10 Unique & Fun Facts YOU Didn’t Know About Sarasota!

1. One of the First Golf Courses was in Sarasota!

Golf enthusiasts will be delighted to know that the idea of golf was first brought to Florida directly to our local area of Sarasota. In 1886, John Hamilton Gillespie brought golf to Florida due to his Scottish roots. He laid out a 2-hole course first then eventually the first 9 hole course in Florida. Though it was a quick course to play, Gillespie is considered one of the main reasons Floridians love the sport so dearly. According to golf history, it was also the second course in America as well. Fast-forward to the present day, there are countless golf courses in Sarasota county alone to choose from!

2. MOST Zagat Rated Restaurants in Florida within a 20 Mile Radius. 

If you’ve experienced some of Sarasota’s cuisine, you know that there’s incredible choices and dishes from local restaurants. Sarasota Local Blogger recommends trying out Selva in downtown Sarasota for incredible tapas, ceviche, and inventive desserts or Michael’s on East on Thursday’s for their 50% wine special! Others that are on the “zagat rated” list include Owen’s Fish Camp, Bijou Cafe, Indigenous, & Jack Dusty’s.

3. The Circus Quite Literally Came to Town in Sarasota

ringling circus in sarasota

In 1927, the Ringling brother decided that Sarasota, Florida would be the winter home of the circus. Many people say that this simple choice ended up putting Sarasota on the map! In addition, the circus folk brought a culture involving the arts, entertainment, and a unique way of life.

4. There Used to be a Casino Resort on Lido Key. Who Knew?!

In 1940, a casino was built on Lido Key by Ralph Twitchell under the financing of John Ringling. The casino was on two acres of land with beach access, shops, restaurants, a ballroom, and pool. However, no one is quite sure why the demise of the casino ensued but the city decided to demolish it without warning. Now where Lido Key casino once stood is a public beach.

5. Despite What You May Hear…Sarasota HAS Experienced Hurricanes

sarasota hurricane

Tourists may hear tales from the locals about hurricanes not touching Sarasota city because of the Americal Indian Spirits protecting the area. However, Sarasota is not invincible to hurricane storm damages. According to Hurricane City, Sarasota gets brushed or hit by a hurricane every 2 years or so. Though none are of great enough significance or forcefulness to remain in the minds of the locals. While it’s true that Sarasota has not received a direct hurricane hit since the record-keeping began in 1871, storms do move nearby causing outages, flooding, and damages.

6. Floridaland was the Old Disneyland to the Kids of the 60’s! 

In 1964, Floridaland opened trying to be all things to all tourists. There were tropical birds, a western town complete with a saloon and train, a dolphin show, and a petting zoo. The advertisers set out to highlight 10 main attractions for one price of admission of $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for the kids. Alas, Floridaland closed in 1971 due to animal rights activities and outright competition from Disney. 

7. There’s a Local Mystery of How Sarasota Got Its Name.

Residents of Sarasota are known to constantly speculate about the origin of our city’s name. Some speculate that Sarasota was named for a conquistador’s daughter, Sara. In 1906, George F. Chaplin wrote a legend about the daughter of Hernando de Soto who landed in the Manatee River in 1538. It was a tragic love story, which eventually became a pageant in 1916, furthering the legend. However, there is no available information to validate the tale Chaplin told. The true story goes that in 1763, a map was found bearing the word “zarazote” across what is now Bradenton and Sarasota. By 1850, the land and bay was labeled as Sarasota on the maps.

8. Sarasota has a Thriving Amish Community

Did you know that Sarasota has a large thriving Amish community? There are numerous stores and shops including the infamous Detweiler’s Market, which is known for local, reasonable produce. There’s also Yoder’s restaurant which is a crowd favorite in the Sarasota community for a hearty Amish meal.  Most Amish residents live in Pinecraft which is a small neighborhood of about 500 homes near Beneva Rd., in Sarasota. Originally, it’s said that the Amish farmers were persuaded to come to Sarasota to grow celery crops, yet when they got here, the soil was not suitable to grow the crops they needed. Nevertheless, many still live or visit regularly due to the wonderful year-round weather.

9. There are 3-4 Million Visitors Per Year in Sarasota County!

sarasota tourists

Although the population of Sarasota, FL hovers around 58,000 residents, there are TONS more visitors coming through our city than meets the eye. Approximately, 4 million tourists make their way through Sarasota county each year to experience the incredible beaches, entertainment, and fine dining. The Sarasota community thrives on this tourism and it helps keep growing as a city. The number of tourists discovering the quaint beachy beauty of the city of Sarasota continues to grow yearly.

10. Potential Healing Sands at Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key Beach is continually rated as the top beach in the US and rightfully so. The beach is breathtaking, from the baby powder-white sands to the clear blue water, it’s not difficult to see why so many travelers and locals come here to enjoy it. However, a little less know is that Siesta Key is made of 99% quartz crystal. This is a natural energy conductor and one of the most vibratory minerals on earth. It is said to also have healing properties as well. For this reason, countless meditations, drum circles, and yoga classes are held on the beach.