Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Sarasota, FL

  • Published 2022/11/08

Sarasota is a beautiful city in Florida nestled along a section of the Gulf of Mexico.

It is an incredibly picturesque city, which you’ll immediately notice even from a plane.

Sarasota is one of the best destinations for a seaside trip because of its white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and charming downtown area.

Today, many people flock to this city to experience its pristine beaches and diverse cultural sights.

Sarasota was originally a bay where Americans and Cubans traded back in 1821.

Apart from its beaches, Sarasota is also famous for some of the oldest properties in the state, some of which are landmarks tourists also love to visit.

The city is a popular destination for everyone, where visitors can enjoy world-class museums and art galleries, beautiful beaches and parks, exciting nightlife, and delicious restaurants.

The best part about this is that you can enjoy many of the exciting activities in the city without spending a dime!

Here are the free things to do in Sarasota, Florida.

Strike a Pose with the Iconic Unconditional Surrender Statue at Bayfront Park

Unconditional Surrender statue at Bayfront Park

GagliardiPhotography /

Head down to Bayfront Park and find the famous Unconditional Surrender Statue while taking the breathtaking sight of the waters!

Located on Bayfront Drive, Bayfront Park is a gorgeous outdoor area owned and managed by the city’s Parks and Recreation District.

You can find bicycle and hiking trails, picnic areas, play areas, and restaurants at this park.

This park is also pet-friendly and great for spending quality time with your furry best friend.

People at Bayfront Park

Heidi Besen /

The most popular feature of the park is the Unconditional Surrender statue.

This 25-foot sculpture depicts a sailor kissing a nurse, inspired by Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photograph “V-J Day in Time Square.”

While this statue has garnered mixed reactions, it still stands as a symbol of “Americanism” and an homage to the veterans of the Second World War.

Come to Bayfront Park and pose with this iconic statue!

Entrance to Bayfront Park

Heidi Besen /

Enter Paradise at Bayfront Gardens

Bayfront Gardens is a stunning tourist destination in Sarasota that offers visitors plenty of reasons to stay!

This gorgeous area on Bayshore Road inside the magnificent Ringling Estate features several different gardens with diverse plant life.

You will be awe-struck by the beauty of the gardens as you meander down the scenic pathways that connect them.

As you shelter from the sun under the towering Banyan trees around the garden, you can check out all the different sections filled with varying plants.

Watch vibrant pink, and red flowers bloom as you enjoy the fragrance at the Rose Garden!

You can also visit the resting place of the people who once owned this property at the Secret Garden.

If you’d like to learn more about different tree species and how to care for them, you can stop by the Arboretum.

Stop by Bayfront Gardens on a Monday to explore this stunning area for free!

Spot Rare Birds and Other Wildlife in Celery Fields

A wild bird at Celery Fields

Wirestock Creators /

Celery Fields is a gorgeous place to take in nature while spotting rare birds and other wildlife!

This fantastic park is on Palmer Boulevard and comprises wetlands, grassy areas, and trails.

Aside from being a public area great for outdoor adventures, Celery Fields is also the main area in Sarasota County that collects stormwater.

With its location on the Great Florida Birding Trail, this is the perfect place to go birdwatching or wildlife spotting!

Trail at Celery Fields

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Many locals and visitors visit this area to try and spot rare birds and other extraordinary species.

Apart from this, there are also numerous trails for bikers and hikers who want to explore this vast area.

Celery Fields is also pet-friendly, so this is an excellent area to visit if you want to bring the whole family together to explore!

Sunset behind a bird at Celery Fields

Danita Delimont /

See the Art of Distilling at Siesta Key Rum

A visit to Siesta Key Rum is perfect for those interested in touring an operational alcohol distillery!

Located on Industrial Boulevard, Siesta Key Rum is a company in Sarasota known for its extraordinary handcrafted rums.

This company can create exceptional rum in small batches by infusing natural food ingredients.

If you want to learn more about their process, you can join their tours for free!

This rum distillery offers free tours lasting approximately 45 minutes to an hour.

Take an intimate look at how they make their award-winning rum during the distilling process.

The best part is you can stop by their tasting room and sample their exquisite rums before the tour!

Sip on your drink of choice, spiced or coffee rum, before learning about the distillation process!

