52 miles S of Tampa; 150 miles SW of Orlando; 225 miles NW of Miami
Far enough away from Tampa Bay to have an identity of its own, Sarasota is one of Florida's cultural centers. In fact, many retirees spend their winters here because there's so much to keep them entertained and stimulated, including the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, home of the annual Asolo Theatre Festival. Sarasota also has an extensive array of first-class resorts, restaurants, and boutiques.
Offshore, more than 40 miles of white beaches fringe a chain of long, narrow barrier islands stretching from Tampa Bay to Sarasota. To the south, Siesta Key is a residential enclave popular with artisans and writers, and is home to Siesta Village, this area's funky, laid-back, and often noisy beach hangout. Shielded from the Gulf by Lido Key, which has a string of affordable hotels attractive to families, St. Armands Key sports a quaint and lively shopping and dining district, while adjacent Longboat Key is one of the country's swankiest islands.