Sarasota with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

by Mary Malahy, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Aug 30th 2010 07:25 PM

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Sarasota with Kids: A Family Vacation

Alamy

Sarasota, Fla., is an ideal destination for one of your tribe's best family vacations. Kids of all ages will love its charm and magic. There truly is something for every age and interest. I first experienced the enchantment of the city at 9 months old, and I have been lucky enough to return every year since. My fondest childhood memories consist of chasing seagulls down Lido Beach, enjoying family dinners on St. Armands Circle and splashing through the waves in the Gulf. Follow this plan for enjoying Sarasota with kids.


Morning


Since youngsters usually wake up bright and early, make the most of that early morning time by grabbing breakfast at a local restaurant. Try the Helmsley Sandcastle's Coffee Shop, which serves breakfast from 7AM to 11AM and is located on Lido Beach. The restaurant is part of the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel, but you don't need to be a guest to dine there. Feel free to wear your beach attire, as the restaurant is casual and offers outdoor seating, allowing you to perch next to the pool and take in the ocean view. Check out the menu at Helmsley Coffee Shop.

The Helmsley Sandcastle
1540 Ben Franklin Drive
Sarasota, Florida 34236
941-388-2181

Next, hit the beach for a morning stroll. Take in the beauty as the sun gradually lights up the sky and rises over the white sandy beach. You may even get a chance to enjoy a peaceful morning, since the early tide is ideal for searching for seashells and will surely occupy the kids.

A Sarasota family vacation with kids isn't complete without a walk on the wild side. Check out Jungle Gardens for both education and entertainment. The park features tropical animals and vegetation. Catch the tropical bird show at noon and be awed by the intelligence of these fine feathered creatures. The park also features a "Kiddie Jungle," which will allow the kids to expend their energy on a jungle gym and tree house. Don't forget the camera, as the park offers plenty of family photo opportunities. You may even get a shot of your child with a tropical bird perched on his or her arm. The park is open from 10AM to 5PM every day except for Christmas and Thanksgiving Day. Adult admission is $15, $10 for children ages 3 to 12, free for those under 2 and $14 for seniors, ages 60 and up.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens
3701 Bay Shore Road
Sarasota, Florida 34234
941-355-5305 or Toll Free 877-861-6547


Afternoon


Grab lunch in the form of sandwiches, fries, and ice cream at the snack bar at Lido Key's public beach. Treat yourself to an ice-cold beer as well. Then change into your swimsuit and enjoy some down time on the beach. The kids can nap in the sun, build sandcastles and swim in the ocean. Encourage them to play in the waves and ride the tide. Strap on some flippers and goggles, dive in the Gulf and see what shells and animal life you can find for the best in enjoying Sarasota with kids. Check out this map for directions.

Looking for things to do in Sarasota with the kids when they need a break from the sun? Take them to Mote Marine Laboratory to experience dolphins, sharks, manatees, sea turtles and hundreds of different kinds of fish. Your kids will love the touch pools that allow them to pet a variety of wildlife, including stingrays. The aquarium is open from 10AM to 5PM everyday, including holidays. Admission for adults ages 12 and older is $17, for children between the ages of 4 and 12 is $12, children under 4 are admitted free and those over 65 get in for $16.

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
1600 Ken Thompson Parkway
Sarasota, Florida 34236
941-388-4441

Once you peel the kids away from the aquarium, head back to your hotel for a nap and shower. If you're lucky enough to be staying on the beach, you can munch on appetizers and sip drinks while you take in the gorgeous sunset of Sarasota.


Evening


Sarasota family travel with kids can't be considered complete without a night of family fun at St. Armands Circle. The circle is adorned with shops and restaurants with fun things to do in Sarasota for the whole family. Walk around and enjoy the unique products found in the diverse collection of stores. You'll find everything from clothing and jewelry to decorations, souvenirs, and toys. Eat at the casual and fun Cha Cha Coconuts. Visit (http://www.chacha-coconuts.com/menu.aspx) to view the menu. The restaurant has kid-friendly food, moderate prices and often features a live band. The outdoor tables offer a great opportunity to people watch. If you are looking for a more formal dining experience, try Tommy Bahama, also located on the circle. Visit (http://www.tommybahama.com/TBG/Stores_Restaurants/Restaurants/Sarasota.jsp) to make a reservation or view the menu. Top off the perfect meal with a scoop of delicious ice cream from one of the many ice cream shops, such as Ben and Jerry's, ScoopDaddy's or Kilwin's, on the circle.

Cha Cha Coconuts
417 Saint Armands Circle
Sarasota, Florida 34236
941-388-3300

Tommy Bahama
300 John Ringling Boulevard
Sarasota, Florida 34236
941-388-2888

Ben and Jerry's
372 A Saint Armands Circle
Sarasota, Florida 34236
941-388-5226

ScoopDaddy's
19C N Boulevard of the Presidents
Sarasota, Florida 34236
941-388-1650

Kilwin's
312 John Ringling Boulevard
Sarasota, Florida 34236
941-388-3200

Don't worry about giving the kids sugar so close to bedtime. After your fun-filled Sarasota family vacation day, your children are sure to be tuckered out and ready for bed as soon as you hit the hotel!




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