After two decades, hardly recognizable. Quaint downtown is now canyon lands. Streets are shadowed by high rise condos and office buildings on both sides with a half dozen or more planned as 2017 heads into 2018. Sarasota is also on every homeless persons bucket list resulting in battles between tourist interests and homeless advocates. Park benches were often occupied reclining itinerants whom the courts determined had equal access. Rather than offend, the city removed the benches.
Sarasota has always been a haven for artists whose community consists of fine and contemporary art to performing art many starting during the days of Ringling. Sarasota has a first class museum, its own opera, ballet and orchestra. There are film festivals plus a couple for the LGBTQIA community. There are a half a dozen performing arts theaters with the grand master being the Van Wezel. It attracts first class talent of all genres world wide. Of course there are multiplex theaters, and an "art theater". There is a botanical garden of some international renown featured in the movie "Orchid Thief", and a marine aquarium noted for its dolphin and turtle rescues. There is a strip joint that they have been trying to get rid of for 30 years and lastly there are knit shops and gun shops, the latter trippeling in the last decade.
Did I mention restaurants? There are many. Some are really terrific bordering on legendary. They are scattered from the Keys to down town all the way south to the Sarasota Square Mall.
Sarasota likes to say it has its own Airport - AKA Sarasota "International" Airport. SRQ for folks in the know. As far as the "international" goes, that name is just there to give Sarasota some pizzaz. OK, there are a couple Canadian flights a week in season. And for the connivence of using SRQ, you'll have to change planes and pay a premium for the privilege. Better to use Tampa (TPA).
1. Sarasota likes to say it has its own Airport - AKA Sarasota "International" Airport. SRQ for folks in the know. As far as the "international" goes, that name is just there to give Sarasota some pizzaz. OK, there are a couple Canadian flights a week in season. And for the connivence of using SRQ, you'll have to change planes and pay a premium for the privilege. Better to use Tampa (TPA).
2. Sarasota likes to say it has its own TV Station - pretty much a duplication of ABC in Tampa except during local news hours and even then they often tap into national coverage. It was really WWSB UHF Ch 40 but that doesn't sound cool, so they call themselves ABC CH 7 (it's original cable channel number). Their weather man is featured 3 times in a half hour news broadcast which says it all.
3. Sarasota likes to say it has its own newspaper - the once NYT owned Sarasota Herald. Up front, one must give their ad sales department hi marks for filling 40 to 70% of its pages (best estimate). It's news it is 60% Associated Press with headlines rephrased to suit management. A mature reader will sense the immaturity or crankiness of its local writers. It's graphics and choice of headlines are adolescent. It's a big disappointment and deserving of a whole critique. The second section can be considered useful for local happenings - particularly for tourism and things to do.
4. Sarasota likes to say it has its own Marine Laboratory - The Mote Marine Lab, be it a better Aquarium than a Lab. It is a favorite for providing frequent news content on shark research and Red Tide issues and or the release of a turtle or dolphin from rehab - even TV gets in on that one. I once was involved with just such an event volunteering my boat which was occupied with the three person TV crew. Mote's boat included staff of three or four and of course the turtle. We headed out 30 miles, "Because that's where they found the injured turtle"! The four seconds it took for the turtle sliding into the gulf was a major happening for SRQ media. In the 90's, the Herald had numerous stories about Mote's pioneering research on a cancer cure using shark cartilage -- Haven't heard a word since.
5. Sarasota doesn't like to speak about the periodically visiting toxic and nauseating Red Tide. Some years it is absolutely horrific with dead fish washed up every where - in the bays and in the Gulf. The airborne toxins can cause sore throat and watering eyes from a block from the beach. It appeared for years before the Mote Marine Lab got motivated as it didn't fit in with their rescue the hapless mammal image. Eventually a local civic group from Longboat Key got on their case.
6. Sarasota doesn't like to speak about the traffic. In season - forget about it. The old draw bridge to St. Armands Circle has been replaced by a modern span (above) - a good thing but maybe too good. Seems folks like to play on the bridge, have races, fund raising walks of every kind resulting in the four lanes cut to two. It happens most often, you guessed it, during high traffic tourist season. Add to that, downtown Sarasota and St. Armands are often jammed with traffic due to vendor fairs. You've seen them all before, whether Cape May, Kennebunkport or Sedona. Just try and get to or from Longboat Key with an event taking place downtown or on St. Armands. For folks living or renting on Longboat, choose your time wisely heading out to a mainland theater or shopping. And make sure you have a dinner reservation. Remember everything comes together downtown at US41 at the intersection of the Ringling Causeway headed to the keys. Also, just one block north is Fruitville Rd. emptying traffic from Interstate 75. And finally add to the returning beach goers and early bird dinner goers the multitude of caretakers and grounds keepers leaving for the day and all having to circumnavigate St. Armans Circle. In a word, YIKES!
Siesta Key Beach: Every year some publication or travel site names Siesta Key Beach as the number one beach in the country resulting in more traffic! I might agree early in the morning at about 6 to 8AM. It has that beautiful white powdery sand as does Lido & Longboat Key, so often written about. In season and on weekends by mid morning, the parking lots are full and traffic backs up to the Key's draw bridges. The same applies to Lido Key only substitute St. Armands Circle for draw bridge.
Lastly there are secret accesses to beautiful stretches of beach on haughty Longboat Key where beachcombers are few due to limited parking space. You'll just have to find them as the signs are small and locals dont want any riffraff. Still these access points fill up. So get there early and you'll have to fight traffic part of the way, and that's all we have to say.
There is more at SRQ2.com
Sandy | Wilson, NY