Beyond the crystalline waters, world-class beaches and swaying palm trees lies a rarely discovered world involving historical significance, cultural importance and natural exploration. It is among these unique charms that one truly discovers what our area is all about, and why those of us who live here are fortunate to call this slice of paradise home.
Here are the top 10 fun facts and places off the beaten path here in the Sarasota area:
1. Burns Court – Nestled away in downtown Sarasota, in the middle of historic Burns Square, is a small raspberry-colored theater that many people consider a landmark of the surrounding area. After opening its doors in 1993, Burns Court Cinemas has continually proven to be the best place around to find first-run, hand-picked foreign language, independent, and art films. Fun fact: Money Magazine has called Sarasota the best small city in the U.S., and has named Burns Court one of the best places to live in Sarasota. Click HERE to see what’s playing today.
2. Myakka Canopy – One of only about a dozen worldwide where you can walk along the treetops, the Myakka Canopy Walkway puts you 25 feet above the ground and extends 85 feet through the tree tops above the Myakka floor. Fun fact: Completed in June of 2000, it is the only one in the world in a subtropical forest. Click HERE for more information.
3. Paul Rudolph Houses - Take a rare look into one of Florida’s most influential architects and view the early residential works of Paul Rudolph, which were widely published at the time of conception and played a significant role in the culture of mid-twentieth century American design. Fun fact: Rudolph’s Sarasota time is now part of the period labeled Sarasota Modern in his career. Learn where to find them HERE.
4. Blackburn Point Park – Enjoy one of the best bay views in the county here on Little Sarasota Bay, offering some of the finest shallow water fishing in the area (a bait shop is located nearby). This is also a good spot for bird and manatee watching. The park provides canoe/kayak launch points for the South Creek Paddle Trail and Neville Marine Preserve Trail. Be sure to check out the historic one lane swing bridge. Fun fact: The original Blackburn Point Park on the north side of the road is primarily spoil from ICW dredging in the 1960s. Learn more HERE.
5. Sharks’ Teeth – Discover exactly why Venice is considered the Shark’s Tooth Capital of the World at the beautiful, quiet Caspersen Beach. Easily one of the most enjoyable shelling beaches in the area and an exceptionally good place to find prehistoric sharks’ teeth Caspersen also features a serene nature trail through a coastal hammock. The southern two thirds of beachfront were left in its natural state and offer a more secluded experience. Fun fact: The property was originally deeded to Sarasota County by the Caspersen family in 1968, with a stipulation that the land would revert back to the family in 20 years.
6. Historic Spanish Point – Travel back in time by exploring this fascinating 30-acre historical, archaeological and environmental museum on Little Sarasota Bay. Experience prehistory inside A Window to the Past, an archaeology exhibit where you step inside a 15-foot-high shell midden – created by prehistoric people as they discarded shells, animal bones and other refuse. Historic Spanish Point is a significant environmental site, and the museum has worked diligently to remove invasive exotics and restore native habitats. Fun fact: In 1976 Historic Spanish Point became the first site in Sarasota County to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Learn more HERE.
7. Indian Mound Park – Enjoy the scenic view of Lemon Bay and meandering nature trails through Indian Mound Park, where the property show off Florida’s native flora and fauna, as well as views of a prehistoric Indian mound site dating back to 1000 B.C. For kayakers, an easy paddle to the south takes you through mangrove islands that offer wonderful bird viewing. Enjoy other activities such as boating, birding, fishing and walking. Fun fact: Indian Mound Park, also known as the Paulsen Point Site, was first recorded as an archaeological site in 1953 by Dr. John Goggin with the University of Florida’s Archaeological Laboratory.
8. Mary Thaxton Memorial Preserve – Discover a slice of “Real Florida” within a natural wilderness, complete with wildlife and solitude. Nature lovers will enjoy over five miles of marked trails offering wildlife viewing and bird watching. The preserve is considered the “Crown Jewel” of the Sarasota County Habitat Conservation Plan, with Sarasota County’s Oscar Scherer Buffer Park to the east. Fun fact: The park is honorably named after the mother of the person who dedicated his time and effort to make it a reality, County Commissioner Jon Thaxton.
9. Phillippi Estate Park and Edson Keith Mansion – Located on the shores of Phillippi Creek, the park includes Indian middens dating back 2,000 years, providing proof of human activities in prehistoric times with shells, animal bones and other refuse. The site also includes the Edson Keith Mansion, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Take a leisurely stroll along the Phillippi Creek shoreline or on nature trails, and be sure to visit the beautiful rose garden adjacent to the Edson Keith Mansion. Fun fact: The second owner of the estate, Mae Hansen Prodie, owned the Mae Marie Company and created the concept of a wardrobe for Barbie dolls.
10. Towles Court – Considered a hidden gem of Sarasota, Towles Court is an artist colony near downtown. Just south of Main Street, you’ll find galleries, artists’ studios, gift shops and Old Florida-style homes. You can grab a bite to eat, take an art class or purchase an original piece. Towles Court also hosts Third Friday Art Walks, a series of events featuring studio and gallery openings, where refreshments and music are provided. Fun fact: The venerable moss-draped oak trees of Towles Court have shaded and protected this historic enclave of bungalows and cottages for nearly a century. Find out more HERE.