Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota is an hour’s drive south of Tampa, and forms part of the larger Sarasota-Bradenton-North Port metropolitan area. The city’s name, thought to come from a Spanish term meaning “a place of dancing,” reflects its lively atmosphere. Let’s explore the essence of this city and what it offers.
Ideal for Retirees and Families
Sarasota’s charm shines through its splendid beaches, favorable climate, and an array of cultural and recreational amenities. In the 2022-2023 edition, U.S. News & World Report rated Sarasota as the 5th “Best Place to Live” and the 11th “Best Place to Retire” in the United States. Notably, Sarasota has surpassed other Florida destinations, claiming the number one spot in Florida for 2023-2024. This surge in popularity has translated into substantial growth, with Sarasota leading the way in Florida for two consecutive years, first in 2022 and again in 2023.
Read Also: Best Places to Retire In the US
Sarasota’s Housing Market
The influx of newcomers in the early 2020s led to increased competition and home prices in Sarasota. In recent years, the market has stabilized, with the average home value in September 2023 at $462,200, marking a 1.1% decrease from the previous year. While the beach communities are some of the most favored places for living in Sarasota FL, they often come at a premium.
For instance, Longboat Key and Siesta Key boast average home values of over $1.1 million and just under $1 million, respectively. The mainland provides a range of appealing neighborhood options, and for affordability and availability, exploring areas beyond Sarasota may be worthwhile.
Sarasota is renowned for its magnificent beaches that stretch over 35 miles along the coastline and include six unique keys:
- Longboat Key: A 12-mile island with resorts, beach cottages, and a charming downtown area filled with restaurants and shops.
- Lido Key: Easily accessible from downtown Sarasota, Lido Key offers three distinct beach areas, including North Lido Beach, Lido Beach, and South Lido Park.
- Siesta Key: Accessible via two bridges from the mainland, Siesta Key features a bustling village area and three beautiful beaches: Siesta Beach, Crescent Beach, and Turtle Beach.
- Venice Beach: Known for its fossilized shark’s teeth, this beach offers picnic tables and a dog-friendly area at nearby Brohard Paw Park.
- Casey Key: A narrow island between Sarasota and Venice, home to Nokomis Beach and stunning sunset views from North Jetty Beach Park.
- Manasota Key: An 11-mile hidden gem with four distinct beaches, including Manasota Beach, Blind Pass Beach, Stump Pass Beach, and Englewood Beach, each with its unique attractions.
Sarasota’s vicinity is graced with spectacular destinations. Clearwater, Bayfront Park Sarasota and St. Petersburg offer pristine beaches and dolphin tours. Tampa, a hub for music and sports, features attractions like Busch Gardens and Adventure Island. Additionally, The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg is the go-to spot for local art aficionados.
Sarasota County Schools, serving almost 44,000 students, consistently earn high ratings. Niche, a platform that ranks schools and districts, has named it the top district in Florida for 2024. Individual schools in Sarasota have also received impressive ratings. For instance, Pine View School is among the best in the nation and Sarasota Middle School ranks highly for its academic emphasis and student-teacher ratio. Moreover, schools like Southside Elementary and Bay Haven Elementary are noted for their historical significance and quality education.
Beyond the Beaches: Cultural Delights
Sarasota offers a vibrant cultural scene, perfect for days when the sun and humidity reach their zenith. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art hosts an array of artistic experiences. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium offers visitors a marine life tour, while the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall hosts a variety of musical and dance performances.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens offer a serene natural escape, while St. Armands Circle combines high-end shopping with captivating sunset views. Additionally, Sarasota Jungle Gardens provide family-friendly entertainment, and the University Town Center is the local go-to spot for avid shoppers.
The Birthplace of Golf in Florida
Golf has a long-standing presence in Sarasota. In 1906, Scottish settlers created Florida’s very first golf course. Sent from Scotland to manage a struggling colony of around 60 Scottish families, J.H. Gillespie is often hailed as the ‘Father of Sarasota.
Besides building the city’s inaugural roads and establishing its first railroad service, Gillespie added two golf holes in 1886. The golf course officially opened in 1905, and Sarasota now boasts a plethora of premier golf courses, including The Highlands and The Groves, a challenging public course.
A Vibrant Community
Despite Sarasota’s vibrant ambiance, the city’s demographics tell a different story. With a median age of 49, Sarasota stands well above the national median age of 38 and Florida’s median age of slightly over 42. What’s the secret behind this higher median age? Sarasota attracts both retirees making it their permanent home and “snowbirds” who migrate south for the winter and return north when the weather heats up.
Favorable Business Landscape
While tourism thrives in Sarasota, it’s not the only economic force. The medical industry plays a significant role in employment, alongside grocery stores and law enforcement agencies. Tropicana, renowned for its fresh orange juice (after all, this is the Sunshine State), traces its origins to Bradenton, founded in 1947 by an Italian immigrant who arrived in America with just $25 in his pocket.
Over the past decade, Sarasota has garnered various business honors, including a place among Yelp’s Top 100 Florida Restaurants, ranking as one of the top five U.S. cities for marriage proposals, and standing as the third-best Florida destination for family vacations, surpassed only by Orlando and Tampa.
Sarasota: A Cultural Hub
Beyond its natural beauty, Sarasota is celebrated for its vibrant arts scene. From the sophistication of the Sarasota Opera House, Sarasota Ballet, and the Asolo Repertory Theatre to the creativity of Sarasota Contemporary Dance, the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, and the world-renowned Sarasota Film Festival, culture thrives here. This extends to the grassroots level, exemplified by the Towles Court Artist Colony, a downtown district founded in the 1990s as a haven for artists to live and work.
Today, this colony teems with galleries, studios, salons, cafes, art therapists, educators, and more, welcoming both visitors and newbies, particularly during open studio nights.
Home of “The Greatest Show on Earth”
The name Ringling is synonymous with Sarasota, thanks to the famed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. This legacy lives on, with the Ringling College of Art and Design, founded in 1931 by John Ringling and his brothers. The college is renowned for its animation program, enhancing its offerings in art and liberal arts. The Ringlings’ European sojourns resulted in a stunning collection of baroque masterpieces now exhibited at The Ringling, the State Art Museum of Florida. A stone’s throw from the museum is Ca’ d’Zan, a five-story, 41-room Venetian Gothic estate overlooking Sarasota Bay.
Though the name means “House of John” in Venetian dialect, it could aptly have been named after Mable, who was enamored with all things Italian and desired her Florida manor to reflect the beauty she encountered on her Italian travels. Built in 1926 at a cost of $1.65 million, including a $35,000 Napoleon-style bedroom suite, the house underwent a $15 million restoration beginning in 2002. Now, it’s open for tours and special events as part of the Ringling Museum.
Q : What is the median home price in Sarasota?
A : The median home price in Sarasota is around $462,200 as of September 2023.
Q : Are there good schools in Sarasota?
A : Yes, Sarasota has highly-rated schools, with Pine View School being one of the top-ranked schools in Florida.
Q : Are there family-friendly activities in Sarasota?
A : Sarasota offers a range of family-friendly activities, including beaches, museums, and botanical gardens.