One of my favorite places to visit has to be Siesta Key, FL. Siesta Key is located on the gulf side of the sunshine state. It is about an hour south of Tampa Bay. My family and I have been going here for the last few years. There is so much to do, we can try new stuff every year we go. We plan on continuing this yearly tradition until one of the children declares they are sick of it or it becomes way too expensive to keep going.
Siesta Key , FL: Getting There
We choose to fly directly to Tampa International Airport (TPA). We fly out of Boston, but most major cities will fly directly as well. Tampa’s airport is clean and nice with ample rental car choices right at the terminal ( see Rental cars here ). Siesta Key is part of Sarasota and another option is to fly directly to Sarasota (SRQ). It is a much smaller airport. They do have a rental car counter with a few options but not on the scale of Tampa. It can also be difficult to get flights into SRQ at the time you want. I have noticed we never see available flights until we get closer to the trip date and I am always nervous we will get shut out or have to pay too much if we wait until the last minute. Therefore I always choose TPA. The drive is a bit over an hour. If you are lucky enough to get a flight to SRQ, you will save about 35 minutes on the drive to Siesta Key. Something to think about.
Where to Stay
Siesta Key does not have a lot of hotels and motels. There are these types of properties but they are much more understated and they don’t dot the oceanfront with a wall of high rises like Myrtle Beach. I find there are many more condos and houses for rent. It has a community feel without the overly commercial vibe. It can get busy for sure, but the feeling is more relaxed and does not have the resort feeling. We rent a house that is close to the village and is across the main street from the beach. I found this property on homeaway.com but there are no shortage of sites renting places, so just search siesta key rentals and you will be inundated with links to properties.
Siesta Key village is short stretch of town where there are restaurants and stores. This is my idea of a beach community. Walk through this area and you will see street performers, ice cream shops, restaurants and specialty shops. We stay near here because it is great to walk here multiple times a day for meals, groceries, shopping or an ice cream.
If you can’t find a place close to town, don’t worry. Siesta Key is home to the free taxi. Thats right, the town has a bunch of people driving around in stretch golf carts, taxis, bikes with wagons etc, all for free. They expect a tip but just call them up or flag them down and they will drive you anywhere you want to go on the key.
What to Do
There is so much to do here, it is hard to pick my favorite. We tend to travel a lot while on vacation. We like to drive and explore so that helps increase the radius we have to find fun things to do with the kids.
Beach – Voted the best beach in America several times. Siesta Key Beach is so amazing. This beach has white powder sand with minimal rocks. It is a pretty wide beach and relatively flat. There is so much space here and the beach stretches for a decent amount. Out into the waves a little ways are sand bars that show up at low tide. You can actually walk all the way to the sand bar at times. The beach has tons of sand dollars, and incredible wildlife. We have seen many types of fish, tall lanky birds (cranes maybe ?) and even dolphins one time 20 yards off the beach. It is a great beach. I see why it was voted best beach on multiple occasions. I have been all around the Caribbean, Bermuda, Cape Cod and this is my favorite beach so far.
Attractions – We have children that aren’t the museum or relaxing type and they demand some exciting things to do. We have been fortunate to find several things we love.
- Tampa Bay Rays game: We had the privilege to see our hometown Red Sox play the Rays at Tropicana field while on vacation. For both my children, it was a first baseball game event. We had a great time and the cost was very reasonable. One hour drive each way and we had something exciting we could share.
- Busch Gardens: Large amusement park with African theme and tons of animals as well. Kids love it. Roller Coasters, water rides, and games.
- Adventure Island: Water Park owned by Busch Gardens. It is simply the best water park we have ever been to. My family can do almost every ride there and it is great on a hot day. Make sure you buy a multi-park ticket so you can go to both parks for a cheaper price. Worth every penny.
- Sea Kayaking Tour: We were lucky enough to stumble upon this. We went on a guided kayak tour in Sarasota harbor and also through some mangrove tunnels. We saw dolphins, manatees, birds, fish and had a great day on the water. Two hour tour was plenty and the kids had a blast.
- Shopping in St. Armands Key: St. Armands key is a small island that has a ton of stores and restaurants. It is very small but the stores are situated in a circular area to maximize the space. There are a surprising amount of stores in a relatively small area.
- Golf: It is Florida, there is a golf course everywhere. Guaranteed to find a course you will like.
- Botanical Gardens: I have not tried this yet but I have heard it is magnificent. When my kids are a little older, I am going to give this a try.
- Random Activities: All through Siesta Key you can find little shops that rent beach buggies, segways, or bikes. These are a great way to just go enjoy the weather with the family.
- Water sports: You can also find places to rent water sport gear such as jet skis, kite surfing gear, kayaks etc ….
- Explore: This is one of our favorite things to do. The gulf coast is littered with islands (keys) and we want to see them all. We have found great restaurants and stores in various locations. We have driven North to see Lido Key, Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island, and St Armands key. On a future visit we are going to try going south to see Venice and Manasota key.
- Zip Lines: This is another activity we haven’t tried yet in Florida. We have seen advertisements for this and it looks fun. We think this is a must try for the next visit.
- Boat Rentals: There are places where you can rent a boat and go out on the harbor for the day. We are not “boat” people but maybe once we will get out of our comfort zone and give this a try.
Where to Eat
The restaurants are all casual and 90% of them have extensive outdoor seating and live music. Its not the type of music you find at a club but more like one person strumming on a guitar and playing a Jimmy Buffet song. Just in the village, there are over a dozen places to eat. If you want seafood, Tex-Mex, Italian, breakfast, BBQ, sandwiches, pizza, Italian, Japanese, pastry, or ice cream, you can find it in the village. We are limited in out menu because of the kids but we never seem to run out of new places. Some of our favorites include:
- Daiquiri Deck: Tons of outdoor seating, very casual, younger crowd, decent menu
- Gilligans: island theme. Food is good, outdoor seating
- Blue Queue: BBQ, very good food. Not at all fancy but great place to sit outside and listen to musician playing.
- The Cottage: interesting place, A fusion restaurant (japanese, korean, american) , food was terrific, outdoor seating, musician. Not for the kids but grownups will love it.
- The Hub Baja Grill: We love this place. Tex-Mex, outdoor seating, music, food is very good. Staff super nice and good service.
- Solarzanos: Pizza place, typical New York style, a little pricey but delicious.
One of the things about Siesta Key that I love is the total relaxing feeling I get when I am there. Working in the tech field in Boston can be crazy and stressful for much of the year. When I am in Siesta Key I have a feeling of calm that I can’t seem to get anywhere else. There are times when I am completely at peace. The kids aren’t fighting, the wife is happy and life is great.
Its hard to go wrong in Siesta Key. Tons to do, great restaurants, easy flights from the east coast. We tend to go when it is not crowded (April) but I have heard others say that other times of the year are extremely busy. If we ran into that, I am not sure if our opinion would change. It can get expensive, but to us it is worth it. We found a place to go where the whole family enjoys and we are going to stick with it until we start to get the itch to try something else.
I gave Siesta Key a P-and-P Rank of 4.5 stars. Why not 5 after the glowing review? The expense is a consideration and it is a trip that will set you back a bit. As much as I love this place, I can see the cost is a bit prohibitive. All the activities and eating out every meal will have you budgeting a bit.