Getaways: Sarasota

Welcome to the O's spring training city.

By Suzanne Loudermilk - February 2010

Travel Tips for Sarasota, Florida

Welcome to the O's spring training city.

By Suzanne Loudermilk - February 2010

What's Different: The major change for O's followers is the switch from the Atlantic Ocean's east side of Florida to the Gulf of Mexico's more scenic West Coast. It's a quieter place with incredibly baby-soft powdery beaches and calm turquoise waters. But don't think for a moment that this is a golf-cart haven for retirees. Sarasota is Florida's cultural hub with museums, theaters, Zagat-rated restaurants, and an active nightlife to boot.

The swank Ivory Lounge (1413 Main St., 941-388-7869) brings a South Beach glam vibe to the city's charming downtown. And if you want to dance the night away to blues and "Top 40" bands, head to The Gator Club (1490 Main St., 941-366-5969), where locals and visitors get dressed up to party.

Where to Relax: Of course, if you're visiting in March, you'll check out a few O's preseason games at Ed Smith Stadium (12th Street and Tuttle Avenue). The 1989 ballpark seats 7,500, and, according to fans, there isn't a bad seat in the house.

But you also want to save time to visit Sarasota's pristine beaches. Siesta Key Beach was rated the No. 2 U.S. beach in 2009 by Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach. Let the gentle breezes and lapping water lull you into serenity. Afterward, enjoy pan-roasted grouper with shrimp and crab at Mattison's City Grille (1 N. Lemon Ave., 941-330-0440), a local, chef-owned restaurant that has music nightly.

What to Do: No trip to Sarasota is complete without a visit to The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (5401 Bay Shore Rd., 941-359-5700). It houses some of the best Baroque artwork in the country; the Ringlings's mansion, Cà d'Zan; and the popular Circus Museum.

It's also worth a detour to Myakka River State Park (13208 State Road 72, 941-361-6511) to ride in "one of the world's largest airboats" for a view of the biggest, baddest gators in the state. When you've satisfied your inner Crocodile Dundee, head across Sarasota Bay to St. Armands Circle for an adventure of a different sort—shopping and eating. More than 100 stores and restaurants surround a traffic circle and its arteries.

Where to Stay: For information, contact the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-348-7250).

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