trendy beach bars.
Here are some of the most famous entries:
St. Pete Beach
This is the city’s major beach and a favorite among both locals and visitors to the area. St. Pete Beach stretches for several miles and is a very well-loved location. It is ideal for swimming, paddleboarding, surfing, and other water sports. Additionally, it has received recognition as one of the top American beaches.
Only accessible by boat, it’s well worth the journey because of its immaculate white sand and a variety of convenient facilities. It has food stands, showers, a rental shop, barbecues, changing areas, and more. The views from here are just breathtaking, and it’s a great area to light the grill and have a BBQ with loved ones or friends.
One of the top beaches in America, not just in Florida, Clearwater has been repeatedly highly ranked. Its name refers to the crystal clear glistening waters that are just offshore. It is very difficult to resist taking a plunge at this St. Petersburg beach. The neighborhood is developed with high-quality eateries and a Beach Walk area with shops and nightlife venues.
The EDGE District of thriving St. Petersburg is frequently at the forefront of cosmopolitan highs. It has the best dining, shopping, and cultural events devoted to preserving the district’s unique character.
It has evolved over the last few years into a community famous for its well-loved eateries, bars, and boutiques. But if you look back only ten years, you’ll see that it was only recently a sleepy strip of boarded-up storefronts.
The need for more places to dine, drink, and shop increased as downtown’s appeal grew over time. People wanted to live in Florida’s most walkable downtown, so housing became in great demand. As a result, Central Avenue, the area’s major shopping street, commenced to the west of where downtown St. Pete originally started.
The EDGE District, which is bordered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saw revitalization in 2012. First Avenues North and South, 16th Street, and Street.
The EDGE District is an icon in itself thanks to its bright and unique atmosphere. You can have art and a large variety of independently owned small businesses. You can marvel at the many stunning old buildings, and more than a dozen murals. The 7-block District is a pleasant place to explore and offers a distinctive visual experience.
Visitors also enjoy a wide selection of places to eat and drink thanks to the city’s more than 20 restaurants, not to mention its microbreweries and numerous bars and craft beer pubs. The variety of shopping options just might have you overspending.
You can find everything from fine art to folk art, designer clothing to bohemian couture. There is also curated coastal chic decor for your interiors to the largest collection of mid-century modern furniture.
Arts and Culture Center
Like many of Florida’s famous cities, St. Petersburg is not an exception in arts and culture appreciation. Thanks to its rich history and culture have established a thriving scene that has amassed a huge following.
Over time, St. Petersburg has developed vibrant art and culture sector. The city offers everything. It has live entertainment, arts districts, various art festivals, and numerous art-related events.
The following are some of the city’s best spots:
The Dali Museum
It features thousands of objects from the career of the famous artist are included in this collection. This waterfront gallery is one of the most entertaining locations to visit in St. Petersburg. It combines a magnificent purpose-built museum with exhibition spaces, gardens, a cafe, and a center for the avant-garde.
The technical mastery and originality of Salvador Dali’s work go hand in hand. With his colorful personal style and surrealism; this Spanish-born artist transformed the art world. The museum’s permanent collection of Dali artworks is housed in the James Family Wing. It also includes 96 of the artist’s paintings from 1918 to 1970, along with sculptures, holograms, and a lobster phone.
Museum of Fine Arts
Perhaps the most famous Museum in all of St. Petersburg, the Museum of Fine Arts is a city icon in itself. The permanent collection includes thousands of items in various media. It spans nearly 5,000 years of human history and innovation.
The museum houses a sizable collection of ornamental arts, as well as folk art, works by indigenous artists, and ceremonial objects. Visitors can view ceramics and porcelains from all over the world there.
Morean Arts Center
It is a lively and interesting location for modern art on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. It offers a variety of creative activities, events, and parties every day, and also includes an artist-in-residence program.
It has a specially constructed structure that contains the first permanent collection of works by Dale Chihuly. Dale Chihuly is renowned for his geometric and vibrant glass sculptures. Over his career, he helped develop the techniques for creating intricate glass works of art. A 20-foot (6 m) sculpture, made especially for the location, greets guests as they enter the gallery.
Which Is Better – St. Petersburg or Sarasota?
For safety, beauty, and fun, St. Petersburg has everything you’ll ever need. Not to mention, the city is also the cheaper option. Sarasota is fun and quirky, especially with all its museums, shopping scenes, and beaches. But St. Petersburg has all that and more, it also has the best weather out of most cities in Florida.
Is Sarasota Cheaper Than St. Petersburg?
St. Petersburg is generally 4% cheaper than Sarasota. According to experienced travelers to both cities, you’re only going to need around 160 USD a day per person in St. Petersburg, while Sarasota will cost you 279 USD.