Contact the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, 655 N. Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), Sarasota, FL 34236 (tel. 800/522-9799 or 941/957-1877; fax 941/951-2956; www.sarasotafl.org). The bureau and its visitor center are in a blue pagoda-shaped building on Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) at 6th Street. They offer a great, self-guided architecture tour spotlighting structures associated with the Sarasota School of Architecture, as well as other symbols of architectural ingenuity. It is intended as a self-guided driving tour that can be completed in 2 hours. It is available for $6 at the bureau or at www.toursarasota.com. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, Sunday from 11am to 3pm; closed holidays.
A new eco-website listing Sarasota's bays, beaches, parks, preserves, rivers, and the best spots for communing with nature is Discover Natural Sarasota County's www.discovernaturalsarasota.org.
You can get a packet of advance information on Bradenton and Manatee County from the Greater Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 1000, Bradenton, FL 34206 (tel. 800/462-6283 or 941/729-9177; fax 941/729-1820; www.floridaislandbeaches.org).
If you're driving from the north via I-75, you can get off at U.S. 301 (exit 224) and head west if you want to go to the Manatee County Tourist Information Center (tel. 941/729-7040), where volunteers will answer questions and sell excellent road maps for less than you'll pay elsewhere. It's open daily from 8:30am to 5pm except Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. The office also has an information kiosk at Prime Outlets, across I-75, which is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and Sunday from 11am to 6pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.