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Florida’s Hottest Ticket – Why You Should Visit Sarasota

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Florida’s hottest ticket – why you should visit Sarasota

Anthea Gerrie discovers why Sarasota’s circus history and cultured present make for the perfect Sunshine State escape


It’s Florida but not as we think we know it. Fewer palms, fewer pina coladas and barely any bling to speak of but bags of charm and culture. No wonder Sarasota has attracted enough Jews to fill 15 synagogues, as well as helping found or support its professional ballet, symphony orchestra, opera house, art museums and string of theatres.

“When I was researching my history of the community I was amazed at what Jewish arrivals did to make their new home a culture hub,” says Kimberley Sheintal, president of Sarasota’s Jewish Genealogical Society and author of a book about the area’s Jews.

Perhaps uniquely, this town on Florida’s west coast caters equally for culture vultures and beach bums; bridges connect the city centre to the lovely islands surrounding Sarasota, where it’s easy to get sand between your toes on wild, white powder beaches.

And with Sarasota’s airport currently expanding, direct flights from both London and Manchester are expected before too long, so now is the time to visit Florida’s best-kept secret.

Set aside at least a week to do it all justice. Quite apart from Sarasota’s big attractions and cultural scene, you’ll want to save time to relax at the waterfront bars and restaurants, browse the vintage shopping scene and explore the lively weekend farmer’s market, which has attracted locals, their dogs and street musicians for the past 43 years.

Even if you booked tickets for every matinee and evening show available, it would be impossible to see all the live performances taking place.

In one month alone, the list of 100 things to see included touring productions of two Broadway musicals, a local interpretation of The Lehman Trilogy and concerts by Paul Anka, Rick Springfield and the Righteous Brothers, supplemented by more niche events such as the annual Jewish film festival, a cantors’ benefit concert for Israel and a new play at the Sarasota Jewish Theatre.

Start by getting your bearings on the 90-minute trolley ride organised by Discover Sarasota Tours, telling the history of the city, which was settled by emigrant Scots in the 1880s and later endowed with its current riches by two of the Ringling brothers of circus fame.

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