Perfect for families and friends, Sarasota and Tampa are beacons of education and entertainment. Sarasota has its beaches and oddball draws, while Tampa celebrates all year round. Only miles apart, it would be best to visit both.
If you’re not up for big cities and their rowdiness, Sarasota is the ideal choice. Southern Florida’s Gulf City is both eccentric and underrated. It features an intriguing fusion of eccentricities. The city has millionaires, historical circuses, and the prettiest beaches in the US.
Visit Sarasota for a unique perspective on a vacation city if you want to be astonished and enthralled at every turn.
What Makes Sarasota Unique?
Sarasota and the illustrious Ringling family will always come in a single package. The famous family has helped build the city’s reputation. The Ringlings’ are famous for their uniqueness. It is mostly thanks to their famed circus show business and eccentric lifestyle. After Charles’ passing and the Florida real estate crash in 1927, John Ringling decided to go to Sarasota and make it there.
The Ringling’s contribution to the city’s reputation and the economy was beneficial to both. Over time, Sarasota transformed into the quirky place it is today. The eccentricity that the Ringlings left behind is still evident. One of the most famous itineraries in the city is to visit the 66-acre (26.7 ha) estate of the family. It is where they housed all of their finest possessions, including their opulent mansion.
The most well-known tourist attraction in the city is the grand Ringling Estate. It is a treasure trove of art, history, and other oddities ideal for the tourist who is always curious. There are other places you can go, including the Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, and the opulent Ca’d’Zan mansion.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Perhaps the most valuable and expensive collection in the entire city is the expansive collection housed by the Museum of Art. The intriguing reputation of the family is best displayed here. It contains works of art of various kinds and from different historical periods. You can find furnishings as well as architectural works of classical art.
John and Mable Ringling acquired and donated the majority of the art and opened the museum in 1927. It houses around 15,000 works of art, varying from classic European art to the Avant-Garde. Many of the artworks, however, are only exact copies of the originals. For art enthusiasts, the museum is ideal since it offers a vast variety of artwork, both Western and non-Western.
The Circus Museum is the most fascinating location in Sarasota. It practically showcases just how eccentric and unique the family is, from their taste to their own curiosities. There is a collection of relics from the family’s circus business here as well.
The museum also houses pieces that illustrate the evolution of the circus industry over time. 44,000 objects and pieces, including wagons, tents, photographs, and records, are open for you to check out.
This is the most ambitious and largest venture the Ringlings have ever undertaken. The Ca’d’Zan Mansion is lavish, and exquisite, with a hint of European romance. The mansion was erected by Mable Ringling so that the family would have a winter residence in the city.
The project reportedly cost 1.6 million USD. Considering the price in today’s dollars, the mansion remains to be a thing of wonder.
Ca’d’Zan covers roughly 36,000 square feet overall (3,344 sq. m). This huge property is also located on the same Ringling Estate in Sarasota. It sports a whopping 41 rooms, 15 bathrooms, and five stories. You can expect to find that the inside is rich and elaborate. Every detail has been carefully considered, thanks to Mable Ringling herself.
Florida’s Most Beautiful Beaches
Southeast Florida doesn’t have the monopoly in have the most exceptional beaches in the state. The Gulf of Mexico and Southwest Florida region can represent as well. Some of the best beaches in the US are on the shores of Sarasota. A 35-mile (56 km) stretch of white-sand beach makes for an enjoyable beach getaway.
Six keys or barrier islands line up along Sarasota Bay, and each one has its unique flavors. This offers beachgoers and visitors a variety of things to do and experiences to enjoy. Here are some of the most recommended beaches and keys:
Of all of the keys in the bay, Lido Key is the most famous and most visited. The key consists of different beaches and areas each with its own unique twists and turns. North Lido Beach is the first and the most laid-back. It is the quieter, less populated side of the key, especially given its rustic beauty and smaller parking space.
The more busy and touristic part of the key is Lido Beach. From its namesake, it is the main beach that packs large crowds. It hosts events and has a variety of amenities and facilities.
And the third one, South Lida Park is the perfect spot for visitors looking to enjoy some views.
Also having three distinct areas, Siesta Key is a favorite among locals. With a lot of similarities to Lido Beach, Siesta Key also boasts a variety of settings and experiences. Locals may love it here, but tourists also chime in on the hype.
Siesta Beach offers plenty of beachside activities. You can play on tennis courts, playgrounds, and many other amenities in the area. Crescent Beach is the ideal vacation for those who enjoy being outside and being active. Tidal pools and coral reefs are its best features. And lastly, Turtle Beach is comparable to North Lido Beach on Lido Key. It is less crowded, chilly, and quiet.
