Sarasota with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

by Megan Champion, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 4th 2010 11:24 AM

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Sarasota with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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Warm, sandy, breezy Sarasota, Fla. offers pristine beaches and numerous attractions that are perfect for the whole family. Here is a closer look at the best way to enjoy Sarasota with tweens.


Morning

Don't let the dated decor throw you off; the Blue Dolphin Cafe serves up delicious entrees that hover around $8 each. It is the perfect place to start your family vacation in Sarasota. Breakfast includes farm fresh eggs delivered daily from a Sarasota farm, crispy corned beef hash, and banana granola pancakes topped with fresh strawberries. Service is quick, friendly, and many portions are enough for two to share.

Blue Dolphin Cafe, 470 John Ringling Blvd, Sarasota, FL 34236; 941-388-3566; Daily 7AM-3PM; $3-$9

They say that if you can sit, you can fly and fly you should. Even children can experience the thrill of sailing up above the open blue water with Siesta Key Water Sports. The kids will never forget the exhilarating views from up in the air, gliding with the wind while they see the coastline from a whole new perspective. Take off and land on the boat so you never have to get wet unless you want to. A family of four can all go up together if they like or take turns one by one. Any way you plan it, it's an enjoyable two-hour trip on the boat and you are sure to see dolphins splashing in the water. Don't forget your camera, sun block, and towel and enjoy one of the best vacation ideas in Sarasota.

Siesta Key Water Sports, 1536 Stickney Point Rd, Sarasota, FL 34231; 941-921-3030; Daily sun-up to sundown (depending on season/winds)

Continue the aquatic theme and make a trip to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium where the kids can feed manta rays and pick up sea urchins in touch pools. There are many lively animals on exhibit -- manatees, sharks and sea turtles to name a few. Visit the playful dolphins in the tank across the street, where you can watch them feeding and learn more about these incredible creatures. Mote is a laboratory where teams of field specialists are working to discover more about the ocean and helping care for its inhabitants. The mix of education and entertainment makes the Mote one of the most interesting things to do in Sarasota.

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236; 941-388-4441; Daily 10AM-5PM; Adults (over 12) $17, Seniors (over 65) $16, Youth (4-12) $12, Children (under 4) Free

Afternoon

Vibrant tropical colors will remind you of the Caribbean. Listen to island music and enjoy a panoramic rooftop view of the crystal clear water and neighboring piers. There are kid friendly favorites on the menu at Cha Cha Coconuts, including popcorn shrimp and chicken cheese BLTs. You may want to sample the fish tacos with roasted corn and black bean salsa or seafood gumbo. Great food and live music every Saturday make this restaurant the perfect place for a quick bite while enjoying Sarasota with tweens.

Cha Cha Coconuts, 417 Saint Armands Cr, Sarasota, FL 34236; 941-388-3300

At the Ringling Museum of Art, collections of American, Asian, and European paintings, sculptures, and artifacts provide hours of entertainment. Of course there is also the elaborate Ca' d'Zan Mansion with its 56 rooms of Italian splendor – "the last of the Gilded Age mansions." But everyone knows that kids come to the Ringling Museum to see the faded storybook circus posters, the ornate costumes, painted wooden circus wagons, and the most impressive exhibit of all, a miniature circus where even the tiny cash registers have been filled with even tinier currency. Leave no stone unturned as you and your family examine the delightful display of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey at its finest, 50 years in the making. The grounds of the museum are lush with water features and even more art, making the museum one of the best family vacation ideas in Sarasota.

Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243; 941-359-5700; Daily 10AM-5PM, Adults $25, Children (6-17) $10, Children (under 6) free, Mondays free for everyone

Cars are fun no matter what your age, though kids especially seem to go gaga for these life-size Matchboxes from Technicolor to chrome. On display at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum is a variety of celebrity cars like John Lennon's psychedelic Bentley along with pristine Alfa Romeos, DeLoreans, Edsels, and Ferraris. The Timeline Room tells the story of the car from its invention in 1885 to today's car.

Sarasota Classic Car Museum, 5500 N Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL 34243; 941-355-6228; Daily 9AM-6PM; Adults $8.50, Children (6-12) $6.50, Seniors (62+) $7.50, 5 and under free

Evening

It's been a long day and the family wants good food without a hassle. Lazy Lobster is kid friendly without sacrificing good cuisine. A comfortable restaurant with a vast menu, Lazy Lobster features entrees including tantalizing scallops in a citrus créme sauce, lobster macaroni and cheese, and hot fried shrimp with tossed sweet chili sauce and blue cheese, a menu favorite. Lazy Lobster offers something for even the pickiest eater. The restaurant is a must-visit when spending a day in Sarasota with tweens.

Lazy Lobster, 7602 N Lockwood Ridge Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243; 941-351-5515; Daily 4PM-9PM

I have three distinct and vibrant memories of my first trip to Paris, of these is the first time my lips ever touched a macaroon. Le Macaron can afford you that same experience. A lightly crisp shell houses an intense burst of flavor, each colorful medallion more marvelous than the one before. These are not simple cookies, but French expressions of life. Have an evening dessert you will not soon forget and put a sweet end to your family vacation in Sarasota.

Le Macaron, 382 Saint Armands Cr, Sarasota, FL 34236; 941-552-8872

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