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Explore Gay Sarasota: Florida Travel Guide

Sarasota Gay Pride

Undecided on which LGBTQ-friendly Florida town to explore? Looking for a casual beach vibe? Dreaming of fine-dining, luxury, and culture? You can have it all in Sarasota. From the shimmering Gulf access to the arts, Sarasota is an ideal gay Florida vacation destination.

How Gay is Sarasota?

Although Sarasota leans red at the polls, the social vibe is progressive and inclusive. In fact, Sarasota conservatives fund the regional arts programs. So no worries. While you can find a “Debbie Downer” anywhere in the world, more likely than not, you’ll feel right at home in this growing and vibrant town. Sarasota even has a gay beach and several LGBTQ social events! Keep reading for deets.

The 2,500 square foot mural in downtown Sarasota uniting Second Street with Cocoanut and Pineapple avenues spans five crosswalks. The installation was funded by Project Pride SRQ and designed by Detroit artists Joey Soloman. Photo by OutCoast Photography (Rachel Covello).

Project Pride SRQ

Celebrate the diversity of Sarasota’s community with Project Pride SRQ. A young nonprofit, established in 2019, Project Pride SRQ has already made a huge impact in Sarasota. In 2020, the organization raised over $100,000 to fund the installation of a rainbow crosswalk in downtown Sarasota, spanning five crosswalks of Second Street with Cocoanut and Pineapple avenues.

The goal of Project Pride SRQ is to unite and celebrate the LGBTQ people, businesses, and organizations of the greater Sarasota area. While Sarasota Inc. traditionally hosts an annual gay Pride Festival, due to COVID, Project Pride SRQ will take the lead this year with a month-long event series including “Taste of Pride” in partnership with local restaurants.

Love a parade? Check out Sarasota’s LGBTQ car and pet parades! And keep an eye out for the “Our Business Welcomes” window cling signs to signify “family friendly” gay-welcoming business throughout the Sarasota region.

ALSO Youth

LGBTQ+ youth in the Sarasota region receive Advocacy, Leadership, Support, and Outreach from local nonprofit ALSO youth. This organization works to create an inclusive community and to empower LGBTQ+ youth and their allies. ALSO Youth was founded in 1992 as a support group for area LGBTQ+ youth. The organization now provides a wide range of services. Get involved in peer support groups, advocacy, and education for individuals 13-21. They also provide resources and information to families, friends, and allies.

Where to Stay

From luxury to casual, there are several accommodations available in Sarasota. We’ve highlighted these three LGBTQ-inclusive recommendations provided to us by local realtors Keith Kropp and Wayne Rogers, experts on Sarasota County.

Ritz Carlton

1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota 

Step into luxury at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota. Whether you relax along the intracoastal or sink your toes into the sand of the private beach, you’ll experience world-class pampering. Choose from 266 guest rooms or suites, many with private balconies.

Enjoy dining at four on site restaurants, including a waterfront option. Indulge in services at the spa. Play the 18-hole championship golf course. Planning to travel with your fur babies? Ask about their pet friendly rooms when reserving.

Westin Sarasota

100 Marina View Drive, Sarasota

Feel at home in the Westin Sarasota. Well, that is if your home offers an open-air rooftop lounge overlooking the downtown skyline and waterways. Explore town and the beaches from this centrally-located modern property. Take relaxation to the next level with treatments from their world-class spa. Retreat to one of 255 rooms or suites and take-in spectacular views of Sarasota Bay.

Art Ovation 

1255 North Palm Avenue

Appreciate the style, architecture, art, and beautiful views of Art Ovation. All the rooms and suites of this boutique property come with artistic motivation. Strum a ukulele or get creative with complimentary sketching supplies! Enjoy the scenery and modern vibe from the rooftop pool and bar. Check out the hotel’s changing art displays. Explore downtown Sarasota’s art and culture hub just steps away.

Where to Eat

Hungry? You won’t starve in Sarasota. This town is packed with various restaurants that cater to all taste buds.