Have a Picnic at South Lido Park

Bench overlooking the waters of South Lido Park

Ken Schulze /

South Lido Park is a local favorite picnic spot you should not miss during your stay in Sarasota!

This park is on Benjamin Franklin Drive and offers visitors stunning water views.

Not to mention it’s also a great place to catch some rays and relax for the day.

South Lido Park spans 100 acres and contains many habitats formed by its surrounding areas, including the Big Sarasota Pass, Gulf of Mexico, Brushy Bayou, and Sarasota Bay.

Kayaking at South Lido Park

Ken Schulze /

The park is a popular destination for many who want to enjoy its various recreational activities.

You can catch some rays while swimming in the waters or go hiking in the green areas.

Bird watchers will also enjoy this park because of the diverse wildlife around the area!

If you want to spend time with your family, you can have a meal in one of the picnic areas within the park.

Watch the Stunning Sunset at Ken Thompson Park

Ken Thompson Park is the best place to witness Sarasota’s golden hour and breathtaking sunset.

Nestled on Ken Thompson Parkway, this beautiful waterfront park provides stunning water and skyline views.

In addition, it’s also an ideal place for fishing, walking, or simply sitting on a bench and taking in the fresh air.

There are numerous trails at this park where people can break a sweat or take a peaceful walk while appreciating the natural environment.

You can also bring your fishing poles because there is an area where you can cast your line and catch fish.

If you have kids with you, you can bring them to a playground within the park.

Bring all your loved ones and wait for the sun to set as you watch by the waters at Ken Thompson Park!

Remember the Heroes at Sarasota National Cemetery

Daytime view of Sarasota National Cemetery

Charles Patrick Ewing /

Sarasota National Cemetery is an idyllic spot to remember and show gratitude to the brave men and women who gave their lives for the country.

This national cemetery on State Road 72 provides an honorable, tranquil setting for those who want to pay tribute to the heroic men and women who have served the nation.

It is one of the seven National Cemeteries in Florida, the resting place of 21,121 honorable veterans.

Sarasota National Cemetery is incredibly well-kept and provides stunning views of the surrounding area.

Flowers left on a grave at Sarasota National Cemetery

Ken Schulze /

You can walk along the memorial walkway in this cemetery and appreciate the surroundings with your loved ones.

If you’d like, you can also show support by giving monetary help to the families of the heroic veterans who now lie in the cemetery.

Tours of the Patriot Plaza are also available, where you can check out some of the artworks in the arena.

Birds at Sarasota National Cemetery

Ken Schulze /

See Extraordinary Artworks at the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy

Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy is the perfect place to see exciting and unusual artwork.

The museum, located on Tamiami Trail, houses a diverse and unique collection of art pieces.

When you first see the museum’s exterior, you’ll know you’re in for a one-of-a-kind art experience because of its vibrant color and unique architecture.

With its dedication to raising the significance of Whimsical Art and the creative spirit, this museum displays numerous works by highly talented artists.

This museum was established in 2006 and has entertained its guests with numerous artworks.

Here, you can check out unique sculptures, exquisite stained glass works, and cheerful paintings that might even make you laugh.

There is also a garden where flamingos, a boat, a ballerina, and many other whimsical sculptures are displayed.

The Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy is the perfect place to go if you love art and appreciate unique creative works.

Catch Some Rays at Siesta Key Beach

Aerial view of Siesta Key Beach

Suncoast Aerials /

If you want to spend some time by the beach to sunbathe or swim, head to Siesta Key Beach!

Ranked as the number one beach in the country, this world-famous beach is known for its beautiful white, powdery sand.

Compared to other beaches with sand made from pulverized corals, Siesta Key Beach boasts sand made of 99% quartz that originates from the Appalachians.

Siesta Key Beach is the perfect place to have fun under the sun.

Sand sculptures at Siesta Key Beach

Ken Schulze /

Siesta Key Beach offers visitors an escape from their mundane daily routine, allowing them to relax and recharge on their trip.

Explore the whole beach by riding the free trolley from point to point.

You can also play beach volleyball or any other beach sport and engage in friendly competition with your loved ones!

If you want to unwind fully, you can bring a book or nap as you lay down on the white sand while listening to the gentle crashing of the waves.

