The Greater Sarasota and Venice areas are the cultural jewels of Southwest Florida. There are many venues that can satisfy the various tastes of any visitor or resident. Here are but a few examples:
John Ringling, the circus magnate of the early 20th century was not only a very successful business man, but also a great collector of art, especially Renaissance and Baroque art. While traveling all over Europe, he bought and shipped to America thousands of outstanding paintings, sculptures, furniture, ancient books and other objects d’art. The State of Florida, through the Florida State University, is now the owner and manager of this wonderful complex, located on 20 acres of painstakingly manicured grounds facing Sarasota Bay. The complex includes among others the Ringling Museum of Art, The Ringling residence Ca’d’Zan, The Historic Asolo Theater, and the Ringling Circus Museum.
The Ringling is located at 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243; 941-359.5700, and more details are available on www.ringling.org. (Photos courtesy The Ringling)
The Ringling Museum of Art
The Museum of Art, built by John Ringling to house his collection of masterpieces, today features paintings and sculptures by the great Old Masters including Rubens, van Dyck, Velázquez, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, El Greco, Gainsborough and more. The European, American and Asian masterworks available here make the Museum of Art an awe-inspiring retreat.
The Asolo Repertory Theater
5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida 34243; 941-351-8000; www.asolorep.org
Asolo Repertory Theatre, Florida’s premier professional theatre, is one of the most important cultural forces in the Southeastern United States. A center for theatrical excellence, Asolo Rep stages up to fifteen productions every season, spanning a diverse repertoire of newly commissioned plays, bold reinterpretations of contemporary and classical works, and provocative new musical theatre experiences. It is a major force in Sarasota’s rich arts scene, whose quality and depth rivals some of the largest urban centers in the country. Its talented and accomplished resident acting company is complemented by top flight, award-winning directors, designers, and guest artists who come to Sarasota from around the country and around the world.
61 North Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, FL, 941-366-8450; www.sarasotaopera.org
The Sarasota Opera House is an intimate venue on the scale of European opera houses, with fewer than 1,200 seats. The acoustics in the theater are superb, and there is not a bad seat in the house. Its small scale means that the audience is closer and more a part of the action than in a larger opera house. Sarasota Opera's repertoire has something for everyone. Each season there is an interesting mix of the familiar and the less well known. The current program includes works such as Il Trovatore, The Barber of Seville, and The Flying Dutchman.
The Sarasota Ballet
5555 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida 34243; 941.359.0099; www.sarasotaballet.org.
The Sarasota Ballet is the Gulf Coast of Florida’s only professional ballet company. Since 1990, under the leadership of Director Iain Webb, the company has grown to national and internationall recognition. Maintaining a diverse repertoire that includes works by world-renowned 20th century choreographers as well as some of the most sought after choreographic talents of today, the Sarasota Ballet offers audience members the unique opportunity to experience ballets that have never been seen in Florida and rarely in America. Presenting both full-length classical ballets and brand-new world-premieres, the Company receives critical acclaim from New York and European press, including for the recent award winning performance at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
777 N. Tamiami Trail Sarasota, FL 34236; 941-953-3368; www.vanwezel.org
Set along Sarasota's beautiful bay front, the landmark Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has been entertaining audiences with a variety of music, dance, theater and comedy for more than 42 years. Since 1970 the Hall has welcomed a broad range of performers and shows, including world-class symphonies, both classical and modern dance companies, jazz artists, pop legends, Comedy and Broadway shows.
And for the nature loving patrons:
The Mote Marine Aquarium
1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota, FL 34236;941-388-4441; www.mote.org
Mote Marine Laboratory has been a leader in marine research since it was founded in 1955. Mote is an independent nonprofit organization and has seven centers for marine research, the public Mote Aquarium and an Education Division specializing in public programs for all ages.
Florida’s Gulf Coast waters aren’t just beautiful for boating — they also provide important habitat for many protected species. Sea turtles are swimming just offshore to mate before the females come ashore to nest, juvenile turtles are feeding along the Gulf Coast, and by early summer the first hatchlings will venture into Gulf waters. Dolphins are giving birth during late spring and summer, and they frequently use shallow waters where they cannot dive below an approaching boa. Manatees are also on the move, returning to our bay waters for foraging and mating.
