Sarasota is a popular city on the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida and the county seat of Sarasota County. It is known for its vibrant arts community, excellent restaurants, unique shopping, and beautiful beaches. Sarasota, although a mid-sized city, is considered to be the cultural center of West Central Florida. The city has a metropolitan flavor unique to cities of its size and to cities in Florida.
The Asolo Theater, Florida West Coast Symphony, Sarasota Opera, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and frequent art shows add the the cultural theme of the city, rivaling the facilities of Florida's largest cities. Sarasota is also home to the Ringling Museum of Art, the Selby Botanical Gardens, New College (Florida's public honors college), a USF branch, and the Ringling School of Art and Design. Sarasota's downtown comprises a true urban cityscape with offices and several upscale downtown condominiums. It is complemented by Saint Armands Circle, on Saint Armands Key, which is surrounded by Lido Key, across Sarasota Bay from downtown via the Ringling Causeway (with sweeping views of Sarasota Bay.) Saint Armands Circle is an upscale outdoor shopping area, with several cafes, reminiscent of Europe. The idea for Saint Armands was from John Ringling who also intended to build a Ritz hotel on Longboat Key. Today, Sarasota has a Ritz hotel downtown as well as the Longboat Key Club on Ringling's original site. The Longboat Key Club includes two golf courses, tennis, and all other resort facilities and is located just north of Saint Armands on Longboat Key.