Sarasota and Neighboring Islands

Sarasota: Florida's Cultural Coast
Sarasota: Florida's Cultural Coast
Since John Ringling's arrival in the 1920s, Sarasota and surrounding Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Lido Key, and Venice have possessed a curious charisma that has now charmed the event industry. Known as Florida's Suncoast and as the state's Cultural Coast, this "circus town" offers a portfolio of venues rich in history and a highly active event calendar.HOT VENUES

The Cà d'Zan Mansion. John and Mable Ringling's Venetian Gothic mansion is on Sarasota Bay. The house is 200 feet long with 32 rooms and 15 baths. Main highlights of the property include the 60-foot tower and the 8,000-square-foot marble terrace that overlooks the bay and can accommodate as many as 250 guests. Florida State University now operates the estate and has recently restored it to its original beauty. Today, it's recognized as the official state art museum of Florida, boasting 21 galleries, including a circus museum that can accommodate as many as 150 guests. Other unique venues on-site include Mable's Rose Garden, with the capacity for 250 guests, and the Art Museum Courtyard and Loggia, with room for as many as 1,000. Also on the premises is the Historic Asolo Theater. Originally built in 1798, the building was restored in 2006 and now functions as a 21st-century performing arts venue, presenting a diverse roster of theater, music, dance, film, and lectures.

Seagate, the Powel Crosley Estate. Powel Crosley, responsible for night baseball and the first-ever radio broadcast from an airplane, built the 21-room home in 1929. The Mediterranean-style mansion sits on 60- acres and can accommodate as many as 1,000 guests. The most popular rental facilities are on the mansion's first floor, and include the great room, which can sit as many as 70 banquet-style, and two additional rooms that can seat 30 each. It also includes the terrace, which overlooks both the property and the bay and accommodates as many as 100, and the open-air pavilion that can house as many as 25. Outside vendors are welcome; however, the Crosley Estate holds the liquor license and must provide all alcohol service.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Center. This landmark has been entertaining audiences with a variety of music, dance, theater, and comedy for more than 35 years. The 1,736-seat hall went under a renovation in 2000, adding an additional 25,000 square feet of event space and the latest in sound and lighting systems. The 6,000-square-foot grand foyer can accommodate as many as 350 guests and opens onto the terrace and bayfront lawns to hold an additional 1,500.

Gulfcoast Wonder and Imagination Zone (G.WIZ). Formally the Selby Library, this 33,000-square-foot facility provides an interactive adventure for people of all ages. The museum's architecturally advanced atrium features views of the bay and can accommodate as many as 250. Groups of as many as 250 may also be hosted on the gallery floor, amongst the exhibits. Additionally, G.WIZ offers groups use of their Interactive Learning Center. Great for seminars for as many as 75, the space features a high-speed Internet connection and a touch-screen system with theater-style-projection screens.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. This13-acre preserve featuring banyan trees and a mangrove walkway is great for groups of all sizes. The Selby's mansion, also on the property, is now on the National Registry of Historic Places and offers several event space options. The first floor, also known as the Mansion Museum, is available for receptions for as many as 100 guests. The second floor features several rooms ideally suited for small conference groups ranging from 20 to 40 guests. The great room by the bay, hosting as many as 250, showcases 60 feet of windows overlooking the garden and has full audiovisual capabilities.

Mote Marine Laboratory. Sarasota's premier activity venue is available for private rentals every day of the week from 8 p.m. until midnight. In addition to the main aquarium, which can accommodate as many as 1,000 guests for cocktails and 500 seated, the facility offers the 4,300-square-foot New Pass Room, which features a 1,300-square-foot balcony providing views of Sarasota Bay, New Pass, and the Gulf of Mexico. Also located on-site is the Chickee. Built by the Seminole Indian Tribe, this covered pavilion (and its surrounding grounds) has a maximum capacity of 150 guests.

According to Hannah Wallace of Sarasota Magazine, "Downtown Sarasota is like a small liberal arts college. People play sports or put on plays, join frats or log long hours at the library, but at the end of the day, everyone winds up at the same places. Selva Grill is one of those places." This 5,000-square-foot Peru-inspired eatery can accommodate as many as 175 guests in the main dining room and another 20 to 30 guests in a small private dining room. Available for buyouts, its prime downtown location makes it a great spot to start a night or bring it to a close.

Michael's On East is another local favorite. Outside of the hustle and bustle of downtown, the 250-seat restaurant features American fare and complementary decor. The piano bar can accommodate groups of as many as 40. The restaurant also features a library-style wine cellar with floor-to-ceiling selections that can accommodate 40. Michael's on East offers off-site catering and also handles the catering for the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center.


The northernmost island of Sarasota is Longboat Key. Surrounded by both the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay, the island is a 10-mile-long slow-paced residential paradise. Here, the Longboat Key Center for the Arts is great for events for as many as 155 guests inside, and for fewer than 200 in their outside sculpture garden.


Just south, via the New Pass Bridge, you'll stumble upon Lido Key and famed St. Armands Circle (rumored to be one of Ringling's poker game wins). Originally designed by John Ringling, it's fitting that St. Armand's inner circle honors its history with the Sarasota Circus Ring of Fame. St. Armand's Circle also offers a bounty of dining options and boutique shopping. 15 South Ristorante Enoteca, within the circle, features Italian fare and seating for as many as 122 in their main dinning room. The space in unique in that after dinner, one can simply step upstairs through the mahogany doors into the Straight Up nightclub. The entire space, which features a granite dance floor and U-shaped 25-seat bar, can be rented out for special events for groups as large as 112. From here, coconut palms lead the way down to quite Lido Beach's South Lido Park, a fun-in-the-sun spot to explore nature trails, canoe and kayak, and picnic.


Take one of two bridges west from Sarasota and you'll find yourself in upbeat Siesta Key, where beachfront events are second-to-none. Siesta Key Beach's sand is 99 percent quartz, and even in the hot months of August, when temperatures can reach well over 90 degrees, the white-powder sand stays at a cool 68. Every Sunday evening at sunset, the beach heats up for the Siesta Key Drum Circle. Attracting tourists and locals of all ages, the weekly event is a great activity for any group. Siesta's entertainment hub is Siesta Village. Here, a must-visit is the Broken Egg. In business for more than 22 years, this casual breakfast spot is a daily stop for ESPN's Dick Vitale. Because they're only open for breakfast and lunch, the Broken Egg is available for evening buyouts and can accommodate as many as 125 people.

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Ungala Gala at the Ringling Museum
October 20, 2007

Longboat Key Stone Crab Festival
October 25-28, 2007

Snooty's Gala
November 2007

Arts Day
January 13, 2008

Festival Diapente
April 2008

Sarasota Film Festival
April 2008

Tropical Nights
April 2008

Venice Shark's Tooth and Seafood Festival
April 11-13, 2008

Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week
June 1-10, 2007

Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix Festival
June 23-July 4, 2007



Sights & Sounds AV Inc.


Fete Catering by Pattigeorges

Harry's Continental Kitchen
Michael's On East
Nellie's Catering
Sarasota Catering Company

Decor, Design, Production

Affairs in the Air

Bonus Productions
LA Events


Gulf Coast Destinations


Jay Goodley Entertainment


Beneva Flowers & Gifts
Floral Concept
Flowers by Fudgie


Rental Depot
Sarasota Rent-All
US Tent & Rentals
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