Tourist Season Survival Guide

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    Libby's Café + Bar (July 26, 2012 Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)

    Eat Early

    When we say early, we're not talking about 6 or 6:30 p.m. -- that's prime time for  Sarasota's older snowbirds, many of whom like to get in and out before the crush. That means you need to plan for dinner at 5 or 5:30, when most restaurants will seat you without a reservation because they know you'll be out of your seats in time for their first big rush of the evening. Check out Ticket's Where To Eat page for ideas.

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    Darwin's On 4th (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Thomas Bender)

    Eat Late

    The area no longer closes down by 11 p.m., thanks to places that not only cater to a later crowd but actually strive to serve serious food into the wee hours. Try out places like Melange (with a full menu until 2 a.m. every day but Tuesday), Selva Grill (open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, midnight otherwise) and Darwin's on 4th (1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday) in downtown Sarasota;  Siesta Key Oyster Bar (2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, midnight otherwise) in Siesta Village and Daiquiri Deck (2 a.m. all week) on Siesta Key, St. Armands and the island of Venice.

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    Bard and Mustache perform at Half Shell Oyster House. (Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)

    See A Show

    Most tourists are more interested in diving into the surf than plunging into the local music scene, so getting out to see a show is a great way to avoid the sunburned crowds for a decidedly more local hustle and bustle. The area's music scene is thriving, loaded with sharp musicians who range from high school kids to veteran professionals. Check out Ticket's Soundboard to find a concert that fits your style.

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    (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Elaine Litherland) 

    Shop Early

    Grocery stores tend to open by 7 a.m., or 8 a.m. at the latest. Go then and stock up.

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    (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Dan Wagner) 

    Entertain At Home

    Want to meet your friends for dinner? Why not throw a dinner party? Not only does it give you an excuse to deep-clean your house, it's also a chance for you (and your friends, if you make it a potluck) to show off your culinary skills. And the drinks are cheaper, too.

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    Cock & Bull Pub (STAFF PHOTO / CHIP LITHERLAND)

    Drink On The I-75 Corridor

    Restaurants out on the eastern side of civilization can still be crowded, but the bars generally escape the hubbub of tourist season. Find a place near the interstate that suits your nature and make it your local, at least until May.

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    (STAFF PHOTO/ROB MATTSON, SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE)

    Don't Drive Between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

    Go to work early and stay late. Your boss will love you for it and you'll avoid hours of excess traffic time throughout a single week. You don't have to actually work the whole time -- no sane person would -- but you can accomplish a lot of correspondence, menu planning and funny video watching during those extra couple of hours.

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    South Lido Beach (Sarasota Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)

    Find The Beaches Less-Traveled

    Siesta Key Public Beach? Not for a few months, thank you. But if you need to go to Siesta Key, Turtle Beach is a fine alternative. Same with South Lido on Lido Key, and Caspersen and North Jetty down south. They won't be deserted like during the summer, but you likely won't have to circle the asphalt for half an hour trying to find a place to park.