Sand Trap

It's hard to resist Siesta Key's alluring beaches

Florida

May 16, 2007|By Aline Mendelsohn | Aline Mendelsohn,Special to The Sun

Siesta Key is for snobs. Sand snobs, that is.

The sand of Siesta Beach is soft and smooth, like velvet beneath your toes, silk between your fingers. It stretches out in an expanse of white lapped by turquoise water, and even on warm days the sand is cool.

In 2004, the Travel Channel named it Best Sand Beach, and it has appeared on the annual list of best U.S. beaches compiled by Stephen Leatherman, the Florida International University professor known as Dr. Beach.

Leatherman, who has studied beaches around the globe, says Siesta Key boasts some of the "finest, whitest sand I've ever seen in the world."

And it's not just about the sand. This 8-mile-long island has good restaurants, lively nightlife and a prime location next door to Sarasota.

"It's a bit of a secret," Leatherman says.

Not anymore.

Hotels

Boutique hotels and rental bungalows offering direct access to the beach are popular.

Captiva Beach Resort, 6772 Sara Sea Circle, Sarasota; 800-349-4131 or captivabeachresort.com. Twenty rooms and guest suites with private baths, full kitchens and living areas. Summer rates: $115-$235.

Tropical Breeze Resort & Spa, 5150 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key; 800-300-2492 or tropicalbreezeinn .com. One-, two- and three-bedroom suites within walking distance to Siesta Key Village. Pools, bicycles and spa services, including massages and facials. Summer rates: $125-$430.

Restaurants

For dinner, you'll find Siesta Village refreshingly short on restaurant chains. For dessert, you might indulge in a cone from Big Olaf Creamery.

Savor Sarasota, Restaurant Week. The 10-day dining event runs June 1-10 and features fixed-price lunch and dinner menus from the city's many Zagat-rated restaurants. For details, go to sara sotafl.org.

Blase Cafe & Martini Bar, 5263 Ocean Blvd., 941-349-9822; theblase cafe.com: Entrees range from $11.95-$27 and include mahi-mahi in tropical-fruit sauce, other seafood, steaks, chicken and pasta dishes.

The Lobster Pot, 5157 Ocean Blvd., 941-349-2323; sarasota-lob sterpot.com: In a casual environment, the Lobster Pot offers an array of seafood and salads for lunch and dinner.

Shopping

Shoppers might enjoy prowling through Siesta Key's village shops, which include the requisite T-shirt and souvenir store.

St. Armands Circle, intersection of Boulevard of Presidents and John Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota. A European-flavored area with more than 150 upscale shops, galleries and fine restaurants.

Downtown Farmers Market, Lemon Avenue and Main Street in Sarasota, 941-951-2656. Open every Saturday. Florida oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, strawberries and other produce, along with seafood, flowers, baked goods and more.

Nightlife

The village has a couple of "party" bars, but although Siesta Key is lively, it isn't a party town. It's a place to unwind and enjoy what Florida has to offer.

The Speakeasy, 5254 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key; 941-346-1379. Swing by for live music and a martini or frozen drink.

The Beach Club, 5151 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key; 941-349-6311. A plastic green shark greets visitors to this lively hangout. Bands perform most nights and the happy hour buffet (3 p.m.-7 p.m.) is tops.

Fun

If you crave activity, you can try personal watercraft, fishing or kayaking offered by local boating companies. If you want to take a stroll, the village's candy-colored condos, lush plants and tropical flowers offer an attractive setting. Otherwise, here are a few attractions.

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, 941-359-5700; ringling.org. Adult admission is $15; seniors, $13; students, $5; and children under 3 are free. This is a world-class art museum housed on a 66-acre estate. Also on site is the Circus Museum, where costumes, performance equipment, posters and other circus artifacts can be viewed.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens, 3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, 941-355-5305; sarasotajunglegar dens.com. Adult admission is $12; children 3-12, $8; and children under 3 are free. A tropical zoological park, including 100 different species of palms, as well as bamboo, hibiscus, roses and a butterfly garden. There also are parrots, spider monkeys, alligators, turtles and flamingos.

Mote Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, 800-691-MOTE; mote.org. Adult admission is $15; children 4-12, $10; and children under 3 are free. Aquarium exhibits, including manatees, dolphins, sharks and sea turtles. Boat tours also available.

Events

May

Orlando International Fringe Festival -- Orlando / 407-648-0077 or orlandofringe.org. May 17-28. A series of nonjuried theater performances throughout Orlando. Admission ranges from free to $11. Times vary.

Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival -- 4253 W. Ponkan Road, Zellwood / 407-886-0014 or zellwoodcornfesti val.com. May 25-26. Bite into an ear of sweet corn at this annual event. The machine Big Bertha can cook more than 1,500 ears of corn every nine minutes. $15 for adults, $5 for children 5-12, free for children 4 and younger. Times vary.

June

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