Named in the 16th century by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon (who has form - he named Florida, too) after the then Queen of Spain, this beautiful barrier island was only connected to the mainland in 1921. Despite its modern accessibility it remains a blissfully restorative backwater, dotted by imposing old-Florida homes and fringed by some of the most bewitching beaches anywhere.
You'll find evidence of John and Mabel Ringling's legacy throughout Sarasota, but there's no greater example of the circus owners' cultural impact than Florida state's art museum. Housing more than 10,000 objects and artworks that include one of the most impressive collections of Rubens paintings on Earth, this offers an effortlessly inspiring day out.
St Armands Circle is something else – a chic collection of stores and restaurants radiating out from a circular park on an island enclave lying between Sarasota and the Gulf of Mexico. The brainchild of local philanthropist and circus owner John Ringling in 1917, this is a must see, whether you want to shop hard or just people-watch over some delicious gelato.
The Sarasota area is blessed with supermodel levels of natural beauty. A short drive out of the city will take you to Oscar Scherer and Myakka River state parks, but either will transport you a world away, with plenty of opportunities to cycle and walk around trails that give you a glimpse of amazing animals, reptiles, and birds.