Off the Beaten Path in Sarasota, Florida

Birds on Coast

Florida is a beautiful place to live and visit. There is a slew of wonderful tourist attractions and places to entertain yourself, whether you are a native Floridian or just passing through. However, sometimes it is refreshing to go somewhere new, somewhere a little quieter, and somewhere that truly represents Florida. Certain hidden gems in Sarasota represent the peace and beauty that few tourist locations can. Read on to learn about our top five attractions that are off the beaten path in Sarasota, Florida. 

The Marine Discovery Center and New Smyrna Beach

White Egret walking through ocean surf
Image via Flickr by j van cise photos | Licensed by CC BY 2.0

If you want to have an experience to remember, visit the Marine Discovery Center and learn all about New Smyrna Beach. This Florida beach is home to the most biologically diverse estuary in North America. The Marine Discovery Center offers several programs for children and adults to learn. Many programs provide a hands-on learning experience for participants with the bonus opportunity to get up close with marine life. With over 4,000 species across the 146-mile section of Florida’s east coast, you’ll experience something new with each visit. 

Visitors of the Marine Discovery Center can choose to take an ecotour by boat, kayak, or on foot. Ecotour guests get a guided and inside look of the Indian River Lagoon and learn all about the wildlife in the area, including birds like osprey, pelicans, ibis, herons, roseate spoonbills and bald eagles. At New Smyrna Beach you’ll often catch dolphins in the wild, and see them swimming along your boat as you explore the waters. Locals love to visit the sandy beaches, shop the boutiques in the town, and get away from the busy Florida tourist scene. 

The Marine Discovery Center is at 520 Barracuda Blvd., New Smyrna Beach. The center’s hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information about the center’s camps, ecotour prices, or to reserve your own guided tour, call 386-428-2828.

The Sarasota Classic Car Museum

The Sarasota Classic Car Museum is a car enthusiast’s dream! It is recognized as the nation’s second-oldest continuously operating antique car museum. Escape the typical Florida heat, walk through the museum, and step back in time as you marvel at one of man’s greatest creations: the automobile. A must-see exhibit at the museum is “The Art of Ferdinand Porsche and Enzo Ferrari.” The exhibition features classic automobiles that document the skills of two engineers, the creativity of car designers, and the history of two exceptional brands.

The Sarasota Classic Car Museum is ready to rev your engine at 5500 N. Tamiami Trail, directly across from the Ringling Museum of Art. Museum hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Adult general admission is $14.85, children 6 to 12 get in for a reduced rate of $9.25, while those 5 and under get in free. The museum offers discounts for senior citizens and military. For information, or to learn about special group rates, call 941-355-6228 or email [email protected]

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Treat your senses at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. While tourists crowd the Florida beach, spend the morning in peaceful meditation surrounded by a colorful and lush garden. This living museum provides 45 acres of bay front sanctuaries for plant life, serving to connect people with air plants from around the world and nature native to the area. Originally established by women, the Selby Gardens comprises a 15-acre downtown location and the 30-acre Historic Spanish Point campus in the Osprey area. 

The downtown location is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to studying and displaying epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, ferns, and other tropical plants. If you can, catch the exhibit “Rainforest Masks of Costa Rica.” It highlights Costa Rica’s Boruca tribe and their artistry and features hundreds of hand-carved and painted balsa masks. At the Historic Spanish Point garden, catch “Seeing the Invisible.” This exhibition is an augmented reality display featuring the works of over a dozen international artists. For the ultimate experience, download the app before you go. 

Both garden campuses are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For directions to each campus, or to learn about the garden’s new cruise-and-tour program, including prices, call 941-366-5731. 

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is a fantastic destination for kids and the young-at-heart. This quiet aquarium offers several programs ranging from family experiences like kayaking at the Mote or animal encounters with some friendly turtles. Learn about sea turtles, then hang out with the animal ambassadors: Smiley, Booger, and Pearl. Just make sure you visit the website to preregister for one of these special programs. 

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway. The aquarium is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission ticket prices start at $24 for adults and $18 for youth. Go online to reserve your tickets in advance or call 941-388-4441. 

The Ringling Ca’D’Zan

The Ca’D’Zan, home of the circus royalty the Ringlings, is a 36,000-square-foot house that has been restored and is open to tour. Ornately decorated and designed in the Venetian Gothic style, this palatial building is an American architectural treasure and a tour you can’t miss. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but the Ca’D’Zan capacity is limited so purchase tickets for $10 in advance online. For information, call 941-359-5700.So there you have it. MAXIM Hair Restoration has just shared with you our suggestions for the top five favorite attractions only locals know about. When you want to get away from the busy tourist scene, check out one of these locations. What do you think of our list of ideas? Did we miss your favorite “hidden gem” in Sarasota, Florida? If we did, let us know! Leave a message and we’ll be happy to check out what have you to share. Meanwhile, get a quick assessment online with Maxim Hair Restoration to understand your options. Then, visit our gallery to see for yourself!