Are you looking for a list of the best things to do in Sarasota with kids?
In this article, we’ll highlight the best family activities in Sarasota, as well as show you the many reasons that this oceanside vacation destination is the ultimate family getaway.
Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore the outdoors, or visit an amazing museum or aquarium, there are literally so many fun things to do in Sarasota, Florida.
Look no further for the 11 best things to do in Sarasota with kids while you’re on vacation!
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1. Head to the Beach
If you’ve read our complete 6-day Sarasota vacation itinerary, you already know that the biggest draw to this area, and by far the best thing to do in Sarasota with kids, is to spend time at the beach.
“Which beach?”, you may ask, however?
With six islands and multiple beaches lining Sarasota’s coastline, you have several options to choose from when it comes to experiencing the fine white sand and turquoise waters of the Sarasota beaches.
Here is a list of our favorite beaches in Sarasota:
- Siesta Beach – top-rated, widely popular beach; restrooms, and concessions, playground, beach rentals, lifeguards on duty year-round.
- Lido Beach – family-friendly; restrooms and concessions, beach rentals, lifeguards on duty, less crowded than Siesta Beach.
- Turtle Beach -activity-friendly; restrooms, 2 nearby restaurants, boat ramp and kayak launch, playground, no lifeguards on duty.
- South Lido Beach – shaded picnic areas, restrooms, playground, and nature trails, no lifeguards on duty.
With your beach essentials in tow, you have a few other options close by.
Neighboring beaches include Brohard (pet-friendly), Venice, and Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida, and the beautiful Nokomis Beach in Nokomis, Florida.
Additional planning tip: You cannot go wrong picking from any of these beautiful beaches when visiting Sarasota with kids. I recommend choosing the ones that are closest to your hotel accommodations for convenience’s sake.
For instance, during our 6-day Siesta Key family vacation, we spent the majority of our time at Siesta Beach.
Similar to our visit to Sarasota, spending time on the beach was one of the best things to do in Siesta Key while staying on the island.
2. Kayak in the Mangroves
For a totally unique and memorable experience, be sure to go kayaking in the mangroves when vacationing in Sarasota with kids.
The Sarasota mangroves are an amazing collection of tangled shrubs and roots that form interconnected tunnels perfect for kayaking or paddleboarding.
Once inside, you’ll see the Florida ecosystem at its finest as you view fish, fiddler crabs, jellyfish, and native grasses beneath the crystal clear waters.
Dolphin and manatee sightings are also very common when on the outskirts of the mangrove tunnels.
Though you can go kayaking in Sarasota without a guide, I recommend utilizing a tour company, such as top-rated Kayaking SRQ Tours & Rentals to assist with your experience.
SRQ provides the kayak, paddle, and lifejackets for both kids and adults as well as fits you with a double kayak if you have kids who are too young to paddle on their own.
3. Explore The Mote Aquarium
When looking for things to do in Sarasota with kids, Mote Aquarium tops the list of Sarasota’s indoor attractions.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is a non-profit marine research organization that uses its onsite aquarium for public outreach and associated education.
The aquarium features over 100 species including sharks, manatees, sea turtles, seahorses, stingrays, and invertebrates including octopuses, sea jellies, anemones, and corals.
Similar to our visit to the Great Lakes Aquarium, our kids loved the up-close animal encounters and touch pools at Mote Aquarium.
Fossil Creek, an add-on experience that allows kids or adults to take home fossilized shark teeth, is also a must-do there.
4. Visit The Ringling
The Ringling, located in Sarasota, Florida, is so much more than your average museum – it’s an entire experience.
In fact, The Ringling campus is home to The Museum of Art, Bayfront Gardens, Historic Asolo Theater, and Circus Museum. For an additional cost, guests can gain entry into the Ca’d’Zan historic mansion.
With its history dating back to 1927, The Ringling honors the legacy of Mable and John Ringling, the “King of the American Circus”.
Kids will absolutely love the Tibbals Learning Center where they can view the world’s largest miniature circus model, walk on a high wire, stand on a horse’s back, and squeeze into a clown car.
Our favorite part is exploring the gardens (complete with koi fish, turtles, and blue herons) and taking in the grandeur of the Ca’d’Zan terrace.
This is an absolutely unforgettable experience that you don’t want to miss in Sarasota with kids!
Additional planning tip: If the kids need to burn off some energy while there, head to the Bolger Playspace. The play space has multiple play structures, swings, water, and sand play, as well as a casual dining option.
5. One Word: Donuts!
Join in on the donut craze!
Like many other cities across the US, Sarasota is home to multiple bakeries and donut shops all vying for your heart – and tastebuds.
As one of the yummiest things to do in Sarasota with kids, you will absolutely not be disappointed by the melt-in-your-mouth delicacies that can be found across every corner of the city.
With top-notch flavors and toppings, here are our recommended top 5 places to get donuts in Sarasota:
- Meany’s Mini Donuts
- Der Dutchman
- Peachey’s Donut Co.
- Five-O Donut Co.
- The Farmhouse
Additional planning tip: Love donuts? Be sure to check out Voodoo Donuts when using our Austin, Texas vacation itinerary.