Mellow Mushroom

6727 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

Satisfy your pizza cravings, and more, at LGBTQ-friendly Mellow Mushroom. This national chain caters to diners of all desires and diets. Choose from a wide-range of appetizers, pizzas, and salads. The menu includes vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options. Mellow-out with a craft cocktail or beer while you dine in this funky, retro eatery.

Mellow Mushroom also hosts several LGBTQ-social events in partnership with SarasotaOUT.com.

Owen’s Fish Camp

516 Burns Court, Sarasota

Wander on over to Owen’s Fish Camp for a taste of Old Florida. This cozy spot, nestled in Downtown Sarasota, serves-up southern classics, and fresh local seafood. Favorites include cornmeal crusted catfish, lobster cobb salad, and fried green tomatoes. Wash it all down with a beverage from the creative craft beer and wine list. Save room for one of their decadent desserts.

Sarasota Owens Fish Camp
Owen’s Fish Camp. Photo by Rachel Covello

Sage Restaurant          

1216 1st Street, Sarasota

Experience seasonal wonders at the LGBTQ-owned Sage Restaurant. Sip on creative cocktails and drink-in the views from their rooftop terrace. Indulge in diverse global menu items in an elegant setting. Many dishes feature ingredients from sustainable global sources. Favorites include Thai Bouillabaisse and cod stuffed-pepper appetizers.

Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill            

100 Central Ave #1022, Sarasota

Head to Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill for a delightful Asian fusion experience. Another LGBTQ-owned establishment, this vibrant spot offers unique sushi and sashimi creations for lunch and dinner. Try favorites such as specialty sushi rolls like the Waikiki and the Siesta. Check out the hibachi offerings, including vegetarian options. Sip in style with creative Asian-inspired cocktails, a full bar, and dedicated sake menu.

Shore

465 John Ringling Blvd, Sarasota and 800 Broadway St, Longboat Key

Stroll into Shore for creative recipes, friendly service, and an upscale beach vibe. Shore serves-up style and fantastic food for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. There’s something for everyone between their “off shore” and “on shore” menus, including vegan options. You’re never far from a delicious dining experience. Shore has locations at St. Armands Circle and Longboat Key.

Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub  

760 Broadway St, Longboat Key  

The name says it all at Mar Vista Restaurant. Enjoy picturesque Gulf views from this rustic historic property. Arrive by car, kayak, or boat. There are 14 slips available while you dine. Relax on the private beach with a signature cocktail from the full bar. Dine under the trees, or on the open-air patio of the 1912 house. The creative and upscale menu features locally-sourced produce and fresh Gulf seafood. Don’t miss the house made bread, rolls, and desserts!

Indigenous

239 S Links Ave, Sarasota

Settle into the charm and ambiance of Indigenous. This upscale eatery has a stunning open air dining area. Indulge in creative sustainable food with an emphasis on locally-sourced creations. The menu is updated daily to reflect the freshest ingredients. They also offer vegetarian and gluten-free options.

Explore Sarasota

You’ll find plenty to experience in Sarasota. Get outdoors at world-class beaches and natural areas. Find art and culture at a variety of museums and performing arts venues. Indulge in some unique retail therapy at one-of-a kind shops.

Shopping

Have your wallet at the ready, because you’ll want to shop ’til you drop in Sarasota. With treasures around every corner, shopping is an integral part of the Sarasota experience. Here are a few of our favorite places to explore.

Sarasota Architectural Salvage

1093 Central Avenue, Sarasota

Having a hard time finding the antique door hinges of your dreams? Sarasota Architectural Salvage has what you’re looking for, and more! Treasures from days, and properties, gone by can all be found in this unique shop. Have fun exploring the seemingly endless supply of practical and whimsical items. If it’s not here, it might not exist.   

