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Sarasota wins itself lots of fans, thanks to its welcoming climate, dazzling beaches and lively cultural scene that entices visitors with theater and opera. Nature lovers flock to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens or Mote Aquarium, and the luscious, white-sand beaches of Siesta Key are just a few miles away.
In 1911, John Ringling chose the town as the winter quarters of his famous circus. The big top is long gone, but you can still step right up to explore his legacy at three must-see museums known collectively as The Ringling. Set aside the better part of a day to visit the colorful Circus Museum, the palatial Museum of Art and his whimsical, Venetian-style waterfront mansion: Ca' d'Zan.
Look for hip, new restaurants in the neighborhoods of Laurel Park and Gulf Gate, or casual beach cafes on Siesta Key. Find upscale drinking and dining — not to mention shopping — around St. Armands Circle on Lido Key. Or cross the bridge to Longboat Key for waterfront dining, where seafood and sunsets are standard fare.