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Best Cultural Experiences in Sarasota & Bradenton

  • By Christian Armond
  • Published 01 April 2016
  • Revised 01 April 2016
Best Cultural Experiences in Sarasota & Bradenton
  • By Christian Armond
  • Published 01 April 2016
  • Revised 01 April 2016
Best Cultural Experiences in Sarasota & Bradenton
  • By Christian Armond
  • Published 01 April 2016
  • Revised 01 April 2016
Located along Florida’s sun-kissed Gulf Coast, Sarasota and Bradenton are beautiful coastal cities with stunning beaches and a thriving arts and cultural scene. Marvel at the afterglow of early settler and circus master John Ringling’s artistic influence on Sarasota and uncover the Old Florida charm of Bradenton. Discover the best cultural experiences in Sarasota and Bradenton with our guide below.

The Ringling Estates - Sarasota
ringling 1
In the early 1900s, after nearly 25 years travelling around Europe acquiring circus acts and collecting art, John Ringling and his wife settled in Sarasota and built an elaborate Italian-style palace to call home. Explore this beautiful Gilded Age mansion, also known as Ca’ d’Zan or House of John, where you’ll discover the intricate interiors and opulent furnishings chosen by one of the world’s richest men at the time. The Ringling Estates are also home to the fantastic John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art which specialises in Baroque style works, the intriguing Ringling Circus Museum, the beautiful Historic Asolo Theater and 60 acres of pristine gardens where a variety of events and festivals are held throughout the year.

Towles Court Artist Colony – Sarasota
Tucked away in Downtown Sarasota lies the vibrant Towles Court Artist Colony. Established in the 1990s, this neighbourhood features Old Florida-style bungalows which have been revitalised with vibrant colours and turned into a hub for artists to live, work and sell their creations. Often referred to as the ‘hidden treasure’ of Sarasota, the Towles community is the perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir or enjoy an Art Walk on the third Friday of every month with live demonstrations, refreshments and music.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall – Sarasota
On North Tamiami Trail, and standing proudly with an eye-popping purple roof, is the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. This popular venue has played host to some of the world’s most famous musicians and performers, including Billy Idol and the cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats’. From Broadway shows and contemporary dance, to classic rock and stand-up comedy, the schedule here is fantastically varied and sure to provide an evening of unforgettable entertainment during your Sarasota visit. For 2016 you can catch the amazing Mamma Mia!, The McCartney Years, Disney Fantasia Live in Concert and The Peking Acrobats.

Village of the Arts – Bradenton
Similar to Sarasota’s Towles Court Artist Colony and equally as colourful, Downtown Bradenton’s Village of the Arts is a bustling community of fabulous galleries, working studios, quaint eateries and the constant sounds of live music. Head to Sugar Cubed for deliciously decadent treats including blueberry crystallised ginger muffins and Mexican hot chocolate brownies, or experience a variety of healing arts such as Yoga, holistic body treatments and psychic readings.

South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium & Manatee Aquarium – Bradenton
As the largest natural and cultural history museum along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the South Florida Museum in Bradenton is certainly worth a visit. Located within walking distance of Downtown Bradenton and around 20 minutes from Anna Maria Island, the South Florida Museum is home to a whole host of exciting exhibitions displaying prehistoric fossils, Florida’s medical history and decorative arts. The Parker Manatee Aquarium is located within the South Florida Museum and is home to three adult manatees as well as a rehabilitation facility. Come here to feed the manatees and meet the world’s oldest known manatee, Snooty. At the east end of the museum you’ll find the Bishop Planetarium, the region’s premier astronomy education facility. The Planetarium includes a multimedia theatre and a stage where a variety of live music and digital art performances take place.

Cortez Historic Fishing Village – Bradenton
Take a walk around Cortez, one of the last remaining fishing villages along Florida’s southwest Gulf coast. Just west of Bradenton, this lovely working waterfront town is the perfect place to explore old fish houses, historic boats and the Florida Maritime Museum which is housed in a restored 1912 schoolhouse. Not much has changed since this village was first settled in the late 1800s and the residents make an effort to preserve its legacy. This is also where you’ll find Florida’s freshest and finest ‘dock-to-table’ dining. Sample the seafood at Star Fish Restaurant and Cortez Kitchen, you’ll be challenged to find any better anywhere else.

See Sarasota & Bradenton offers here

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