Sarasota – Luxury Living on Florida’s Gulf Coast
Sarasota, one of Florida’s primary Gulf Coast cities, offers visitors an eclectic blend of culture and fine dining, circus thrills and pristine beaches, and a wide array of shopping opportunities.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota pays homage to the Ringlings, the family behind America’s most famous circus. Check out the old costumes, wagons, and the world’s largest miniature circus. Art lovers can appreciate the largest collections of Rubens canvasses in the world right in Sarasota, plus works by Old Masters.
You can also tour Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, a magnificent 56-room Venetian Gothic palace and the Ringlings’ old family home.
Fine shopping is available throughout Sarasota, including St. Armand’s Circle close to the coast. Continue Reading…
Sorry we are experiencing system issues. Please try again.
Sarasota is a moderately sized city on the West coast of Florida, roughly 60 miles South of Tampa and St. Petersburg. The city gets its name from the Spanish for ‘a place to dance’, and it is an apt description for a city as spirited and full of life as Sarasota.
The unending sunshine, natural beauty, and rich cultural heritage help to make the city one of the most popular relocation destinations on Florida’s famous Gulf Coast. Add in a vibrant business community and nationally recognized art scene, and you can easily see why so many people are choosing to make Sarasota their new home.
Sarasota’s Early History
In 1851, William H Whitaker was deeded 140-plus acres of land on Sarasota Bay. Whitaker was one of the first Europeans to put down roots in the area, but his attempts to settle the area ultimately came to a disappointing end when Seminole raiders burned down the home he had built at Yellow Bluffs. It was a major setback, but Whitaker remained undaunted.
Determined to realize his ambition, Whitaker began anew, and by the early 1870s he finally succeeded in establishing a permanent settlement in the area. Over the next decade, Whitaker’s settlement would become a booming winter resort surrounded by orange plantations and supporting a local church, post office and public school.
Sarasota’s Scottish Roots
In 1885 a Scottish firm purchased 60,000 acres of land in Sarasota and sent colonists over to develop the area. Unfortunately, the colony was plagued by troubles from the very beginning. Come the turn of the century, after suffering innumerable hardships, many the colonists decided to abandon the colony and they all returned home to Scotland.
Although the colony ultimately proved a failure, the people left an enduring mark on the Gulf Coast of Florida. While struggling to establish themselves in America, the Scottish colonists had built the very first golf course in the Sunshine State. Their ambitions to settle may have been thwarted, but they had all but singlehandedly started Florida’s love affair with the game of golf. Today, Sarasota is home to some of the area’s finest golf courses and golfing communities.
Sarasota’s 20th Century Revival
At the close of the 19th century Colonel John Hamilton Gillespie, a representative of the Florida Mortgage & Investment Company, was sent in to revive the lost settlement. Hamilton began by building a network of roads, establishing a regular steamship connection with Tampa, and constructing the luxurious DeSoto Hotel. When the railroad arrived in 1902 it brought with it a steady influx of tourists and residents. The city was finally up and running.
In 1902 Sarasota was formally incorporated as a town, with John Gillespie installed as its mayor. The next decade would bring continued growth to the area, and in 1913 the region would be incorporated as the City of Sarasota.
During the Roaring 20s, Florida would become a favorite vacation destination for the rich and famous, and Sarasota quickly caught the attention of some very influential people. Wealthy socialite Bertha Palmer soon settled in the area and contributed to the city’s growth by building cattle ranches and citrus farms. In 1929, circus impresario John Ringling would choose Sarasota as the new winter headquarters for his world-renowned Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Sarasota was quickly becoming a star of the Sunshine State.
The Benefits of a Strong and Diverse Economy
Present day Sarasota continues to reflect the ambitions and cultural interests of its founders, and it remains one of the most dynamic cities on the West coast of Florida. Visitors come from all over the country, and all over the world, to bask in Sarasota’s abundant sunshine, lounge on its white sand beaches, and visit some of the area’s world-famous theatres and museums.
