Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to the various sites I visited; however, these are my honest opinions.
Last year on my birthday, I took a trip to New Orleans and it was so much fun! I decided then that I was going to try and turn it into a tradition and take a trip on my birthday every year. This year, my mission was simple: go to where the sun shines. So it was no surprise that I found myself in the Sunshine State, more specifically, spending a weekend in Sarasota, Florida. Even though there was sporadic rain throughout my time there, I had so much fun and could not get enough of the warmer temperatures!
Discover Sarasota Tours:
Back in my youth when I studied abroad, whenever we would travel to a new city, the first thing we did was get a city tour. This was so helpful because not only did I learn some history of the city right away, but it also helped orient me for when I was exploring on my own. The same goes for Sarasota. The Discover Sarasota Tour brings you around the area, sharing historical and fun facts as well as sharing popular places to visit. Fun fact I learned on my tour: there are 42 art bikes located throughout the city. So if you see beautifully painted bikes chained to a pole, know they are part of the art exhibit.
Located in downtown Sarasota, Element is the creme de la creme when it comes to going out to dinner. Normally, I don’t frequent such establishments, but since it was a special occasion (*ahem* my birthday), I decided to make an exception. One of the aspects that give me anxiety when going to eat at a restaurant, especially one situated downtown is the parking. So I arrived with plenty of time to get lost and drive in circles, and still make my reservation on time. Surprisingly, I didn’t need that additional time. Element does offer complimentary valet parking (which I knew), but I wasn’t sure how to reach it. But there are signs that guide you to the exact spot!
I highly suggest making a recommendation ahead of time. I’m not sure if they take walk ins, as the day I went was Valentine’s Day so it was definitely busy with people celebrating their love for each other. And then there was me – celebrating my love for myself! I ordered a glass of Reisling, the Steakhouse Wedge salad, and the Seafood Thermidor. As I had never had a wedge salad before, I was surprised to find a wedge a lettuce brought out to me, but it was good! I had never heard of a Thermidor before, and in case you haven’t either – it’s kind of like a soup base. It contained scallops, shrimp, and crab – and it was good!
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens: Downtown Sarasota
More popular of the two locations, the Downtown Sarasota garden highlights various garden scapes. From the desert, to the palms, to the mangroves, to edible gardens, and so much more, this location takes you on a journey. Currently, there is also a featured artist exhibit happening where there are pops of color scattered throughout the grounds. I thought it was a fun and unique addition to the gardens, especially when juxtaposed against the natural colors of the plants and flowers.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens: Historic Spanish Point
Make sure you wear comfortable shoes when visiting Historic Spanish Point, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be walking around and trying to go down every path you see! One of my favorite parts is the butterfly exhibit, where you can see butterflies up close and personal. There are signs on the door reminding you to be careful opening and closing the door to not let any butterflies escape. When I was about to walk out, a butterfly landed on me and I had to jump back in! So be sure to to check for butterflies on your person before heading out, and also be sure to watch where you step as some butterflies like to perch on the ground. As you navigate throughout the grounds, there are such beautiful sights and there’s a gorgeous sunken garden that makes the perfect backdrop for pictures!
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
This facility is perfect for visiting during these COVID times. It’s partially indoor, partially outdoor structure provides natural ventilation throughout and makes it perfect for social distancing. Mote is seriously one of the coolest aquariums I’ve been to because it’s a research center first, and an aquarium second. When I first heard about Mote a few years ago, I thought they only conducted research in the Sarasota area, and maybe even in Florida in general. Oh how wrong I was. They have a large map depicting all the places they are conducting research, which includes all 7 continents. Displayed on the map are QR codes that can be scanned and they will detail what type of research is being done in that specific area. How cool is that? LOL – you should have seen me nerding out!
They have sharks and turtles (which you can see them feed both), jellyfish, alligator, manatees, and so much more! I could have easily spent all day there. There is so much to see and so much to learn. Like did you know there are different types of urchins? If you ever watched Spongebob, specifically the episode ‘Eek, an Urchin!’, then you’ll know what type I thought there were. But nope – there are also ones you can touch! And Mote provides the ability to interact with the hugging type of urchin in their touch zone. I literally could go on and on about how cool this place is, but I’ll spare you. Just visit instead 🙂 And if you happen to stay during the summer, Mote accepts seasonal volunteers so that’s fun!
Siesta Key Beach
Named as the number one beach in the United States and number 11 in the world, Siesta Key draws visitors from all over the world. I was hoping to catch some amazing sunrises/sunset views from the beach while I was visiting, but during my stay it was always cloudy in the mornings and tended to be cloudy as well in the evenings. But guess what? There are so many other beach options throughout Sarasota, as well as not too far away if you’re up for a drive! And also, if you’re planning to beach hop during your weekend in Sarasota, make sure to download the Sarasota app! If you check-in to various beaches via the app, you can win prizes! I’m not sure if that’s currently valid (as it’s probably as supplies last), but it definitely doesn’t hurt to try!
Birthday Behavior Weekend in Sarasota
I had a lot of fun exploring during the long weekend in Sarasota! Although I had been down before, I hadn’t really taken the time to fully enjoy what the city had to offer. And I didn’t even get to go to them all! I’ll definitely need to make another trip down here with my family. I know my mom would absolutely love the Mote Aquarium. After we visited the Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island in Georgia, those became her favorite animal – and Mote has some! And I definitely want to go check out the Ringling Museum next time I come. Fun Fact though – on Mondays, the grounds and the Museum of Arts are free to see.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read! Have you been to Sarasota before? Is it on your list now? I’d love to hear your thoughts – feel free to leave a comment!