Charlotte’s Grace Fine Linens and Luxe Home Accents

64 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota

Fall into the lap of luxury at Charlotte’s Grace Fine Linens and Luxe Home Accents. This woman-owned luxury boutique offers high-quality home goods. Treat yourself to the finest of bedding, bath wares, and home décor items.

St. Armands Circle

Head to St. Armands Circle for a unique shopping and dining experience. Wander this historic pedestrian-friendly retail district with dozens of boutiques and eateries.

Take a little bit of the beach home with you from Beach House (351 St. Armands Circle). Choose from breezy housewares, accessories, and fashions for the whole family.

Explore the global fashions of Binjara Traders Worldwide Marketplace (327 John Ringling Boulevard). Browse uniquely styled clothing and accessories for women of all ages.

Delight your senses at Pelindaba Lavender (57 South Boulevard of the Presidents). You’ll be captivated by the aroma. Indulge in the sustainably-produced organic lavender products.

Art & Culture

As mentioned above, Sarasota has a rich arts and culture scene, and unlike most major cities, is funded by socially liberal conservatives. While there has been a huge influx of liberal and LGBTQ people to the Sarasota region, the government in this area continues to lean right due to the financially conservative views of local. Still, Sarasota is a place to visit if arts and culture are a must on your list.

The Ringling

5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota

Run away and join the circus! Or at least visit the legacy of circus magnate John Ringling and his wife Mable. The Ringling family arrived in Sarasota in the late 1800’s to create a winter retreat. Throughout the early 1900s, the family had a prominent impact on the growth of Sarasota’s arts and culture – including adding a circus!

The Ringling is a testament to their love for the finer things in life. The Ringling Family spared no expense in collecting everything from buildings to fine arts. The result is a dazzling collection of, well, collections.

Choose from the Museum of Fine Art, the Circus Museum, Ca’d’Zan, the Ringling’s former home, or the Asolo theater. All set in beautiful bay front gardens. Or, spend the day and see it all!

Insider tip: The Ringling is a lot to take-in and separate tickets are required for some of the buildings and tours. Check their website for visit planning tools.

The Ringling museums, theater and gardens. Image by Rachel Covello.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

777 north Tamiami trail, Sarasota      

Encounter beauty inside and out at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall . The purple seashell-shaped structure itself is a landmark. Step inside to enjoy the beauty of the stage. Performances include live music, theater, comedy, dance, and Broadway shows.

Insider tip: Say it like a local “Van Way-zull.”

Asolo Repertory Theatre

5555 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota   

Treasure the theatre, literally, in the gem-like setting of the Asolo Repertory Theatre. The beautiful building is home to the largest Equity theatre company in the southeastern United States. Enjoy productions with guest stars working alongside FSU School of Theatre faculty and students.

Florida Studio Theatre

1241 North Palm Avenue, Sarasota  

All the world’s a stage at the Florida Studio Theatre. Well, at least among the five theatres that make-up this vibrant regional theatre. Check out a wide-range of professional productions. FST offers performances ranging from cabaret to new plays.

Sarasota Florida Studio Theatre
Sarasota Florida Studio Theatre. Photo by Rachel Covello

West Coast Black Theatre Troupe

1012 North Orange Avenue, Sarasota  

Diversity takes center stage at the West Coast Black Theatre Troupe. This inclusive production company creates works celebrating African American experiences. Step next door to the Arts Center that works further to express the African American story.

Urbanite Theatre

1487 2nd Street, Sarasota

Think outside the box of traditional theater at the Urbanite Theatre. This “black box”  performance space brings cutting-edge works to life. The intimate, modern space offers great views from every seat.

Sarasota Opera

61 North Pineapple Avenue    

Immerse yourself in grandeur at the Sarasota Opera. The beautiful 1926 opera house was originally a theater. Now it serves as the perfect setting for opera performances. Enjoy a variety of programs. From classic to contemporary, there is something to entertain everyone.

Sarasota Ballet Company

5555 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota     

Put on your imaginary (or real) tutu and head over to the Sarasota Ballet. This award-winning dance company performs original and well-loved works. They have been dazzling audiences for over 30 years.