Inspired by its Italian namesake, Venice Beach is undoubtedly beautiful. It is considered one of the most stunning beaches in the US. Venice Beach is a great place not just for its views, it also offers simple activities. You can even snorkel in the coral reefs nearby the shores.
Many US millionaires now retreat to Sarasota for a relatively quieter life. With this increasing millionaire migration, the city has seen an interesting rise in luxury residences. The city even came in first place in the study of US metropolitan areas. Sarasota is now the city with the most affluent citizens, according to recent data.
According to the report, there are approximately 17,000 genuine millionaires in the city. Most of them have set up homes in numerous highbrow villages and condominiums. 2,450 of them are said to have a net worth of at least $5 million. This statistic is higher than in the majority of US cities.
Popular entertainers like Rosie O’Donnell and Jerry Springer are among the high profiles. The list also includes well-known athletes and sports personalities. This includes Dick Vital, Maria Navratilova, and Terry Bradshaw.
Millionaires choose to establish homes in Sarasota for a variety of reasons, including the climate. The city offers a low-profile life. This is mostly thanks to Sarasota’s gated communities and opulent condominiums. Several upscale country clubs don’t hurt these millionaires either.
Parks and Museums
On top of its already numerous quirks the city’s parks and museums further Sarasota’s reputation. These locations highlight Sarasota’s rich cultural and historical heritage. They offer the city entertainment and education in addition to just beauty and excitement.
Outside of Ringling Estate’s eccentric collections, Sarasota has a lot more to offer. Some of the locations that come highly rated are listed below:
Myakka River State Park
Tourists who like the outdoors and adventure will undoubtedly appreciate Myakka River State Park. The expanse boasts its varied landscape and natural features. This offers interesting adventures and experiences. There is a boardwalk that goes through the park, allowing you to explore more of its lush charms.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium advocates the preservation of marine life. The volunteers and staff rescue, treat, and conserve them. The center regularly rescues and adopts thousands of different marine animal species. They also take in endangered animals. The center houses over 100 different marine animal species.
You can find many kinds of tour packages in the center. All of which take you around the laboratories and many other sections of the aquarium. Additionally, it demonstrates to visitors how the volunteer also cares for the animals.
Sarasota Classic Car Museum
Sarasota also features a Classic Car Museum in addition to the other already bizarre collections of the city. The center features vehicles from various eras. Each represents the development of the automotive industry. Each of the cars on display is unique from one another, making it such a wealthy collection. Not to mention, uber-expensive.
The 60,000 sq ft (5,574 sq m) total area of the museum is home to a large collection of automobiles. Some of which were given by famous personalities. You can check out John Lennon’s Mercedes-Benz and the Ringlings’ collection of Rolls-Royces. These are two of the museum’s most famous exhibits.
Tampa’s highs may not be as grand as Miami, but it is one of the most famous cities on this side of Florida. From history to cosmopolitan fun, it practically has everything you’ll ever look for. Tampa is known for its festivals, history, and riverbank charms. Smaller cities in the Gulf area of Florida are the best alternatives if you want to explore underrated yet popular urban areas.
What Makes Tampa Unique?
The famed Ybor City is one of Florida’s most historic sites, if not the most. A Tampa experience wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this iconic neighborhood. Spanish-born baron Vicente Martinez Ybor built a cigar factory in Tampa. This also subsequently developed the neighborhood to accommodate all of its workers.
In its heyday, its 4,000 workers generated almost 900,000 cigars each month. This turned the factory into the world’s major manufacturer of cigars in the late 1800s.
Factory workers coming from different countries settled in the area. Most of them are on a quest for better economic opportunities. Most of the workers then were from Italy, Cuba, and Spain. However, when they developed, the employees’ families started their own small businesses. This then led to the further development of Ybor City.
Ybor City represents the cultural and ethnic diversity of the city. Heaps of migrant workers that first settled in the area brought with them their cultures and traditions. It was the pillar that brought even more diversity thanks to the future generations of immigrants. The region has continued to reinvent itself as the enduring diversity had served as a catalyst.
On top of its interesting back story, the area is known for its vibrant nightlife, fine cuisine, and world-class shopping. Not to mention, it also has arts and entertainment. The area around Ybor City is the greatest place to get to know Tampa.
Visit Ybor City’s well-known locations, such as La Septima or Seventh Avenue, if you’re up for quite a few charms. The area also boasts historic structures that predate US independence. Even the National Register of Historic Places can be found here, thanks to its historical significance.
