Best Kept Secrets 3

/
  • best kept 3

    See our Best Kept Secrets 1 (2011) and Best Kept Secrets 2 (2012).

    Best Kept Secrets 3

    Usually, awesome things to do, businesses or places to visit aren’t kept secret on purpose. But sometimes, they fall off the radar, or word-of-mouth fails to spread. Some of the things on this list are like that. We may have written about them in the past, recently discovered them, or just held them close to the vest in order to keep them to ourselves. No more. Here are 20 of Ticket’s best kept local secrets. Spread the word.

  • bk moose

    110 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach; 778-4110; moose2188.org

    Anna Maria Island Moose Lodge

    Freshly painted with a surfing moose facing the passersby on Gulf Drive, this Bradenton Beach landmark offers superb sunset viewing, full-liquor libations, comfort-food dining, legal gambling and live entertainment. Sure, an annual membership is required but it costs a mere 40 bucks. Just don’t forget to bring cash. That’s all the Moose accepts and the ATM machine occasionally runs out. — Wade Tatangelo

  • fntfood20

    8 p.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday-Monday; Pangea Lounge, 1564 Main St., Sarasota; pangealounge.com

    Pangea Lounge

    Even though we’ve written about this killer downtown cocktail lounge – and owner/mixology king Brad Coburn – a number of times, it remains a secret because Coburn does all he can to keep it under wraps. Now that he and partner Lan Bradeen have opened a sandwich shop in front of the lounge, there isn’t even a sign anymore. Go into Coburn and Bradeen’s excellent Melange restaurant and you’ll see a way into the lounge in the back (unless Coburn has hidden it behind a fake bookcase, or maybe established some sort of password-protected entryway). -- Brian Ries

  • bk lido

    Ritz Carlton Beach Club, 1234 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota; 309-2000; ritzcarlton.com

    Lido Key Tiki Bar

    Back in 2001, the Lido Key Tiki Bar, which had already become a fixture for watching sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico while enjoying boat drinks, almost got destroyed when developers of the Ritz-Carlton’s Beach Club on Lido Key planned to demolish the bar adjacent to the old Azure Tides resort to make way for its $80 million, members-only club. Thankfully, Kansas-based Core Development Inc. decided to keep the famed bar open to the public in response to community support. Serving beer, wine and mixed drinks right on the sugary sand, it’s also right next to a beautiful spot on the Beach Club grounds where many, including this reporter and his amazing bride, have been married. — Wade Tatangelo

  • fntglbt19_047.jpg

    THROB Nightclub, 2201 Industrial Blvd., Sarasota; 358-6969; throb.me. Barrel 87, 6587 Gateway Ave., Sarasota; 922-6969; facebook.com/barrel87

    THROB Nightclub and Barrel 87

    Face it, dancing is not a nightlife priority in our area, as evidenced by the dearth of disco balls and light rigs at spots around town. And, though it has improved over the past few years, the LGBT scene isn’t terribly strong either. Thankfully, THROB and Barrel 87 are here to help. These gay nightclubs offer plenty of dancing, as well as a host of weekly events to get the party started, ranging from drag shows to amateur strip nights, happy hours to television viewing parties. – Brian Ries

  • bk peggy

    4511 U.S. 41, Palmetto; 729-5442; peggyscorral.net

    Peggy's Corral

    The Bradenton area’s most popular biker hangout, Peggy's Corral in Palmetto is always a great place to enjoy cheap, strong drinks in an awesome dive bar setting. And if you’re a serious party person, especially one in possession of a high-powered two-wheeler, don’t miss the weekly Sunday Bike Day from noon to 5 p.m. It’s where you’ll find a sea of motorcycles, live bands that can fill your Molly Hatchet requests, vendors of all variety of biker gear and other fun stuff like burn-out contests. — Wade Tatangelo

  • bk tiki

    11 a.m.-11 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday; 33 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda; 637-3770

    TT's (The Tiki) Bar

    In spite of its goofy name — TT actually stands for “The Tiki” — this outdoor spot is one of the most colorful scenes on the Punta Gorda waterfront. People enjoy live music and vivid sunsets along the Peace River. They dance on a little man-made beach. They kick back in low-slung Adirondack chairs. They enjoy food and drinks from the Four Points by Sheraton Harborside Hotel. – Tom Becnel

