The Summer 50

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    The Summer 50

    Two options this summer, folks: Bask in the balmy temps, or be a curmudgeon and curse the humidity. If you veer toward the former, you’re in luck (but you’re probably used to that with your cheery attitude). We’ve cherry-picked 50 activities for you mirth seekers, from the tip of Anna Maria Island to downtown Punta Gorda. Lather on the sun block and thumbtack a map, because we’ve got the key to fighting ennui until fall.

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    1. Find a shark’s tooth in Venice

    Caspersen Beach is the classic spot to dredge for pointy gold, but some people claim the water around the Venice Fishing Pier is best fro prospecting, or you can bring your dog to the Brohard Paw Park to help you sift through the sand.

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    2. Stargaze at South Florida Museum’s planetarium, pet Snooty

    Head to the Parker Aquarium at the South Florida Museum and pat this beloved local icon on the snout while he gobbles up some lettuce, then check out the exciting pre-history exhibits and catch a show in the planetarium.  (southfloridamuseum.org; See also photo gallery of Snooty through years.)

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    3. Visit all of the drum circles, bang drums

    Siesta Key’s weekly percussion-fest gets a lot of press, but Nokomis Beach has one that’s just as rocking, two nights a week on Wednesday and Saturday.

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    4. Ride the South Venice Beach Ferry

    The relaxing ride itself is worth the trip, but then the boat drops you off on a quiet piece of Manasota Key paradise. Read Tom Becnel’s Hidden Sarasota story about theSouth Venice Beach Ferry and take a look at the South Venice Beach Ferry photo gallery.

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    5. Camp at Turtle Beach

    Turtle Beach is one of the few places where sleeping on the beach at night is not only legal but expected, in one area of the park, at least. The unique Turtle Beach Campground is a few feet from south Siesta’s finest beach, with plots good enough for both tents and RVs.

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    6. Dine al fresco on St. Armands Circle
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    7. Kayak the mangrove islands, pick up trash when you see it

    Tom Becnel has written about kayaking the many mangrove islands in Sarasota Bay. Take his advice and enjoy the hidden wonder of these tiny waterways.

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    8. Listen to a local band at a local bar

    Where and when? Check out Ticket's Soundboard comprehensive music calendar for this week's lineup of local shows.

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    9. Booze cruise under the palm trees on LeBarge

    Often relegated to tourists and office parties (that you can’t escape from until the boat docks) LeBarge is an ideal way for lazy sightseers to experience Sarasota Bay. Drink in hand, boat-bound palm trees swaying, not a care in the world for a solid two hours. LeBarge Tropical Cruises, 366-6116. lebargetropicalcruises.com

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    10. Learn to sail

    The Sarasota Sailing Squadron can help. Check out their web page for details on classes for beginners.

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    11. Get SCUBA certified

    Water, water everywhere, but not a way to breathe. Conquer the undersea world with the help of a regulator and oxygen tank with a simple diving class that culminates in an exploration under the waves off a local beach. Scuba Quest Florida, 366-1530, scubaquestusa.com; Ocean Pro Dive Shop, 924-3483,oceanprodive.com

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    12. Bodysurf or skimboard and embrace the embarassment

    Bodysurfing is simple: Hurl your body onto the crest of wave. Ride. Repeat. Skimboarding is another matter entirely. It looks deceptively simple, just throw the piece of wood in very shallow water and jump on for a hydroplaned thrill-ride, but just give it a try. You’ll see. Then maybe ask some kids for lessons.

  • Thomaura O'Sullivan and her husband, Bob Orminski, serve mac n' cheese dishes on the first day of the Ringling Picnic on Monday. (Feb. 13, 2012) (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Dan Wagner)
    13. Hunt down and eat at every food truck in town

    It may not be a craze, but Sarasota certainly has increased mobile food activity these days. Read our story about the rise of food trucks, then check out our local food truck guide to help you on your quest.

