Experience These Awesome Family-Friendly Things to Do in Sarasota on Your Next Anna Maria Island Vacation

If you’re researching vacation destinations that are perfect spots for a family getaway, you probably already know there’s a ton of Anna Maria Island outdoor activities to suit any taste – from great beaches to great restaurants. But did you know there are a lot of things to do nearby on the mainland? That’s the amazing thing about a vacation on Anna Maria Island, you can sink your toes in the sand or head into Sarasota to make even more memories with your family!

From a swinging adventure in the trees, circus museums, parks, and feeding flamingos take your Anna Maria Island vacation to the next level with a visit to Sarasota or Bradenton!

How To Get to Sarasota from Anna Maria Island

Although it may feel like mainland Florida is thousands of miles away while you’re enjoying the paradisiacal beaches and breezes of Anna Maria Island, Sarasota is actually just about 20 miles south of the Island. Access to Sarasota attractions is easy. Just take FL-64 E to 75th Street W/El Conquistador Parkway and get on US-41. In a little less than an hour, you’re enjoying all that downtown Sarasota and the surrounding areas can offer.

Sarasota road trip

Adventure Activities

If your family loves the beach but also wants a good outdoor adventure, TreeUmph! may just be the perfect spot. It’s the premier destination in Bradenton for people who love to climb, swing, and have a great adventure in the trees. The experiences here are so unique, you may just trade your beach bungalow for a treehouse! With over 10 football fields worth of challenging terrain and aerial adventure games, there’s plenty to explore up high. Fly through obstacle courses and sway high off the ground, while finding thrills you won’t get anywhere else.

If you prefer your feet on the ground and a little animal adventure, check out the Big Cat Habitat. This Gulf Coast sanctuary and animal rescue is the home of dozens of exotic animals. Treat the family to tigers, lions, bears, primates, and birds. Learn and explore throughout the habitat and then get up close and personal in the petting zoo. And, if you’re looking to relax and recharge in a really unique way, bring your yoga mat! Big Cat Habitat now features Wild Yoga with the animals, including a yoga experience with tigers.

If the little ones in your family have big adventure dreams and a true love for all things natural and wild, check out the Florida State Parks Junior Ranger Program. In this exciting program, kids can learn about Florida’s natural and cultural resources, as well as get involved with preservation. When you arrive at any participating Florida State Park, ask for a Junior Ranger Kit. Next, children can take the Junior Ranger pledge, receive their badge, and complete the required activities to earn patches and pins. It’s a great way to ensure vacation and adventure go hand in hand.

Educational & Indoor Things To Do

For the STEM/STEAM fan in your family, check out the Suncoast Science Center and Faulhaber Fab Lab, where the mission is to inspire a love of innovation in science, tech, engineering, art, and math. Take a tour of the lab or participate in one of the scheduled on-site classes.

If you want to take your science into the sea, check out the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. It’s fun for kids to swim in the ocean, but here, they have a chance to go deeper, discovering what’s under the waves and meeting the scientists working to preserve it all. The aquarium offers eco-tours, featuring hands-on eco-adventures through their Sea Life Encounter Cruise or private charters on the Miss Explorer. You can also enjoy a meal at the retro 50’s style Deep Sea Diner.

For a bit of educational fun, The Ringling Circus Museum is a Sarasota must-see. Give your kids the chance to walk on a high wire, watch them squeeze into a clown car, or take a photo with a (fake) tiger and see what made this circus the Greatest Show on Earth. The grounds also feature food and drink, including The Ringling Grillroom, a coffee shop and food trucks. 

Sarasota Parks & Gardens

Being outdoors is what Florida’s West Coast is all about, and Urfer Family Park is a great way to explore. Filled with playgrounds for younger and older kids alike, there’s fun for everyone. Walk the one-mile nature trail and take in the pines or walk out onto the boardwalk and overlook the wetlands. You can also bring lunch and have a picnic. Oh, and bring your binoculars to spot birds and other local wildlife!

Another popular park in the Sarasota area is the Ernest “Doc” and Eloise Werlin Park. Here, you’ll find plenty to do, including a playground, walking trails, and shaded areas for rest and relaxation. If you want to get in some fishing, stop at Hart’s Landing bait shop before casting your line off the Tony Saporito Fishing Pier. If you have a pet along for the adventure, they can come along on a leash.

If you’re looking to be among flowers and serenity, check out the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. This botanic wonderland has two campuses – one in Downtown Sarasota and one on Historic Spanish Point. The Downtown campus consists of 15 acres along Sarasota Bay, giving visitors a glimpse of rainforest, desert, and native-Florida flora. The Historic Spanish Point Campus features 30 acres of native and pioneer history, as well as collections of native-Florida plantings.

One of Sarasota’s oldest attractions is also one of the most fun – Sarasota Jungle Gardens. This is a place that really brings the best of Florida into one place. Here, you can walk among, and feed, flamingos, see exciting animal shows, experience reptile exhibits and enjoy a petting zoo where you can get up close and personal. You can also have a meal at the Flamingo Cafe. It’s sure to be a great family memory!

Plan Your Next Stay

With Mainsail Vacation Rentals, you can book with confidence. All of our rentals are close to the incredible waters and beaches of Anna Maria Island, and we want to do everything we can to make sure you have the most memorable family vacation. No matter what you’re looking for, we can get you into the perfect vacation rental to ensure the perfect stay. If you’re ready to book, don’t delay. Whether it’s Anna Maria Island attractions or all the fun and adventure of Sarasota, contact us now to reserve your spot right in the heart of it all!

Stay Central with Mainsail Vacation Rentals

There are a lot of family-friendly things to do in Anna Maria Island and nearby Sarasota, and Mainsail Vacation Rentals wants you to experience it all – from Anna Maria Island parks to restaurants, beaches, and so much more. If you’re ready to experience the best of Florida, let us host you in one of our incredible Anna Maria Island rentals so you can have the family vacation you deserve.