A family vacation to Florida often includes a trip to the “happiest place on earth.” (My husband and have a tradition of high-fiving on the way in and on the way out of the Disney gates — glad to arrive and glad to have survived!) Just 2 hours away, amid a gentle Gulf breeze and purple-washed sunsets, you will find an oasis of warmth and welcome from The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. It’s the perfect follow up to a visit with Mickey, full of warm smiles and endless opportunities to add laid-back family memories to your mental scrapbook.
Once the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus, Sarasota offers access to gorgeous Florida beaches and a vibrant mix of shopping and restaurants. Those in the know have no problem making this coastal gem home for vacation or retirement. Also known as Florida’s “Cultural Coast,” Sarasota boasts an array of theaters, art galleries and museums as a perfect counterpart to its natural (and temperate!) beauty.
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Located in the downtown marina area, The Ritz-Carlton is quickly becoming a vacation and residential mainstay in Sarasota. The hotel has 266 rooms (33 of which can be connected for families) plus 31 family-friendly suites, and is part of a larger Ritz-Carlton residential community on the same site. Decor follows the brand’s traditional style: muted and refined colors combined with thoughtful “at home” details, like a built-in marble credenza just inside your door with a lamp to welcome you back each evening or provide light for little ones in the middle of the night.
Kids’ activities are interwoven into the relaxed vibe of the resort, definitely providing the “special sauce” for your visit. Mini mani/pedis are available at the spa; paddle boards, kayaks or fishing poles are at the ready for an afternoon in the cove; and Friday night movies by the pool (yes, with popcorn) give families a reason to stay and play. The hotel also owns a fabulous beach club 10 minutes away in Lido Key. Hop aboard the Ritz-Carlton shuttle bus that leaves every 30 minutes for the short ride to a private white sand strip of heaven and zero-entry pool, accompanied by family-friendly changing rooms, chair service and a smoothie bar. Many families make a day of it at the beach (welcomed back to the hotel in the late afternoon by the lobby candy cart), or head over for dinner at Ridley’s Porch to catch the oohs and ahhs of the sun setting into the Gulf.
Dining on site at the hotel seems to flow effortlessly from inside to outside, with terraced seating levels and conversational groupings for eating and snacking — all overlooking the cove or the pool and beckoning you to sit down and enjoy the view. Jack Dusty, the main hotel restaurant, serves up an incredible Sunday buffet brunch, and the younger crowd has plenty to love on the custom kids’ menu, filled with classic favorites like mac & cheese and chicken fingers. The hotel shuttle bus is also available for dropoff and pickup at nearby St Armands Circle, a hub of elegant shopping and dining options located between the hotel and the beach club.
With all the hotel has to offer families, The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota is an easy choice for a few days of fun in the sun. But what truly sets the property apart is the commitment to service and a hotel staff exuding warmth and genuine care. Guests are greeted by name and it is not uncommon to get to know your shuttle driver, waterfront host or server at dinner through easy conversation. And although the hotel doesn’t offer a supervised kids’ club, families find themselves enjoying activities alongside their children, whether sand sculptures or pool games, under the relaxed guidance of a family-friendly staff, providing the perfect vacation escape for all.
• The Ritz-Carlton is adding another residential component to the site. There is a construction zone adjacent to the area and, although not noisy during our visit, it does look like a major endeavor and may be ongoing for some time.
• The hotel offers Club Level accommodations, providing complimentary food and beverage throughout the day, along with several other complimentary amenities. Children are welcome but must be supervised at all times.
• A photography concierge service is available for onsite family sessions.
Editor’s Note: Susan received a media package in order to review The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Susan Robinson and The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota.
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