Somewhere between the sleekness of Miami and the magic of Orlando, you’ll find Sarasota. In the middle of the 20th century, the Gulf Coast city was home to the largest number of artists per capita in the country, architect Paul Rudolph among them. The Harvard Graduate School of Design alum and former Yale School of Architecture dean studied under Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, dreaming up places such as the Umbrella House—which Architectural Digest named “one of the five most remarkable houses” of its time. Despite all the recent Bauhaus buzz, Rudolph serves as inspiration today, too, including at the just-opened Modern in the heart of the Rosemary District’s flourishing arts scene.
ROSEMARY’S TIME: The Modern hotel and The Ringling offer glimpses into the past in Sarasota.
Down the road from the Sarasota Opera House, make yourself at home at the 89-room hotel that sets the vacation vibes with vertical gardens, playful wallpaper, giant Slim Aarons photographs and plenty of options for vitamin D: 70 rooms offer private outdoor space, and most have a view of the bay. The downtown spot provides a dozen types of accommodations, from lofts featuring adult-sized bunk beds to the fifth-floor suites with outdoor clawfoot bathtubs.
Keep soaking in the experience down by the pool—or take a dip in the cold plunge, if you dare—which blasts an underwater soundtrack of everything from classical to R&B. When you’re not holding court at the pingpong tables, squeeze in some time at the poolside Juice Bar, where you can order fresh-pressed concoctions, and then lounge drink-in-hand on the nearby 70-foot daybed that’s upholstered in a funky jumble of Missoni-like patterns. But if you came for the beach, the hotel’s vintage VW van can drop you off at Lido Key—or anywhere else within three miles.
After stretching out under the sun, let loose in your room with a spa treatment from Pura Vie, which offers massages and facials for hotel guests, though you can walk a few blocks to get the full menu (plus a 20-percent discount) and choose from options like a shirodhara scalp massage that drips warm oil over the third eye. Wherever you land, a tabletop Thai massage is like a yoga session without any of the work, as a therapist wrangles your limbs.
Photo: The Ringling
Feeling limber, head to the Ringling to get a taste of life under the big top. A miniature re-creation of the traveling extravaganza poses more than 40,000 objects throughout 3,800 square feet—and there’s slightly bigger bits of history on display, including the tiny car Lou Jacobs squished his 6-foot frame into. The 66 acres is also the site of John and Mabel Ringling’s winter home, Ca’ d’Zan, on the edge of Sarasota Bay. Inspired by Venetian palazzi, it’s filled with Gilded Age finds like the OG Waldorf Astoria’s chandelier and a bed purchased because John (incorrectly) believed that Napoleon had slept in it. The circus king, who built his fortune on 5-cent admission tickets, laid his head to rest across from a $26,000 painting—just a fraction of his art collection, which now spans 21 galleries in the on-site museum.
There are more treasures to uncover at Canned Ham Vintage: frocks plucked from Betty Draper’s closet, well-loved cowboy boots as well as even more surprises stuffed into drawers and hat boxes. You may need to scoop up one of the old-school Hartmann suitcases to haul back a piece of the envious Pyrex collection. The hunt continues a few blocks over at Circus City, stocked with French wine barrels, Smith Corona typewriters and water skis from the legendary Cypress Garden theme park, which entertained guests even longer than the Ringling circus.
Photo: The Ringling
Hungry? Between 8 am and 7 pm, get your buzz on at the Overton. By day, the industrial-chic garage decked out in greenery serves a mean pour-over, and by night, the fast-casual eatery slings cocktails, like a whiskey-spiked cold brew with rock candy. The food menu, available all day, ranges from uni-buttered toast to matzo ball soup and grilled cheese with broccolini and a sweet onion-chili flake jam. If you want some one-on-one time with a barista, pop over to the mini espresso bar, and there’s always soft serve—for the vegans, too—topped with frosted animal crackers and malted milk balls.
Head to Main Street to grab a table at Lila, where more veggie-friendly dining awaits. Dig into fresh tagliatelle with a bolognese of mushrooms and carrots, though there’s stuff to please meat eaters, such as antelope served with housemade Worcestershire sauce. If you’re not feeling the several kombuchas available, a list of wines is at the ready with organic and biodynamic options.
Back at the Modern, when the restaurant isn’t hosting comedians or lectures about the World’s Fair and red tide, Hell’s Kitchen competitor Jennifer Salhoff serves gator croquettes, chilled cilantro soup and sea scallops with forbidden rice at Rudolph’s. Save room for desserts like deconstructed berry pies or blueberry goat cheese gelato sandwiched between waffles. If you’re in the mood for liquid dessert, saddle up to the curved bar beneath a taxidermied gator hung upside-down on the ceiling. Order another round of drinks, but you may want to rise early and sneak out to the sunrise terrace behind the fitness center to catch a final glimpse of the Florida sunshine. ◆
–Feast your eyes on a preserved giant squid at the Mote Marine Lab and Aquarium, one of the only locations besides the Smithsonian to behold the 27-foot tentacles.
–One of the country’s most popular public beaches, Siesta Keys and its quartz crystal sand is a 20-minute drive away.
Canned Ham Vintage, facebook.com/cannedhamvintage; Lila, lilasrq.com; The Modern, thesarasotamodern.com; The Overton, theovertonsrq.com; Pura Vie, puraviespa.com; The Ringling, ringling.org