Sarasota is a favorite city of mine and is just south of Tampa. It was once the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus founder, John Ringling and his wife, Mable. Today, it hosts a number of cultural institutions, notably the Ringling Museum, which showcases John Ringling's mansion, massive modern art collection, and circus memorabilia. It’s also the gateway to miles of beaches with fine sand and shallow waters, such as Lido Beach and Siesta Key Beach. Nearby are two of my favorite places to visit for great dining, shopping, and people watching: St. Armand's Circle and Anna Maria Island.
Sarasota is a great place for those who enjoy the outdoors. There are a number of parks in downtown Sarasota, not to mention the massive Myakka River State Park. Golf courses also abound. And then, of course, there are the beaches. Siesta Beach has earned acclaim for its white sand and clear water. Lido Beach, just south of St. Armands Circle, is another wide stretch of shoreline that's easy to access. If those get crowded (as they often do), beachgoers opt for Longboat Beach, Venice Beach, Bradenton Beach or the beaches of Anna Maria Island, all of which are a short drive from Sarasota.
Meanwhile, locals take advantage of the booming restaurant scene around town, which serves up everything from fresh seafood to farm-to-table specialties. There are also a handful of farmers markets open in the fall, winter and spring, with the Sarasota Farmers Market open all year.
Sarasota is one of the fastest growing cities and it's easy to see why.