Like so much of the Gulf Coast of Florida, tourism forms a large part of the city’s economy. But manufacturing, shipping, and software development are also major contributors and add considerably to Sarasota’s growing economy. It’s one of the many reasons families, as well as retirees, choose the city as their relocation destination. The low unemployment rate and high standard of living help to make Sarasota one of the fastest growing regions on the West coast of Florida.
The Cultural Coast of Florida
Sarasota is well known for its natural beauty and fabulous weather, but it has much more to offer its visitors and residents than just sunshine and sugar-sand beaches. After all, the city’s reputation as the ‘Cultural Coast of Florida’ is well earned and one of the area’s biggest calling cards. The city has something to offer just about everyone, ranging from pop culture to high art.
These are just a sample of the many cultural attractions Sarasota has to offer:
- The Sarasota Opera House
- The Sarasota Ballet
- The Asolo Repertory Theatre
- The Circus Arts Conservatory
- The Sarasota Film Festival
- The Towles Court Artist Colony
And of course, you can’t talk about Sarasota’s art scene without a special mention of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and its world renowned collection of works by Peter Paul Rubens.
Abundant Educational Opportunities
Sarasota’s close relationship with the arts stems from the area’s original founding families. They brought with them a respect for culture and education that continues to this day. Not only does the city have one of the finest public school systems in the state, it’s also home to some of Florida’s most notable colleges and universities.
The Sarasota County Public Schools system consists of 15 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 6 high schools. The Florida Department of Education has given the local school district a well-deserved ‘A’ for excellence, which helps to make the area particularly attractive to families with school-aged children.
Higher education is also well represented in the city with no less than four accredited institutes of higher learning, including:
- New College of Florida
- Keiser University of Sarasota
- Ringling College of Art and Design
- Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training
Sarasota is also home to satellite campuses for Eckard College and the Florida State University College of Medicine.
Plenty of Sunshine and Endless Beaches
If all of this talk of art and education has you longing for a bit of leisure time you should check out some of Sarasota’s award winning beaches. With nearly 35 miles of stunning coastline there’s no shortage of sugar-sand beaches and sun-drenched island getaways.
Let us look at a few of the most popular beaches in the Sarasota area:
- Casey Key – Casey Key is a small island situated between Sarasota and Venice. It is home to Nokomis Beach, the oldest public beach in the county. It is also a favorite vacation spot for more than a few celebrities.
- Lido Key – Close to Sarasota’s downtown district, Lido key consists of three main beaches – North Lido Beach, Lido Beach, and South Lido Beach. North Lido is the more secluded of the three, while South Lido offers public nature trails and a captivating view of the Gulf of Mexico.
- Longboat Key – This barrier island is a mini beach town in itself, with seaside hotels, resorts and rental cottages. The island also has a small but exclusive residential district. Longboat Key is one of the favorite holiday destinations for locals and out-of-towners.
- Siesta Key – This 8-mile island just off the mainland offers three world-class beaches, shopping and dining, tennis, and a public playground. Perfect for families with a taste for sun and surf.
- Venice Beach – Venice Beach is one of the most popular sunbathing spots in the region. The waterfront cafe and shaded picnic tables make it a perfect choice for a lazy afternoon. And don’t forget to bring your furry friends – Venice Beach is the only dog friendly beach in the area.
Where are the Best Places to Live in Sarasota?
Sarasota will leave you spoiled for choice when it comes to finding the perfect neighborhood to suit your lifestyle. The city is a healthy mix of naturally occurring neighborhoods and planned communities, but they all have plenty to offer anyone looking to relocate to one of the most beautiful and desirable destinations on the West coast of Florida.
Let us take a look at some of our favorites:
- Arlington Park – One of Sarasota’s oldest neighborhoods, Arlington Park is a good fit for active families. Home styles range from classic Floridian to modern American. Arlington Park is built around a central village green complete with pool, walking trails, playgrounds, and tennis courts.
