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.