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    14. Climb the Myakka River State Park Observation Tower

    74 feet above the ground, the wooden observation tower in Myakka River State Park offers a panoramic view of the forest and scrub below, perfect for catching a glimpse of soaring bald eagles or invading armies. (See Tom Becnel’s Myakka River State Park Top Ten, while you’re there.)

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    15. Go canoeing at Oscar Scherer and look for gators

    Oscar Scherer’s South Creek is one of the most placid and relaxing canoe/kayak spots in town, and the on-site canoe rentals make it easy to dip a paddle with little hassle. Keep an eye out for gators, otters and mullet. (See Oscar Scherer location and information.)

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    16. Bike, run or walk the entire Legacy Trail – you can do it!

    The largest public recreation project ever constructed in the area, the Legacy Trail is 10 miles that runs from the city of Sarasota all the way to Venice along the former CSX railroad corridor, with trailheads at six different Sarasota parks. (SeeLegacy Trail location and information.)

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    17. Catch a Rays game, help root them into the playoffs, eat a dog

    Read the Herald-Tribune's coverage of the Rays, then check out the schedule and buy some tickets.

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    18. Visit the Ringling Museum on a Monday, free of charge

    This is one of those secret benefits of being a local: On Mondays, the Ringling Museum of Art offers free admission to Florida residents. Take in the Rubens, gander at the Skyspace and stroll the grounds.

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    19. Rent a free bike in Punta Gorda and explore downtown

    Abby Weingarten recently explored this quaint little city by the water. Read her story for ideas about where to go on your little bike journey.

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    20. Experience both native and wealthy settler life at Historic Spanish Point

    A 30-acre archaeological, historical and environmental museum overlooking Little Sarasota Bay. Featuring the most well-preserved Indian village in Florida, this is the only place in the country where visitors can enter an ancient Indian midden (burial mound). Explore Marya's Chapel, the restored Guptill House, and feel the spirit of the Webb family, who resided here at the turn of the 20th century. Walk the grounds where fishers and hunters roamed 4,000 years ago. A professional horticulturist, supported by trained volunteers, cares for the museum's nature trails and gardens. A native Florida wetland area was completed in 2006. historicspanishpoint.org

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    21. Bar hop in Siesta Key Village in your bathing suit

    Check out our Siesta Key Bar Guide for a list of places to down a beer in your flip-flops.

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    22. Commune with the sunset

    It happens every evening, everywhere. Traditionally, the beach (take your pick) is the right place to view this amazing event.

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    23. Bird watch for Florida Scrub Jays at Tippecanoe Environmental Park in Port Charlotte

    Besides Tippecanoe, you can also find Scrub Jays at Oscar Scherer. Need to know what they look like? Check out our photo gallery of this year's Scrub Jay Festival.

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    24. Hunt for coquina shells on Manasota Key
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    25. Grab ice cream and stroll down Gulf Drive on Anna Maria Island
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    26. Go to downtown Lakewood Ranch for Music on Main

    This music and community fest happens on the first Friday of every month in downtown Lakewood Ranch.

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    27. Explore downtown Sarasota’s farmers’ market, buy popsicles

    You can also check out our guide to all the area farmers' markets, although some will close for the summer.

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    28. Go fishing off a pier, bait your own hook with live shrimp

    Those guys are super squirmy, but it's a rite of passage.

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    29. Build a massive sandcastle, invite strangers to stomp on it when done

    Whether you subscribe to the bucket-mold model or the drip-castle theory, this is the kind of activity that should be prescribed by doctors.

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    30. Roll into Stardust, find a partner for couples skate

    Remember rolling to Charlie Daniels and Devo? Relive those glory days at Stardust Skate Center, although now you likely have a better chance of having a partner, and a better chance of breaking something when you inevitably fall.

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    31. Eat at three different ethnic restaurants in Gulf Gate

    Check out our Gulf Gate Guide to find just the right combination of international cuisines. British, Polish and French? Italian, American, Middle Eastern? Only you can say.

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    32. Pet stingrays at Mote Marine Aquarium

    These flapping monsters are actually kind of cute, especially since Mote Marine Aquarium has removed their spiky stingers.