Volleyball net at Siesta Key Beach

dmitry_islentev /

Feast Your Eyes on the Artworks at the Ringling Museum of Art

The grounds of Ringling Museum of Art

Mia2you /

A trip to the Ringling Museum of Art is perfect for anyone who loves art.

Situated on Bay Shore Road, this museum houses some of the most significant art collections in the country.

Art enthusiasts will surely enjoy the breathtaking and captivating artworks in the museum.

Check out treasured artworks that have impacted history in the Ringling Museum of Art.

Sculpture at the Ringling Museum of Art

Michael Gordon /

There are also numerous exhibitions from all over the globe on display.

Extraordinary sculptures and many other works are also in the courtyard.

Schedule your visit on a Monday to witness beautiful art pieces for free.

Art piece in the Ringling Museum of Art

Michael Gordon /

Break a Sweat at Payne Park

Payne Park is the perfect place to go if you want to get active and have fun with your loved ones.

This recreational park, located on Adams Lane, offers its visitors numerous areas where they can enjoy different recreational activities.

Indulge in a game of disc golf with your family and friends at the disc golf course within the park!

You can also join your kids in the circus-inspired play areas where you can find rock climbing structures, a splash area, swings, and many more.

If you love to skate, you must visit this park because it has a skating facility!

Once you get tired from all the fun activities you can do here. You can rest and have a snack at the picnic areas at Payne Park.

Stroll along the Shore of Lido Key Beach

Aerial view of Lido Key Beach

Ruth Peterkin /

Of all the possible beaches you could visit in Sarasota, Lido Key Beach guarantees a laid-back and relaxing day.

Located on Benjamin Franklin Drive, Lido Key Beach offers an exceptional place perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and many other recreational activities.

Splash around its clear sand and quiet waters!

The waters of Lido Key Beach

Billy McDonald /

Take a dip into the clear waters at this beach and float over its small and gentle waves!

You can also lay down a towel and catch some rays as you read a book or take a quick nap after swimming.

The shore along the beach is also perfect if you want to take a relaxing stroll with your friends or partner.

Silhouette of people at Lido Key Beach during sunset

Nicole Glass Photography /

Join the Outdoor Exercise Classes at Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy

Continue to get active and have fun while exercising at Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy!

Situated on Nathan Benderson Circle, this community park houses North America’s top 2000-meter rowing course and regatta area.

This park is a world-class recreational facility and rowing center for many athletes.

It is an excellent destination for watching different recreational events, water sports competitions, and many more!

If you visit at the right time, you might even get the chance to join this facility’s regular outdoor exercise programs!

You can also roam around and explore while gazing at the beautiful surroundings around the Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy.

Find Baby Turtles at Turtle Beach

Sunset at Turtle Beach

Veronica Brignone /

If you hope to see some turtles while in Sarasota, you should visit Turtle Beach!

This beach on Midnight Pass Road is ideal for those who enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and fishing.

Turtle Beach has become a nesting habitat for sea turtles, hence the name.

If you visit the area from around May 1st until October 31st, you might be lucky enough to see turtle nests all around the beach.

However, if you visit before or after the turtle season, you will still enjoy your day at Turtle Beach!

You can go swimming, fishing in the nearby waters, or even boating with your loved ones.

There are also picnic areas within the beach where you can dine on a hot meal before engaging in fun recreational activities.

Spoil Your Inner Bookworm at the Selby Public Library

Exterior of the Selby Public Library

Heidi Besen /

Continue your adventure in Sarasota by visiting the Selby Public Library!

The library on First Street is the perfect place to go if you want a peaceful afternoon.

You can find your favorite book there or enjoy the silence as you browse the shelves.

Entrance to the Selby Public Library

Heidi Besen /

Established in 1907, the Selby Public Library was first constructed in Sarasota County.

You can find academic research, vintage works, or notable titles at this library.

Pick an exciting book and let your mind wander as you relax and read in the comfort of this historic facility.

Final Thoughts

Sarasota is a gorgeous city that has something for everyone.

This vibrant city has plenty of activities and attractions for everyone, whether you’re looking to get active or want to explore the area’s rich history and culture.

Keep these free things to do in Sarasota, Florida, in mind, and make the most of your visit!

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