Sarasota is part of what is referred to as the "Cultural Coast of Florida." There are several artists in residence in the community representing a range of media. With over 100 art galleries in the county, a variety of local and traveling exhibits can satisfy even the most eclectic tastes. The Ringling School of Art and Design offers a small gallery featuring local and international artists. The School has a world renowned program in computer animation. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, an Italian Renaissance style villa converted to an art museum, contains a resident collection of sculptures and Old Masters paintings as well as featured traveling exhibitions.
The performing arts are well represented in Sarasota. There are several community theater groups that are active year round. Some specialize in training children and showcasing their performances while others focus on Broadway style shows. The Sarasota Ballet and the Sarasota Opera have professional companies that are supplemented with local artists. The Florida West Coast Symphony provides an annual music festival along with several ensemble performances throughout the year. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall offers a venue for national and international artists in a variety of fields to provide year round entertainment. Jazz and Big Band groups perform nearly weekly in Sarasota communities.
Sarasota County has 24 elementary, 9 middle, and 9 high schools. In addition, there are a number of charter schools. Sarasota County consistently rates as the premier district in Florida and one of the few districts in the country to receive a Gold Medal for excellent academics, outstanding test scores, and above average spending for education.
There are several film societies in town. In addition, there are three major film festivals that occur annually: the French Film Festival, the Black Film Festival and the Sarasota Film Festival. These attract national and international exhibitors and visitors to the community.
With an average yearly temperature of 72° (F) (average range from the mid 50's to the mid 80's), outdoor sports occur year round. Golfing, fishing, tennis and boating activities provide a wide choice of both participatory and spectator opportunities. Celebrity tournaments occur throughout the year. Myakka State Park and Wilderness Preserve and Oscar Scherer State Recreation Area offer a broad range of activities from camping, biking and hiking to boating. Myakka is the state's largest park, encompassing more than 35,000 acres of wetlands, wet prairies, pine hammocks, and dense woodlands. Oscar Scherer is a smaller park, about 1, 390 acres, enclosing pine and scrub habitats criss-crossed with small streams.
Other areas of interest include the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and Mote Marine Laboratory, The Selby Gardens are a world renowned center for orchid and bromeliad research. The gardens feature a Museum of Botany and Arts as well as a canopy climbing experience to get a treetop view of the area. Mote Marine Laboratory has a public aquarium and education center featuring organisms from local habitats.
Some more sites that help explain the town and surrounding area can be found below.