It's hard to believe that the circus made Sarasota the sophisticated city it is today. In what was likely one of his greatest tricks, John Ringling (of Ringling Bros. fame) decided to bring his circus here, plus build a winter residence, art museum, and college - and in doing so, he turned a once struggling town into a glimmering, upscale destination.
Shopaholics will find their niche in the Southside Village neighborhood, where scores of eclectic boutiques - like RHA Boutique and Fifi's Consignment - can be found. In Gulf Gate, check out the burgeoning craft brewing scene at Mr. Beery's or Kazu 2.0. And for foodies, head to North Trail, where the Tamiami Cultural District offers up a passport-free culinary trip around the world.
Nevertheless, Sarasota isn't just for the elite - there's plenty to do here on a shoestring budget. Stick your toes in the sand at Siesta Beach, one of the top beaches in the country. You can spend the day as a sun worshipper or enjoy the night scene here with plenty of (free) live music every Sunday night at sunset. Or, check out the arts scene on Palm Avenue and Towles Court, which are lined with eclectic galleries. (They also both host free art walks once a month.)
The economy here is definitely geared toward tourism, local businesses, and beautifying the city. But it's also home to a wealth of comprehensive medical research, thanks to the facilities at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Its leading clinical research service conducts studies focusing on lung disease, cardiology and vascular disease, geriatric medicine, and many other fields - leading to groundbreaking innovations (including a Robotic Surgery Program).
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