- Downtown Sarasota – Traditional Florida bungalows and modern high-rise condominiums rub shoulders in Sarasota’s historic downtown district. Easy access to restaurants, retail shops and boutiques give the district a cosmopolitan flair without sacrificing any of that famous South Florida charm.
- Hidden Creek – Located in East Sarasota, Hidden Creek is a private enclave consisting of one-story and two-story single-family homes. Close to Siesta Key and Downtown Sarasota, Hidden Creek offers family living in an idyllic Florida setting,
- Lakewood Ranch – Lakewood Ranch is an award-winning master-planned community straddling the border of northeastern Sarasota County and southeastern Manatee County. At roughly 50 square miles, Lakewood Ranch is a small town unto itself, offering plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment options for its residents. The ranch itself consists of several smaller subdivisions, making it a healthy mix of retirees, growing families and empty nesters.
- Gillespie Park – Not far from Sarasota’s historic downtown you will find Gillespie Park, one of the city’s most desirable destinations. Florida-style bungalows are a major feature of this quiet and beautiful neighborhood. It is a perfect fit for young professionals who want to enjoy Sarasota’s vibrant downtown nightlife while still maintaining a relaxed and productive lifestyle.
- Southside – Located close to Southside Elementary School, this area is a particularly good fit for young families with school-aged children. The neighborhood offers plenty of walkable areas, as well as playgrounds and parks. Its close proximity to the shops and restaurants of Southside Village gives the area a small-town vibe that will appeal to young couples with growing families.
- Venice – While Venice is a city in its own right, its close proximity to Sarasota and its affordability makes it an attractive choice for young families and retirees moving into the region. As one of the first master-planned communities in the U.S., Venice has a rich architectural and cultural heritage. With lively shopping districts and easy access to local beaches Venice offers Florida living at an affordable price.
- The Lakes – The Lakes is an exclusive deed-restricted community located in the center of Sarasota County. This master-planned community offers luxury living at its finest. Residents have quick and easy access to downtown Sarasota, as well as a direct path to some of the area’s premier beaches including Siesta Key, Lido Key and Longboat Key.
Sarasota’s Vital Statistics
As you can see, Sarasota has a lot to offer new residents as well as seasonal visitors. But how does the city stack up when we look at its vital statistics? Let’s crunch some numbers:
- Sarasota’s current population stands at just under 57,000 permanent residents (of course seasonal part-time residents and snowbirds greatly increase that number in the winter months).
- The average age of Sarasota’s residents is 49.2 years.
- The median income per individual is $29,362.
- The median income per household is $53,669.
- The median home cost is $264,500 (this is lower than the state average though it should be noted that costs in some of the area’s more exclusive communities can be considerably higher).
- The unemployment rate is 4.3% (lower than both state and national averages).
- Sarasota has a strong job market with a predicted growth of 46%.
Finding Your Home on Florida’s Gulf Coast
Sarasota is one of Southwest Florida’s most desirable relocation destinations. Rich in natural beauty, it is a textbook example of what the Sunshine State has to offer both visitors and newly minted residents. If surf and sun is your passion, you’ll quickly fall in love with the area’s many beaches and barrier island hot spots. Fans of sports will find plenty to enjoy with year-round tennis, pickleball and golf, as well as fishing, boating and birding. Art lovers will find an abundance of classical and modern performing arts to satisfy their passions and curiosities.
All of this and more can be found against a backdrop of easy Southern living in a coastal paradise. The strong economy and low unemployment make Sarasota an ideal home for young professionals and growing families, while its rich cultural and natural heritage make it attractive to fresh retirees looking to escape the rat race without giving up any of the excitement and amenities of their city life. Whether you are looking for winter home-away-from-home or a fresh start for you and your growing family, Sarasota has everything you’re hoping for, and more.