Merryl Koven on Why Everyone is Flocking to Sarasota
15 residents per day move to Sarasota, Florida. Indeed, Sarasota is the second fastest-growing area in the United States, says Merryl Koven on Why Everyone is Flocking to Sarasota
Merryl Koven, a Coldwell Banker Realtor in downtown Sarasota.
Sarasota is on the Gulf of Mexico, south of Tampa Bay. The city limits include several barrier islands (keys) separating Sarasota Bay and the gulf. It has a tropical climate.
So what makes Sarasota so popular? Various factors, including culture, recreational activities, and housing options, make Sarasota a great place to live.
Beaches and Other Recreation
Sarasota offers a wealth of recreational opportunities. Its white sandy Gulf Coast beaches are among the best in the United States, says Koven. One example is Siesta Beach, on Siesta Key, a barrier island off the coast of Sarasota. The beach is 99 percent quartz sand that never burns your feet. Besides sunbathing and swimming, beachgoers play volleyball, fly kites, or look at the wildlife that often appears. The beach is a short drive from downtown Sarasota.
Water-based recreational activities like fishing, rowing, and sailing are popular here. The warm weather also makes other outdoor activities accessible, including golf, hiking, and bicycling.
The Bay Sarasota
The Bay is a park, community, and wildlife conservancy downtown along US 41 between 10th Street and Boulevard of the Arts. “The Bay Park is transforming Sarasota and is a huge attraction,” says Merryl Koven.
Sarasota Magazine named the park’s Mangrove Bayou Walkway the best new walk in town. Besides walking, self-guided activities are biking, paddling, or watching the sunset. The Bay also features free programs, including:
- Sundays at the Bay
- Nature Walks
- Kayak Tours
- Meditation Classes
Sarasota is full of diverse cultural riches, offering something for everyone, according to Koven.
Performing arts thrive in the city. Venues include
- Asolo Repertory Theater
- Circus Arts Conservatory
- Florida Studio Theatre
- Jazz Club of Sarasota
- La Musica
- The Players Centre for the Performing Arts
- Sarasota Ballet
- Sarasota Contemporary Dance
- Sarasota Orchestra
- Sarasota Youth Opera
- Urbanite Theatre
- Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
- Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
Many of the venues have a rich history. For example, the Van Wezel auditorium was designed by Taliesin Associated Architects, a firm founded by students of Frank Lloyd Wright to carry on his work. Keating Theatre, owned by Florida Studio Theatre, was founded in 1903 and is one of the oldest surviving Sarasota buildings. It served as a library and community center under the auspices of the Sarasota Women’s Club until 1976. When the Woman’s Club relocated, a local art patron bought and sold the building to the Florida Studio Theatre. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
Sarasota also has a symphony orchestra and a symphonic chorus.
Visual arts also thrive. The area boasts several galleries and artist collectives. It also features the Sarasota Art Museum and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The Ringling Museum has more than 10,000 objects, including paintings, prints, drawings, and decorative art from around the world. Its Peter Paul Rubens collection is well-known and particularly extensive. The Ringling campus also includes a circus museum and the Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion, which exhibits studio glass art.
The city also started the nation’s first street painting festival in 2010, called the Sarasota Chalk Festival, now an annual event.
Sarasota also has a rich history of filmmaking. For example, Cecil B. DeMille filmed The Greatest Show on Earth in Sarasota in 1952. The annual Sarasota Film Festival attracts independent filmmakers from around the world.
Wildlife and Nature
Sarasota also offers opportunities to observe nature and wildlife, says Merryl Koven. Various native plants, including the cabbage palm and railroad vine, are on view in Bayfront Park. Nature centers are in nearby Lemon Bay Park and Shamrock Park. Nearby Bayonne, Otter Key, and Circus Hammock are natural areas frequented by birding enthusiasts. Kayakers can explore mangrove tunnels on Lido Key. The Big Cat Habitat Gulf Coast Sanctuary is a 20-minute drive from downtown.
Of particular interest are the 15-acre Selby Botanical Gardens, right in the city center, says Koven. The gardens house 6,000 species of orchids, a rainforest, and a botanical museum.
Fine Dining and Nightlife
Sarasota is an excellent location for foodies or even those who enjoy an occasional fine dinner with partners or friends, says Koven. The area includes all styles of cuisine. Downtown’s favorite fine dining restaurants include the Bijou Garden Café (continental) and Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse. Moderately-priced favorite spots are Indigenous Restaurant (New American) and the Selva Grill (Latin Fusion). Nearby are Harry’s Continental Kitchens on Longboat Key and Café Europe on St. Armand’s Circle, a unique shop and dining location. Ophelia’s on the Bay and Roessler’s offer excellent food and views, Koven says.
Nightlife options are also plentiful. The Sarasota area offers several beach clubs. Popular downtown spots include O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill, which provides entertainment most nights, and The Gator Club, which offers live entertainment five nights a week.
Housing Options: Merryl Koven on Top Neighborhoods
Sarasota offers various housing options that suit almost any lifestyle, including condos, villas, beachfront estates, and single-family homes. According to Merryl Koven, some of the top neighborhoods are
- Downtown. The neighborhood is highly walkable to the beach, parks, fine dining, theaters, and essentials such as grocery stores and pharmacies. Most downtown homes are condos with bayfront views.
- Siesta Key. The eight-mile island south of downtown features beaches, shops, and restaurants. Condos and single-family homes prevail.
- Longboat Key/St. Armand’s Circle. The neighborhood includes a 130-unit shopping and restaurant destination and the Longboat Key Club tennis and golf resort. Most single-family homes are custom-built. High-rise condos are also available.
- Gillespie Park. The neighborhood is a highly-walkable artsy area north of downtown. It features several homes from the 1920s and 1930s and mid-century and modern homes.
- Lakewood Ranch. The award-winning master-planned community of 30 neighborhoods and 11 villages is about 25 minutes from downtown. Most homes are single-family or villas.