Under the Big Top
Miles from Naples: 117
With a history entwined with the circus industry, Sarasota marries whimsical allure with beachfront fun. For a getaway that mimics what you love about Naples (sub Palm Beach) but still feels like an escape, venture to this neighboring (sub Gulf Coast) city for arts and culture, shopping, and powder-sand beaches.
See + Do: The Ringling estate (ringling.org), the heart of the Sarasota arts scene, began when circus magnate John Ringling and his wife, Mable, purchased waterfront property here in 1911. Today, it encompasses the Museum of Art, the Ca’ d’Zan mansion (ringling.org/ca-dzan), 66 acres of beautiful gardens, and more. Plan at least a full day to explore, then wind down with a private sunset sail with Catherine’s Florida Charters (catherinesfloridacharters.com) on Longboat Key.
Stay: If you haven’t been to Sarasota in some time, get reacquainted with The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota (ritzcarlton.com/sarasota), which underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation less than two years ago. It also ranks among the Top Resorts in Florida (Gulf) in the latest Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. To unwind and rejuvenate from head to toe, try the spa’s unique Lemongrass Bamboo massage that features energizing aromatherapy, warmed bamboo to roll out tension, plus a scalp massage and lemongrass foot exfoliation.
Eat: Enjoy a waterfront view at The Ritz-Carlton’s Jack Dusty restaurant to savor impeccably prepared seafood and steak dishes. If you always pass on the bread basket, make an exception for the Naval Brown Bread, lightly kissed with molasses, baked in a can, and served with rum butter. The Siren is a must-order craft cocktail with a citrusy explosion of flavor poured over ice cubes made of orchid, cranberry, and grapefruit—so the drink evolves as the cubes dissolve. Beware: it packs a punch and is big enough to share.
About a half-mile stroll from The Ritz, the veggie-centric Lila restaurant (lilasrq.com) features an open kitchen, a casual hipster vibe, and a creative menu based on locally sourced organic ingredients. With everything from a grilled avocado-farro bowl to zucchini linguini, there are many vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options—plus sustainable-meat dishes for omnivores.
Shop: St. Armands Circle (starmandscircleassoc.com) is the town’s shopping mecca that sprawls out in four directions from Central Park, which is also where you’ll find the Circus Ring of Fame (circusringoffame.org), a tribute to famous circus performers reflected in bronze wagon wheel plaques that line the park’s outer sidewalk.
Don’t Miss: Get lost in childhood memories when viewing the 44,000-piece replica of the “biggest show on earth,” featuring exquisite vignettes of miniature circus wagons and tents, performers in action, and hand-carved animals. (ringling.org/circus-museum)