6. Visit the Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Family-owned Sarasota Jungle Gardens is an awesome and affordable experience when visiting Sarasota with kids!
Sarasota Jungle Gardens is home to more than 200 exotic animals including parrots, macaws, flamingos, primates, snakes, iguanas, alligators, crocodiles, and other reptiles.
There are 1.2 miles of paved jungle trails suitable for both strollers and wheelchairs, most of which are shaded. Seating for the outdoor animal shows is on shaded bleachers as well.
Unlike a typical zoo experience, there are many chances to ‘hold’ the animals at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. We’ve seen visitors hand-feeding flamingos, holding a parrot, and getting their photo taken with an alligator.
We think you’re going to like it here!
7. Go to the Children’s Garden
Little travelers need sweet experiences. It is for that reason that you should visit the Children’s Garden when exploring things to do in Sarasota with kids.
Most suitable for children ages 2-6, there are interactive areas for kids to play dress-up, or to pretend they are living in the woods, putting on a play, or living in a secret house.
The garden itself consists of several paths leading to various other kid- enchanting places like a colorful bamboo rain forest with misters, a pirate ship, and lots of other things to climb on.
As somewhat of a hidden gem, Sarasota Children’s Garden offers plenty of shade and benches to sit on, picnic tables, a gift shop, and ultra-affordable admission at only $5 for children ages 3-12.
*Click here for our exclusive FREE Family Vacation Packing List and BONUS Disney Day Bag Packing List to complement your Sarasota vacation!
8. Go Fishing!
If you’re looking to go fishing on your Sarasota family vacation, there is no better place than to head to Hart’s Landing.
Hart’s Landing is Sarasota’s oldest saltwater fishing bait and tackle store and is known for its friendly customer service and repeat visitors. (The free lollipop bucket for kids has been around for generations!)
Situated in a park-like setting with outdoor benches and a gazebo, Hart’s Landing is located at the foot of the John Ringling Causeway bridge on the way to Lido Beach.
They sell live saltwater fishing bait, tackle, and have fishing poles for rent.
When you’re ready to cast your line, walk next door to the largest fishing pier in Sarasota County, the T.J. “Tony” Saporito Fishing Pier. Fishing here is free and is known to provide hours of good saltwater fishing.
There is also plenty of good fishing along the seawall and sidewalks between Hart’s Landing and the Saporito Pier.
Additional planning tip: A fishing license is required to go fishing for Florida visitors ages 16 and older.
9. Visit the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
You’ll feel like you’re in a garden oasis when entering the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens!
You don’t need to know a lot about flowers or plant life to enjoy it here, for the stunning scenery and ocean views speak for themselves.
As one of the best things to do in Sarasota with kids, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is home to the spectacular Children’s Rainforest Garden.
Here, there is a giant waterfall, canopy walk and rope bridge, canyon, and caves for exploring. In addition, kids love taking photos next to the huge 100-year-old Banyan tree as well as completing the adventure trails.
There are both indoor and outdoor spaces to explore at Selby as well as a small gift shop and a café that offers sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, and other snacks. Coffee and espresso drinks are also available.
10. Shop at St. Armands Circle
We didn’t forget about your teens and tweens when putting together our list of exciting things to do in Sarasota with kids.
Located directly adjacent to Lido Beach, St. Armands Circle is an outdoor shopping area home to retail stores, boutiques, galleries, and outdoor cafes and restaurants.
The vibe is super hip here and with more than 130 specialty shops, spending at least a few hours here is a breeze.
Additional planning tip: Don’t forget to visit the Circus Ring of Fame located in St. Armand’s Circle Central Park. Central Park is in the center of the circle.
11. Take a Day Trip
It’s hard to vacation in Florida and only stay in one spot. After all, the US state of Florida offers so many amazing destinations and attractions to make for a perfect family vacation.
If you have more than a few days to spend in Sarasota, considering taking a day trip to its surrounding cities or beachside communities.
Here are some of our favorite Florida attractions and their driving distance from Sarasota:
- Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando – 1 hr. 48 min. drive
- Busch Gardens theme park, Tampa Bay – 1 hr. drive
- Universal Studios theme park, Orlando – 1 hr. 55 min. drive
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Clearwater – 1 hr. 15 min. drive
- Anna Maria Island – 40 min. drive
- Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg – 56 min. drive
Best Places to Stay in Sarasota
For current deals and further inspiration on where to stay in Sarasota, browse and book here:
Hi friends! After reading this list, what activities are you most looking forward to doing in Sarasota?Jen
*All photos courtesy of VisitSarasota.com
If you liked our list of the Best Things to do In Sarasota with Kids, click here to read our related posts:
- Complete 6-Day Sarasota Vacation Itinerary For Families
- A Complete Guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours (+Best Tips)
Siesta Key, Florida:
- The Ultimate Siesta Key Vacation Itinerary + Tips For Your Visit
- 11 Best Things to Do in Siesta Key While on Vacation
- Siesta Key Parasailing: A Complete Guide for Kids & Adults
The surrounding area:
- 11 Best Things to Do on Anna Maria Island
- 11 Fun Things to Do in Tampa Bay (+3-Day Itinerary)
- The Ultimate Orlando Family Vacation Itinerary
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*