Unwind and Dine: A Staycation In Sarasota
Jun 25, 2018 08:00AM
The courtyard at The Ringling’s Museum of Art is a work of art itself. Photo courtesy of Ringling Museum.
Gallery: Cape Stay - July-August 2018 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.
Sarasota is a Gulf Coast gem offering quite the variety of art, history, dining and some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. Downtown is in the middle of a building boom and is the destination for our getaway.
The Art Ovation Hotel is so new the beds have barely been slept in, and it has location. Sandwiched between the Sarasota Opera House and the Florida Studio Theater, the hotel is two blocks from Bayfront Park and within walking distance of more than 25 galleries. (1255 N. Palm Avenue, 941-316-0808, artovationhotel.com, summer rates $183-$254)
The lobby is a gallery space itself, as are the landings on each floor, thanks to a partnership with the nearby Ringling College of Art and Design. Not only do students and staff host art programs for guests, their work is featured prominently.
Each room has leather-bound sketchpads and real ukuleles; lessons are held on the rooftop. Culture curator Lisa DiFranza says, “We want to help people who appreciate art, get inside of it; feed their inner artist.”
Studies show art is good for your mental health, something to consider nurturing during your summer vacation.
Your Sarasota staycation made easy:
Check into Art Ovation after dinner and spend the evening at the hotel’s rooftop lounge. It’s a cool vibe, with solid cocktails and an impressive view of the city.
Now that you’re properly fueled, stroll the bayfront to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, an urban oasis. Selby is one of the only botanical gardens in the world focused on the conservation, research and display of epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants without harming them as orchids and bromeliads do). The collection is spectacular. Allow two hours for leisure exploration. (900 S. Palm Avenue, 941-366-5731, selby.org)
Ask the hotel about free ride options in case you want a lift back to downtown proper for lunch at the award-winning Brick’s Smoked Meats, where central Texas BBQ is done to perfection.
The proteins are plentiful and brisket is king. It’s hard to say no to the candied bacon and creamy mac and cheese. On the lighter side, find vegetarian tacos and smoked “porto” bellies (portobello mushrooms).
The manager is into juicing, so order the Green Ti-Tox with kale, apple, cucumber, ginger, lemon and a splash of Tito’s Vodka for good measure. Set your camera to video for the Smoky Manhattan. This cocktail presentation is a head turner. (1528 State Street, 941-993-1435, brickssmokedmeats.com)
Take a siesta at Art Ovation’s rooftop pool. On the walk back to the hotel, though, check out the farmer’s market and the unique shops and galleries along Main and its side streets.
Dinner at Selva tops the downtown-dining list. The Peruvian restaurant with a trendy vibe has Instagram-worthy food presentations and amazing ceviche. (1345 Main Street, 941-362-4427, selvagrill.com)
Overnight stays in downtown Sarasota are not complete without a stop at the infamous Gator Club for dancing and live music. (1490 Main Street, 941-366-5969, thegatorclub.com)
Before you pay the bill, check out the case of goodies inside and grab a snack for your next stop, The Ringling. Less than a 10-minute drive north, the winter home of circus icons John and Mable Ringling is fascinating.
Trams and walking paths help you navigate the 66 acres of gardens, galleries and museums, including the world’s largest miniature circus; it’s mesmerizing. Be sure to tour Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling’s Venetian-style palazzo with Sarasota Bay as its Grand Canal.
The Museum of Art is a pink Renaissance-style palace with 21 galleries, a courtyard full of sculptures and an inspiring gallery of massive paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. Allow four hours for a visit that isn’t rushed. (5401 Bay Shore Road, 941-359-5700, ringling.org)
End your staycation with a late lunch/early dinner at Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar, a casual waterside spot with a thatched roof, colorful tropical cocktails served in real glassware and delectable, award-winning fish tacos.
Bloody Marys are only $4.50 on Sunday; perfect with fresh oysters or a succulent, steamer pot. (5353 S. Tamiami Trail, 941-925-4444, creekseafood.com)
This staycation truly is good for your health: Zen gardens for relaxation, history to stimulate the brain, art to soothe your soul and spark creativity, and dining options that offer both the healthful and the decadent.