Museums may not be the first thing on your mind when you think of Sarasota, but the selection is as good as any place in the country. While the beaches and tourist attractions garner a lot of travelers’ attention, the locals know and appreciate the variety of museums in the area. If you are looking for a rainy day trip or just looking for something educational and fun for the family, check out this guide to Sarasota museums are can’t-miss opportunities.
5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243
The Ringling was originally built by circus entrepreneur John Ringling and his wife, Mabel. Established in 1927, this impressive 66-acre estate is home to one of the preeminent collections of art, architecture, and circus memorabilia. By sharing their extraordinary collection of European art, John and Mabel sought to educate and encourage curiosity in many Americans.
The Ringling is also the state art museum of Florida and it is easy to spend hours walking, so wear comfortable shoes. Admissions, tours, and special events vary in price. Please see their website for more information.
201 10th Street W., Bradenton, FL 34205
The Bishop Museum offers exciting exhibits and educational programs, including fossil evidence of Florida’s earliest animal inhabitants. The museum also includes the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat, a Stage 2 manatee rehab facility. Here you can view manatees being cared for in their underwater viewing window. There is also an all-digital planetarium, which is the Gulf Coast’s premier astronomy education facility.
During the summer months, the Bishop also features laser light nights, where you can rock out to music and a laser show in the planetarium.
5500 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34243
This 60,000 square-foot facility contains about 100 antique, classic, vintage, collectible and rare cars with a constantly rotating collection. It is the second oldest continuously operating antique car museum in the United States. Here, you will find amazing examples of automotive craftsmanship from makers such as Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Cadillac, Edsel, Ferrari, and more, including some that were owned by famous people. The large gift shop features many rare collectibles, toys, and hard-to-find automotive books.
900 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236
Known as the living museum, and one of the most beautiful properties in all of Florida, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is composed of the 15-acre downtown Sarasota campus and the 30-acre historic Spanish point campus. It is the only botanical garden dedicated to the study and conservation of epiphytes, better known as air plants like orchids, bromeliads and gesneriads. It is perhaps best known for its living collection of more than 6,000 orchids.
16405 Myakka Rd, Sarasota, FL 34240
The Crowley Museum & Nature Center is a 191-acre farmstead established in 1878. This is a great place for the whole family to discover how the pioneers lived. You can explore a pioneer cabin, blacksmith shop, working sugar cane mill, and more. There is a half-mile boardwalk that leads you through five different Florida habitats and a two-story observation tower overlooking a marsh and the Myakka River.
When you need to take a break from the beach, it’s good to know that there are a variety of other things to see and do around the Sarasota area that doesn’t involve thrill rides and long lines. These museums all provide plenty of fun, education, and inspiration for every member of your family.