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    33. Feed birds at Sarasota Jungle Gardens

    While Mote is the place for underwater wildlife, Jungle Gardens has the land and air covered. Check out the birds of prey show and alligator encounter, along with the hundreds of reptiles, birds, monkeys and more. (sarasotajunglegardens.com)

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    34. Parasail – it’s like skydiving with training wheels

    Every time you go to the beach, you see the tourists gliding lazily above the water tethered only to a billowing parachute and a slow boat. How many times can you see other people enjoying the view from a hundred feet up without giving it a go yourself? Siesta Key Water Sports, 921-3030, siestakeywatersports.com; Fun and Sun Parasail, 795-1000, annamariaparasail.com.

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    35. Watch a comedy show at McCurdy’s, heckle only when appropriate

    Just kidding. No, seriously, you won't need to heckle the world-class talent Les McCurdy manages to bring in to his McCurdy's Comedy Theatre.

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    36. Try all the pubs in downtown Bradenton

    See our Bradenton Guide for a list of places to try out in this beautifully revitalized downtown.

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    37. Eat Mote sturgeon

    Mote Marine Laboratory's sturgeon aquaculture program has broken new ground in sustainable fish farming. You have two options: caviar or sturgeon filet.

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    38. Sample farm-raised clams from Terra Ceia

    Yep, Tierra Verde gives us mullet and clams.

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    39. Start a volleyball game on Coquina Beach

    The competition will be fierce, but not as rough at Coquina as at some of the other area beach volleyball spots.

  • (Photo by Cliff Roles)
    40. Groove with the crowds at the Van Wezel’s FridayFest

    Every summer, Van Wezel brings in bands to play out on the lawn. Bring a blanket, food and beverage will be available from vendors.

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    41. Walk the length of North Lido, don’t look too closely into the dunes

    Although the public beach at North Lido is pleasant enough, follow the tide line north and you’ll soon be ensconced on one of the most unspoiled beaches in northern Sarasota, dunes and a pine forest to your right, crashing waves to the left.

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    42. Jog in North Port’s Blue Ridge Park

    Blue Ridge Park is a haven for morning runners, and kids clambering on playground equipment.

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    43. See an off-season Banyan Theater Company play

    Banyan Theater Company not only puts on a full season of plays during the normally slow summer months, it easily competes with Sarasota’s more mainstream seasonal theaters.

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    44: Beer and a movie at Burns Court Cinemas

    Independent films and craft beer? Burns Court Cinema has been providing that for years in its quaint downtown neighborhood.

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    45: Gallery hop along downtown Sarasota’s Palm Avenue

    Palm Avenue's monthly gallery walk takes place the first Friday of every month, but you can window shop any time.

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    46: Tour the Ca' d'Zan

    John and Mabel Ringling's impressive mansion is one of the area's most enduring symbols, as well as a cool place to look around. Just imagine quaffing brandy and playing poker with John and his cohorts back in the glory days, when mansions didn't come with a Mc in the beginning.

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    47. Attend a free lecture at the local library, they’re more interesting than they look

    The Sarasota County Library is one of the best sources of free entertainment in town, from books to DVDs, kids programming to adult resources, not to mention the lectures and presentations. Check it out, heh.

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    48: Play disc golf at North Water Tower Park

    There are no fewer than six disc golf courses in the area, from serious runs at North Water Tower Park and Lakeview Park to more recreational courses scattered around town. Check out local disc golf club Sarasota Sky Pilots for information and upcoming events. (sarasotaskypilots.org)

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    49. Hike to the Rye Family Cemetery at Manatee’s Rye Preserve

    The Rye Preserve in Manatee County offers some of the most spectacular casual hiking in the area, as well as a cemetery that offers a glimpse of early Florida settler history.

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    50. Take your pup to the 17th Street Paw Park

    Dog-lovers unite while their canines cavort at the 17th Street Paw Park, free of their leashy shackles.