Florida has so many options when it comes to luxury vacations. I adore Miami beach and it's art scene but for a more island-y, laid back trip with a thriving art community Sarasota on the Gulf Coast is the answer. We spent the first part of our two week break experiencing the sun and lifestyle of Sarasota and its barrier islands, Lido Key and Longboat Key. The perfect sunny weather, the white sand beaches and art everywhere makes this a favorite place of mine.
Nothing says luxury more than the Ritz Carlton Sarasota. Located on the edge of downtown Sarasota overlooking Sarasota Bay, the Ritz Carlton is in walking distance to many art galleries, the marina, restaurants and museums. From the moment you enter the hotel, you are met with a contemporary, chic lobby with large paintings on most walls.
I highly recommend the executive floor with additional amenities. The pool located out back is surrounded on two sides by water and Sarasota Bay. This is the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the Bay while sipping on a cocktail from Jack Dusty, the hotel’s waterfront restaurant which features local cuisine with its on flair. While the Ritz is not located right on the beach, they have their own beach club about 3 miles away on Lido Key. The hotel operates a beach shuttle throughout the day. The beach club is stunning. Situated right on the beach, the club also features a pool and restaurant.The beach on Lido Key rivals any Caribbean beach with its soft, white sand. Golf and tennis are also available at the Ritz’s Golf Club (located about 15 minutes from the hotel).
Obviously, the beach is a must but the Sarasota Arts scene is too.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art was created in 1927 as the state art museum of Florida. The museum’s collection consists of 10,000 objects displayed in 21 galleries. The collection includes various paintings, sculptures, drawings, photos, prints and decorative arts pieces. The 16th-20th century paintings are the most prominent features of the collection, including an impressive collection of Peter Paul Rubens paintings. Marcel Duchamp, Rosa Bonheur, Paolo Veronese, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Frans Hal, and Nicolas Poussin are just some of the notably artist in the collection.
Ca d'Zan Mansion, built in the Mediterranean revival style, was the winter home of John Ringling and his wife Mable. The Ringlings, the founders of the Ringling Circus, were art collectors with a particular love of the style of Venice. They chose the location of their 36,000 square foot home because they felt that Sarasota Bay reminded them of a Venetian lagoon. The house has 1,000 feet of water frontage. Ca d’Zan is Venetian for House of John. They incorporated details of the Ducal Palace, Ca d’Oro, and the Grunewald hotel in Venice. Decorative tiles, stucco and marble all add the elaborate detail of the house.
As the Ringling’s traveled the world, they collected masterpieces of paintings and intriguing pieces of furniture and elements that the put in their home. They added a custom-made silver German sink to the butler’s pantry so that their fine china and crystal could be washed in a softer material. My favorite piece was the gorgeous crystal chandelier that once hung in the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.
Today the house is a museum that showcases both the decorative arts and architecture of the mansion. After falling into disrepair in the 1990s, the house was renovated in 2002. Several different tours are offered. I highly recommend the Private Places tour which not only gives you an overview of the home but takes you into the private places of the house that the regular tour does not go into. Walking through the house is like stepping back in time to a glamorous, opulent bygone era. In addition, the Ca d’Zan and the fine arts museum, there is also a circus museum on the grounds which is fun and light!
The Unconditional Surrender Kiss Statue is located on Island Park Drive Sarasota Bayfront Sarasota, Florida. In 2010 Jack Curran, a war veteran, donated half a million dollars to have this 27-foot aluminum statue placed at Marina Jack’s, downtown Sarasota’s marina. The statue is a replica of the iconic photo taken in Times Square New York at the end of World War II depicting a sailor and nurse kissing. The statue weighs 15,000 pounds. Supporters of the statue believe it stands as a reminder of all the country went through during WWII and hopefully things we will avoid in the future. It is a spectacular welcome into Sarasota’s marina.
Sarasota downtown is a fun district to walk around. There are excellent, causal restaurants as well as some incredible galleries. These two are my favorite and worth checking out. They are also a nice walking distance from the Ritz.
Palm Avenue Fine Arts
This gallery exhibits a wide array of styles including impressionism, realism, maritime art and sculptures and more. Artist exhibit range from emerging stars to world renowned. The works are stunning but be prepared to spend a lot of money; pieces are pricey.
This gallery has been voted the best gallery in Sarasota and it’s not a surprise why. Their collection features all types of mediums and styles: oil paintings, watercolors, acrylic, drawings, marble, wood and bronze sculpture just to name a few. Artists represented are both local and international. The staff is very friendly and a visit to this gallery is extremely enjoyable.
Located around the corner from the Ritz is the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. This theater seats 1,736 people in the purple circus-like building. Performances range in type throughout the year from musical concerts (this year Boston, Chicago, Diana Ross, Kristin Chenoweth performed), Broadway shows, and is also the home of the Sarasota orchestra. All of the performances are entertaining and provide excellent options for a night at the theater. Tickets go quick so if you a planning a trip buy your tickets before you go!