The best dining scene in Tampa can undoubtedly be found in Ybor City, mostly due to its wealth of culture and history. Finding the best restaurant in the area can be challenging. Expect to find that most restaurants serve cuisines from different countries. As you sample staples from all around the world, it’s almost as if you’re traveling the world already.
For visitors who love a good time at night, Ybor City is where Tampa’s nightlife is concentrated. You can find the best bars and nightclubs around these parts. For a traditional dance club experience, visit The Castle and Club Prana. But if you want to have a more relaxed time, go to the Crowbar or the Ritz Ybor.
Tampa’s lovely riverside charm is another well-known draw, on top of the already jam-packed Ybor City. The Tampa Riverwalk is one of the city’s most iconic attractions, and it has become the city’s cultural and social center.
The riverwalk is a 2.4-mile (3.9 km) section of the Hillsborough River featuring a quirky stretch filled with charms and twists. You can find quite a plethora of points throughout the walk offering fun and entertainment for every type of tourist.
The Riverwalk has many diverse characteristics that add to its appeal as you stroll along its stretch. The riverwalk features a spectacle of sculptures and art pieces, alluding to the city’s uniqueness. Numerous local landmarks, like the Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Museum of Art, are located along the riverwalk.
The most defining feature of the Riverwalk is a broad path with separate lanes. It offers opportunities for runners, cyclists, and pedestrians. If you’re interested in people-watching, you can also have some excitement along the road.
On top of Ybor City’s already great dining scene, the riverwalk also has its fair share of worthy eats. The various restaurants on the Riverwalk come in second. Along the river’s banks, you can have a diverse selection of meals and flavors to explore. There is a sizable selection of dining establishments offering a wide range of cuisines in various settings.
Go to the Sparkman Wharf if you’re seeking a genuinely intriguing fix in Tampa’s culinary scene. The Armature Works is a refurbished warehouse that houses several hip restaurants.
A Festival Capital
The fact that Tampa loves its festivals so much is one of the most intriguing and enjoyable aspects of the city. Every season of the year, the city hosts a variety of celebrations. Some of these festivities are by traditions, while some of them are purely entertainment. People have many occasions to rejoice and remember. This is because of the country’s rich cultural and historical heritage.
The city’s calendar of events is littered with these festivals, which take place virtually every month. Here are two of the most well-known:
Gasparilla Pirate Festival
Tampa may have the most well-known pirate history. The city essentially turned an invasion into a celebration. The renowned Gasparilla Festival honors the pirate invasion every year. It has been a long-running celebration that attracts tourists each year.
The colorful festival is a celebration that starts on the water; it is comparable to Mardi Gras but on the water. With boats traveling to downtown Tampa, the festival begins at Hillsborough Bay. The notorious raid by the pirate Jose Gaspar and his “krewe” is being reenacted in this scene.
The parade moves along the Riverwalk following a successful invasion, or rather a reenactment of history. The following days will then see additional events like parties and concerts. The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is the biggest and busiest in the entire city of Tampa.
Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade
This celebration takes place right after the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. The Gasparilla serves mainly as a historical memorial. But Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade is a celebration of the cultural diversity of the city. The festival is famous for its parade of brightly illuminated floats that fascinate kids.
The Sant’Yago Knight Parade honors the city’s civic pride by showcasing its rich history and vibrant local culture. The Krewe of the Knight of Sant’Yago is in charge of hosting the ceremony. It is a local group dedicated to honoring and preserving the city’s Latin heritage. The parade takes place on a Saturday, it travels down La Septima or Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.
Parks and Recreation Center
Florida is the nation’s park capital, swamping all other states in terms of sheer number. The best cities with the best parks are all located in Southern Florida. As a city with parks and leisure facilities that are both educational and enjoyable, Tampa boasts quite a roster.
Here are two of Tampa’s most highly regarded parks and recreation areas:
Offering a diverse set of experiences, Busch Gardens is the most well-known park in Tampa. It offers a wide range of fun and thrill to its visitors in addition to being a family park. Its 335-acre (135-hectare) area provides learning opportunities, entertainment, thrills, and pure enjoyment. Busch Gardens has it all, from a zoo to a famous roller coaster.
The zoo in the park houses animals in enclosures that serve as their suitable habitat. You can take a safari ride and witness how they behave in a natural setting. Tours also include a visit to the Animal Care Center to see how rescue animals are cared for to recuperate.