Mote Farm-Raised Caviar was well received recently during the Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest, a premier event that includes foodies, all-star chefs and some of the best food on the planet.
Mote Caviar was featured as part of the Browne Trading Company’s product lineup, which introduced Palm Beach and visiting foodies to the company’s many fine products.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens 811 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236; 941-366-5731; www.selby.org Marie Selby Gardens’ role is to further the understanding and appreciation of plant life, with an emphasis on epiphytes, and to provide enjoyment to all who visit the Gardens – including a strong emphasis on scientific research, education, horticultural display, and conservation. Our collection of epiphytes is outstanding. We believe that as you visit the Gardens you will take away a better understanding and greater appreciation of plants and their value in our lives.
Historic Spanish Point
337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, FL 34229; 941-966-5214;www.historicspanishpoint.org
Historic Spanish Point is located on 30 beautiful bay-front acres in Osprey, Florida. Here you can learn about the region’s 5000 year prehistory in “A Window to the Past,” the only archaeological exhibition in the nation built inside of a shell mound. Visitors will connect to Florida’s inspiring pioneers at Sarasota’s first produce packing house, a charming chapel and pioneer cemetery, and the beautifully preserved Guptill House, built in 1901.
The Ringling Circus Museum
The Howard Bros. Circus is a ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when the tented circus was at its largest (circa 1919-1938), and occupies 3,800 square feet in the Learning Center, complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 57-car train. The “largest miniature circus in the world” was created over a 50-year time span by master model builder and philanthropist Howard C. Tibbals of Tennessee and Florida.
The Sarasota Film Festival
332 Cocoanut Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236; www.sarasotafilmfestival.com.
Held annually, The Sarasota Film Festival emphasizes the best in cinema alongside exciting programs and events, with more than 180 films screened each year including features, documentaries, shorts, and kid-friendly picks.
Historic Asolo Theater
An 18th-century treasure in a 21st-century venue, the Historic Asolo Theater is a work of art in its own right. The palace playhouse was created in Asolo, Italy in 1798 to honor the 15th-century exiled Queen Catherine Cornaro of Cyprus. In the late 1940s, the theater was dismantled and brought to the Ringling Estate in Sarasota. From this important stage sprang much of the theater, the opera, and the music that distinguishes this Gulf Coast city as one of the nation’s leading cultural centers. Today the theater features a diverse performance schedule including theatre, dance, film, music, and lectures.
The Ringlings' dazzling palatial mansion is a tribute to the American Dream and reflects the splendor and romance of Italy. Described as “the last of the Gilded Age mansions” to be built in America, Ca' d’Zan has 56 incredible rooms filled with art and original furnishings. With its Venetian Gothic architecture, the mansion is a combination of the grandeur of Venice’s Doge’s Palace, combined with the gothic grace of Cà d’Oro, with Sarasota Bay serving as its Grand Canal.
Sarasota Symphony Orchestra
709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236; (941) 953-3434; www.sarasotaorchestra.org.
Anu Tali will officially begin her position as Music Director on August 1, 2013. Tali, 40, will be the fifth music director in the 65-year history of the Orchestra. Tali's first concerts as music director will be November 8 - 10, 2013 when the Orchestra opens the Masterworks season. She will also assume conducting of the Masterworks 5 concerts, February 20 - 23, 2014.
Oscar Scherer State Park
1843 S. Tamiami Tr, Osprey, Florida 34229;
Fifteen miles of trails through these beautiful natural areas provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and wildlife viewing. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle along South Creek, a blackwater stream that flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The Park is well known for its population of Florida Scrub-Jays which can be found throughout the parks Scrubby Flatwoods Plant Community. Other Species of wildlife including Bobcats, Bald Eagles, Gopher Tortoises, White-tailed Deer, Eastern Cotton-tail Rabbits, Raccoons and American Alligators can be seen at times in different areas of the park.