Downtown Sarasota

Downtown Sarasota contains a small, walkable shopping and dining district a few blocks from the Sarasota Bayfront, east of Tamiami Trail. While Sarasota is a city, the sidewalks are not busy like most cities, unless there’s a farmers market or arts festival downtown. So it feels more like a small town during the day. At night, however, downtown Sarasota comes alive with people out and about, enjoying the many live music venues and restaurants.

Here are highlights of the various districts that make up downtown Sarasota.

FIRST STREET

The Sarasota Opera House, Selby Library, and Whole Foods Market Centre create a cultural and shopping spine along First Street. The Opera House, in soft tones of peach and cream, was extensively renovated last year. It sets a classical European tone and is very popular during Season. Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant, First Street Chop House, Bijou Cafe, and Florida Studio Theater (on Palm Ave at First Street) are all situated in old buildings with character, forming a cozy downtown theatre district.

Diagonally across from the Sarasota Opera House is Selby Public Library, designed by Hoyt Architects. It floats like a big white circus tent supported by elephant-leg columns. At least that’s how it looks to this observer. Inside is a very modern, airy, natural-light-filled library with lots of Internet-capable computers, free wi-fi for using your own laptop, a spacious children’s section entered via an exotic-fishtank archway, and large collections of books, CDs, DVDs, periodicals, fiction and non-fiction books.

Whole Foods Market Centre incorporates upscale ground floor retail shops, upper-floor condominium apartments, a parking garage, and a Whole Foods Market with lots of outdoor seating. This is one of the best places in downtown Sarasota to enjoy a bite while you watch the passing scene. There’s a takeout food bar and an indoor cafe, too. Whole Foods Cafe and the Main Street corridor all offer free wi-fi in downtown Sarasota.

MAIN STREET

Stretching from Rte 301 on the east, to the Sarasota Bayfront on the west, Main Street is the spine of downtown Sarasota. The section between Rte 301 and Osprey Avenue is busiest during weekday business hours, as most of its business comes from office workers related to banking, law firms, and the courts, which are all concentrated in that part of downtown. On the corner of Main Street and Rte 301 is the Hollywood 20 Movie Theater complex. There’s a branch of the Sarasota YMCA in the same building.

From Orange Avenue west to Gulfstream Avenue, you’ll find an eclectic selection of international cuisine, from Greek to Spanish, Vietnamese to Thai, Chinese, Italian, American, French, Pan-Asian, and Fusion. There’s a health food store with supplements and a branch Post Office, art galleries, an Apple store with a cafe, bakeries, and clothing stores from women’s fashions to Brooks Brothers.

During Season, Main Street hosts many arts and crafts festivals, a biker rally, and celebrations of major holidays with rides and food vendors.

In the evening, you can bar-hop around Main Street, checking out the live music at numerous venues such as Mattison’s City Grille, Sarasota Vineyard, Pastry Arts, The Box Social, and The Gator Club.

LEMON AVENUE

Every Saturday, from 7AM to 1PM, year-round, Lemon Avenue from First Street to State Street is the epicenter of the Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market, where approximately 50 vendors offer oodles of fresh produce, including lots of organics; flowers and plants; arts and crafts; prepared foods to take home or take out; baked goods; gluten free foods; meats; and cheeses. It’s one of the best people-watching and dog-parading events in town.

The main downtown bus depot for SCAT (Sarasota County Area Transit) is located on the corner of Lemon Avenue and First Street.

STATE STREET

It’s easy to miss State Street, quietly perched one block south of Main Street. State of the Arts Gallery shows work by artists who are all local and self-supporting with their art. Much of the work shown there is large-scale, museum quality. On S. State Street, one block west, European Focus is a colorful shop with lots of intriguing gifts made by artisans in Europe. From “bouncies” — dolls that bounce up and down on springs — to French linens, to Bavarian “smokers”, to ceramics and tours of Europe, this is a unique Sarasota store. Next door to European Focus is Sarasota Candle, a local manufacturer that also has a booth at the Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market.

PALM AVENUE

This is downtown Sarasota’s “Gallery Row”, with everything from handblown glass to elaborate jewelry to paintings, sculpture, and hats. There’s a First Friday Artwalk that takes place along Palm Avenue from 6-9PM, when the galleries stay open late and offer refreshments and live music. Caragiulo’s Restaurant is on Palm Avenue, with indoor and outdoor dining. At the corner of Main Street and Palm Avenue, Epicure is a favorite spot to sit outside and relax with friends over lunch or dinner.

BURNS SQUARE

Burns Square, at the south end of Pineapple Avenue, is part of downtown Sarasota, but it’s separated by a two- block walk alongside non-descript office buildings, so it feels like a separate district. It shares the First Friday Art Walk with downtown. Here the buildings are low and charming with bright stucco colors and a changing array of intriguing shops. Awesome Orchids, Parkland Art Gallery, Malika’s Imports, L-Boutique, Jack Vinales 20th Century Classics, and Citrus Cafe are all worth a look. Behind Pineapple Avenue, Burns Court reveals Sarasota’s art film house, Burns Court Cinema, and Owen’s Fish Camp restaurant. On Saturdays, there’s a small, independent, outdoor artists’ market on Pineapple Avenue in Burns Square.

