Two months ago my travel partner and best friend came down to spend a few days with me on the condition we visit Siesta Key Beach, one of the best beaches in the country. Considering I had neither heard of it or never been I immediately agreed. Siesta Key is about ten minutes away from Sarasota proper and about 4 hours away from Jacksonville. We left around 11 or so on a Thursday morning and arrived at our comfortable yet affordable hotel in the middle of it all around 3:30pm. We checked in and then headed straight back out to explore Sarasota!
First stop, happy hour at Marina Jack's! This pretty popular spot is located on the marina between downtown and St. Armands Circle. We stayed for a drink which helped us unwind and get us into vacation mode. Next, we decided to catch the sunset in Siesta Key. The fact that we went at the end of March significantly affected our experience. It was COLD and breezy but the sand was absolutely amazing, white and soft as can be. Z had to run back to the car to get us protection from the wind, we improvised and used my lovely car mat. Even though tears we coming out of our eyes, we braved the weather and left immediately after the sunset for dinner.
We had reservations at Owen's Fish Camp in downtown. The restaurant is in a cute walking neighborhood but unfortunately all the shops were closed by the time we arrived so we headed straight to dinner. We both opted for some seafood, given the name, and it was fresh, flavorful and delicious! Since we wanted an early start the next day, we decided to go back to the hotel and crash afterwards.
But before we did, we made a killer to do list for the next day and then I also decided I had to have ice cream from this one shop by the beach because its line earlier in the day caught my attention. Big Olaf gives monstrous portions of their Amish style ice cream. I of course got coffee and amaretto, soo good! We were on vacation so we justified the binging ;)
Since we are admirers of the French language, culture, food, people, I could go on- we decided to head to C'est La Vie for breakfast. The cute breakfast spot in the heart of downtown was relatively peaceful on a Friday morning, at least right until we sat down. The place got packed literally in a matter of minutes but they have plenty of seating both indoors and outdoors and offer takeout so you can really take advantage of their food anyway you choose to experience it.
Next up, the Ringling Museum! What an experience! I had no idea such a treasure existed in Florida and was saddened by the fact that very few people know about it. Because I am a member of a local museum in Jacksonville, I get free reciprocal admission to participating museums across the country. The fact that we paid nothing for our $45 worth of tickets made the visit even more memorable. The grounds are huge and you can easily spend the entire day exploring. They include the art museum, Ca d'Zan, circus museum and the gardens. Most people start with Ca d'Zan and since we arrived right at the opening at 10am we opted to start with the art museum to avoid the crowd. Best decision ever. We basically had the entire art museum to ourselves for a good hour or so and the fact that we discovered an amazing Herb Ritts exhibit made it an even better decision. What an innovative artist and visionary photographer! His work was breathtaking to say the least. We felt so lucky to have been able to experience it and if you have the chance you should too.
After taking our time to capture each and every one of Herb's pieces in our photographic memory, we headed through the gardens to Ca d'Zan. The house was completed in 1925 and inspired by Venetian architecture and is overlooking the Sarasota bay. It is a great spot for a picnic, a nap, a break from the world with a great book. Conscious of our time and Z's request to get a great tan since we were lucky enough to get a beautiful sunny day, we had to leave. We were absolutely blown away by our entire visit and it really made our trip.
Given the popularity of Siesta Key's beach, there was absolutely no parking in the middle of the afternoon. I would advise you to get there as early as possible if you are driving. I decided to forego my beach time and dropped him off while I enjoyed a solo lunch at The Old Salty Dog. This restaurant has a very laid back feel to it and was perfect for me to catch up on my T magazines over a simple sandwich.
Once I knew he had taken advantage of optimal baking time, I picked him up and we headed to our massages, yes we rewarded ourselves for all our hard work! Luckily the massage place was right by our hotel so after our muscles were nimble we just had to walk over to the hotel for a quick shower before dinner. To continue with the indulgent theme of the weekend, we treated ourselves to a fancy dinner at Mozaic, a fusion restaurant that combined Moroccan and European dishes.
The next morning we decided to visit a new part of town recommended by the New York Times where they suggested breakfast at the Blue Dolphin Cafe in St. Armands Circle. This area is catered to tourists and lacked the character the other parts of the city possessed. So we quickly left and went to explore the Pineapple Square district and randomly witnessed a free street Jazz concert and a farmers market. I highly recommend either staying in this part of town or at least walking through it because it has a great vibe to it, from the metal people to the street murals to the giant elephants.
We definitely made the most of our 2 day trip and loved every second of it. I am continuously impressed by all the rare gems the state of Florida has to offer! Come visit!