Top Ten Sarasota, Florida, Activities for Kids

Sarasota is famous as a destination for retirees, but younger citizens can find plenty to do if their favorite adults know where to look. So you don't have to do the searching, assembled for you here are Sarasota's ten best activities for kids. (The activities with an asterisk* are free.)

1. Hit the Beach
Siesta Key Beach* may be the top rated beach in the country, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's the best beach for little ones. For some parents, the walk from parking lot to ocean can be a bit far. Lido Key* and Turtle Beach* have shorter paths and smaller shores, so you don't have to tote floaties, coolers, backpacks and babies too far. Each of these locations also has a playground for children to climb on when mom is ready for some time in the shade.

If the family dog wants to come along as well, Brohard Beach* (AKA Brohard Paw Park) in Venice is the best choice. Brohard is the only beach in Sarasota County that allows dogs. If you or your pooch get thirsty, there's no need to fear. The park has doggy drinking fountains AND human drinking fountains.

2. Visit a Park
In terms of sheer playground allure, there's no better choice than "Circus Park*" a playground within Payne Park*. It's located right in downtown Sarasota, near plenty of food stops and the Selby Library. The playground draws from Sarasota's history with the Ringling Circus. It's even located near the corner of Ringling Boulevard and U.S. 301. Part of the permanent structure are mini circus animals, a small Ferris Wheel and many other circus-themed interactions. There's also a nature trail and tennis courts, but children will be less excited about nature when they can see a big metal tiger for them to climb.

Urfer Family Park* is also a great location for outdoor family activities. There is a big playground and plenty of wildlife to observe on their nature trail, but a unique feature of this location is the "fitness trail." Periodically along the paved trail are stations with built-in outdoor fitness equipment. This feature turns a regular "walk in the park" into something a slightly more challenging and fun. For a family who likes to be active together, a visit to Urfer with provide great opportunities to stretch and build muscle, all while enjoying some Florida nature.

3. Get Creative
The Sarasota Children's Garden hosts a weekly event called "ART ROCKS" where children do a "cool art project" to take home. The Children's Garden is also a great place to let young imaginations run wild. A mini pirate ship, hedge maze, dress up rooms and Snuffy the Dragon make this location ideal for birthday parties or simply an fun day out.

4. Check out a festival
On the first Friday of every month, there are several community events in the Sarasota/Manatee County area. Music on Main* is located in Lakewood Ranch, a new development just north of Sarasota. A different band performs live each month and local venders show off their wares in pop-up tents. Lakewood Ranch also has plenty of great restaurants, so grabbing dinner during the festivities is a convenient treat.

Art Walk Bradenton* is located in The Village of the Arts, a chunk of the metropolitan area that houses, restaurants, workshops and studios. The events showcase local talent and often have an interactive component for kids, however, parents should check the calendar to see what kinds of events will be held each month.

5. Clown Around
The Ringling Museum is rated the number one thing to do in Sarasota on The Ringling has several museums inside including The Circus Museum, which has interactive exhibits for children and The Howard Bros Circus Model, which is the world's largest miniature circus. Another feature of The Ringling is The David F. Bolger Playspace. Built on the huge, bayfront property, this installment has plenty for kids to climb and swing on. It's connection to the museum makes it all the more educational and enjoyable for adults. On Mondays, admission to certain areas of the museum is free!

The Sailor Circus is America's oldest youth circus. Children from ages 8-18 can participate in the program where they learn important life skills in a circus atmosphere. Spectators of all ages can appreciate their grand performances throughout the year.

6. Hit the Library
The Selby Library* in downtown Sarasota is a great library to visit with kids. The entrance to the children's section is a giant arched aquarium. The fish inside can be identified using a binder at the librarian's desk. The library also hosts tons of free events for children, including music activities, storytime and LEGO clubs (they provide the LEGOs and put the creations on display until the next meeting).

Several branches of the library system host a monthly event called "Read With the Dogs*" where ages 5 and up can spend time with certified therapy dogs from the Suncoast Humane Society. A full schedule of events for the Sarasota County Library system can be found here.

7. Take the Stage
Florida Studio Theatre has plenty of theater for children to enjoy, both as a spectator and a performer. The Kid's Komedy Club is a program FST provides for children to write, rehearse and perform sketch comedy for a paying audience. The Improv Adventure is performed by adults, but is intended for children.

Stage Door Dance Studio offers classes like "Broadway Star" and "Chorus Line Combo" for little starlets with glitter in their eyes. Stage Door also hosts classes for Drama Kids, an organization that provides drama classes at multiple locations in Sarasota and Manatee County.

8. Visit the Aquarium
The Mote Aquarium is a great for kids to see and touch a variety of fish and marine animals. Sharks, manatees, turtles and thousands of fish will all be of interest to kids of all ages. Additionally, the museum has a Mommy & Me program, where parents can come with their children (ages 2-5) to learn through crafts, songs, games and a special guided visit through the aquarium.

9. Visit the Big Cats
The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is a non-profit sanctuary for big cats, bears and other animals in need. Families can watch training demonstrations and take guided tours. There's also a daily Bird Show.

Every weekend from January 21st-March 1st, the Big Cat Habitat puts on an event with demonstrations from elephants, horses, camels, alligators, dogs, lions, tigers, bears pigs, chimps and other animals. The event has animal rides, treats and even a petting zoo.

10. Get In the Water
Ted Sperling Park* on Lido Key is a great place to take kayaks and canoes. The warm gulf waters are home to dolphins, manatees, turtles and a variety of other wildlife. Paddling through the mangrove trees provides a beautiful, scenic tour for families to enjoy either with a guide or on their own.

Stand-up paddle boarding is a local craze among Sarasota citizens. SUP Sarasota provides classes and outings for beginners and advanced athletes alike. Families can also watch SUP races from Siesta Key Beach throughout the summer.

For families that enjoy art, nature, animals, and fun Sarasota has plenty to offer.

Asia Dekle studied media arts at Brigham Young University and runs a professional writing business from her home in Sarasota, Florida. She enjoys exploring local beaches, museums and other points of interest so readers know what's fun and unique about her home town. She also loves to sing, dance, and read.