AOL Travel
Print

Best Sarasota Shopping

AOL PICK from our Editors

The sort of retail therapy that takes place here is not the kind that regularly occurs at megamalls or chichi designer shops all lined up in a row amid expensive cafes and tea rooms. Rather, shopping in Sarasota takes place mainly in Circles and Squares, as in St. Armands Circle and Pineapple Square, where familiar chain stores neighbor unique gift shops and boutiques owned and operated by locals. It’s part of the charm of being in a town that, while progressive in some ways, still prefers art to commerce.

St. Armands Circle

Neighborhood: St. Armands Key

In a city that attracts everyone from young families beaching it to the super wealthy just trying to stay away from the cold, you’re bound to find a pretty wide spread of price points and product offerings. St. Armands is Exhibit A: There are more than 130 stores: A mix of fashion boutiques for men and women including Tommy Bahama, White House/Black Market, Chico’s, and Oh My Gauze keep company with art and gift boutiques like Brighton Collectibles and Uniquity. The Giving Tree Gallery specializes in artisanal jewelry from the likes of Patricia Locke and Rodrigo Otazu. FantaSea elevates the lowly seashell to an art form with highly polished shells from around the world transformed into home decor accents, necklaces and earrings. Also in the mix are specialty retailers that are unique to this area, such as St. Armands Antiques & Gifts and Wet Noses, which, if you didn’t guess, caters to your canine family members.

More Details on

St. Armands Circle  

Pineapple Square

Neighborhood: Downtown Sarasota

Conceived as an urban village that would span several blocks of downtown, the economic downturn caught Pineapple Square in mid-development and stalled progress. What has been built is a popular spot for locals who mill around picking up treats at Whole Foods Market, cookery and accessories at Sur La Table, and a new tie or shirt at Brooks Brothers. Trendy (and pricey) women’s retailer Eileen Fisher is slated to move in sometime in the fall of 2010. The Sarasota branch of Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse is here, too.

More Details on

Pineapple Square  

Towles Court

Neighborhood: Sarasota

With St. Armands Circle, this is the most authentic of Sarasota’s shopping opps. A downtown golf course built in 1905 was transformed into a residential neighborhood in the 1920s and flourished until the great suburban migration of the 1950s and 60s relegated it to low-income housing. But the district had great “bones,” with dozens of cottages and streets shaded by moss-draped oaks. It was rescued in the 1990s when artists began moving into, turning into a creative village. The now-renovated bungalows house gift shops, artists studios and galleries for every kind of creative expression—photographs, paintings, ceramics, glass, sculpture. It’s like a permanent art festival peppered with small cafés. After a long morning on the beach, shower off and head for Canvas Café for a light lunch, a couple of glasses of wine and some art to whet your visual appetite, then hit the galleries. There’s an Art Walk the third Friday of every month starting at 6, with the galleries and studios open until 10PM.

More Details on

Towles Court  

Dome Flea and Farmers Market

Neighborhood: Venice

A legendary spot for more than 35 years, the Dome Flea and Farmers Market is just what it sounds like: a cavernous marketplace with vendors hawking a huge selection of goods in countless categories, all at a reasonable—and sometimes negotiable—price. Games, watches, luggage, gifts, artwork, jewelry, belts and other leather accessories, even souvenirs for your pets can be found here among the rows of stalls where friendly merchants are happy to help you find what you’re looking for and even things you didn’t know you were looking for. Wear your comfy walking shoes, because there are two attached air-conditioned buildings, an antique and resale consignment shop outside, and a separate, enormous tented area. The Dome is located about a half-hour south of downtown Sarasota by car in the town of Venice.

More Details on

Dome Flea and Farmers Market  

Westfield Southgate Shopping Center

Neighborhood: Sarasota

The local mall is far from the mega-retail complexes you may be familiar with back home, but it does have the necessities—Macy’s, Dillard’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, plus perennial mall favorites such as Banana Republic, Talbots, Pottery Barn, Swim ’n Sport, Restoration Hardware, and Victoria’s Secret. Don’t expect to unique finds, but if you need to pick up some sunglasses or a new pair of sandals while you’re in town, this is the place to look.

More Details on

Westfield Southgate Shopping Center  
ADVERTISEMENT