  • bk bob

    10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, 11:30-2 Monday-Friday, available for private parties; 2211 Fruitville Road, Sarasota; 321-5643; bobstrain.blogspot.com

    Bob's Train

    Antique rail car aficionado Bob Horne is the former proprietor of the popular diner “Bob’s Place” in the Rosemary District and a Ringling circus history buff. He has combined his passions at Bob’s Train. A hard-to-find restaurant and museum, it’s located in four Pullman railcars including the “Jomar,” John and Mable Ringling’s personal railcar. Perhaps best known for serving tasty hamburgers to the weekday lunch crowd, Horne told us recently that potential patrons should stop by Sunday for his personally made omelets featuring your choice of more than 30 fillings. — Wade Tatangelo

  • vfeature19.jpg

    11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday; Nokomis Groves, 111 S. Albee Farm Road, Nokomis; 488-5274; nokomisgroves.com

    Nokomis Groves Ice Cream

    This citrus grove’s shop and shipping department may be closed down for the summer, but the ice cream never stops. Made in-house, the cool treat is a local favorite, especially the ice cream and sherbet flavored with the citrus growing just outside. – Brian Ries

  • bk london

    304 15th St. W., Bradenton; 741-4981; thelondonerinn.com

    Londoner Bed & Breakfast

    Make reservations at the Londoner Bed and Breakfast, a cozy 1910 house in downtown Bradenton with authentic British décor, or just make a reservation and stop by for tea. The inn has six bedrooms, each named after a different area of London, with photographs and interesting facts from that particular area. It’s a short stroll from Riverwalk and stumbling distance from the bustling bar scene of Old Main Street. — Wade Tatangelo

  • rComm31c.jpg

    118 Indian Place, Sarasota; 951-0111; hotelranola.com

    Hotel Ranola

    Downtown Sarasota keeps being teased by fancy hotel chains, repeatedly jilted before ground is broken. Who cares – we already have our very own home-grown boutique hotel smack dab in the middle of it all. Hotel Ranola is housed in a historic 1926 apartment building that has been revamped with nine unique studios and suites. All are decorated with industrial and modern touches, perfect for entertaining and come with Wi-Fi iPod docking stations. If you want a getaway that’s close to home, this is where you stay. – Brian Ries

  • bk midget

    4237 Sarasota Ave., Sarasota

    Midget's House

    The story goes that John Ringling had custom houses built to scale for popular midgets who performed in his circus and that two of these houses still sit next to each other on Sarasota Avenue. Said to be haunted, the Norman Revival-style “Midget’s House” has been in the Indian Beach neighborhood near Jungle Gardens since 1930, when contractor Paul W. Bergman moved it from another location. The dwelling inspired the book “The Midget’s House ... A Circus Story, A Love Story, A Ghost Story,” which can be found at the Ringling Museum Gift Shop and also online. — Wade Tatangelo

  • bk swap meet

    9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays: 125 S. Tuttle Ave., Sarasota; free for shoppers, $15 for vendors; sarasotaswapmeet.com

    Sarasota Swap Meet

    In the past few years, this weekly meet-up has grown into a serious treasure trove for bargain-hunters and amateur pickers. The price for vendors  -- $15 a day – makes it accessible for both serious vendors and folks looking to unload without the hassle of a garage sale. Depending on the week, you could find antique militaria, custom-carved wood furniture, refurbished bikes, Nascar collectibles and old vinyl. – Brian Ries

  • bk toy lab

    1529 Main St., Sarasota; 363-0064

    Toy Lab

    Tucked away in a relatively small space on Main Street, Toy Lab continues to succeed in the big-box store era with carefully crafted stuffed animals with life-like features and numerous other toys that harken back to an era of playthings marked by first-rate quality, educational value and lifelong meaningfulness. Another added plus for visiting Toy Lab is the workers, who are always courteous and quick to help you find the perfect gift for your loved one.  — Wade Tatangelo

  • fwfront25

    Culinary Kids Academy, 1734 Bamboo Lane, Sarasota; prices vary; 600-1464; culinarykidsflorida.com

