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The Family Reunion Guide to Longboat Key

Stylish accommodations, views of the Gulf of Mexico, and all the best multi-generational Sarasota activities? That’s just a few of the reasons why Longboat Key makes for the ultimate family reunion destination.

A laidback beachfront resort is the right choice for a family retreat – especially when it’s located in Longboat Key, a long strip of sand and palm trees that is within easy striking distance from the best all-ages Sarasota activities, including rain forest gardens, the Ringling Museum, and an Amish all-you-can-eat restaurant.

Where to Stay

When a hotel is this fresh, it’s even more refreshing for family fun. Zota Beach Resort‘s accommodations include 187 guest rooms and suites in a contemporary, chic space right on the Gulf of Mexico. The resorts 2,750 square feet of flexible event space allows guests to arrange big gatherings. The boutique-style resort is also close to two international airports for the ease of travel.

Wandering Through Marie Selby Gardens

Ready for an Instagram competition? The tropical and waterfront wonders of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are the subject, and the staff here encourages photography, painting, and other creative activities. When older family members need a break from the botany, they can sip on tea or enjoy gourmet sandwiches in the Selby House Cafe, while younger ones romp through the Children’s Rainforest Garden, which includes a 100-foot banyan tree and a 12-foot waterfall.

Sipping at Viento Kitchen & Bar

Whether it’s a Pellegrino or a Prosecco, the refreshments served at Viento Kitchen & Bar at Zota Beach Resort will refresh the family after a day in the Florida sun. Kick back in the leather chairs, raise a glass to the reunion, and refuel on innovative cuisine.

Exploring the Ringling Museum

Sarasota’s Ringling Museum – set on the opulent 66-acre winter estate of railroad, real estate, and circus baron John Ringling – has something for everyone. The Museum of Art has 31 treasure-filled galleries; the Circus Museum brings back the heyday of three-ring acts; and the Bayfront Gardens immerses guests in the ground’s tropical surroundings, home to a Bayfront promenade, a walking trail, and several exotic plants. Drop the kids off at the garden’s David F. Bolger Playspace complete with a tower and slide, basket swings, and hand-powered fountains, while the adults stroll the centerpiece Ca’ D’Zan, John Ringling’s 36,000-square-foot 1924 mansion inspired by Venetian palazzos.

Dining at Der Dutchman

Ideal for groups with families the size of a small nation, this Amish-inspired restaurant can accommodate everyone in its spacious banquet facility (up to 300 people!). The all-you-can-eat “barn-raising” dinner buffet includes such options as roasted chicken, homemade noodles, and a salad bar bountiful with local Florida produce. Save room for a slice of Dutch apple pie.

Touring Mixon Fruit Farms

First founded in 1939, Mixon Fruit Farms has now grown to 350 acres of groves that produce some of Florida’s juiciest citrus. Families can ride the Orange Blossom Tram through the orange groves, garden oasis, and a koi pond before stopping at the farm’s wildlife refuge, a portion of land that the owners donated to Wildlife Inc. to shelter orphaned and injured birds, reptiles, and other animals. After the hour-long tour, it’s time for a treat of orange swirl ice cream and Sunshine State souvenirs from the gift shop.

Learning at Manatee Village Historical Park

This collection of historic buildings and artifacts will take the entire family back in time to the late 1800s to discover the turpentine past of Manatee County and the apothecary products of Wiggins store. The site is also home to the Fogarty Boatworks, a blacksmith shop, a settler’s house, smokehouse, and much more to inspire multigenerational bonding through hands-on education.

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