Sarasota Orchestra

709 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

Entertain your ears with the magic of the Sarasota Orchestra. The 80-member group performs everything from classical to pops. The Orchestra has been music to Sarasota’s ears for generations.

Outdoors

One of the best reasons to visit Sarasota is for the sun! Beautiful weather provides lots of opportunity for outdoor adventures. While fishing and water sports are always a must-do activities on the Gulf Coast, these nature-filled experiences are only available in Sarasota.

Nathan Benderson Park  

5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota

For year-round recreation head to Nathan Benderson Park. This 600-acre community park includes a full range of outdoor activities. Get moving on trails for walking, jogging, or biking. The 400-acre lake provides plenty of reasons to get out on the water. Rent a variety of paddle equipment. Fur babies are welcome in some areas.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens    

1534 Mound Street, Sarasota      

Relax the day away at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. This tropical bay front garden is a true oasis. Wander among hundreds of exotic plants from around the world. Take-in the soothing bay breezes.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens 

3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota

Step back in history at  Sarasota Jungle Gardens. This tropical attraction is home to a variety of plants, animals, and birds. Many of the resident critters are rescues. Pay a visit to the lemurs, snakes, and crocodiles. Don’t miss the chance to hand-feed the free-roaming flamingos!

Jungle Gardens in Sarasota. Photo by Rachel Covello

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium  

1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota

Explore the amazing world of the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. This nonprofit marine research facility offers great educational programs for all ages. Get exciting information about ocean conservation and sustainability. Have fun learning with interactive exhibits for the whole family.

Beaches

Craving sun and sand? Sarasota has what you need! With over 30 miles of pristine Gulf coastline, across several barrier islands, you won’t be disappointed.

Siesta Beach

Stroll miles of cool quartz sand at Siesta Beach (948 Beach Road, Sarasota). This large county park has plenty of amenities to keep you busy. From pickleball to playgrounds there’s something for everyone in your group. When it’s time to relax, grab a snack or an adult beverage from one of the concession stands. Enjoy the Gulf view from one of the covered pavilions. Evenings offer perfect sunsets and weekly drum circle events.

Lido Beach

Explore the windswept shore of Lido Beach Park (400 Benjamin Franklin Drive). This public beach offers public restrooms, a restaurant, and even a swimming pool! Adventurous beach goers can rent kayaks and canoes, play volleyball, or walk one of the nature trails.

Lido Beach is also popular with LGBTQ beachgoers. During Sarasota Pride (October), Lido Beach is the place to be for sun and fun.

Longboat Key Beaches

Get away from it all at the unspoiled beaches of Longboat Key. Along the Key there are multiple public beach access points. Each offers beautiful views, cool white sand, and endless relaxation. Lido Beach does not offer any public amenities, so make sure to bring everything you need to enjoy this part of paradise.

Sarasota Realtors

Pack Your Bags and Plan your Sarasota Vacation

Ready to plan your LGBTQ-friendly Sarasota vacation? You won’t be disappointed. Sarasota is a stone’s throw away from the Tampa Bay Region and the LGBTQ-inclusive cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg. So stay in Sarasota and plan a day trip to explore the other gay cities beyond Sarasota.

When you’re ready to make Sarasota home, reach out to Keith and Wayne for expert advice on where to buy your dream vacation home.


***Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful). 

Written by Rachel Covello

Rachel Covello is an award-winning speaker, writer, diversity consultant, and LGBT advocate. She is the Founder of LGBT Equality Alliance, a Chester County, PA nonprofit organization, and CEO of OUTCOAST, an online marketing and concierge platform marketing the Gulf Coast as an LGBTQ-inclusive place to VISIT, CELEBRATE, and LIVE.

Rachel is also an avid event photographer and has captured photos for LGBT organizations around the world, including the IGLTA, NGLCC, NLGJA, and Out & Equal.


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