SARASOTA BAYFRONT

At the far east end of Main Street, Marina Jack restaurant and marina ties downtown Sarasota to Sarasota Bay. The restaurant is surrounded by the scenic Bayfront Park, which includes a walking path, children’s playground, O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Restaurant, lots of free parking, yacht basin and small beach for launching rowboats. You can sit on a swinging bench and watch the tide go in and out, look across at the stunning John Ringling Bridge, or take in the glorious Gulf sunset.

Dining and Shopping in Downtown Decatur

Established in 1832 where two Indian paths crossed, today; the city of Decatur has become one Georgia’s must visit destinations for foodies, fashionistas and fun lovers alike. Just miles outside of the busy Atlanta metropolis, the heart of Decatur, known as ‘The Square’ is a four-mile square of unique and eclectic shops and restaurants that make shopping and dining an experience patrons never forget. Recently named “the most walkable city in Georgia,” the Decatur square is a fun and exciting atmosphere for the entire family. One most defining that makes Decatur is so unique due its loyalty to local and small businesses. Most shops and restaurants in Decatur are owned and operated by local residents, and offer products that were either made or grown in local areas.

With the recent launch of Decatur’s ‘keep it indie-catur’ campaign, to promote local shops and restaurants, shopping and dining in Decatur has become as unique experience in itself.

Decatur Market and Gallery is a co-op gallery featuring handmade projects from over 20 local artists. These projects range anywhere from paintings and sculptures to handmade jewelry. This store is a fun and exciting place for the entire family to shop. HomeGrown Decatur is a similar co-op featuring funky handmade treasures from over 70 talented local artists.

Another must see shop, located minutes outside The Square, is Kudzu antiques. Kudzu antiques has been voted Atlanta’s best antique store consecutively since 1979. It operates out of a 25,000 square foot building housing antiques from over 100 of Atlanta’s best dealers. Kudzu is known for it’s affordable antiques as well as it’s specialties in mid-century, 50’s-60’s retro, industrial furniture, discounted upholstered sofas and chairs, collectable records and books, vintage clothing and jewelry and lots of the unique and unusual!

After working up an appetite from all that shopping, downtown Decatur is a great place to find a bite to eat. The Decatur Square is lined with incredible award-winning restaurants that are sure to please even the pickiest of pallets.

Leon’s Full Service is a hip gas station turned restaurant that offers not only a mind blowing menu, but some of the best wait staff, cocktails and bartenders in Decatur! Rated one Food and Wine’s top 50 bars, Leon’s offers an eclectic menu developed by renowned “Iron Chef” competition winner, Chef Eric Ottensmeyer.

After dinner, the Brick Store Pub is a great place to grab a drink. This bar is an always busy, local favorite. With an extensive beer list a laid-back, comfortable atmosphere; The Brick Store Pub is sure to become an instant hit!

When it comes to shopping and dining, Decatur is sure to offer a unique, unforgettable experience for the entire family.

Downtown Disney Shopping Options – Part 4

If you got tired already of visiting all four Disney theme parks and even cooled off with the two water parks that they have to offer, why not just party, shop, dine over at the Downtown Disney Area. The area is divided into three sections namely Downtown Disney West Side, Downtown Disney Marketplace, and Pleasure Island. In this article we take a look on some of the shops and boutiques that you might consider doing some wonderful purchases. They have a variety of items to offer and would fit your reasonable budget. Here is the final installment of the shops in Downtown Disney.

EuroSpain/Arribas Brothers – This shop offers a lot of some one of a kind gifts, but they specialize in creating crystals. Visitors can witness some some talented craftsmen creating some wonderful pieces. There are some items as well that can be personalized.

Lego Imagination Center – For all the lego addicts out there, here is the store that sells anything and everything about Lego. From the basic blocks to their most up to date themes there is every kit for everyone. Besides the shop, they even have 3,000 square feet of play area. There are even photo spots that you can catch photos of some of those fantastic creations like the sea serpent by the lake.

Goofy’s Candy Company – For those who have sweet tooth or not, this candy store is the one for you. At less than $3 per quarter pound you can treat yourself to rows and rows of self serve bins. There are some that are already pre packed and for sale and some are in glass displays filled with your favorite treats.

Lefty’s – The Left Hand Store – Who wouldn’t have thought that there is a store for left handed? Yes, it could be found in Downtown Disney. They sell items such as pens, pencils, cooking utensils that fits for those people who are lefties.

Hand Arts Memories – Art is totally creative in many different ways. Even your own handprints can be personalized by these hand-painted artists. This is truly a priceless souvenir.

Rainforest Café Shop – Be a nature lover as this shop offers some merchandise that is hard to resist. From clothes, mugs, postcards, toys, candy and some private label condiments, your visit to the Rainforest café is superb with a good meal and some distinctive souvenirs.