    Culinary Kids Academy

    The best way to get your kids interested in eating healthy, tasty, non-processed food is to let them get their hands dirty and start licking their fingers. That’s where the Culinary Kids Academy comes in, offering classes, camps and parties that encourage kids to own the kitchen, complete with a menu of recipes and those tall, white chef hats. Classes are available for a number of age groups, from 3 to 17. – Brian Ries

  • SPUMPKIN24zd.jpg

    5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Fridays; 1401 S. Ringling Dr., Venice; $40 per person; 504-1552; e-mail renataandtito@aol.com

    Tito Gaona’s Flying Trapeze Academy

    This is one of the perks of Venice being the former winter home of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, also known as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Wannabe daredevils learn to swing and soar, while drivers on U.S. 41 get a free show. Classes are taught by Tito, a member of the Flying Gaonas, a five-generation circus family. His website tag line is “Don’t just see the circus, be the circus.” – Tom Becnel

  • mTRAIN24

    The Museum’s ticket office and gift shop is open 10 a.m.- 4p.m. Wednesday-Sunday (limited equipment displays are available during the week), train rides are available on Saturday and Sunday only; 12210 83rd St. E., Parrish; $14 adults, $10 children 3-11; 776-0906; frrm.org

    Florida Railroad Museum

    Home to over a dozen historic engines and cars, this hands-on museum is more than just displays and exhibits. Here, you can climb aboard and see what elegant travel was all about back in the day. The museum also runs train rides on the weekends and – if you can swing it – rents out locomotives to people who want to really get their hands dirty and learn how to be an engineer. – Brian Ries

  • rWestway17j

    10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; Visitors Center, 701 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; free; 800-800-3906; visitsarasota.org

    Visit Sarasota Tours

    Although geared toward out-of-towners, tourism booster Visit Sarasota has a wealth of knowledge for locals looking to find out more about the town they live in.  At the Visitors Center you can pick up maps pinpointing local farms and markets, places to see our circus heritage, and beautiful guides to Venice or Sarasota’s rich architectural highlights.  Gas up the car, grab a guide and go for an in-town road trip. – Brian Ries

  • sSPORTSMEN12

    3445 Rustic Road, Venice; For gun range information, visit scgov.net or call 861-5000. For trap, skeet and clays shooting, visit sarasotagunclub.com or call 486-3223

    Knight Trail Park & Gun Range

    Knight Trail, east of I-75 in Venice, is the place to take your shot. There’s a pistol and rifle range, along with trap and skeet shooting. Finally, there are sporting clays, which has been described as “golf with a shotgun.” Shooters move through a wooded course, shooting clay targets that fly in different directions at different trajectories. Trap fees start at $8 for 25 targets. A round of sporting clays is $45, plus $20 for a cart. You can even rent a shotgun for $10 a day.  – Tom Becnel

  • Heritage-5

    8300 De Soto Memorial Highway, Bradenton; 792-0458; nps.gov

    De Soto National Memorial

    Located just north of Robinson Preserve, the pet-friendly De Soto National Memorial in West Bradenton commemorates the place where Hernando de Soto and his men supposedly first landed on the southern edge of Tampa Bay. Attractions include Camp Uzita, where historical re-enactors have been known to show the way the Spanish conquistador and his soldiers lived. There’s also De Soto Point Beach and a nature walk through a pristine mangrove swamp. Historical artifacts from the expedition are on display in the museum and life-size Native American cutouts can be found along the trail, which includes boardwalks over the fiddler crab-filled waters. — Wade Tatangelo

  • sdry01b.jpg

    Most people start at Oaks Park, which is hidden away on a street called Mandrake Terrace, which is off Lady Slipper Avenue, which is off Sumter Boulevard, east of I-75, Exit 182.

    Myakkahatchee Creek Bike Trails

    More than a decade ago, North Port mountain bikers began carving trails through the oak-and-palmetto woods along Myakkahatchee Creek. They didn’t tear up the countryside, the way four-wheelers do, so their trails became accepted and semi-official.Local environmental groups have sponsored hike-and-bike events along the creek. The city of North Port has used mountain biking photos to celebrate active lifestyles. – Tom Becnel