Other than its educational charms, the adrenaline-pumping rides at Busch Gardens are a treat as well. They are the most well-known attractions. Try out the renowned Cheetah Hunt. This ride takes you to breakneck speeds, surely giving you your much-desired excitement.
Falcon Fury is another option if you don’t mind heights. It will lead you to its 102-meter (335-foot) peak before suddenly dropping everybody. The flair is certainly in the uncertainty.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park
One of Florida’s biggest zoos, ZooTampa features approximately 2,000 different animal species. Most of which aren’t even endemic in the US. A visit to the zoo is a must for both animal-loving adults and children. You can check out a diverse set of animals from Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
Elephants, penguins, and orangutans are some of the most popular residents. Plus, you can also check out various reptiles. You can even take a whiff of the African wilderness on the zoo’s safari ride. It takes you around enclosures that simulate how animals interact with one another in the wild.
Which Is Better – Sarasota or Tampa?
If you’re looking for fun and excitement, Tampa is the better choice. Tampa has everything. It has historic neighborhoods, riverside charms, festivals, and parties. Not to mention it is cheaper and safe as well. While it doesn’t have beaches like Sarasota, Tampa makes up for a plethora of parks and recreation centers.
Which Is Safer – Tampa or Sarasota?
Sarasota is one of the worst cities in Florida for crime, according to Home Security Shield. The data was based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. On Home Security Shield’s Top 20 list of Florida’s Most Dangerous Cities, Sarasota comes in at number 12.
With a population of 53,055, Sarasota has an annual crime rate of 63 crimes per thousand persons. According to the website, Sarasota has a 1 in 16 probability of becoming a victim of crime. When just violent crimes are taken into account, Sarasota falls to 26th place in the state.
Is Sarasota Cheaper or More Expensive Than Tampa?
Sarasota is more expensive than Tampa, from Accommodation prices to food and transport costs. According to BestPlaces, a survey taken from travelers garnered results that report Sarasota is 2.6% more expensive than Tampa.
Sarasota Beaches vs. Tampa Beaches
Tampa doesn’t have beaches so Sarasota easily bags this. According to travel lists, Sarasota boasts some of the most awarded beaches in the entire US. From the famous Lido beaches in Lido Key to the multi-awarded Siesta Beach, Sarasota’s beaches are unforgettable.
Is Sarasota a Part of Tampa?
Both cities are not part of each other nor are they connected. However, Tampa and the greater Tampa Bay area are located just north of Sarasota, which is accessible by an hour’s worth of driving.
Is Tampa Bigger Than Sarasota?
With a land area of approximately 175.8 sq. mi (455.4 sq. km), and a population of over 400,000 Tampa is bigger than Sarasota. The latter has about 24 sq. mi (62.37 sq. km), and a population of over 60,000 people.
Where Is Sarasota Compared to Tampa?
Sarasota is located far south of Tampa, it sits just outside of Tampa Bay fronting the Gulf of Mexico.
How Far Is Sarasota From Tampa?
The distance between Sarasota and Tampa is approximately 42 miles or 68 km, directly.
How Far of a Drive Is It From Tampa Bay to Sarasota?
If you want to take a long drive, the road distance is around 61 miles or 98 km.
How Do I Get From Tampa to Sarasota Without a Car?
Other than a private car, the best and only way to get to Sarasota from Tampa is by bus.
Is There a Shuttle From Sarasota to Tampa Cruise Port?
There are bus routes that can take you from Sarasota to Tampa Cruise Port. You can hop in with Amtrak, Greyhound, and many others available. A one-way ride could cost around 9 to 54 USD.
How Far Is Sarasota From Tampa Airport?
Tampa International Airport and Sarasota are 45 miles apart (72 km). By car, the road distance is approximately 56.2 miles or 90.4 km.
How Much Is an Uber From Tampa Airport to Sarasota?
An average Uber ride from Tampa Airport to Sarasota is around 67 USD, one-way.
Is There a Shuttle Between Tampa Airport and Sarasota Airport?
You can find many shuttle companies offering private transfers from Tampa to Sarasota Airports. Many of these companies can be found in both airports.
How Much Is a Shuttle From Tampa Airport to Sarasota?
Shuttle transfers between Tampa Airport and Sarasota can cost around 28 to 32 USD.
Sarasota Airport vs. Tampa Airport
Tampa is the best option if you want a better airport to fly into. Because it is smaller, Sarasota is more expensive and has fewer flying options. Flights and rental vehicles at Tampa Airport are substantially more affordable, and the journey there takes only one hour.