If you're a history buff, you'll find a multitude of Sarasota things to do that relate to the area's history. Pioneers predate the city's 1902 incorporation and, before them, native Americans called the city on the Gulf home. While staying at a Sarasota Inn you'll find yourself surrounded by the rich history of Sarasota.
John and Mable Ringling Estate
5401 Bay Shore Road
Sarasota, Florida 34243
When it comes to "must-sees" in Sarasota, things to do include the Ringling Museum. If the name "Ringling" makes you think of the circus, you've got the right man. When you visit the Ringling Estate you'll learn that there's much more to the man than clowns and trapeze artists. John and Mable Ringling broke ground to build the Cà d' Zan, a Venetian mansion that translates to "House of John," on Sarasota Bay in 1924 and finished construction the following year. The magnificent 56-room home has 41 rooms, 15 bathrooms and five stories. It also has a basement, a rarity along Florida's coastline.
In 1927, John Ringling made Sarasota the winter home for his circus and opened the Circus museum on estate grounds in 1948. Moving the circus to Sarasota established the town as the circus capital of the world, and many other circuses still winter in Sarasota. The Ringling Clown College still trains clowns not far from the estate. The museum is the only place on the property that gives any indication of Ringling's career.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art opened in 1931. The Ringling art collection includes works by Peter Paul Reubens, 17th-century Italian art, and Flemish painters. It also houses traveling exhibits.
The grounds, museum and mansion all make this one of Florida's most fascinating pieces of history, close to your Sarasota Bed and Breakfast.
Gamble Plantation State Park
3708 Patten Avenue
Ellenton, Florida 34222
It may not be as quaint as your Sarasota Inn, but this 1840 antebellum mansion is the only remaining plantation house in Florida. Major Robert Gamble, an instrumental part of Florida's sugar history, had a sugar mill here as well. Some historians speculate that Judah P. Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of State, hid at this plantation until he could escape to England after the Civil War. In the 1920s the Daughters of the Confederacy donated the house and surrounding acreage to the state of Florida. The State Park system still maintains the house and grounds and gives guided tours several times a day.
Historic Spanish Point
337 North Tamiami Trail
Osprey, Florida 34229
In Sarasota, things to do almost 6,000 years ago didn't include tours of museums and mansions but the Seminoles (the first visitors to the area) nonetheless found the area fascinating. Seminoles, refugees from a mixture of other native American tribes, moved south to Florida. You can learn more about the ancients and the Seminoles at Historic Spanish Point, which also tells the stories of earlier pioneers and the city founders. The big draw to this historic sight is a preserved shell midden (trash heap) from the Archaic period (between 3,200 and 5,900 years ago). The exhibit takes you through the midden (glassed in to preserve the mound) and talks about what archaeologists learned from this site.